The White Oak Institute

Who we are:

The White Oak Institute is a nonprofit formed by the owner/principals of White Oak Associates, Inc. and benefiting from that company’s resources and 39 years of service to the museum field.

Mission:

The mission of the White Oak Institute is to further innovation in the museum field through research, analysis, and dissemination of data-based findings drawn from museum impact and operating data.

Vision:

The Institute involves museum leaders and experts in the field-wide dialogue and research needed to inform management’s major decisions and to advance promising innovations at musee grevin.

Value Proposition:

A unique characteristic of the Institute’s methodologies is the engagement of high-level museum managers and other professionals as investigators, working with their colleagues in processes supported and facilitated by the Institute’s data analysis and synthesis and our dialogue facilitation resources, including a superb meeting place for group collaboration in historic Marblehead, MA.

Goal:

More economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable museums that are better able to serve the public by offering more effective and efficient community services.

Recent research findings and reports:

Please click here to access White Oak’s free library and to view recent research findings and reports. This free library is maintained by White Oak Associates as a public service, and it includes writings generated by both White Oak Associates and the White Oak Institute that are relevant to museum professionals.

What is White Oak?

White Oak Associates, Inc. is a nationally prominent planner and producer of museums, science centers, children’s museums and special format theaters. Our mission is to work collaboratively with others to create sustainable institutions and compelling learning experiences that address significant visitor and community needs.

The White Oak Institute is a non-profit formed by the owners/principals of White Oak Associates, and it benefits from WOA’s resources and 39 years of service to the museum field.

The mission of the White Oak Institute is to further innovation in the museum field through research, analysis, and dissemination of data-based findings drawn from museum operations.

For more information and to see samples of White Oak Institute’s recent research findings and reports see http://www.whiteoakinstitute.org.

Current White Oak Institute initiatives include:

White Oak Associates

White Oak Associates assembles planning and design teams specifically for each project. Led by White Oak’s principal planners John Jacobsen, Jeanie Stahl, and Victor Becker, and supported by White Oak’s office associates and our Leadership Task Force, White Oak teams draw on our roster of over 20 top museum professionals to orchestrate specialty design, strategic planning and operations expertise as needed.

John W. Jacobsen, White Oak’s president, was associate director of the Museum of Science in Boston in the ’80’s, leading the Theaters and Marketing Division, and he was also executive producer of their highly successful $24 million Hall Wing and Mugar Omni Theater. During Jacobsen’s tenure and under Dr. Roger Nichols’ leadership, overall Museum attendance grew from 950,000 to 2.2 million visitors per year. Since then, Mr. Jacobsen and White Oak have led strategic planning and marketing initiatives for many of America’s new science centers, history museums, children’s museums and other family learning centers. As Executive Producers, White Oak formed the Ocean Film Network to provide financing for The Living Sea, an Oscar®-nominated film in the IMAX® Hall of Fame. Mr. Jacobsen was the principal planner for new, expanding and re-invented community museums in Wichita, Des Moines, New London, Calgary, Richmond (VA), Anaheim, Rochester (NY), Hartford, Denver, Edmonton, Peoria, Ottawa and other communities. Through conference sessions and publications, Mr. Jacobsen has contributed new models for the museum and special format theater fields that respond to evolving social and economic conditions. Jacobsen’s BA and MFA are from Yale University.


Jeanie Stahl
Vice President

Jeanie Stahl, vice president, joined White Oak full time in 1989, bringing to the firm her expertise in research and finance. She has since developed White Oak’s extensive database on museums and has worked closely with White Oak’s clients to develop attendance projections and business plans that are sustainable and realistic. Her expertise in interpreting and analyzing operating performance is acknowledged in the museum field. She has been and continues to be an advisor to several museum associations in developing questions, definitions and key performance indicators for their member surveys. She also developed the key performance indicators and associated explanatory reports for the Association of Children’s Museums’ on-line Benchmarking Calculator. Working with Mr. Jacobsen, Ms. Stahl was the co-executive producer of the Oscar®-nominated giant screen film in the IMAX® Hall of Fame®, The Living Sea. Prior to joining White Oak, Ms. Stahl was head of finance at a major New England audio-visual and communications company and previously was a research analyst for an international consulting firm. Ms. Stahl is a Wellesley graduate and an accomplished musician and recording artist.


Victor A. Becker Director of Program Development

Victor A. Becker, director of program development since 1991, contributes to White Oak his 40 years of experience in applying the principles of theater to space planning, special events, exhibits, theaters and architecture. Mr. Becker has developed the Owner’s architectural specifications to the architectural team for new and expanding museum buildings: Peoria, Orlando, Richmond, Calgary, Rochester, Las Vegas, West Palm Beach, Wichita, Des Moines, Anaheim, Hartford, Charlotte, Edmonton. He has designed Delta galleries and theaters in The Carnegie Science Center, Exploration Place, Science Center of Iowa and White Oak’s other museums, worked with a number of award-winning architects, and designed more than 250 theater productions in regional and academic theaters across the US and Canada. Mr. Becker received a BA in biochemistry and sculpture at the University of Rochester and a MFA in theater design at Brandeis University. Mr. Becker recently completed six years as a Trustee of the New Hampshire Farm Museum and continues his work directing the restoration of the 1895 Wakefield Town and Opera House.

Research, report processing, logistics, team communicatoins and numerous other customer services are provided by White Oak’s Office Associates, Karen Hefler and Rebecca Robison.

Complementing in-house staff are a team of museum professionals that include some of the best professionals currently practicing in top management positions at major museums.

Mission
To work collaboratively with others to plan sustainable museums and compelling learning experiences that address significant community needs.

Core Business
Research-informed, collaborative museum planning

Core Values
Clients are First
Fairness for All
A Love of Creativity and Learning
A Tradition of Theater
Work that is a Source of Personal Pride and Pleasure
Accuracy
Strategic Values
Innovation
Collaboration
Strategic Objectives
Collaborate with the top learning centers, visionaries and experts
to advance the museum field.
Promote lifelong learning as a family and community activity.
Focus on audience/museum relationships.
Achieve high levels of satisfaction for our services that result in
strong word-of-mouth endorsements from our clients.
Build White Oak’s reputation and authority.
Interpret best practices and operating performance data to build healthier museums.
Corporate Organization and Chart List

Professional Planners and Producers
President
John Jacobsen
Vice President
Jeanie Stahl
Director of Program Development
Victor Becker
Office Management
Karen Hefler
Rebecca Robison
Team Associates (on call)
Over 20 Museum Professionals

Museeum Planners & Analysts

Our core team, supported as needed by our extensive network of associated museum professionals, works on selected museum planning projects (re-inventions, expansions and new museums) that promise significant com­munity impacts, creative collaboration with our client teams, and opportunities for field-wide museum innovation, built on our deep knowledge of best prac­tices and research data in the museum field.

Below are selected current and recent museums served by White Oak Associates. Please click on the pictures to read more detail about White Oak’s role within each museum planning project.

Case Statement
John W. Jacobsen, CEO
Jeanie Stahl, COO
Abstract …1
The Need…2
The Mission…3
The Field of Study …3
The Nature of the Studies …4
The Context: What Constitutes “Knowledge?” …5
Research Methodology …5
The White Oak Legacy…6
The Investigators and Analysts…7
Building on Prior Knowledge …9
Deliverables and Initial Study Projects …10
Study Processes…13
Respect and Humility: Harnessing Group Creativity …14
The White Oak Institute’s Conceptual Framework…16
Business Model …17
Contacts…17
References Cited…17
Actual and Potential Studies…18
ABSTRACT
Most American and many international museum associations and the agencies and foundations that
support museums list “research” among their top priorities for the coming years. The museum field is
making research progress in museum learning, but little research has been conducted of museums as
businesses operations - the institutional research that is needed to maintain the economic and creative
health of this growing, yet endangered sector of our culture.
The White Oak Institute aspires to contribute to that need. The mission of the White Oak Institute is to
further innovation in the museum field through research, analysis, and dissemination of data-based
findings drawn from museum operations. Over the years, this new non-profit will involve museum
leaders in the kinds of field-wide research needed to inform management’s major decisions and to
advance promising innovations.
A unique characteristic of the Institute’s methodologies will be the engagement of high-level museum
managers as investigators, working with their colleagues in processes supported and facilitated by the
Institute’s data analysis and synthesis. The goal is more economically and environmentally sustainable
museums that are better able to serve the public by offering more effective community services.
The White Oak Institute is a non-profit formed by the owner/principals of White Oak Associates, Inc.,
and it benefits from that company’s resources and 39 years of service to the museum field. In that time,
it has had hundreds of museum commissions from over a hundred museums.
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THE NEED
Museums serve the public in ever increasing numbers and ways. Museums around the
world engage over a billion visitors and program customers each year with positive
outcomes in education, community building, social interaction, stewardship,
scholarship, and economic development. No longer an elite activity, museums have
become an important part of mainstream community and culture. Yet museums are
complex operating organizations, and they are not easy to run, in large part because we
know very little about the field economically and operationally.
Sustaining the operating budget, which typically includes a costly physical plant with
high security expectations, requires serving four masters: visitors, program customers,
public supporters, and private supporters. Each of these categories of operating revenue
puts changing demands on the institution that require constant re-alignment and
adjustment to the institutional purpose.
The job of running a museum is getting harder. Visitors can be fickle and they have had
rising expectations during the first decades of the experience and information
economies. Government support is uneven and prone to political and economic swings.
Private support is pulled towards many other worthy causes. Knowledge of the
museum’s subject is only the starting requirement for the leaders managing museums
as they become increasingly complex economic ventures.
Museums are famously local and idiosyncratic, rooted in their communities by the
physicality of their unique collections and public buildings. Yet collectively, museums
are a global industry with an active network of linked professionals. America, by one
count, has 17,500 museum sites (IMLS 2007). Museums are everywhere. The state of São
Paulo, Brazil has 300 (Bianchi 2007), for instance. There are over 42 million visits each
year to Britain’s major museums (only a sub-set of Britain’s total museums), with 43%
of the population attending at least once during the year (Travers 2006). There has been
tremendous growth in the industry in the past decades. Now we have to make sure that
individual museums are and will be sustainable, and we need to monitor the industry’s
health as a whole. What is the size and impact of the museum industry? What do
historical trends tell us about the future? How does the industry handle its R & D? How
can individual museums innovate and grow by learning from their global peers?
Museums have become a critical part of our global creative economy. The museum
member associations (ICOM, AAM, ASTC, ACM, etc.) offer timely periodicals and
statistics, but there is little exploration of the data focused on museum operations. It is
time for a systematic research and analysis resource that helps museums innovate as
organizations and as an industry. We believe the museum field has reached sufficient
maturity and value that foundations and agencies will come to support a research
institute that harnesses top museum leaders to help the museum field become more
effective, innovative and sustainable.
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THE MISSION
Incorporated as a 501 ©(3) non-profit in 2007, The White Oak Institute aspires to lead
management-level research in the business and operations of the principal categories of
community-based museums. Over the years, this new non-profit will involve museum
leaders in the kinds of field-wide research needed to inform management’s major
decisions and to advance promising innovations.
The mission of the White Oak Institute is to further innovation
in the museum field through research, analysis, and
dissemination of data-based findings drawn from museum
operations.
Unlike the few other nonprofit institutes in the museum field studying learning in an
exhibits context, the White Oak Institute will focus on management’s key operating and
sustainability issues. We will serve the public by serving the institutions that reach the
public directly.
THE FIELD OF STUDY
By charter, the field of study for the White Oak Institute is global and embraces all
categories of museums. The field of study can include those institutions that fit the
International Council of Museums’ (ICOM) definition of a museum:
“A non-profit making, permanent institution in the service of society and
of its development, and open to the public, which acquires, conserves,
researches, communicates, and exhibits, for purposes of study, education
and enjoyment, material evidence of people and their environment
(UNESCO 2007).”
The term “non-profit” has varied definitions internationally, and does not apply in
certain cultures, where the private sector has created middle grounds for educational
museums. “Material evidence” may unintentionally seem to exclude museums based
on digital collections and natural phenomena like gravity and magnetism explored by
science centers; so, for practical reasons of identification, we will rely on regional
museum associations to determine whether a museum-like institution qualifies as a
museum in our field of study. This choice relies on: 1) institutions to self-identify
themselves as museums through their application for membership in a museum
association, and 2) on their peers to accept that they qualify as “museums” by their
association’s definition. This filter will miss some museums. Many museums are too
small to become actively involved in museum associations or to place annual dues high
on their priority of expenses. Other institutions – and this is an increasingly diminishing
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number – are too independent to see the relevance of membership in a museum
association.
This definition will also exclude some corporate museums and all for-profit museums,
like the very successful Salem Witch Museum and International Spy Museum
(Washington, D.C.). While the museum field may have a lot to learn from such
organizations, the White Oak Institute’s commitment is to institutions in the non-profit
world (or its local equivalent) that place community service as their highest priority,
above corporate marketing or private gain.
This provides the Institute with a definition of its potential study field. While we will
occasionally also study models in other fields, such as for-profit museums, libraries,
theme parks, interactive video games, etc., our purpose will be to gain insights that
support the non-profit museum field and its members, as we have defined them.
In practice, especially in the early years, the Institute’s work will focus on specific subsets of the museum field. Museum managers are understandably more interested in the
successes and experiments of their peer institutions. We will start with the sub-sets that
we know the most about: mid-sized to large science centers, community history
museums, children’s museums in the United States and Canada, and giant screen and
planetarium theaters globally. From that base we will branch out in time to other sizes,
disciplines and regions.
THE NATURE OF THE STUDIES
A unique characteristic of the Institute’s methodologies will be the engagement of highlevel museum managers as investigators, working with their colleagues in processes
supported and facilitated by the Institute’s data analysis and synthesis – experience and
data. The goal is to involve museum decision-makers in working together to look at
qualitative and quantitative data drawn from their field and from societal trends
around them in order to distill practical knowledge that will help them and other
managers achieve more economically and environmentally sustainable museums that
are better able to serve the public by offering more effective community services.
Most museum research funding has been channeled to learning research. Little funding
has been sought so far for institutional research that looks at such museum operating
issues as attendance factors, information exchange protocols, revenue models, or “howto’s” that provide museum managers with useful frameworks in emerging fields (e.g.,
digital giant screen theaters and green-sensitive operations).
Museum membership associations are already working with us on our initiatives and
research grant applications. American Association of Museums, Association of ScienceTechnology Centers, Association of Children’s Museums, International Planetarium
Society and Giant Screen Cinema Association are participants in one or more of our
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initiatives. Such grants will build on the data these associations have collected already,
and they will also distribute the Institute’s findings back to their members.
THE CONTEXT: WHAT CONSTITUTES “KNOWLEDGE?”
Learning researchers view the visitor experience as their study arena and approach
experiential learning from an academic, scholarly perspective, typically building on
previous studies and observing and interviewing visitors in specific museum contexts
about specific learning behaviors. Visitor experiences are seen as central to museum
practice, and a considerable amount of research funding has been invested in
investigating the nature and impact of different kinds of visitor experiences, from
children’s discovery worlds to traveling exhibitions. The tacit assumption of learning
research is that museums are the operating machinery that supports the field’s core
learning resource: the visitor experience.
The findings from these learning research studies are distributed horizontally to peer
exhibit developers in kindred museums. For instance, when the NSF funds the
Exploratorium to do research on the effect of clustering exhibits on learning, other
exhibit developers at other museums are encouraged to apply the findings to their
work.
While this is the theory, in practice the learning research findings can have difficulty
influencing decisions. For instance, despite the findings from the Exploratorium that
clustering exhibits around a particular subject reinforces retention of the connections
among the exhibits, the rest of the science center field has not adopted clustering as a
general policy of exhibit design; rather, other forces including inertia, seem to be at
work. What kinds of knowledge actually do drive decisions? What is the process of
knowledge management and decision-making within an organization? How do these
affect the museum’s community services? How do individuals and their personal drives
and museum definitions affect a museum’s direction?
Museums are a much more active force than the operating machinery behind visitor
experiences, usually offering many other learning experiences in addition to their
galleries. Little research and less analysis are conducted on museums as learning
institutions. How do they serve their communities? How can museums improve their
services and become more economically sustainable? What is a good museum? And
what is a great museum? How do the good become great?
RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
Institutional research, or operating research on the museum field and its sub-sets, will
benefit from a different approach than learning research. As organizations, museums
collect huge amounts of operating data which appear in attendance records, annual
financial statements, IRS Form 990s, economic impact studies, grant applications and
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filings, program enrollment, and school group uses, for instance. On the qualitative
side, museum managers build up experience that informs judgment from a streetsavvy, in-practice perspective, as well as from an academic and scholarly in-principle
perspective.
By collecting and comparing such quantitative data from like sub-sets of museums (e.g.
large science centers, city history museums, medium children’s museums, etc.), we can
start to see patterns of use to museum managers.
Busy managers, however, seldom read long research reports, although they are
interested in the sound bites and executive summaries. Managers are also bombarded
with many other ideas and seldom have the time to participate in on-line discussions.
However, most museum managers do respect their peers in other institutions, and look
forward to opportunities to work together on specific challenges to their field. While
schedules are tight, a two or three day workshop with other selected colleagues from
similar institutions will be an attractive format that will involve the leaders in exploring
and applying the research. Ironically, it may be easier and more effective to engage
busy managers in a two-day creative workshop than to get them to spend two hours
quietly reading a report.
One tactic is to employ museum managers with a variety of perspectives and
experience to analyze data summaries, apply their experience to understand them, and
draw possible qualitative conclusions that will influence their decisions when they
return to their museums.
Relevant academic research will be reviewed and referenced by project teams as
appropriate, and team members will build on it in their work. Distribution of findings
will focus on other museum managers and their needs, and we will make best efforts to
also distribute to related academic researchers.
THE WHITE OAK LEGACY
The White Oak Institute is a non-profit formed by the owner/principals of White Oak
Associates, Inc., and it benefits from that company’s 35 years of service to the museum
field. In that time, it has had hundreds of museum commissions from over a hundred
museums. White Oak Associates specializes in planning and producing large-scale
expansions and new museums, and we have significant involvement in the IMAX® and
now digital theater worlds. White Oak Associates has 20 current and recent museum
and theater projects internationally, representing a combined one and a half billion
dollars worth of planned community investment in museums.
The principals’ expertise is in overall institutional planning, linking creative strategies
with economic analysis. We understand museums operationally, and are active players
in the museum community, particularly those areas focused on family learning and
community-based museums. We have a wide network of contacts among top museum
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directors and professionals, and the White Oak Forum is shared with 1,800 museum
leaders.
Each of these projects is for a specific museum client, although we often form networks
to collect data from comparable museums. Over the three decades, we have
accumulated a significant amount of information, both in our library and in our digital
databases. However, none of these individual clients is prepared to spend their scarce
dollars on field-wide research, so we are forming the non-profit White Oak Institute to
partner with other nonprofits to investigate the kinds of larger questions that have long
intrigued us, but that no single museum client could finance.
We love the museum field and have had an extremely busy career, launching
innovative new museums. Now, we are interested in addressing the broader questions
that face the international family of museums. White Oak Associates will continue to
serve its current clients, as most do not open for years. At the same time, we will slowly
establish the White Oak Institute with the hope that it will grow and continue to serve
the museum field.
THE INVESTIGATORS AND ANALYSTS
Our project research teams are likely to involve both active and retired museum
managers working together with promising upcoming museum directors, guided by
the Institute’s principal investigators and supported by careful analysts.
CO-PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATORS
John W. Jacobsen, the Institute’s President, CEO and Co-Principal Investigator, was
associate director of the Museum of Science in Boston in the ‘80’s, leading the Theaters
and Marketing Division, and he was also executive producer of their highly successful
new Hall Wing and Mugar Omni Theater. During Jacobsen’s tenure and under Dr.
Roger Nichols’ leadership, overall Museum attendance grew from 950,000 to 2.2 million
visitors per year. Since then, Mr. Jacobsen resumed his position as president of White
Oak Associates, Inc. where he has led strategic planning and marketing initiatives for
many of America’s new science centers, history museums, children’s museums and
other family learning centers. As Executive Producers, White Oak formed the Ocean
Film Network to provide financing for The Living Sea, an Oscar® nominated, IMAX®
film. Mr. Jacobsen was the executive producer of the visitor experiences at Exploration
Place (Wichita, KS) and the new Science Center of Iowa (Des Moines, IA, 2005). White
Oak’s additional recent planning projects include new museums, theaters and
expansions in Hartford, Anaheim, Peoria, Calgary, Charlotte, NW Arkansas, Ottawa,
Providence, Edmonton, Palm Beach (FL), and New London (CT). Through conference
sessions and publications, Mr. Jacobsen has contributed new models for the museum
and special format theater fields that respond to evolving economic conditions.
Jacobsen’s BA and MFA are from Yale University.
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Jeanie Stahl, the Institute’s Senior Vice President, COO and Co-Principal Investigator,
joined White Oak Associates, Inc. full time in 1989 as vice president, bringing her
expertise in research and finance. She has since developed White Oak’s extensive
database on museums and has worked closely with White Oak’s museum clients to
develop attendance projections and business plans that are sustainable and realistic.
Working with Mr. Jacobsen, Ms. Stahl was the co-executive producer of the Oscar®
nominated 1570 film, The Living Sea. Ms. Stahl was a member of ASTC’s Analysis and
Trends Committee that oversaw the publication of ASTC’s Sourcebook of Science Center
Statistics and Analysis. She continues to be an advisor for the annual sourcebook. She has
also been active with the Association of Children’s Museums organizing and leading
several of the pre-conference seminars for emerging museums. Prior to joining White
Oak, Ms. Stahl was head of finance for a New England audio-visual and
communications company and previously was a research analyst for an international
consulting firm. Ms. Stahl is a Wellesley graduate and an accomplished musician.
PEER REVIEW PROGRAM
The Institute’s official publications will be reviewed by peers prior to publication in part
to avoid any conflicts of interest by the project’s principals. The Institute will investigate
practices of peer review by other research institutes, and adopt a policy appropriate to
the Institute’s field, work and audience. Peer reviewers will not be participants in the
research being reviewed, but rather independent of the process and able to look at the
draft findings from other perspectives to make sure they are sound. The Institute will
respond to peer reviewer comments by either addressing them or documenting the
exceptions.
ANALYSIS AND SUPPORT TEAM
The Institute’s team includes Project Manager Rebecca Robison and researchers Karen
Hefler and Karen Stelle who have been doing similar work as a group for White Oak
Associates for years. For the Institute, they will be responsible for project management,
collection of data, preliminary analysis of existing relevant research, review of relevant
literature, preparation of executive digests, organization of colloquia, conversion of data
and information into relational databases, and the production of the Institute’s written
documentation and reports.
WOI RESOURCES
The White Oak Institute benefits from White Oak Associates’ completely functioning
office environment with space for 5-8 staff supported by a fully integrated sophisticated
computer network and an array of top-quality office equipment and software. The
Institute’s Museum Reference Library is a result of decades of collection, including
published books on museums and related learning theory, unpublished museum
documentation, collateral material from museums around the world, databases of
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museum operating information, coded mailing lists, and many other operating
administrative assets that allow the Institute to operate efficiently. The Museum
Planning Room is equipped for creative charettes for up to eight museum professionals
with all the tools needed for productive brainstorming and planning sessions. Other
nearby spaces in Marblehead are capable of accommodating larger groups.
BUILDING ON PRIOR KNOWLEDGE
The Institute starts with a debt of gratitude to the work done by the museum
associations and the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). The Association
of Science-Technology Centers (ASTC) publishes operating statistics, as do other
museum associations, along with a full line of museum publications. The IMLS’s
Museum Data Collection Report and Analysis, for instance, is a survey of all the documents
that pertain to museum operating data, and the authors make recommendations for
improving data collection. It contains an extremely useful bibliography, as well as a
thorough listing of sources of information about museums.
This document, and others on the same subject, point out that quantifying museum
field is particularly elusive, even when limited to just American museums. Data is
collected in different ways, and no one has taken the time to reconcile the differences
and look for meaningful patterns.
Both the 1998 and 2005 IMLS studies (DeBruin and Wharton 2005, 24-28) included
recommendations that the museum field standardize and centralize its data collection.
The field is finally moving in that direction, and the Institute is active moving it along.
IMLS has completed a study of museum and library use, and is starting a landscape
study of museums, with the goal of a census count of museums in America; this
inventory of museums will provide a foundation of research. Yet, before that landscape
survey can be conducted, data definitions need to be established. Some sectors of the
museum field have established definitions and collected data, but they vary from
children’s museums to science centers to art museums, for instance.
The White Oak Institute is partnering with the American Association of Museums to
establish field-wide definitions through the Museum Operating Data Standards
(MODS) initiative to broker adoption of shared data definitions that will allow
comparisons of key performance indicators.
One possible source and steward of shared data definitions is the Cultural Data Project,
an on-line reporting tool for cultural non-profits seeking grants in five states that soon
will account for a third of the grant-seeking museums. Developed by the Pew
Charitable Trusts and other Pennsylvania public and private grant-making
organizations, the CDP intends to expand coverage state-by-state, and already allows
museums to benchmark against peers and cities to assess the health of their cultural
sector. The Institute is part of these conversations and in regular contact with the key
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players. These initiatives and studies, and the many more on our shelves, convince us
that every study at the Institute needs to start with an appreciation of the work done to
date, and an understanding of the challenges faced by previous researchers and
innovators.
DELIVERABLES AND INITIAL STUDY PROJECTS
The formal deliverables of Institute projects will be colloquia and peer-reviewed
research reports. Whenever practical and fundable, the Institute’s projects will also
apply the research to the development of practical “tools” that will help museum
professionals use the findings in their museum’s operations. Examples of tools included
in WOI’s current actual and proposed projects include:
‹ Definition Glossaries
‹ Key Performance Indicators
‹ Shared Technical and Facility Standards/Protocols
‹ Management Handbooks
‹ On-Line Databases
Some protocols have been developed within the associations, so that ASTC members
are nominally consistent in how they report data, but this does not align with how
AAM or ACM collects data. There are a few networks for high-definition media, but
planetariums continue to produce their own shows, and traveling exhibition halls vary
greatly as do the kinds of equipment available. Grant funders ask for museum data in a
wide range of formats, requiring more accounting time. What kinds of standardization
have worked? What kinds of standardization foster innovation and what kinds stifle it?
Which standards, like the 990’s, should we build on? What areas will benefit from more
standardization? And what are the reasons and/or resistance points for museums
agreeing to follow shared standards? What kinds of processes will work to develop
standards that a wide range of museums will accept?
Dissemination may include: distribution of findings and tools through partnering
organizations, on-line forums, articles, conference sessions, web sites, webinars and
management briefings. The intangible outcomes of a WOI project will be museum
innovation implemented in part by the museum leaders who participated in the process
and who use the tools.
To illustrate the range of research questions that the White Oak Institute might address
in its early years, see the attached “Actual and Potential Studies.”
The following studies are funded or in proposal stage:
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KEY INDICATORS AND RATIOS: BENCHMARKING CALCULATOR
(Funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services)
The Association of Children’s Museums (ACM) and the White Oak Institute are
developing a Benchmarking Calculator, a Web-based tool for children’s museum
professionals to produce on-demand reports of key performance indicators and ratios
derived from extensive data collected by ACM on more than 230 museums. The key
indicator reports will assist in benchmarking – the practice of measuring performance
against industry leaders - to identify strengths and weaknesses and make adjustments
to operations. Detailed data analysis and interpretation provided by the Benchmarking
Calculator will equip children’s museum professionals to strengthen operations of their
institutions with the goal of achieving sustainability and building capacity to serve
children, families and communities.
DIGITAL GIANT SCREEN THEATERS: WHAT IS THE BEST FORMAT FOR MUSEUMS?
(Funded by the National Science Foundation: NSF-ISE 0946691)
There are currently 207 museum and institutional analog giant screen theaters globally,
and 115 of those in North America (Hyder 2007). Many, but not all of these, are IMAX®.
As Hollywood goes digital, this network is in danger, as there will shortly come a time
when analog 15 perf x 70 mm film will no longer be made. Currently none of the digital
system manufacturers have plans to create a digital chip that is the right aspect ratio for
“giant screen;” rather, suppliers, including IMAX, are focusing on the Hollywood
aspect ratio. Museums, with their commitment to unique and immersive learning
experiences, have succeeded with analog giant screen theaters precisely because they
are unlike Hollywood and offer a level of experience unmatched by other formats. For
the relatively small market of museum theaters, this means that we must take an active
role in specifying the digital format that is right for museums in order to encourage
suppliers to develop appropriate digital technologies. A significant partner in this
venture could be the world’s inventory of 300 Fulldomes (Savage 2007), as digital stars
and other databases converge with Dome GS Theaters. Without this proactive stance,
museum giant screen theaters will be forced to convert to Hollywood standards.
The White Oak Institute and our team including the Giant Screen Cinema Association,
the Institute for Learning Innovation, the LF Examiner, and the MacGillivray Freeman
Foundation-Informal Science Education convened the Digital Immersive Screen
Colloquium for Unified Standards and Specifications (DISCUSS) in June, 2010, funded
by the National Science Foundation (NSF-ISE 0946691). During this colloquium and
online forum, science museum industry leaders and technical experts in the giantscreen (GS) theater field have started a process for establishing digital immersive giant
screen specifications (DIGSS) to transform the currently analog film-based, global
network of science-oriented GS theaters. Such shared protocols will set the stage for
innovations in museum-quality equipment and productions in the digital age.
12
MUSEUM DATA DEFINITIONS PROJECT (MDD)
(Contract Award Number: IMLS-2010-047 in partnership with the American Association of Museums)
For some time, the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), the American
Association of Museums (AAM) and other museum organizations have discussed the
need for clear and common data standards. Now is the moment for the museum field to
make a more formal commitment to shared standards. Standardized data collection will
facilitate benchmarking and make it easier to share best practices and innovations,
mobilize capital and operating support, and highlight the contributions of museums to
American society. It will also reduce the administrative burden on individual
museums, which are now called upon to supply slightly different information to a
variety of funders, government agencies, and professional associations each year.
The White Oak Institute with the American Association of Museums has been awarded
a 6-month contract to develop a standard set of data definitions and a roll-out strategy
for the IMLS Museum Data Definitions Project (MDD). WOI and AAM will 1). Develop
a comprehensive review guide of current national databases on U.S. museums and
museum participation by writing a Review Guide of Existing Museum Databases; 2). Select
a number of individual museum directors, research and evaluation leaders and other
interested stakeholders from the museum community to offer their individual opinions
on technical matters by enlisting the National Museum Census Advisory Panel and a
larger circle of Stakeholders; and 3: Provide a final report to IMLS that includes a vetted
Data Glossary, Recommendations for Portal Functionality, and a Roll-out Strategy
detailed in a Museum Census Roadmap.
MEASURING MUSEUM IMPACT: QUANTIFYING PUBLIC VALUE
Measuring Museum Impact and Public Worth is a future proposal for research, analysis
and evaluation of the relationships between American museums and their communities
and the impacts museums have on their communities. Building on our benchmarking
calculator for the children’s museum field, the proposal will seek funding to test a fielddeveloped model for quantifying museum impact and worth, as valued by its
community.
The outcome of the project is to establish quantified benchmarks for a number of fielddetermined key performance indicators, in a number of community services and for a
number of museum sectors. This is the first opportunity to set the bar for American
museums because new studies and data compilations will soon make this possible, and
the data quantity and quality will improve during the three-year term of this project.
The impact of establishing metrics is to provide both museum managers and
community leaders with quantified objectives and best practices. This measurable
knowledge will enable museum managers and community leaders to partner to lead
and support every American museum toward more impact and greater public worth in
that museum’s chosen areas of community service.
13
STUDY PROCESSES
Each of these studies will require a specific sequence of phases and grants; what follows
is the base model:
PHASE 0: NEEDS AND PRIOR KNOWLEDGE ANALYSIS
Phase 0 (Pre-Funding) starts with a review of work to date, an assessment of the quality
of existing data, a finer grain focus on the research objective, and an identification of the
set of museums appropriate for that study. In later phases, these participating museums
will be included as project partners.
PHASE 1: FRAMING THE RESEARCH
The White Oak Institute will summarize the prior knowledge and collect relevant
public information (990 forms, financial statements, etc.) and add from its own
extensive database of museum economics to create a Briefing Package. The Institute’s
principal investigators and their professional staff will format, analyze and look for
preliminary patterns in this data.
Each study will have a panel of 3-12 associate investigators, carefully selected for
diversity of perspectives within the field of study and a range of seniority in museum
practice. This will make sure that both wisdom and fresh ideas are present as well as
reminders of the needs of human resources, exhibition development, finance and other
operating aspects of museum management. The principal investigators and the
associate investigators will be sent digests of the work-to-date that will help the
Institute frame the research questions for the next phase. This will be accomplished
through an on-line forum where the panel discusses the implications of the work-todate and identifies what additional information will be most useful to them as
managers.
PHASE 2A: RESEARCH
In Phase 2, research and survey processes will take place run by the Institute involving
the collection of source data, the administration of visitor research studies, (both
qualitative and quantitative) and interviews with selected museum managers and
academic learning researchers.
‹ Structured interviews with museum professionals.
‹ Partnerships with demographic and psychographic data providers, such as ESRI,
Claritas, GuideStar, etc.
Given the difficulty of previous attempts to collect comparable data, we expect that the
work of this phase will be the most challenging and time-consuming. In order to get
historic operating data from the participating museums, staff at those museums will
need to assemble data from their files and enter it into survey instruments according to
14
specific definitions. For this to happen in a timely fashion, the participating museums
must be involved financially in the project budget, even if at modest amounts. At the
Institute, staff will need to remind participants of their deadlines, check their data,
question responses that seem abnormal, and apply adjusting factors to account for
inflation, regional differences and other anomalies. Only after considerable task
management and fact checking will such data be ready for analysis in comparison with
clean data from other museums.
PHASE 2B: FINDINGS
Information arts and science can provide innovative ways of seeing the data for the first
round of analysis. Data visualization and the ability to layer in social and economic
data, maps and graphs from regional sources will reveal trends and correlations that
mere columns of numbers make opaque.
A two-day colloquium will bring the panel together to hear the preliminary analysis,
and collaborate on how to apply this new knowledge to their institutions in particular,
and to the field being studied in general.
Based on the outcomes and notes, the Institute’s principal and associate investigators
will draft sections of the research report. Pairs or trios of associates will then collaborate
in developing these drafts into formal report chapters. The Institute will support and
monitor these collaborations on-line, leading toward presentations to the rest of the
group. After hearing the chapter drafts from each of the sub-groups, the investigators as
a group will integrate the findings and distill the new knowledge for the field as “news
we can use to better serve the public,” and/or as practical tools to distribute to museum
managers.
Depending on the nature of the findings, a formal distribution of the new knowledge
and tools to other museum managers will follow through conference presentations,
white papers and other forms of distribution, including on-line archiving through the
Institute’s web site. Some associate investigators will host round-table creative sessions
at appropriate museum conferences to broaden the exploration of the findings and
instructions in how to use the tools.
PHASE 3: FOLLOW-UP EVALUATION AND RECOMMENDATIONS (OPTIONAL)
Some studies will have a Phase 3, which will return to the research question some years
later to gather new data and reconvene the colloquium to access impact and success in
the field. This evaluation and continuation of the conversation is likely to augment the
understanding of the research as well as reveal where more research is needed, which
will spiral the question back to Phase 2.
RESPECT AND HUMILITY: HARNESSING GROUP CREATIVITY
The Institute values group creativity as a way of doing its work. While the romantic
myth celebrates the individual creator and derides design by committee, in practice
15
significant innovations are usually the result of collaboration (Sawyer 2007), particularly
in the context of innovations that advance a particular field. Since the Institute’s
purpose is to advance the museum field, collaboration among museum leaders will be
an effective way to develop genuine innovations with advocates who are ready and
have the power to apply the innovations in their real-world institutional settings.
Keith Sawyer’s Group Creativity will be adopted by the Institute to guide its processes
and colloquia. Central to the Institute’s creative colloquia are participants with the right
expertise, plus the humility to recognize that stronger ideas will emerge from the
collaborative, improvisational give-and-take among their peers in the right setting. In
selecting its project teams and creative groups, the Institute will look for individuals
who will respect the other members as peers, and who think of leadership as a process
of listening as well as contributing. In Jim Collins’ terms we are looking for Level 5
leaders, rather than autocratic bosses (Collins 2001).
This notion of group collaboration is consistent with new research into creativity and
knowledge management. Bringing together experts and novices in joint-problem
solving opportunities has been found to be an effective way to pass along knowledge
and processes. Research into the ways that new ideas emerge from group creativity
(Sawyer) stresses the improvisational nature of the process within a clear structure,
such as a jazz ensemble creating variations within a given melody and harmonic key.
This process of knowledge transfer and group creativity will underlie the nature and
spirit of the two-day colloquia which will include both serious and social opportunities
to form lasting professional friendships in the convivial atmosphere of Marblehead’s
seaside historic community.
“Colloquium” is Latin for “conversation” and it comes from colloqui, to talk together. In
analyzing the conditions for group flow experiences, Keith Sawyer quotes Mihaly
Csikszentmihalyi, whose research into individual flow “found that the most common
place people experienced flow was in conversation with others.” (Sawyer 2007)
Sawyer stresses the need for the conditions that will support group flow, a concept that
he develops from Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s parameters for successful individual flow
experiences. In addition to respect, listening skills and other principles, group flow
requires concentration, and benefits from familiarity among the participants. For this
reason, the agendas of the colloquia in Marblehead will balance social interaction and
concentrated creative sessions.
The settings, pacing and agendas of the Institute’s Marblehead Colloquia will be designed
to inspire and support creative group flow. Marblehead is a delightful, historic seaside
retreat, and the Institute’s work will be based in the historic village with its walkable
streets and large selection of meeting spaces. Daytime creative sessions, supported by
the latest tools of information gathering and analysis, will allow the group of colleagues
to concentrate on the research findings and their implications in a way that would be
16
impossible in their home offices. The atmosphere will be informal, un-rushed, (yet
structured), non-hierarchical, friendly and frankly, fun to attend and inspirational in its
impact. In addition to formal sessions, participants will engage with each other in a
variety of stimulating settings around Marblehead. Associate Investigators will look
forward to coming to this attractive place to do important work in the company of
respected peers.
THE WHITE OAK INSTITUTE’S CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK
CORE BUSINESS
Research-based museum innovation: Conducting research, analyzing data, exploring
the implications with creative groups of museum professionals, and distributing the
findings.
PASSION
Contributing to museum innovation.
BEST IN THE WORLD
Qualitative understanding of quantitative museum data.
ECONOMIC DRIVER
Relevant, accurate and meaningful new knowledge applied to practical tools that help
museums serve their purpose and the public more effectively.
VALUES
Love of Museums
Collaboration & Friendship
Accuracy & Clarity
Innovation and Enrichment
Relevance
Excellence
Pleasure in our Work
Inspirational Dialogue
Interdisciplinary
Sustainability
Comprehensiveness
Global Connectivity
Flow & Concentration
Green Approaches
17
BUSINESS MODEL
The White Oak Institute is a non-profit organization built on grants and contributed
assets and intellectual property. Operating revenues for the Institute come principally
from grants from public agencies and private foundations for research projects. During
the start-up years, White Oak Associates is contributing the Institute’s operating costs,
with help from a few donations. The existing White Oak Associates Inc. will continue to
plan and produce museums for museum clients. John W. Jacobsen and Jeanie Stahl will
manage the White Oak Institute and serve as its principal investigators. Offices,
conference center, library and support staff will be at 17 Essex Street, Marblehead, MA,
01945
CONTACTS
Mr. John Jacobsen, CEO and Co-Principal Investigator
Ms. Jeanie Stahl, COO and Co-Principal Investigator
White Oak Institute
P.O. Box 1164
Marblehead, MA 01945
781-639-0722 (voice), 781-639-2491 (fax)
jjacobsen@whiteoakinstitute.org, jstahl@whiteoakinstitute.org
www.whiteoakinstitute.org
REFERENCES CITED
Bianchi, Ronaldo. Secretârio Adjunto da Cultura, Governo Do Estado De São Paulo in a comment in
person to John W. Jacobsen at the 2007 AAM Conference
Collins, Jim. 2001. Good to Great: Why some companies make the leap … and others don’t. New York: Harper
Collins Publishers Inc.
DeBruin, Todd and Carole Wharton. 2005. Institute of Museum and Library Services: Museum Data Collection
Report and Analysis. Washington D.C.: McManis & Monsalve Associates.
Hyder, James. 2007. LF Examiner Vol 10, No. 7: 12, May
Institute of Museum and Library Services: Grant and Award Opportunities. 2007. Washington D.C.
Savage, Steve. President, Sky-Skan, Inc. in a comment to John W. Jacobsen in 2006.
Sawyer, Keith. 2007. Group Genius: The Creative Power of Collaboration. New York: Perseus Books Group.
Travers, Tony. 2006. Museums and Galleries in Britain: economic, social and creative impacts jointly
commissioned by the National Museum Directors’ Conference (NMDC) and the Museums,
Libraries and Archives Council (MLA), 13 December.
United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO):
http://portal.unesco.org/culture
18
ACTUAL AND POTENTIAL STUDIES
Status

  1. Red Dinosaurs to Green Exhibitions Published in the
    Exhibitionist, 4/09
  2. Museum Attendance: Trends & Factors 1985-2005
  3. Models of Diversity Initiatives and Their Impact
  4. Mindful Flow Experiences: Where are They Happening, and
    What Conditions Support Them?
  5. Digital Giant Screen Theater Specifications: What is the Best
    Format for the Museum Field’s Unique Needs?
    Funded by the NSF
    (NSF-ISE 0946691)
  6. Good to Great Museums (a study like Jim Collins’)
  7. Human Resources: How do Organization Charts Affect Impact?
  8. Cross-Museum Industry Operating Data Standardization (with
    AAM)
    IMLS Award No.
    2010-047
  9. Earned Revenue: Trends & Impact 1985 - 2005
  10. Quantifying Museum Impact in Six Service Sectors MMI Initiative
  11. Museum Exchange Compatibility Protocols: Collections
    Databases, Digital Media; Traveling Exhibitions etc.
  12. Learning Demand vs. Learning Supply: How many SF of
    Museum [Gallery] Space can a Community Support?
  13. Inventory of Hands-On Interactive Exhibits (with Joe Ansel)
  14. Review of Business Models Internationally and Their
    Implications
    5SCWC Session
  15. Flow of Museum Management Decision Making and the Role of
    Different Kinds of Knowledge.
  16. Design for Learning: What Spaces and Forms Encourage Which
    Kinds of Experiential Learning Behaviors?
  17. Establishing Key Performance Indicators for Sectors of the
    Museum field
    ACM/IMLS Grant

The Elephants in the Galleries

By John W. Jacobsen
This article first appeared in The Informal Learning Review (Jan-Feb. 212), No. 112.
R. Bryce Seidl’s account of downward trends in ASTC operating data since 2006 (ILR # 111) raises the
major concern for the economic sustainability of our field, yet few are doing anything about this elephant
in the gallery. Or rather, on closer inspection, these elephants in the science center galleries.
First, the numbers. Seidl, who is Board Chair of ASTC and CEO of the Pacific Science Center and is
summarizing ASTC statistics from 2006 to 2011, reports that the global average of monthly median
attendance decreased from about 42,000 visitors per month in January 2006 to 32,000 in July 2011 – a
24% decrease over 5.5 years. Larger science centers lost more than smaller ones. He further observes,
“Over the last decade, 10 Chicago museums invested close to one billion dollars in infrastructure,
collections storage and content. Over that same period they have seen no significant upward movement in
attendance.” The Museum of Science (Boston) has never achieved the annual attendances it earned in the
late 80’s, despite two and a half decades of professional development and growth in population. I am
really puzzled by the paradox of our field’s increased professionalism and accumulation of research
evidence vs. our declining operating data – as we “get better,” we are losing attendance. What does this
mean for the attendance aspirations of the upcoming major science museum capital projects in Miami,
Dallas and San Francisco? What does it mean for all informal science education (ISE) museums?
Second, the caveats. No one is comfortable with the accuracy and comparability of sector- and field-wide
museum statistics. Dr. Philip Katz, head of research for AAM, feels that Seidl’s report is overly
pessimistic, citing more modest declines from the Survey of Public Participation in the Arts and the
National Arts Index and modest increases from AAM’s own research data, which include art and history
museums as well. Declining attendance may be more of an issue for ASTC museums than for other
sectors. Janet Rice Elman, CEO of the ACM, says that while their statistics are from 2010, her sense is
that children’s museums have not declined, and AZA’s Sr. VP for Conservation & Education Dr. Paul
Boyle reports that zoos and aquariums have recently increased cumulative attendance from 175 million to
180 million. “Attendance” is a fuzzy and ill-suited statistic. Some museums count a combo ticket sale as
two; others as one. Some include function rentals and on-site events, and others do not, while outreach
programs are not counted within on-site attendance. A more accurate, meaningful and consistent
definition that totals all of a museum’s annual “engagements,” such as recommended by the recently
completed Museum Operating Data Standards (MODS) developed by the White Oak Institute and AAM
for the IMLS, might address this problem, but broad adoption needs to get past entrenched and conflicting
definitions and museum sector needs.
Nevertheless, the issue of declining attendance, particularly among large ISE museums with giant screen
theaters, is a sufficiently serious issue that the ASTC board is wrestling with it. So let me describe some
of the difficult and seldom-asked questions – the “elephants” – that I see in the ISE museum sector that
merit closer attention and research:
• Is the fault in us or in society?: There are bound to be adverse external factors, such as the declining
pizzazz of science, the aging and diversifying market, the difficult economy, the end of the novelty
effect of science centers, the increased competition from theme parks, experiential retail and other
physical destinations, and the huge growth of other museums over the last decades. However there are
also positive external factors such as population growth and urbanization, the increased attention to
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John W. Jacobsen
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STEM education, the realization of the importance of non-school, family-based learning experiences,
and the expansion of access to public spaces, including cultural districts. Cocooning and enhanced
viewing options at home, and the wealth of information and entertainment over the Internet may
explain why movie house attendance has recently hit a 16-year low, and this effect might also explain
some of the decline for giant screen theaters and other on-site museum attendance. Yet, theme park
attendance has been growing, and, as noted earlier, ASTC museums are suffering while children’s
museums, zoos and aquariums appear not to be. In any case, it is hard to do anything about such
external effects, except use them as excuses. We can, however, look at the factors that are within our
power to change.
• Why can’t ISE museums create their own popular attractions?: Most ISE museum directors I
have spoken with talk about blockbuster exhibitions and Hollywood DMR ® films as the sources of
their occasional attendance peaks. Whether it is Body Worlds or Harry Potter in the traveling
exhibition galleries, or Avatar or Mission Impossible in their giant screen theater, these attendance
boosters tend to be produced and distributed by commercial for-profit ventures. Their business deals
are cloaked in secrecy in part because they funnel a considerable share of the visitors’ money back to
the commercial sector. Not incidentally, these commercial attractions typically require higher ticket
prices, and often are just front-loading future attendance, resulting in subsequent attendance valleys
and a public that expects to wait to re-visit until the next popular hit. Why can’t museums produce
these attendance-generating traveling exhibitions and films, and keep the revenues within our sector?
Sure, there are a few exceptions, such as some of the in-house exhibitions mounted by the Franklin
Institute and Discovery Place, but these are seldom scalable to multi-venue installations, and many
museum-produced traveling exhibitions, planetarium programs, and giant screen films have modest
box office impact. Museum staff members often complain that traveling exhibitions steal attention
and resources from “mission-based” permanent exhibits, but while new permanent exhibits can result
in a short-term bump in attendance, they usually settle back, as did Liberty Science Center. When will
we understand that our visitors want constant change, rather than the oxymoron of new permanent
exhibits? More importantly, when will we understand what motivates our visitors to re-visit? And
when will we learn how to provide them with a consistent stream of attractive and compelling
learning experiences that are relevant to their interests? Only then can we wean ourselves from
commercial vendors who are all too happy to exploit our visibility, excellent facilities and deep
community trust to their financial advantage, but to our long-term economic detriment.
• Are ISE museums overpriced or worth less?: Gate-sharing arrangements with commercial
distributors often result in increased admission prices. Wit Ostrenko, CEO of Tampa’s MOSI, also
notes that as declining attendance reduces earned revenue, there is pressure to jack up pricing to
compensate in the short term, which results in further stratifying our audiences to the wealthy and
puts downward pressure on attendance. The AZA’s Boyle, on the other hand, notes that zoos and
aquariums offer families good value, particularly evident during the recent ‘staycation’ phenomenon,
and free admission has doubled attendance for many UK museums. Ultimately, however, we need to
provide visitors with greater value than their outlay of time, money and stress. Sea World ($81.99 for
an adult day pass at the gate) can do it and still attract its very diverse audiences; so why can’t ISE
museums?
• Are do-good messages hurting? and, For whom should we be “relevant?”: The recent emphasis
on science in society, and on the public understanding of research may be leading ISE museums
toward public offerings that fewer people want. The billion dollars spent in Chicago may have
successfully achieved their donors’ learning objectives, but perhaps at the expense of the host
institutions’ operating aspirations. Several ISE institutions shared millions of funding for
nanotechnology education, but did those nanotechnology programs boost attendance? For that
matter, do exhibits on infectious diseases, climate change, population explosion and other science and
society topics attract people, or turn them away from subsequent visits? When ISE institutions are
dependent on visitor revenues, how much didactic lecturing can we get away with? What’s the right
ratio of the sugar-coating to the pill? And are we really about dispensing “pills?” Most of us would
The Elephants in the Galleries
John W. Jacobsen
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agree that “relevance” is an essential component of a museum’s public value, but who determines
what is relevant?’ Perhaps we have paid too much attention to the messages that foundations and the
scientific community wish to impart to the general public, and not enough to the kinds of quality-time
learning experiences that families want to have together in our institutions.
• Why are economic indicators (outputs) segregated from learning impacts (outcomes)? VSA and
informalscience.org do a good job of archiving education studies, but no one gathers marketing
studies, and the two kinds of evaluation have very different methods and purposes. Yet both are
important and should be integrated: Effective free-choice learning experiences should also be popular
visitor experiences. Some disagree with aspects of this integration. Dr. John Fraser, CEO of the New
Knowledge Organization, a non-profit research institute, says “We shouldn’t measure social services
by the revenues they generate – that is playing into the corporatization of third sector institutions and
misleads everyone into believing that a better or worse society is a commodity no different than two
pairs of shoes.” Dr. Alan Friedman, editor of the NSF’s “Framework for Evaluating Impacts of
Informal Science Education Projects,” notes that a museum can boost its operating numbers by
screening Batman, but that says nothing about its learning impact. Fraser believes that any paid
museum can only be judged as free-choice for a narrow band of the upper-middle class who have
enough discretionary spending to enjoy museum visits at will. These are valid considerations, but not
enough in my opinion to merit tossing out all operating data as inadmissible evidence. In a free choice
marketplace, I hypothesize that operating data are more than just outputs – they have the potential to
be indicators of impact at a community level. To deny free-choice learning institutions the use of their
marketplace numbers as evidence of their impact is to insult the capacity of families and teachers to
make responsible and meaningful learning decisions by voting with their time and money. We can’t
call something a good learning experience if no one shows up, or if it kills the host financially.
Marketplace appeal is the fundamental difference between formal and informal learning (i.e., between
no-choice and free-choice), and we should not expect to use the same evaluation tests for both. In
recognition of this difference, I believe that NSF ISE and other granting solicitations should include
evaluation of both learning outcomes and operating objectives to encourage proposers to think about
and be judged by their deliverables’ learning effectiveness, by their ability to attract “free-choice”
audiences and to clearly admit who and what are being supported by the public purse in the true fiscal
reality of museum operations today. We are producing learning experiences that we hope our
audiences with ‘buy’ with their money, time and/or effort, and what I call product development
research truly pays off in visitor learning and attendance – Val Crane’s 1987 studies resulted in a
very different version of Ramesses the Great (1988) at the Museum of Science that had both the
learning that visitors thought was relevant to them in a science museum context, and resulted in
700,000 visitors in four months. The damage with the segregated approach is that exhibit and
education staff focus on whether their messages get across, leaving the marketing folks with the
challenge of selling these message-laden things through packaging. My call is for the VSA evaluation
community to use their skills to integrate education and marketing studies and to help us create
effective learning experiences that the public wants to buy.
• Are science centers as we know them a dying breed of museum?: This is the most troubling
elephant. Fraser asks “Are the funders of STEM learning museums just keeping these daytime-only
exhibit warehouses going when maybe some should be allowed to die as no longer relevant in a
media-rich 24-7 learning world?” Is our focus on science learning primarily at the museum building
as our “core purpose” too limiting and not sufficiently compelling to motivate growing visitation? Do
we need to expand beyond STEM learning to take on active roles as community gathering places,
economic development agencies and institutions serving a much wider range of social purposes in
order to survive? or, Do we need new creativity and innovative ways of engaging a larger public
audience in science learning well beyond any building? As Fraser says, “Evolution is not always slow
and predictably based on past success. Sometimes a cataclysmic change in an ecology results in
radical die-off of species that seemed to be stable for the long term. Sudden change can result in the
emergence of completely new types of life that are more suited to the changed world.” Friedman says
The Elephants in the Galleries
John W. Jacobsen
4 of 4
“The next generation of science museums may not be science museums at all but far broader
institutions in which the sciences, the arts, and the humanities are inextricably bound together in
exploring vital questions about the universe and its inhabitants1
.” Maybe some significant
evolution/re-invention along these lines will return us to the vitality ISE museums enjoyed in the
‘80’s and 90’s – but only, I believe, if we first face difficult questions like these.
You, dear reader, and I are likely to have different opinions on these questions, but I hope we can agree
that these elephants now deserve meaningful research and thoughtful discussion. I am particularly
encouraged that the ASTC board is addressing the question of declining attendance, and I hope that
museum professionals, government and private funders, and the evaluation community also understand
the seriousness of the issue and bend their agendas to help solve the problem, even if it means a
significant shift in their purposes and operating cultures. Without that shift, I fear ISE museums will
continue their downward spiral.
John Jacobsen is President of White Oak Associates, Inc (museum planning and production), and CEO of the nonprofit White Oak Institute (museum-field research and innovation). He can be reached at
jjacobsen@whiteoakassoc.com

1Friedman, A.J in Physics Today downloaded from http://ptonline.aip.org/journals/doc/PHTOADft/vol_63/iss_10/45_1.shtml .
All other quotes are personal communications to the author, reviewed before publication

Museum Experiential Theatres

‹ Six (+/‐) Formats with Libraries of Shows
• Non‐Library Theatres
‹ Immersive Media – you are there, in a different world
‹ Audience to Screen Relationship – theatre designed
for no reminders of the actual world
‹ Resolution Credibility (“willing suspension of
disbelief”) in pixels, brightness, contrast & frame rate
Stars Animation/CGI
Live Action 3D
‹ STEM Learning and Community Gathering
Museum Experiential Theatres
Domemaster DIGSS
DCI
SMPTE
2
Museum Peer Categories
‹ Aquarium
‹ Anthropology Museum
‹ Arboretum/Botanical
Garden/Public Garden
‹ Art Museum/Center/Sculpture
Garden
‹ Childrenʹs or Youth Museum
‹ General or Multi‐disciplinary
Museum
‹ Hall of Fame (e.g., sports,
entertainment, media)
‹ Historic House
‹ Historic Site/Landscape
‹ History Museum
‹ Historical Society
‹ Military Museum/Battlefield
‹ Nature Center
‹ Natural History Museum
‹ Planetarium
‹ Presidential Library
‹ Science/Technology
Center/Museum
‹ Specialized Museum (single
topic/individual)
‹ Transportation Museum
‹ Visitor Center/Interpretive
Center
‹ Zoo/Animal Park
IMLS Museums Count
Museum Peer Categories
‹ Aquarium
‹ Anthropology Museum
‹ Arboretum/Botanical
Garden/Public Garden
‹ Art Museum/Center/Sculpture
Garden
‹ Childrenʹs or Youth Museum
‹ General or Multi‐disciplinary
Museum
‹ Hall of Fame (e.g., sports,
entertainment, media)
‹ Historic House
‹ Historic Site/Landscape
‹ History Museum
‹ Historical Society
‹ Military Museum/Battlefield
‹ Nature Center
‹ Natural History Museum
‹ Planetarium
‹ Presidential Library
‹ Science/Technology
Center/Museum
‹ Specialized Museum (single
topic/individual)
‹ Transportation Museum
‹ Visitor Center/Interpretive
Center
‹ Zoo/Animal Park
IMLS Museums Count
3
CODE & Trans-Media
‹ CODE = Create once; distribute everywhere
‹ Multi‐Platform Show Production
• One digital source and story reformatted to each platform
• Increases theatre network size
• Compromises experience to least common denominator
‹ Trans‐Media Show Production
• One theme and brand; many sources and stories
• Pervasive impact (NSF interest)
• Collaboration of format‐specific producers
• Requires timing coordination
• Broader than museums – internet; apps, PBS; periodicals, etc.
• Complicated to fund, schedule and manage
The GS Business Model
‹ Higher ticket prices can support larger show budgets
‹ Larger networks can support larger show budgets
(Theatre network size) (capture
ratio)
Number of Theatres =
‹ Larger audiences can support larger show budgets
(# of theatres) (avg. attendance)
(avg. tix $)
Box Office =
Gross Lease Fees = Negotiated share of box office
Show Budgets = Net lease fees + other $
4
Museum Experiential Theatres
20‐50 min
Stars
Dome
Immersive
20 +/‐ min
Stars
CGI
Dome (3D)
Immersive
35 +/‐ min
Stars
CGI
Live
Dome (3D)
Immersive
35 +/‐ min
CGI
Live
Flat (3D)
Immersive
18–25 min
CGI
Live
Flat (3D)
25 or 50 min
CGI
Live
Flat

Current Concept Capsules: 140 Useful Ideas for Museums to Consider in Future Planning

John W. Jacobsen, White Oak Associates, Inc.
Many of these ideas are in the air or are part of our projects; others are associated with individual thinkers and/or are being applied in particular institutions, as noted and quoted.
I have credited some names and institutions as I am aware of them (mostly in the context of our museum planning work), but there are likely more people behind any good idea, so please forgive
any omissions. Suggestions for additional ideas, credits and examples are encouraged.
The models that follow include societal trends, community services, institutional paradigms, positioning, learning approaches, programming strategies
and management policies. Not all ideas are new, but all are relevant today. In the interests of some brevity, I have favored new ideas over well-established
ideas – interactive exhibits, diversifying demographics, camp-ins, promotional sponsorships, etc. – yet they are still valid. No one idea is a “magic bullet,”
intended to solve your financial future. Some concepts are specific to science centers, but most are applicable to the museum field as a whole.
The questions to ask yourself as you read the following are “Which collection of the following ideas might be sustainable for my particular institution?”
And then, “Looking at our selection, can we identify a single, simple focus or model that unites that collection?” George Hein reminds us to ask of each
of these whether it helps us build the social and moral goals for a democratic society.
Model A is a selection sample for an interdisciplinary museum in a small city; Model B is for a publicly supported science center in a larger market. Many
other models are possible.
SOCIETAL TRENDS
Accountability
1 Model A, B
Funding sources are increasingly demanding quantified outcomes from their funding, while museums
are more comfortable with qualitative and anecdotal results.
Public Trust in Museums
AAM Survey
The Presence of the Past: Rosensweig & Thelen
2 Model A
Recent surveys have shown that Americans trust museums more than other sources of information. The
very difficulty we have in putting exhibitions on the floor translates into a bond of trust that is one of
our greatest but not fully realized assets.
Attitudes to Science and Technology
3
Science and technology are declining in popularity and developing antagonisms from some groups. In
communities where there are factions who see science centers as just another church of a different faith,
new names with more universal appeal that hide the science link are one direction that go with the
grain, while another argument can be made for an even stronger advocacy position for science and
technology that fights such perceptions.
Knowledge/Learning-Based Society
Institute for Learning Innovation (Annapolis, MD):
John Falk
4
We have shifted from an industrial economy to the experience economy and now to the knowledge
economy, and the museum field may not have kept pace with these shifts.
ASTC Session ’04: New Models V-8: 2
White Oak Associates, Inc. December 28, 2004
Growth in Competition in
the Learning Sector
5 Model B
As the public understands both that learning is a lifelong process and that much learning happens
outside of school, their interest in free choice learning experiences that help them and their families
better understand their world and develop skills to improve their chances of success has grown. Yet this
increasing interest in learning has not gone unnoticed by the commercial sector, and the marketplace
has become more competitive as new forms of learning and new ventures clamor for attention.
Cocooning to Hiving
Yankelovitch Survey
6
The Yankelovitch survey finds that Americans are shifting from a model of “cocooning,” which focused
on insular in-home activities, toward “hiving,” which continues the focus on the home, but expands its
activities through forays out of the family nest out into the world to bring back experiences.
Changing Technology
7
Science centers are expected to embrace the latest technologies, and yet this process is expensive and
the new technologies typically untested. Further, today’s latest is tomorrow’s old hat, disappearing into
the background as younger generations take it for granted. Our staff culture and operating policies
need to constantly adapt to e-commerce, home theater, video games and new media technologies, along
with changing expectations for customized 24/7 services.
Globalization
8
Our industry is struggling with globalization when it is still difficult for museums in a single city to
collaborate.
Indigenous Knowledge Systems (IKS)
MTN ScienCentre (Cape Town, South Africa):
Jon Weinberg
9
Science considers itself global, if not universal, with its principles and ways of obtaining knowledge (the
natural laws and the scientific process) applicable everywhere. Yet science exists in culture, and is often
seen as just another knowledge community. Further, other knowledge communities and ways of
looking at the world have often revealed insights that science has missed. Listening to and
incorporating the perspectives of IKS and “celebrating all systems of knowledge” can bridge cultures in
developing countries and acknowledge diverse communities within immigrant countries. Exhibits such
as Ethno Mathematics: The Mathematics of Beadwork develops mutual respect for both the scientific
knowledge community and the indigenous knowledge system.
Tech Nouveau
Ars Electroncia 2004
10
“Tech Nouveau means the reverse engineering of nature,” says the promotional material for a
European conference. The idea of reinventing nature in bio- and nanotechnology raises fascinating
design and ethical questions. While nature’s designs do not always work at a human scale – flight is an
excellent example – the ability for birds to fly was an emotional incentive and proof of concept that
flying was somehow possible. Tech Nouveau gets science out of the abstract world of ones and zeros
and microchips and into the wet complexity of living matter.
ASTC Session ’04: New Models V-8: 3
White Oak Associates, Inc. December 28, 2004
Heritage Travel
11
A growing subset of the travel industry has been defined as “traveling to experience the places and
activities that authentically represent the stories and people of the past.” Surveys track the economic
impact of tourists traveling more than 50 miles one way or who stay overnight.
The ECC Trilogy for Student Success
Eric J. Jolly, Science Museum of Minnesota
12
Engagement, capacity and continuity: all three of these factors must be in place for a student to be
successful in science and mathematics, say the ECC Trilogy developers, Eric Jolly, Patricia Campbell
and Lesley Perlman. The approach, which may also be applicable for other disciplines, assumes a
number of forces working together to make success possible for a student. Museums can play a role
engaging interest; schools can help develop a student’s capacity through skills and acquired knowledge.
Museums and other organizations can provide continuity though lifelong learning, links to other
sources and connections to people practicing in the field.
COMMUNITY SERVICES
Community Needs;
Community Services
White Oak Associates (Marblehead, MA):
John W. Jacobsen
Lakeview Museum (Peoria, IL):
Jim Richerson
13 Model A
The old fundraising adage “you never raise money for what you need, rather you raise money by
offering solutions to other people’s needs,” remains valid. What is new is the process of assessing
community needs through structured interviews with community leaders (school superintendents,
newspaper publishers, foundation chairs, Chambers of Commerce, economic development agencies,
cultural affairs offices, political leaders, c orporate executives, etc.) and then developing museum services
in response to those needs and in collaboration with these leaders. The process is humble, as it
emphasizes a museum’s role of service to the larger community’s agendas.
Community Gathering and Identity
District Six Museum (Cape Town, South Africa)
The Tech (San Jose, CA):
Peter Giles
Exploration Place (Wichita, KS)
Boston Museum and National Park Project
(Boston, MA): Anne Emerson
14
The idea that a museum can be a community nexus bringing together different parts of the community
for cross cultural exchange and for building community identity is a positive response to Robert
Putnam’s Bowling Alone, where he challenges institutions to develop new ways of mending the social
fabric. This model is especially relevant in economically fragmented communities like Cape Town and
Campinas (Brazil), but is also relevant in wealthier communities like Silicon Valley and Wichita looking
for image enhancement.
Workforce Development
Connecticut Center for Science & Exploration (Hartford,
CT): Ted Sergi
15 Model B
Corporations are justly concerned about the quality of the workforce that they can hire and are
dismayed at having to import scientifically literate workers from abroad. Science centers can play an
active role in inspiring the next generation to favor science and technology careers and to help retrain
displaced workers.
ASTC Session ’04: New Models V-8: 4
White Oak Associates, Inc. December 28, 2004
Leisure Time
Buffalo Museum of Science (Buffalo, NY):
David Chesebrough’s Five Community Roles
16
“Our role in providing social outlets for individuals, groups and family units looking to spend leisure
time in a quality, customer service based environment. Attendance is often marketing, not relationship,
driven. For many of us this has been a prime audience area, often placing us in competition with
amusement parks, malls, festivals, sporting events and other typical choices for our society in spending
ever more precious time and family/individual funds. Outcomes are often measured in attendance
numbers and admission income.”
Economic Development
Buffalo Museum of Science (Buffalo, NY):
David Chesebrough’s Five Community Roles
17 Model A, B
“Our role, depending on the situation and community expectations, in returning an economic value for
the community investment in our organization. This can vary from helping to anchor development in a
community project such as waterfront development, attracting tourists and/or visitors to a location or
region, or helping stabilize a declining inner city neighborhood. Returns to the community can come
from direct support for our institution (in lieu of or addition to government support), tourist dollars
expended throughout the community, increased property value or community investment in our
proximity, and other indirect means. Outcomes can be measured i n economic impact from visitors,
dollars invested in the area around the center, increase in property values in the immediate
neighborhood.”
Formal Education Resource
Buffalo Museum of Science (Buffalo, NY):
David Chesebrough’s Five Community Roles
18 Model B
“Our role in the educational system as a fundamental resource. To date we are still most often thought
of by teachers as a site for field trips. A number of institutions, though, have defined their role more
deeply, providing an array of programs for students and teachers, taking a leadership role in
professional development of teachers in hands-on science, serving as a science education resource for
schools, and entering into contracts with schools as an integral resource at a grade level or within a
topic area. Outcomes should go beyond students served to ultimately include new measures such as
numbers of teachers incorporating hands-on, inquiry based teaching methods, students going on to
higher levels of science and math courses, and students choosing science and math related careers.”
Lifelong Learning
Buffalo Museum of Science (Buffalo, NY):
David Chesebrough’s Five Community Roles
19 Model A
“Our role in serving the ongoing, regular, and frequent learning experiences for interested individuals
across all age levels. Older natural history museums, prior to admission charges, often were seen as
models of this type of service. It’s also the model of our library systems, is based on relationships, and is
potentially a significant way to change lives. Outcomes might be number of engagements an individual
has with the museum over each year and their satisfaction level of fulfilling their personal interest, or
length of time in years an individual stays involved with the institution following a personal path of
inquiry and knowledge gaining.”
ASTC Session ’04: New Models V-8: 5
White Oak Associates, Inc. December 28, 2004
Social/Community Asset
Buffalo Museum of Science (Buffalo, NY):
David Chesebrough’s Five Community Roles
20 Model B
“More emphasis, and debate, in recent years has been on the science center’s or museum’s role in
leveling the educational opportunities within a community. As concerns over the changing
demographics of our countries to include larger minority representations, and the underrepresentation
of minorities and women in science related fields, our organizations have been looked to for helping to
address this issue. Teen programs for inner-city youth and reduced admission and scholarship
programs for economically disadvantaged individuals, families and schools have often been strategies
that our organizations have pursued to one degree or another. These measures may require longer
timeframes. The Science Career Ladder at NY Hall of Science has been able to show now that their
program has been in place over 15 years yielding a statistically significant increase in the numbers of
participants moving on to science and educationally related college studies and careers.”
Agora: Trading Marketplace
White Oak Associates (Marblehead, MA):
John W. Jacobsen
21
A museum can act as a place where different parties come together to offer services to each other. In
this model, the museum is a facilitator rather than a producer of programs, allowing local health
organizations, for instance, to mount exhibitions and schools to stage competition finals. The AAM’s
“museums and communities” initiative and the inclusion of “town square” in the ACM’s mission
statement are examples of this model.
Educational Toolmakers
The Children’s Museum (Boston, MA):
Lou Casagrande
22
Our institutions focus on learning and are flexible places to prototype new resources for learning.
Thinking of science centers as laboratories to develop curriculum, learning programs and new
methodologies of reaching multiple intelligences is another way of contributing to our community’s
learning infrastructure.
Curriculum Development
Museum of Science (Boston, MA):
Ioannis Miaoulis
23
Science centers can play a role in developing science and technology curricula for their school systems.
When such curriculum programs are directly connected to workforce development, sponsorship from
area corporations is possible. As universal testing has been mandated by the No Child Left Behind
legislation, teachers are looking for curriculum programs and professional development that will help
them. There are already many well-respected curriculum materials, and adaptations of national
materials to local contexts may be more needed. Developing curricula for technology is a relatively new
field where science centers might be active.
Public Understanding of Research
National Science Foundation (Arlington, VA)
American Association for the
Advancement of Science (Washington DC):
Judy Kass
24 Model B
Recent findings in science and technology are both stimulating and troubling to the public. Issues with
genetics, environmental stewardship, nutrition, medicine and healthcare are hotly debated. The public
is less interested in knowing how genetics works, however, than in understanding how this science
affects them and how it can be applied ethically.
ASTC Session ’04: New Models V-8: 6
White Oak Associates, Inc. December 28, 2004
Environmental Sensitivity and
Stewardship
25 Model B
As science-related organizations, we could take a leadership role in green architecture and sustainable
materials. Science centers can take an active part in developing sustainable attitudes toward the world
we live in.
Neighborhood Development
The Children’s Museum (Boston, MA):
Lou Casagrande
26
Museums are people magnets and therefore attractive to neighboring developers. Further, museums are
neutral parties who can bring together commercial organizations, city planning agencies, funding
sources and others behind an urban redevelopment project. In Boston, The Children’s Museum is
developing public open space with funding support from neighboring office buildings as a way of
meeting requirements for open space that their sites would not otherwise permit.
Building the Creative Economy
Richard Florida
Exploration Place (Wichita, KS)
27
Richard Florida’s book on building creative economies observes that cities that are open to new ideas,
have diverse participation in all levels of leadership, support a wealth a cultural expression and are open
to new forms and lifestyles, are also wealthier economically. Museums play a critical role in the cultural
life such successful economies, and they may be a cause, more than a symptom, of a healthy and robust
economy.
Bridging the Digital Divide
The Tech (San Jose, CA):
Peter Giles
TryScience.org: New York Hall of Science
(Corona Park, NY
28
The gap between those who are comfortable with technology and understand how to operate in a
digital environment and those who feel uncomfortable and lost in technology driven situations is a
source of concern for community leaders, especially in high-tech economies. In Silicon Valley, the
digital divide is wide, so efforts to bridge the divide – outreach programs, Spanish language films,
neighborhood promotions – by The Tech are appreciated and underwritten. Another example: AAAS
has established the Partnership for Science Literacy to further the “value of science literacy, particularly
to Hispanic and African-American minority communities.” One of the programs involved is
www.tryscience.org, an on-line linkage of science-center related programs and information managed by
the New York Hall of Science.
Why We Educate
George Hein
29
All museums take education as a central objective to their community services, yet few take strong
positions as to why we educate, as education is often considered sufficient reason. Broadly, progressive
education seeks to empower learners to change the world, while conservative education seeks to
provide them with the tools to keep the current systems going. Hine says: “The deeper question of why
we want to educate should drive the form of education we propose. We should remember that Dewey’s
fundamental message was not about types of learning, but why this was important. The answer now is
that it was a century ago, is that the approach we call constructivism is what is needed to support
democracy, to educate a populace to be thinking, critical citizens. The criterion to apply to any idea is
does this idea lead to the direction of supporting the social and moral goals of a democratic society, or
hinder them?”
ASTC Session ’04: New Models V-8: 7
White Oak Associates, Inc. December 28, 2004
Public Dissemination
Museo Da Vida (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil):
Paolo Gadelha
30
Working in partnership with the schools and other organizations, museums can be effective tools for
the public dissemination of public health and other information, particularly with regard to lifestyle
and behavior. “The message is that science education, paired with community participation, can
effectively change risky behaviors and combat pernicious health conditions,” says Paulo Gadelha.
Teacher Professional Development
COSI (Toledo, OH):
Bill Booth
Science Museum of Minnesota (St. Paul, MN):
David Chittenden
31 Model B
Inquiry based learning is encouraged by schools, yet few teachers know how to use inquiry based
learning in the classroom to meet curriculum and national standards. Some science centers are taking
active roles in professional development for teachers. Reaching teachers in their early professional years
is most important, to provide a helping hand through their difficult learning curve. COSI Toledo has a
contract with the local school system to train elementary teachers.
Pipeline for Science Teachers
Contributed by Eric Siegel, NYHS
32
“The greatest leverage an urban science center has to improve science learning is through impact upon
science teaching. The youth programs that already exist in science centers offer a rich source of future
science teachers. [The New York Hall of Science is] exploring a way to address the critical shortage in
science teaching by offering our Career Ladder participants tuition wavers at pre-service education
programs at public colleges for an agreement to teach in the local system for a fixed period of time.
We hope to convince the City Department of Education that this is an investment that will result in a
cadre of diverse, city-wise science teachers.’
Partnerships for a Nation of Learners
CPB/IMLS
33
Funding agencies are moved by real collaborations, especially among non-profits with allied missions.
The Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the Institute for Museum and Library Services have a
new funding initiative that supports collaborations among museums, libraries and public television.
This is part of a national program to encourage a Nation of Learners. Marsha Semmel at the IMLS
notes that “funded projects need to demonstrate how they will use the combined resources of
museums, libraries and public broadcasting (radio or television) stations to address community needs.
(See more at the web site, which will become the project’s ‘knowledge commons’:
www.partnershipforlearners.org.)” Such collaborations are also the goal of the AAM’s community and
museums program, and regional foundations are typically receptive to area non-profits collaborating on
joint educational and social ventures.
INSTITUTIONAL PARADIGMS
Community Resources vs. Tourist
Attractions
34
Science centers can be more like libraries, sports arenas, performing arts centers, parks and even zoos
that locals use on a regular, repeating basis and incorporate into their family’s lifestyle; the reverse is to
capitalize extremely fancy, but costly to change, visitor experiences that have must-see appeal to
tourists, but are likely to be a one-time visit for residents.
Family Learning Center
Exploration Place (Wichita, KS)
35 Model A
As a category, children’s museums make clear who their prime audience is with no subject expectations,
while most other museums are named by their subject matter (science, art and history), not their
audience. The use of family learning center is an attempt to expand that focus to an older audience,
ASTC Session ’04: New Models V-8: 8
White Oak Associates, Inc. December 28, 2004
implying a freedom to help families learn together in a wide range of subjects.
ASTC Session ’04: New Models V-8: 9
White Oak Associates, Inc. December 28, 2004
Current Science and Technology
Museum of Science (Boston, MA):
David Ellis
36 Model B
Keeping the public informed of the latest advances in science and technology, sometimes in partnership
with professional journals, is a way of providing a public forum for the presentation of new ideas and a
discussion of their implications.
Creativity as the Foundational Skill
Al DeSena
37
Creativity is the skill common to science, technology, arts and humanities. The creative skills –
imagine, express, design, inquire, nurture and explore – are inherently multidisciplinary and the basis
of play and learning. Building a museum around creativity is common to children’s museums and art
museums, and is an approach that might be applied to science centers and family learning centers
The Relationship Model
Institute for Learning Innovation (Annapolis, MD): John
Falk
38 Model A
Science centers have focused on their attendance numbers, which they have tried to keep high through
changing experiences and marketing, relyi ng on the attraction of their offerings. An alternate model
emphasizes the quality of a museum’s long-term offerings and programs in order to develop long-term
repeat relationships. The relationship model recognizes that museums and science centers can engage
individuals multiple times, provided there are a range of services, resources and social contexts that will
keep families and adults connected to the Center for multiple transactions for a range of related
products and services. This does not mean that a quality, and constantly changing visitor experience can
be ignored; on the contrary, the visitor experience is the foundation for the brand identity and the
clearest public statement of the institution’s core values. On this rock are built the institution’s other
services. The relationship model effectively diversifies the earned revenue sources.
Pilgrimage Sites
39
Some museums are in iconic locations, with broadly recognized impact on national themes and stories;
others contain collection objects of transcendent appeal. Such sites become pilgrimage destinations for
devotees and people directly affected by the story. Charleston’s role as the African-American Ellis
Island, Edison’s workshop and the Kennedy Space Center are physical connections to important
stories; the national museums of rock-and-roll, baseball and invention are examples of museums
creating a Mecca for a subject, and the Kansas Cosmoshere and the American Museum of Natural
History examples that draw because of the strength of their collections.
Kids Playing at Being Adults
Wannado City™ (Sawgrass Mill Mall, Sunrise, FL)
40
A successful Mexican attraction is expanding in the United States with a $40m commercial themed
environment installed in large shopping centers that offers a concept they call “real play,” in which kids
(4-11) can play over 250 make-believe job roles in over 60 settings, from firefighters to archeologists.
Their slogan is “Where kids can do what they Wannado.™” They describe themselves as “America’s
first indoor role-playing theme park.” The first U.S. installation opened in Florida, the second is
scheduled for New Jersey, and negotiations are underway for additional sites. The average visit will be
four to five hours, costing $24.95 for kids, and $15.95 for adults.
ASTC Session ’04: New Models V-8: 10
White Oak Associates, Inc. December 28, 2004
Agents of Change
Ontario Science Center (Toronto, Ontario, Canada):
Jennifer Martin
41 Model B
Along with The Exploratorium, Ontario Science Center was an early proponent of hands-on exhibits
interpreting scientific phenomena. Agents of Change is their new direction for the renovation of 25,000
SF of exhibits. It focuses on activities that they can do with the visitor rather than experiences that they
create for the visitor. A foundational goal will be to “empower visitors in problem solving, critical
thinking and scientific processes and to challenge visitors to be part of changing their worlds,” says
Jennifer Martin. OSC asks “What if we abandoned our attachment to exhibits and ‘science learning
outcomes’ in favor of encouraging innovation, collaboration, creativity and problem solving?”
Servant of Four Masters
White Oak Associates (Marblehead, MA):
John W. Jacobsen
42 Model A, B
Annual reports reveal a museum’s economic drivers. During the Attendance Decades (80’s and 90’s),
we were servants of three masters: Visitors, Sponsoring Investors (private and corporate supporters),
and the Community (public supporters and partners). As attendance declined at some museums, the
strength of a museum’s brand to develop other services has brought ancillary income and fee-based
programs out of the shadows and into management focus. A diversified collection of revenue producing
facilities, in addition to admissions and its spin-offs, effectively create a second category (“service
customers”) of earned revenue. This leads to the evolved Servant of Four Masters: Learners;
Sponsoring Investors (private supporters); Community Agencies (public supporters) and Service
Customers.
Forces on Program
43 Model B
New York Hall of Science’s Alan Friedman observes four forces on program development: Visitors;
Sponsors; Subject Matter Experts (often scientists), and Staff. While these last two forces on
programming are not part of a museum’s four major categories of revenue, they have significant
influence and bring their own agendas and biases. Ethically, final editorial control must rest with a
museum’s staff, just as a responsible newspaper has some distance between editorial decisions and
publishing wants. Note that some major revenue sources are seldom involved in any program planning
process: legislators and planning agencies do not join workshops; function renters are not invited, and
corporate sponsors are appropriately kept at arms length. Long-term, however, an institution must
serve the needs of its main revenue sources, roughly in proportion to their share. Revenue sources
whose needs are not met by the programming will eventually dry up (except endowment).
Urban Learning Center
44
Combining a major public library, a community-based museum and a program facility like New York’s
92nd
St. Y is the model for an urban learning center. The synergy of these different learning
methodologies and resources deepens the potential impact – the museum engages, the library builds
capacity through its deep information, and the programs continue the learning in more focused and
committed ways. With three or more venues dedicated to learning, yet clearly differentiated (not a
museum complex) an urban learning center will be alive with a diversity of audiences and program
presenters.
ASTC Session ’04: New Models V-8: 11
White Oak Associates, Inc. December 28, 2004
Lab and a Network
Goery Delacote (Exploratorium, SF)
45
The Exploratorium (SF) has developed various networks providing teacher development, temporary
exhibits and other programs to other like-minded science centers. As a highly respected leader in
interactive exhibits, on-line programming and inquiry based teaching methods, the Exploratorium can
translate this respect into museum networks that subscribe to receive the services and programs
developed in their home-based laboratory. The lab and network model can work both ways, as a
museum may be a producer/distributor in one field where it has strengths, and a subscriber in others
where it does not have the resources.
POSITIONING STATEMENTS
Promoting Our Social Enterprise
The Detroit Institute of Arts (Detroit, MI):
Graham Beal
Old Sturbridge Village (Sturbridge, MA):
Beverley Sheppard
46 Model A
The idea that museums are an essential part of a healthy society and vital partners in the enterprise of
building civic society is not widely recognized yet by community leadership, who continue to regard
museums as elitist, despite data that shows Americans visit museums regularly.
The Infrastructure Model
Inverness Research Institute (Inverness, CA):
Mark St. John
47 Model B
Museums are part of a much greater network of learning resources and educational facilities, and
should work with public television, libraries, schools, universities, publications, web sites and other
educational resources to build a robust and even redundant number of options for learning.
Branding
Gardella & Associates (Watertown, MA):
Joyce Gardella
48
Reinforcing a museum’s identity through coordinated branding and consistent values builds trust and
relationships over time. The brand is the marketing dimension of a clear vision and identity.
Relevance
Thanks to Emlyn Koster
49 Model A, B
The emphasis on the relevance of what we put on our floors to our visitors suggests a focus on their
needs rather than those of science authorities or curators. It also suggests constant change, as what is
relevant today is seldom what is relevant tomorrow.
Mass Customization
50
New technologies allow us to fashion and market experiences that are specific to individual tastes and
responsive to the public’s growing expectation to have what they want when they want it. One-to-one
marketing is a related concept.
Embracing Diversity
The Children’s Museum (Boston, MA):
Lou Casagrande
51 Model A, B
Demographic shifts are changing the way we need to think about the learning experiences we offer, the
staff and leadership of our museums, and the services we offer our communities. The rich mix of
cultures in any major city is an opportunity to explore multiple perspectives and gateways to learning.
Positioning the museum as a common meeting ground to bridge among cultures requires diverse
programming, staff and partnerships.
ASTC Session ’04: New Models V-8: 12
White Oak Associates, Inc. December 28, 2004
Cultural Ecosystem
Thanks to Ann Mintz
52
A community of a given size and economic profile is capable of supporting only a number of cultural
organizations. Like a natural ecosystem, a cultural ecosystem is limited by its food supply and other
factors. Continuing the metaphor, new cultural forms will evolve to fill niches that are empty, while
competition for niches that are overcrowded will push out less suited organizations. Museums need to
find and then fill appropriate niches within their community’s cultural ecosystem.
Society Scientists
53
Science centers have long been envious of the art museums’ ability to host high society events and to
attract extremely wealthy families to their boards and foundations. Art museums, by serving as social
clubhouses, are capable of operating with extremely high levels of support revenue and of developing
deep endowments, due to the prestige associated with high-level memberships. Certainly there are
wealthy scientists and engineers, but the appeal of membership in an elite and expensive ‘clubhouse’ is
likely to take a different form from the art world. In particular, the role of collectors, which is so
important to art world trustees, will have to find a counterpart.
Personalized Transactions
54
“Nice to see you again; we’re always happy to see our members show up. We’ve got lots of new stuff
since you were here last for the Titanic exhibition. I’m sure you’ll see our current exhibition, and, as the
human stories were your favorite part of the Titanic show, you’ll want to check out the film we’re
showing at 3:00 – it’s full of great stories!” We are used to forms of such personalized greetings on-line,
and at kiosks, but what about from live cashiers? Ticketing systems exist that could provide a museum
cashier with this customized script, but is there the will to make it work operationally? Will it result in
increased attendance, revenue, satisfaction and return visits? Or just turn people off as an invasion of
privacy?
Buildings that Feel Like Home
55
The warm welcoming embrace of a community living room is a very different image from a beaux-arts
marble museum. Museum architecture over the last century has moved from museum-as-fortress to
museum-as-agora. Despite this new civic engagement and permeability, most new museums continue
to be lofty places intentionally different from home, but can they be designed so that people can feel at
home there, like they do in their church or their library? And what does that mean for the balance
between architectural attraction and cozy familiarity?
LEARNING APPROACHES
The Contextual Model for Learning
Institute for Learning Innovation (Annapolis MD): John
Falk and Lynn Dierking
56
Museum learning is not just about what happens between an exhibit an individual, but rather depends
on the interrelationship of four contexts: the socio-cultural, the personal, the physical, and the impact
of the experience over time.
Free Choice Learning
Institute for Learning Innovation (Annapolis, MD): John
Falk and Lynn Dierking
57
Formerly called informal education, free choice learning emphasizes the learner’s freedom to choose
what kind of learning and when. No one needs to come to our museums, unlike schools, and this puts
considerable pressure on us to be attractive and to offer the learner excellent value.
ASTC Session ’04: New Models V-8: 13
White Oak Associates, Inc. December 28, 2004
Educational Theory
George Hein
58
“Educational theory is broader than learning theory and includes four components: how people learn,
what they learn, how we go about implementing it (i.e. Pedagogy or exhibit design, curriculum, etc.)
and, most important, why we educate. Constructivism is an educational theory, not a learning theory.
The distinction is important because we have to ask not only how people learn, but what they learn.
The crucial and controversial part of constructivism is that people construct their own meaning; it isn’t
only about how they go about this, but what the result turns out to be.”
Learning Theories
George Hein
Science Services (White Plains, NY):
Ted Ansbacher
Self Reliance Foundation (Washington DC):
Bob Russell
59
Dewey, Piaget, Vygotsky, Spock, Gardner, Czicksentmihalyi, Bateson and Langer have each
contributed learning theory that has implications on museum learning. Inquiry-based learning,
developmental learning levels, social learning, unstructured play, multiple intelligences, flow
experiences, spiral learning and mindfulness have each had their vogue, and more theories are doubtless
in the wings as neuroscience understands more about how the brain works. As Ted Ansbacher says, “A
good theory of learning not only describes and explains what takes place in a museum, it also is needed
as a foundation for developing new exhibits and programs. From the many theories and their variations,
a consensus is emerging that the experience-based approach of Dewey and current constructivism
models which stress the individual’s active participation in making meaning from direct experiences, are
most appropriate for museums. [This approach shifts] the educational focus away from information
transfer and onto providing meaningful experiences – the particular strength of museums with their
real objects and phenomena.”
Interdisciplinary
Exploration Place (Wichita, KS)
Lakeview Museum (Peoria, IL):
Jim Richerson
60 Model A
Science centers have focused, appropriately, on science, technology and math. Art and history museums
have similar subject focuses. However, some science centers are now broadening their appeal by
introducing connections to the humanities and the arts, while others are going even further to focus on
the creative learning skills that are the basis of all these disciplines.
Lifelong Learning
NAGCELL Report (UK Museums)
61
As the boomer bulge ages, the ability to offer services to older audiences becomes important. The new
model recognizes that families learn together as a social group and that visits are often
multigenerational social outings.
Adult Audiences in Science Centers
Dana Center (London Science Museum, London, UK):
Graham Farmelo
Museum of Science (Boston, MA):
Ioannis Miaoulis
62
Can science centers appeal to adults on their own? Traditionally, we have been family if not childrenoriented experiences where adults feel out of place among throngs of the noisy kids. Yet, current
science and technology is both sophisticated and central to adult life, and we may play an important
role as a forum for adults.
ASTC Session ’04: New Models V-8: 14
White Oak Associates, Inc. December 28, 2004
Social Learning and Family Learning
The Franklin Institute (Philadelphia, PA):
Minda Borun
63 Model A, B
The old model thinks of visitors as individuals, while this model acknowledges that most visitors come
in social groups and that the experience of any exhibit or theater has to work for the group as a whole.
The PESEC study found seven characteristics that characterize a good family-learning exhibit.
Museum Schools
See ASTC’s Dimensions (Jan/Feb ’04) for list
64
A number of museums have developed close associations with schools, some on-site and some nearby.
Charter and magnet schools are run in partnership with the local school district. Preschools can be
more independent, although typically licensed. Outside of formal schooling, some museums are
offering weekend, after school and summer classes. Charter and magnet schools are sources of rent
revenue to some museums that are also able to use their facilities at other times for other programs.
The XX Learning Center
Science Center of Iowa (Iowa Learning Center )
(Des Moines, IA): Mary Sellers
The Tech (Noyce Learning Center) (San Jose, CA):
Peter Giles
65 Model B
Museums have long had program spaces and classrooms; the new idea is to gather these together
physically and to plan for their operation in multiple modes for different audiences. School groups are a
foundational audience, and a number of enhanced classrooms around a central orientation and group
lunch space can be informed by their needs; however other audiences, such as summer camps, adults
evening social/learning programs, after school workshops, and weekend family programs can generate
substantial revenue. Collecting program spaces with a broad educational mission is also a naming
opportunity.
Teacher Support & Professional
Development
NY Hall of Science (Corona Park, NY):
Alan Friedman
66 Model B
Formal teacher education is typically handled by higher education, and museums complement preservice and in-service training with teacher support and continuing education. Helping teachers
develop their skills at teaching science – training the trainers – is a way of leveraging resources for
greater impact on science education. Helping teachers early in their careers is particularly important, as
there is a high dropout rate at this stage.
Challenge-based Learning
67
Invention contests, like Dean Kaman’s FIRST Robotics, challenge teams of kids to design something
using a prescribed kit of parts that is able to score points achieving specific goals, like lobbing a ping
pong ball through a flaming hoop. Done with fanfare and logistical support, such contests are both
great fun for the participants and clear learning experiences that build problem solving and teamwork
skills. On a smaller scale, museum exhibits that let visitors try their skill and post their score are also
challenge-based learning experiences.
PROGRAMMING STRATEGIES
Program Partners
White Oak Associates (Marblehead, MA):
John W. Jacobsen
The Tech (San Jose, CA):
Peter Giles
Joining with other organizations to create the programs that we offer on our floors and in our learning
centers is an idea that various institutions have been experimenting with for a long time, but the idea
might take on new importance if we can find a way to leverage both the expertise and the financial
contributions of program partners while maintaining our brand identity and editorial control. As the
public understanding of research becomes more important, the inclusion of organizations, particularly
corporations and university research facilities dealing with current science and technology, becomes as
ASTC Session ’04: New Models V-8: 15
White Oak Associates, Inc. December 28, 2004
Connecticut Center for Science & Exploration (Hartford,
CT): Ted Sergi
68 Model B
corporations and university research facilities dealing with current science and technology, becomes as
important as the involvement of artists is to a contemporary art museum. Accreditation and ethical
guidelines preclude corporations from dictating content of exhibitions, yet we clearly need the help and
funding of outside partners to develop such programs.
Skill Development vs. Content Transfer
Museum of Science (Boston, MA):
Larry Bell
Exploration Place: (Wichita, KS)
Science Center of Iowa: (Des Moines, IA)
Mary Sellers
69 Model B
The transmission of factual knowledge, also called the deficit model of filling up the visitor with
information, is giving way to new forms a learning that emphasize the development of skills and the
exploration of concepts – Doing science, rather than learning about science. This approach is more
open-ended and allows for multiple outcomes, but it can prove difficult with funders who are trying to
use museum experiences to communicate pre-defined messages to the public.
The Museum Without Walls
White Oak Associates (Marblehead, MA):
John W. Jacobsen
National Cable Television Museum and Center
(Denver, CO): Robert Russo
Pacific Science Center (Seattle, WA):
R Bryce Seidl
70
The standard model relies on the museum visit as the core learning experience; this new model
emphasizes outreach and an extension of the museum brand into grass-roots efforts in the schools and
communities. In some instances, the ‘mother ship’ is relatively modest, while the outreach programs are
the institution’s principal means of achieving its mission.
Distributed Network of Satellites
Al DeSena
71 Model B
“Our industry really needs to take a hard look at the strengths and weaknesses of having a single, large,
central (often) location. I’m coming to believe that if we want to foster long-term, lifelong learning
relationships with the regional population, we need to be much closer to where they live. We need to
have a proximate, community presence that is distributed around town where the centers of population
are. People need to be able almost to walk to one of these community centers and do it on a regular
basis to engage in activities that relate to the core vision and goals of the museum. There is a flow
between them and the central location (which is still needed) – of people, of ideas, materials, events, etc.
These community centers could be new, but that’s unlikely. It’s probably much more realistic to
establish long-term, comprehensive relationships and services with organizations that are already
distributed around town (YMCA, 4H Clubs, Girl Scouts, branch libraries, senior centers, etc.)“
Revenue Sharing
72
Some commercial organizations that produce and distribute popular exhibitions, giant screen films and
laser shows are increasingly interested in direct participation, if not total control, over the admissions
revenue and marketing. This model is being forced on the science center world, with the argument that
it may benefit science center revenues in the long-term. This has not been a problem with laser shows,
which are generally regarded as sideline ancillary income in off hours, but creates more stress when
applied to a science center’s core learning experiences.
ASTC Session ’04: New Models V-8: 16
White Oak Associates, Inc. December 28, 2004
Learning Spaces
White Oak Associates (Marblehead, MA):
John W. Jacobsen
73 Model A, B
Flexible platforms for learning that are designed for certain kinds of learning based on their
architectural character and built-in infrastructure are a framework for thinking about museum exhibit
galleries and theater spaces. Some learning spaces are good for aesthetic contemplation, while others
are suited for hands-on experimentation. The old model asked the architect for undifferentiated
blackbox spaces; this new approach seeks a variety of architectural spaces, each designed for different
types of learning. There are ten categories of learning spaces in the physical context framework:
Contemplative Galleries; Showcases; Tunnels of Wonders; Theaters/Presentations; Immersion
Environments; Hands-On Arenas; Discovery Worlds; Workshops & Studios; Icons, and Open Spaces.
Delta Museum Approaches
White Oak Associates (Marblehead, MA):
John W. Jacobsen
Exploration Place: (Wichita, KS)
Connecticut Center for Science & Exploration (Hartford,
CT)
Lakeview Museum (Peoria, IL):
Science Center of Iowa (Des Moines, IA):
Boston Museum and National Park Project
(Boston, MA)
74 Model A, B
A museum designed for change is a Delta museum; art museums are inherently easy to change, but
science centers have formerly required huge investments to throw out the old and buy entirely new
units. Thinking of learning spaces as flexible platforms that are equipped to host a succession of
changing experiences is part of the Delta museum concept that facilitates change in parallel ways to a
theater’s ability to host a succession of plays. The Delta approach calls for a long-term experience
platform in each learning space (geared for the architecture of the space, the particular learning skills
and the selected thematic content), and a scenario layer that can be removed and replaced with the new
content and visitor experiences relatively inexpensively.
Is it ‘Visitor,’ ‘Guest,’ ‘Learner,’
‘Participant’ and ‘Partner?’
Science Center of Iowa (Des Moines, IA):
Mary Sellers (‘participant’)
Jeanne Vergeront (‘learner’)
75
Different museums have been calling their visitors by different names, with significant implications for
the relationship. While all these roles are important in most institutions, the choice of a prime title
establishes significant expectations among the staff and public. Jean Vergeront says, “Even though I
tend to be an advocate for thinking about the visitor as learner, I think all the titles are valid as a set;
they reflect how people visiting museums have many different dimensions and ways of relating to the
museum (and the reverse). The use of several titles highlights the multiple relationships the museum
has with its audiences and focuses the museum’s attention on supporting those relationships.”
Exhibit Clusters
The Franklin Institute (Philadelphia, PA):
Minda Borun
Exploratorium (San Francisco, CA)
76 Model A, B
New research indicates that exhibits that are adjacent and thematically connected can work together to
influence a deeper level of learning and longer dwell times. The idea of clusters of exhibits rather than
collections of individual units is a way of both strengthening learning and addressing the different
learning styles and developmental stages of multigenerational social groups of visitors.
ASTC Session ’04: New Models V-8: 17
White Oak Associates, Inc. December 28, 2004
Theme Installations
77
Linking a giant screen film, a temporary exhibition, educational programs, web sites and other
methodologies around a theme expands the impact that any single installation might have. Theme
installations increase the critical mass and allow for multiple perspectives and different learning styles;
they also amortize coordinated marketing efforts and promise a scale of impact that justifies a return
visit and makes the press take notice.
Exhibitions About Something Relevant
White Oak Associates (Marblehead, MA):
John W. Jacobsen
78 Model A, B
The temporary exhibitions that seem to draw are about topical interests in the public eye: Titanic, Star
Trek: The Exhibition and Leonardo da Vinci. The topic makes it marketable – newspapers have something
to explore and human stories to tell; the new topic seems a good reason to go; visitors go home and talk
about the topic with friends, who in turn go because everyone it talking about the topic. By contrast,
pedaling a bicycle to light a light bulb is an A-ha! learning experience, but it is not marketable as a topic
– even a roomful for such hands-on energy exhibits may be a theme or subject, but it is not a
frequently changing, currently hot, marketable topic with human stories.
Exhibits and Theaters
White Oak Associates (Marblehead, MA):
John W. Jacobsen
79 Model A, B
The old model is that a science center’s exhibits are its core product and its theater experiences
somehow secondary. The new model recognizes that both media are successful learning resources that
operate on different, but complementary levels. Multi-venue science centers are recognizing that its
venues should be presented equally to be public, with all united by the brand. In this model, visitors do
not select between the museum and the giant screen theater, for instance, but rather between the
exhibit galleries and the theater, both part of their museum experience.
Museum Networks & Collaborations
80
The idea that museums should work together to produce programs that they share and save through
economies of scale started in the 80’s and continues to be an idea that makes sense. Unfortunately, the
not-invented-here-syndrome, and the human urge to create anew mean that networks have not caught
on in many of the areas where they make sense economically, such as planetarium productions and
more traveling exhibition networks. Standardization is a related concept that would help science centers
exchange programs (scenarios) if their learning stages had similar infrastructure (experience platforms).
Production Houses or Road Houses?
81 Model A
Many museums try to have in-house production talent and shops. The chance to create exhibits,
programs and presentations is one of the museum field’s assumed perks. Staff likes to produce new
programming, often claiming that outside programs “don’t fit our unique needs” or “can be done less
expensively by our own team.” Yet a more efficient model might be that ten to thirty percent of the
museums are geared up to be top-quality producers in a category, while the majority operated more like
movie theaters, as stages for changing programs produced and distributed nationally by others.
ASTC Session ’04: New Models V-8: 18
White Oak Associates, Inc. December 28, 2004
Digital Dome Theaters
White Oak Associates (Sanbornville, NH):
Victor Becker
International Projects Consultant
(Vancouver, BC, Canada): Ian McLennan
Evans & Sutherland (Salt Lake City, UT):
Jeri Panek
Spitz (Chadds Ford, PA):
Charles Holmes
Sky Skan (Nashua, NH):
Steven Savage
82 Model A
New technologies are allowing seamless video projection on a dome. Once brightness and resolution
reach acceptable standards, we may see a convergence of giant screen film theaters and planetariums
using digital systems. This convergence is not there yet and its likelihood and desirability is the subject
of intense debate in the giant screen and planetarium fields.
Hollywood Films On Giant Screens
IMAX ®
83
The development of 3D entertainment films and now the recent ability to digitally re-master
Hollywood films like Black Stallion and Matrix: the Revolution are putting new pressure on, or offering
new opportunities for science centers to program purely entertainment films in their IMAX® theaters.
Digital Cinema Theaters
White Oak Associates (Lakebay, WA):
Mark Peterson
Science Museum of Minnesota (St Paul, MN):
Mike Day
84
Digital cinema, as an alternative to giant screen film, is already viable in certain conditions, like a small
destination theater. The format allows for more flexibility and significantly lower set-up and operating
costs. Building the library of digitized films is an issue, as is the limited screen size (at current
brightness and resolution), which also limits seating. Film libraries are starting to grow, and
distributors, including science centers, are entering the field. The films are not as easy or cost-effective
to market as giant screen films, and the experience is not all that different from advanced home theater
set-ups. Advantages include ability to use the system for other digital information, like the Mars
landings, and low-cost filming that may allow for in-house production. Digital 3D Cinema is
economically feasible using digital animation, and several science centers have converted auditoriums
into add-on venues within the exhibit halls, thrown in with a higher admission charge.
Functional Design
Ansel Associates, Inc. (Port Richmond, CA):
Joe Ansel
85
“Pioneering interactive (Exploratorium-style) exhibits were often praised for their functionality, copied
widely, but sometimes derided for their scruffy appearance. In the past three decades, exhibition
designers have often sought to enhance and improve such simple exhibits with complex design,
expensive materials, fancy media, and extensive textual interpretation. Some argue that such wellmeaning efforts often: 1) reduce the impact of the exhibition itself, 2) impede necessary changes in the
exhibition during evaluation, 3) adversely effect creativity in exhibit building, 4) retard necessary
ongoing changes and 5) waste money. A new model is arising which advocates simple design, real
phenomena, potent creative content, flexibility and change in exhibitions, all combined with minimal
descriptive and explanatory text.”
ASTC Session ’04: New Models V-8: 19
White Oak Associates, Inc. December 28, 2004
Co-Design
Northern Light Codesign (Amsterdam):
Joost Douma
86 Model A, B
The very old model depended on curators envisioning exhibitions, and the next model moved toward
visitor research influencing exhibitions. Now, co-design implies the active involvement of outside
visitors, community groups and research organizations in the joint development of exhibits.
Scenography
Deutsche Arbeitsschutzausstellung DASA (Dortmund,
Germany):
Wolfgang Müller-Kuhlmann
87
Some European exhibit designers are using symbolic imagery and conceptual art installations to add
layers of poetic meaning to their exhibitions, such as the ticking metronomes that appeared in one of
their installations of the Titanic exhibition. Müller-Kuhlmann says, “Our special way is not to add
symbolic imagery to a given content, but it is to organize the contents in a way that they can be
expressed in the holistic appearances of rooms. Sometimes the form of such a room and its central
elements seem to be symbolic, but from this side of our theory, it has to be a necessary form (not
symbolic or as a metaphor) with regard to ‘meaning.’ This means that you have to analyze and prepare
the topic of your exhibition with regard to its possibilities to be presented in an adequate and
meaningful exhibition room.”
Universal Design
Museum of Science (Boston, MA): Betty Davidson
Jeff Kennedy Associates (Somerville, MA):
Jeff Kennedy
88 Model B
Maximizing the intellectual and physical access to our learning resources so that all people can use
them and understand them regardless of abilities and prior knowledge. Universal design helps everyone
have better and more meaningful experiences.
Fee-based Programs
89 Model B
Another traditional idea that is taking on new potentials as attendance revenue declines. Fee-based
programs – scheduled classes, events, workshops, film series, a teacher training, summer camps, preschools, overnight camp-ins, lectures and other programs that participants pay for – can generate
revenue for museum spaces in the evening and during slow times and are a way for a museum to deepen
its relationship with motivated individuals.
The Programmable Museum
White Oak Associates (Marblehead, MA):
John W. Jacobsen
90
Many museum spaces are underutilized much of the time. Exhibit halls and school program rooms may
be jammed for some times, buy empty the rest of the time. A programmable museum uses technology
and staff to change the operating mode of its public spaces so that more audiences can utilize them for
more purposes at more times. Multiple operating modes can include: Public visitors; camp programs;
function rentals; docent tours; camp-ins, and maintenance modes.
“Tupperware Get Togethers”
Al DeSena
91
“Several parents (educated, stay-at-home moms with little kids, for example) who already have frequent
social contacts with other parents and kids. We train them to be able to do our kind of thing in their
homes, but we also have unique things for them to do at the museum. So, you have a continuity of
learning experiences that are regular. You also have a built-in word-of-mouth advertising vehicle.”
ASTC Session ’04: New Models V-8: 20
White Oak Associates, Inc. December 28, 2004
Exhibit Units vs. Exhibition Themes
92
Some exhibit developers start with the individual visitor activity and develop a list of such units, while
others start with the overall story line or theme for an area, and then work down to what units will
realize that theme. Inductive vs. deductive approaches is another way of looking at this choice. Some
institutions boast that they have 200 – 400 interactive exhibits, while others emphasize five to 10
thematic areas or learning stages.
Two-way Learning
Museum of Science (Boston, MA): Larry Bell
American History Workshop (Brooklyn, NY):
Richard Rabinowitz
93 Model A
There has been increasing interest in getting visitors to communicate back to museums. Starting with
visitor response mechanisms, some museums have been exhibiting visitor contributions to other
visitors. Telling Lives ®, developed by the American History Workshop and prototyped at the New
York Historical Society, is an oral history project that invites visitors to answer a series of open-ended
questions documenting their own history in a particular subject, such as schools or weddings;
collectively the videotaped interviews can be indexed and searched by historians or other visitors.
People-to-People Programs
Connecticut Center for Science & Exploration (Hartford,
CT): Ted Sergi
94 Model B
Museums can bring motivated volunteers together with interested learners. Volunteer programs are
well established, and the new idea is to expand the department to coordinate many categories of
community people-to-people programs, building on the urge that scientists, artists, college students
and retirees have to pass along their experience and practice their teaching skills. In addition to floor
explainers, volunteers can serve as mentors, online advisers, scientists by mail, project coaches, content
advisers and other roles that bring people together with people in a safe and supportive environment.
P2P programs work best in markets with large knowledge communities in the museum’s domain.
Clubhouses
95
Museums can provide open-ended, resource-rich spaces for teenagers to work on projects together.
The Boston Computer Club is an early example, and other after-school and weekend project spaces are
possible for hobbyists from rocketry to animation. A mixture of tools and equipment with informal
social and workspaces in an open-ended structure with volunteer mentors can attract a number of
regulars. Participation might be through annual dues, similar to sports clubs.
Public History; Public Science
American History Workshop (Brooklyn, NY):
Richard Rabinowi tz
96
Academic history focuses on covering subjects that were influential in their time, while public history
looks for stories from the past that are relevant to today’s audiences; academic historians will teach the
broad impact of Jeffersonian democracy, while public historians today might focus on the implications
of Jefferson’s slaveholdings on the retardation of civil liberties. Public science might be a parallel
approach that explores aspects of science that directly affect today’s audiences. Rather than dealing with
principles of magnetism or the solar system, public science might focus on personal health care, how to
use new home technologies, and how to care for gardens and pets.
ASTC Session ’04: New Models V-8: 21
White Oak Associates, Inc. December 28, 2004
Paying to Sit Down
White Oak Associates (Marblehead, MA):
John W. Jacobsen
97
Museum fatigue has been estimated to set in after forty minutes to an hour and a half of walking
around exhibit halls; at that point, visitors look for a place to sit down and relax. Some part of the
success of giant screen theaters is due to this phenomenon, yet some science centers with IMAX or
other paid theaters also offer free demonstration theaters and relaxing alcoves, which may cannibalize
attendance that would otherwise use the paid theaters and cafes.
Distance Learning and Internet 2
98 Model B
Science centers have the potential to play a significant role in the development of Internet 2, the
protocol for two-way video and audio communications. Audiences in the center can interact with
explorations of the bottom of the ocean, medical specialists in operating theaters in hospitals and
astronomers during eclipses. Dr. Ballard’s Jason Project is an example using telepresence to allow
classrooms to direct submersible robots in their explorations.
The Virtual (Web) Museum
Exploratorium.org (San Francisco, CA)
TheTech.org (San Jose, CA):
Peter Giles
99
The online museum has evolved significantly in the last decade, with offerings of in-depth information,
virtual tours or the museum, e-commerce and interactive Web activities. Institutions like the
Exploratorium can have global impact based on significant investment and experience with their web
site, while practically every science center now shows local teachers how to connect the science
curriculum to the center’s exhibits and programs.
Science is an Activity
Museum of Science (Boston, MA):
Larry Bell
100 Model B
Providing exhibits that help visitors do science rather than just receive information about science is a
model used to organize the many of the Boston Museum of Science’s areas: Seeing the Unseen gets
visitors to observe; Investigate It! gets them to experiment, and other areas involve them in interactive
classification, hypothesizing and the other main processes of doing science, using the constructivist
method of building their knowledge frameworks through direct experience.
Explainer Intern Programs
NY Hall of Science (Corona Park, NY):
Alan Friedman
101 Model B
Grant funded programs that bring students onto the floor of museums to help visitors have more
meaningful experiences meet two critical needs: inexpensive floor staff paid by others, and workforce
training and empowerment for underrepresented populations. Further, one of the best ways of learning
is teaching others. Alan Friedman says, “Our programs are for secondary school through college, and I
think the continuity of the experience is very important. Many stay with us for six to eight years. The
program is broader than just underserved or at risk populations; the term I use is ‘underrepresented.’
We are trying to encourage interest in science, technology, engineering and math, and teaching for any
population that is underrepresented in these fields. Depending on the time and place, those populations
may include women, minorities, first generation immigrants, etc. Others who have championed into
programs include ASTC, through Youth Alive! and the Exploratorium (which coined the term
“explainer”).”
ASTC Session ’04: New Models V-8: 22
White Oak Associates, Inc. December 28, 2004
Non-Verbal Contemporary Science
NY Hall of Science (Corona Park, NY):
Alan Friedman
102
The hands-on, experiential nature of science centers creates an expectation in visitors that is at odds
with the passive reception of verbal information. Contemporary science is complicated and often
requires verbal interpretation to communicate its principles and discuss its social implications. How
this happens in a hands-on environment is not clear. Suggestions from Alan Friedman include the use
of multiple media and layering, the creation of guided, longer duration but still free choice experiences,
and increasing the use of social interactions among visitors and floor staff.
The Connected Museum
Unified Field (New York, NY):
Eli Kuslansky
Design + Communication
(Montreal, Quebec, Canada): Claude Parent
103
New technologies are allowing new relationships among visitors, the institution and the broad field of
science and technology. The idea of the connected museum as a seamless information web, suggests
that the physical exhibits and theaters offered within a museum can be part of a larger network of indepth information and connections to people and other places. Like libraries, science centers now have
the potential of being deep learning resources across time. In this context, the physical elements offer
experiences that spark interest in ways not possible on-line, while the easy ability to connect to related
information before, during and after the visit allows that spark to grow into lifelong interest.
Is Interactivity a Means or an End?
104
The one common element that visitors want from exhibits is interactivity, according to most of the
visitor research studies that have explored the topic. Hands-on involvement with the exhibit has been a
prerequisite for science centers since the Exploratorium and Ontario Science Center. But do people
really like hands-on interactivity? Or is it something that they think their children will tolerate largely
because it puts the kids in control, and not as passive receivers of lectures and information? One
problem with interactivity is that it is not a draw in itself. A new fleet of hands-on exhibits will seldom
attract a new audience; rather, hot relevant topics such as those for traveling exhibitions and GS films
are what draw audiences. Interactivity is an adjective that can make these offerings even more
attractive, but so can the involvement of famous names or rare collections.
Citizen Science
National Science Foundation (Arlington, VA)
MOSI (Tampa, FL):
Wit Ostrenko
Fleet Science Center (San Diego, CA):
Jeff Kirsch
105
Museums are a good conduit for citizen science projects involving amateurs in the collecting and
reporting of data. Organizations such as the Urban Bird Studies at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology are
partnering with museums, with support from the National Science Foundation and others to monitor
migrations, fluctuations in frog populations, acid rain levels and other sampling and reporting steps
that involve people in doing real science.
Put Scientists on View
Natural History Museum (London, UK):
Sir Neil Chalmers
106
Whether a museum has its own research staff or lives in a community with a base of volunteer
scientists, including practicing professionals in the exhibit experience can be popular with visitors. If
they are provided with the proper training, scientists on the floor can be role models and science
ambassadors for the field, as well as passionate spokespeople interpreting the content and making the
connections to individual visitors more apparent.
ASTC Session ’04: New Models V-8: 23
White Oak Associates, Inc. December 28, 2004
Places for Intergenerational Dialog
107
Eclectic environments with conversation starters for everyone inspires dialog among a visiting group.
For most, visiting a museum is a social experience – family, friends, dates, group tours and schools.
Exhibits that develop the social experience of groups by engaging, say, a family in a common exhibit
interactive create a shared family experience that can be referred to later. Kansas in Miniature is an
animated model set fifty years ago in order to inspire conversations between grandparents and children.
Social learning among generations can be encouraged by design of the space and by exhibit and
program design.
Flexible Classrooms
108
Museum classrooms need to differentiate their value from typical school classrooms, studios and labs.
Museum classrooms (see The XX Learning Center) are also under pressure to serve more audiences
than just school groups; adult education classes, birthday parties and corporate training rooms need
different images and support systems from a fifth grade group. Yet total flexibility becomes bland in
any mode. Some balance of adding value through unique features yet remaining flexible should be
pursued. A quantified analysis of the potential demand and revenues from each audience sector (school
groups, summer camps, etc) and a researched list of features desired by each sector will help guide
priorities.
Master Concept
Contributed by Jean Saint-Cyr, Design +
Communication
“Fundamental to the planning process is the identification of a core idea acting as a connector and
framework – a master concept. Building on the master concept structures ideas, guides the design
process, and provides a backbone for the experience. The objective is to provide a high impact, unique
and coherent overall experience capturing the soul of the institution and reflecting its community.
Many museums have branches and fruits, but no trunks. What I mean – and what the French call
“idée magique” or “idée maitresse” – is something like a physical framework, like the trunk of the tree.
Why can’t public spaces become museum experience spaces where we can establish the master concept
and provide organization for the rest of the experience?”
Develop Programs First
109
Traditionally, exhibit planners and designers do their thing, and educators and program developers
look at it and figure out their programs in response to the exhibits; in the case of permanent exhibits,
floor staff are constantly conceiving new programs to bridge between the unchanging exhibits and their
museum’s changing and diverse audiences. In some museum settings, interchanges with knowledgeable
floor staff score highest on satisfaction surveys. One approach to planning exhibit halls is to start with
the live program exchanges with visitors. Programs happen in time and space, and to some extent can
appear and disappear. With the right forethought, staff demonstrators can call forth a stage, where
once there were only exhibits. Planning a strategic sequence of potential program places is one way to
organize a large gallery.
ASTC Session ’04: New Models V-8: 24
White Oak Associates, Inc. December 28, 2004
Open Collections
Natural History Museum (London, UK):
Sir Neil Chalmers
110
Opening collection storage areas to visitors on tour, and even through self-guided tours, is generating
excitement at the new Darwin Center (Natural History Museum, London) and the Luce Center at the
New York Historical Society. Some extremely large collections, like the Canada Science and
Technology Museum or the wooden boat collection at Mystic Seaport would need vehicles to move
audiences efficiently through them, allowing for interpretation as subtle as a tour guide or as theatrical
as a themed dark ride.
“Theater Brings in Audiences”
111
This quote from an ASTC participant reflects a widespread belief in theater’s popularity. Despite
recent softening in some settings, giant screen theaters in museums still draw audiences to new films,
and at the other end of the scale, a good museum storyteller sitting on a bench can attract a crowd of
children. Theater quality is not as predicable as exhibits. Good theater draws, while bad theater –
which is remarkably easy to achieve – repels. The issue is that audiences are trapped in time; they can’t
walk out of bad theater, but they can just skip a bad exhibit; the bad exhibit does not register on their
overall satisfaction, but the time wasted trying to listen to a mumbling presenter sure does. In a
museum setting, theater offers a change of pace from exhibits: Theater offers a chance to sit, relax, let
someone else run things for a while, be passive. Theater also offers the educator powerful tools to
create different kinds of learning experiences from collections and exhibits: Linear narrative; emotional
and comedic engagement; spectacular effects; and the core of show business – entertainment.
Historic Bias Toward Exhibits
112
Museums are defined in both the public and professional minds as places with collections and exhibits.
Exhibits have long enjoyed a priority among a museum’s learning methodologies, and this is reflected
in an historic bias toward exhibits. Education programs, theater and films are sometimes regarded as
ancillary, begrudgingly sustained because the public and supporters want them. Yet, from the learner’s
perspective, each museum medium has its role, all united by a common mission and the brand. But
should family learning centers move beyond exhibits as their central business, and focus instead on
learning as their core business, using whatever learning methodology works best among exhibits,
theater, programs and on-line media?
True Interactivity
113
True interactivity is a two way street. In museums, interactivity has come to mean hands-on activities,
even if it is only lifting a flap or pushing a button. On the Web, interactivity promises the user the
ability to speak back to the source and affect its next move. What happens when web savvy kids
encounter only the one-way interactivity common in most science centers? The odds of engagement
decline, and with them the chance to make the experience into an open-ended and personalized
learning opportunity. Of course, the best true interactivity is the interchange that visitors have with
docents and staff. The challenge is to develop truly interactive (two-way) unstaffed exhibits that are
more than a computer terminal.
ASTC Session ’04: New Models V-8: 25
White Oak Associates, Inc. December 28, 2004
Smart Museum
Craig Rosa (The Tech)
114
The Tech Museum of Innovation offers an optional RF-emitting ID tag that allows visitors the chance
to link their on-site experience to their home computers for later follow-up. For instance, visitors can
step through a sequence where they are doing real genetic engineering creating bacteria that glow in
the dark; a few days later back home, they can log on to see how their Petri dish culture is growing.
This image of a glowing Petri dish can also be sent to friends, and the email arrives with a coupon for
visiting The Tech.
Web Pals
Holly Hughes (St. Louis Science Center)
115
Connecting Nairobi street kids with African American teens in St. Louis is an example of using
technology in a museum setting to build understanding across cultures while building skills in
communication, scientific experimentation and computer literacy. The teen program run by the St.
Louis Science Center started out with a challenge to two teams in each city to run a series of
experiments in growing sweet potatoes using genetic engineering, but soon found that just the basics of
growing plants was the first step. What mattered in the end – and what made the program successful
with both sets of teens – were the real personal connections made among the web pals.
Creativity Training
Peter Giles (The Tech)
116
Based on their existing Tech Challenges for teens, The Tech (San Jose) is translating some of the
challenges they have developed into corporate training programs, much like Outward Bound does.
There is currently funding for successful programs training teens after school; can this R&D
investment, once field tested by one of the toughest markets – teens outside of school, be leveraged to
find new revenues in corporate training? Peter Giles sees that creativity training and team building
exercises for corporate project teams might address an important need to build team spirit and
commitment among a newly assembled corporate team at the start of a long project.
BUBL
Rochester Museum and Science Center
117
The Bathysphere Underwater Biological Laboratory (BUBL ™ ) is a program developed and funded
by the Rochester NY area BOCES (a school support agency) in collaboration with the Rochester
Museum and Science Center. BUBL is a different take on the Challenger Center program. BUBL
takes two groups of kids on a simulated journey that descends to do research projects at the bottom of
Lake Erie in two linked bathysphere labs. There are two Doron simulator cabins with a motion based
short film experience of the journey “down to the ocean floor,” with observations, sample collections
and a few close calls and emergencies along the way. Once down, the kids walk into labs with “views”
outside and a list of experiments and tasks, including fixing a part that broke on the ride down. Kids
return with a second simulator ride. When not in use by BOCES, the Museum is able to include the
simulators in the visitor experience, where they have been among RMSC’s most popular offerings.
ASTC Session ’04: New Models V-8: 26
White Oak Associates, Inc. December 28, 2004
MANAGEMENT POLICIES
Triple Net Accounting
118
The idea that a responsible organization should respond to three bottom lines is spreading to
museums. In addition to its economic well-being, museums are starting to monitor their impact on
their culture including the staff and workplace conditions and their impact on the environment. The
Oregon Museum of Science and Industry tracks five summary indexes: two social, two economic and
one environmental.
Simple Focus or Diversified
Complexity?
Good to Great
Roy L Shafer Company, (Columbus, OH):
Roy Shafer
119
Should we follow the hedgehog concept (do one thing very well), or that of the fox (do many things
craftily)? As we are led to diversify our revenue sources and our range of services (see Servant of Four
Masters), is it possible to have a meaningful, focused Core Ideology that embraces the full range of
museum activities from publications to curriculum development to travel programs to screenings of
Hollywood films in the IMAX to corporate functions rentals? The idea of core ideology is to focus
institutional attention on its core business, but if this means turning away revenue, then the approach
may get questioned.
Shift from Earned Back to Support
Revenue
120
Starting in the ‘80s, there was considerable pressure to develop our earned revenue, and institutions
prided themselves on reaching 80 or even 90 percent earned revenue. Today, institutions are looking at
support sources to finance community services that are independent of attendance revenue and
ancillary income, such as school services, teen workshops, endowment income and other forms of
support revenue. David Ellis reminds us that a balance of sources is needed, with no source dominant.
Know Yourself; Know Your Intent
Randi Korn & Associates (Alexandria, VA):
Randi Korn
Roy L. Shafer Company (Columbus, OH):
Roy Shafer
121
A new focus on clarity about who we are, how we want to be seen and experienced by others, and what
we intend to accomplish in our communities. This started with a focus on values and core business
statements, and has evolved into statements about the kinds of experiences you want to provide visitors,
which naturally dovetails with evaluation and visitor research. Core business statements try to
encompass everything an institution stands for in a few words, as an institutional mantra, as in “Inspire
the Innovator in Everyone” (The Tech).
Sustainability
122 Model A, B
An old idea that keeps changing definition. Outsiders, often including board members, assume that
sustainability refers to covering operating costs through earned income, particularly gate admissions.
For nonprofits, however, the term needs to include sustainable support sources in addition to earned
revenue. Economic sustainability – -- meaning steady sources of revenue and manageable levels of
expense – is a moving target in the changing economy. Once established, few museums close, so in one
sense they can be said to be sustainable; however this is seldom a comfort to managers struggling to
meet payroll or retire debt. Science centers constantly need to shift emphasis to make up for declines in
some forms of revenue through increases in others or expense reductions.
ASTC Session ’04: New Models V-8: 27
White Oak Associates, Inc. December 28, 2004
Mission, Margin & Market
Roy L. Shafer Company (Columbus, OH):
Roy Shafer
123
Businesses succeed through a successful combination of the related trinity of factors: understanding
your core business and values; knowing what you are best at; and finding the economic driver that
works in the marketplace.
Economic Drivers
Good to Great
Roy L Shafer Company, (Columbus, OH):
Roy Shafer
124
The business model of knowing and focusing on your key economic driver has had promising results in
business that may be translatable to science centers. Walgreen’s, for instance, focuses on the highest
profit per customer transaction and the highest number of such transactions, and, while they realize
that they have other sources of revenue, these indicators have the most direct correlation to overall
profitability. For science centers, the key economic driver has been the average ticket price and
attendance volume, but in this economy, the key economic drivers might need to change or be thought
of in broader terms.
Desktop Index Monitors
Science Museum of Virginia (Richmond, VA):
Walter Witschey
125
Once an institution has identified its key economic indexes, on both the revenue and expense sides,
some managers are developing a summary reporting process so that top managers can see daily changes
to indexes and address immediately any areas that show in red when they vary beyond an acceptable
tolerance.
Data Driven Innovation
White Oak Associates (Marblehead, MA):
Jeanie Stahl
Science Center Network (Louisville, Toledo, Richmond,
Wichita, Shreveport)
126 Model A
Analysis of operating data, especially when compared with a number of comparable institutions, can
identify areas where an institution might be under performing or excelling. Once the data identifies
areas that are outside the norm, then the members of a collaborating network can work together to
develop innovative solutions that all can share.
Shrinking Budgets
127
The reduction of admissions revenue, the hesitancy of funding sources and the drying up of public
funds have resulted in significant cutbacks in cash layouts for marketing and program development and
staff layoffs, resulting in low morale and declining hope.
Expanding Non-Admissions Revenue
Audubon Institute (New Orleans, LA):
Ron Forman
128 Model A, B
As attendance declines and competition increases, finding ways to earn revenue from function rentals,
merchandising, food services, program fees, intellectual property rights, franchise ownership and other
entrepreneurial sources that maximize existing relationships and the value of the brand may be part of
the solution. (See also Servant of Four Masters.)
Professional and Leadership
Development
129
Our field has often relied on outsiders to fill staff positions, with the net result of needing to train them
in the way museums work. Certainly there are benefits of new perspectives, but there are also
inefficiencies and errors made. Museums are surprisingly complicated operations, especially to
businesspeople used to single-minded focus and independent operations.
ASTC Session ’04: New Models V-8: 28
White Oak Associates, Inc. December 28, 2004
Matrix Organization Charts
Museum of Science (Boston, MA):
Ioannis Miaoulis
130
There are several new ways that science centers have been thinking about staff relations and how
different departments and efforts can better work together. The old org chart model is hierarchical,
while new ones favor interdepartmental projects and connections among staff that are not all routed
upward through executives and managers. Some of these charts look like concentric circles, with the
visitor in the center, while others are more like orbits, with projects for the future on one side and
current operations on the other and lots of connections across the center. Matrix organization charts
allow for ad hoc collections of expertise appropriate to particular projects and encourage staff to work
in different combinations from the old departmental silo model.
Local Back-of-House Consolidation
Chattanooga Museums
131
In difficult economic times, some museums are collaborating with other museums in their area to
consolidate some back-of-house functions like human resources, purchasing, insurance and other
common administrative expenses that can be pooled and centralized.
Strategic Pricing
132
Admission fees for science centers have traditionally been kept low, while aquariums, art museums and
other institutions have somehow justified higher costs to the public. Price resistance and elasticity are
testable in the marketplace through visitor research and through trials; yet science centers are hesitant
to move from traditional fixed, even dollar prices toward admissions policies that are as flexible as
airlines or as high-priced as aquariums and commercial entertainment centers.
Team Project Management
NY Hall of Science (Corona Park, NY):
Alan Friedman
133
The development of museum programs and exhibits are team efforts, and our profession needs to
develop roles and expectations for team members’ participation in projects. “A small team of four to
five people, perhaps a content specialist, a designer, an engineer/fabricator and evaluator, with project
management vested in one or more of those individuals, is capable of focusing on a certain amount of
detail; perhaps ten separate elements of presentation (ten distinct experiences for the visitor) might be a
reasonable yearly output for this team,” says Alan Friedman. Larger projects would assume more teams
and a management structure.
Tax Levy
Cincinnati Museum Center (Cincinnati, OH):
Douglas McDonald
St. Louis Science Center (St. Louis, MO):
Douglas King
Museum of Nature and Science (Denver, CO):
Tom Swanson
134
Institutions with strong citizen support can successfully pass tax levies that add a millage tax to city or
county personal taxes. St. Louis has joined other museums to assure free admission to the exhibit halls
through a tax levy. Denver’s museums use millage as a subsidy to keep them operating, but do not offer
free admissions. Cincinnati recently responded to an emotional appeal to help keep up Union Terminal
that houses several museum experiences. This was a cause citizens could agree to, as the historic
structure’s maintenance was a clear need. The tax levy will generate $3.6 to $3.8 million per year.
ASTC Session ’04: New Models V-8: 29
White Oak Associates, Inc. December 28, 2004
Focused Operating Hours
COSI (Columbus, OH):
Kathryn Sullivan, PhD.
White Oak Associates (Marblehead, MA):
John W. Jacobsen
135 Model A, B
Recent economic problems have caused some museums to shorten their operating hours, yet this tactic
may be an efficient way to concentrate attendance while reducing operating expenses in healthy
museums. No one likes visiting a museum when it is empty, and every museum has its valleys. In some
small markets, the valleys are low enough to create an unsatisfying visitor experience for those few who
show up. Theaters, civic centers and sports arenas are widely regarded as successful by their
communities, yet they are closed much of the time; but when they are open, there are crowds.
Stop Calling it ‘Unearned’
136
The language we use can set us up for difficulties. Labeling the two parts of a museum’s revenue as
earned and unearned, or even worse calling the support portion an operating subsidy, turns the
museum’s fund raisers into beggars and supplicants. Successful museums attract support funding
because they offer their sponsoring investors real value for their capital or operating contributions. To
be sustainable – to happen year in and year out – every revenue source needs to be mutually beneficial.
Supporters have to want to continue their support and to feel that you are offering better value than the
other non-profits.
Cycle-tuned Governance
137
We feel a lot of heat when the subject of Board relations comes up, but hear no agreement on a single
solution. From the perspective of a large, well-established science museum, David Ellis feels the Board
needs to be active in its oversight of management, making sure debt and other risks are appropriate.
Other museum directors want the Board to set policy, raise funds but stay out of management, yet
start-ups often need board members to dive into staff responsibilities. The Carver Model of Policy
Governance is very good for established museums and delineates one possible division between
management and board. In practice, a museum may need different kinds of board relationships at
different stages of the cycle from development, to growth, to stability, to decline and to rejuvenation
and over again. When this cycle took twenty years, the Board could evolve, but when it takes only five,
board member expectations/terms may not change fast enough.
Incur No Debt
Dennis Wint (Franklin Institute)
138
Scratch the surface of a financially troubled museum, especially one with a new building or addition,
and you are likely to find debt. Not just debt to cover some long-term pledges, but debt to cover a
shortfall in fund raising, which is often described as debt to complete a construction project. Such debt
is sold at the time by the promise of the campaign gifts to come and the surge in attendance revenues
after opening the new facility. However, no museum runs enough in the black to retire any amount of
substantial financing, as the real estate folks call debt. Debt also tends to be long term, and does little to
endear the director who incurred the debt to the future directors who are saddled with it.
ASTC Session ’04: New Models V-8: 30
White Oak Associates, Inc. December 28, 2004
Do Not Encumber Your Successor
Dennis Wint (Franklin Institute)
139
Museums are meant for the ages, while staff come and go. Of course museums need to evolve, even
revolutionize, but personal idiosyncrasies should not be institutionalized. Through personal
connections, a children’s museum got Frank Gerry to design a most outlandish expansion, with a huge
price tag; then that director left, and the in-coming director was expected to raise the money for the
project, which no longer had a champion. It took years for the idea to die before a wiser expansion
could be pursued. The most troubling are the long-term promises: “Give money to this capital
campaign, and we’ll never need to come back to you,” said one museum’s founding chairman,
confounding his successors.

1
DIGSS 1.0:
DI G I T A L I M M E R S I V E GI A N T SC R E E N SP E C I F I C A T I O N S
Note: These DIGSS specifications are the end results of the Digital Immersive Screen
Colloquium for Unified Standards and Specifications (DISCUSS) and subsequent fieldwide circulation and discussion of drafts leading to this version. The process brought
together a panel of 21 advisors, technical experts and others involved in the Giant Screen
industry plus 61 more through the online wiki. The goals is to create specifications for
immersive digital GS theaters that create a viewer experience as good as or better than
the film-based GS theaters now in place in museums and science centers. The DISCUSS
Colloquium was made possible by a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSFISE 0946691). DIGSS 1.0 also appears as Chapter 6 in the final report, DISCUSS
Proceedings (June 2011).
The views, opinions, recommendations, and findings expressed herein do not necessarily
reflect those of the National Science Foundation, the United States Government, or its
officers or employees. DIGSS 1.0, described in the following sections, is likely to evolve
over time.
LOGIC RATIONALE
The Digital Immersive Giant Screen Specifications (DIGSS) and their rationale are organized
according to the three core links (Links 3, 6 and 7) in the Logic Rationale.
Author: John W. Jacobsen
2
This diagram is copied from the DCI Specifications, version 1.2, captured off http://www.dcimovies.com/ on March 17, 2010.
3
PRINCIPLES AND DEFINITIONS
Author: Victor A. Becker
The first fundamental requirement of the GS theater environment is creating an effective and
satisfying immersive experience by filling the eyes and ears of the viewer with images and
sounds that convincingly evoke a specific time, place, and/or situation outside of the theater.
The second fundamental requirement is reducing viewers’ awareness of the theater’s structure
and the technical systems that produce the experience.
These requirements generate several principles:
 The image shall be projected on a screen that fills the front wall of the theater, in the case of
flat screens, and the entire “ceiling,” in the case of domes.
 The viewers shall be physically oriented toward the center of the screen in a manner that is as
intimate, comfortable, and natural as possible.
 The sound system shall be robust, dynamic, and clear; the theater shall be insulated from all
external sources of sound.
Specifications: A set of metrics to which all theaters wishing to be defined as Giant Screen
Immersive Digital Theater should adhere (see “Grandfathering,” below). Specifications are
intended to provide guidance to all new GS theaters and renovations and upgrades of existing
theaters.
DIGSS-compliant theaters and programs meet these specifications. However, DIGSS 1.0
applies to future GS theaters, and during the transition time from analog to digital — a period
that will likely see interim systems — DIGSS 1.0 is for practical purposes an aspiration and an
upgrade path. Nevertheless, DIGSS 1.0 has many specifications that can be met now with
currently available technologies. Greater compliance with these specifications will come with
innovation, particularly if the museum market continues to insist on reaching the “museum
quality” aspirations of a DIGSS-compliant GS theater.
Uncontested Specifications and Provisional Specifications (listed in italics): Reflect a
distinction between specifications that no one questions and those that someone felt should be
tested. All specifications began as the considered opinions of an independent technical expert in
that link along the Logic Rationale. The resulting “DIGSS Draft 0” was reviewed and discussed
by the other technical experts and museum advisors during the three-day Colloquium, resulting
in DIGSS Draft A. That draft was then circulated back to the technical experts for their revisions
(Draft B), and then forwarded to the advisors for their input (Draft C), which was then posted on
the DISCUSS Online Forum (wiki) for wider professional comment, attracting 79 GS
professionals and 48 discussion entries. The resulting Draft 1.0 contains all comments submitted
by the DISCUSS team. If any technical expert or advisor along the way felt that a specification
should be screen tested, it was marked as provisional, shown in italics, and added to the list of
desirable future research that the Giant Screen Cinema Association’s Technical Committee will
consider. In time, this should result in DIGSS 2.0 and subsequent versions, each having fewer
provisional specifications. In the interim, however, the field can use the independent experts’
opinions.
4
Recommendations: These adjuncts to some specifications are expected, over time, to become
the accepted specifications as existing exceptions are corrected or eliminated and as technology
progresses. Recommendations are the long-term aspirations of the field.
Grandfathered Specification: The recognition that a theater has one or more pre-existing
conditions, such as a slightly shorter screen, that do not meet the specifications, but do not
materially affect the experience.
Advisory Guidelines: Principles and objectives offered to aid in the design process of new
and/or renovated theaters, in film production, and in theater operations. These are advisory in
DIGSS Draft 1.0 and appear only in the Executive Summary, but are likely to evolve in future
versions.
LINK 3: ENCODING THE DIGITAL CINEMA PACKAGE (DCP)
Author: Andrew Oran
LINK 3: ENCODING: The Digital Cinema Package (DCP)
Note: Italics are used to designate “provisional specifications,” which reflect current expert judgments, but which will benefit from
on-screen and in-theater testing.
Specifications Recommendations Notes
All Screens
3.1 Compression JPG2000 DCI testing complete
3.2 Frame Rate (unique
frames)
24 frames per second
for 2D; 48 FPS for
3D
48 FPS (2D) and 96
FPS (3D); plus Video
30 (2D), 60 (2D/3D)
and 120 (3D)
2D Flat Screen
3.3.1 Resolution 4K All screen 8K

To be tested Must be even multiples —
4K, 8K, 16K to use JPG 2000
3.4.1 Color Bit Depth 12 bit
3.5.1 Bit Rate Compression
(maximum; studios can
use lower)
250 mb/s 500 mb/s To be tested
3.6.1 Brightness (measured
off screen)
20:22 FL for 2D
silver screens
6–8 FL. for 3D silver
screens
GSCA Task Force
3D Flat Screen
3.3.2 Resolution 4K All screen 8K To be tested Must be even multiples —
4K, 8K, 16K to use JPG 2000
3.4.2 Color Bit Depth 12 bit
3.5.2 Bit Rate Compression
(maximum; studios can
use lower)
250 mb/s 500 mb/s To be tested
3.6.2 Brightness (measured
off screen)
20:22 FL for 2D
silver screens
6–8 FL. for 3D silver
screens
GSCA Task Force
2D Dome Screen
3.3.3 Resolution 8K 16 K To be tested
3.4.3 Color Bit Depth 8 Bit 12 Bit To be tested
3.5.3 Bit Rate Compression
(maximum; studios can
use lower)
250 500 To be tested
3.6.3 Brightness (measured
off screen)
3-4 fL To be tested
5
3D Dome Screen
3.3.4 Resolution 8K 16 K To be tested
3.4.4 Color bit depth 8 Bit 12 Bit To be tested
3.5.4 Bit rate compression
(maximum; studios can
use lower)
250 500 To be tested
3.6.4 Brightness 3-4 fL To be tested
Audio
3.7 Specs over DCI to be
determined
16 channels 32 channels To be developed
Security
3.8 DCI compliant security
processes and
encryption

DCI Spec relative to DIGSS: DCDM, DCP and Transport, v3
INTRODUCTORY NOTES:
Sections 3 through 6 of the DCI Spec cover the topics of the DCDM, DCP and Transport of
Digital Cinema content. Much of the Spec as written is transferable to DIGSS. Several key
areas however require review and customization, and several key issues unique to Giant Screen
exhibition are missing entirely. Some of the most important issues to grapple with as we
construct DIGSS relative to these sections of the DCI Spec are:
1 Developing separate DCDM and DCP image and audio standards for dome screens.
2 Going beyond 4K to 8K (for flat screens) and even 16K (for domes).
3 Increasing the maximum allowable (if not practically achievable) bit rate from 250Mbit/sec
to 500Mbit/sec and higher.
4 Adding the 4:3 (1.33:1) aspect ratio which is entirely missing from the DCI Spec.
Another big topic to tackle relative to the development of customized specifications for giant
screens is the design and execution of empirical tests that will serve to support or revise the
theoretical standards we lay out.
DCDM (DIGITAL CINEMA DISTRIBUTION MASTER)
The DCI’s definition and basic outline of a DCDM is covered in the following passage:
3.1.1. Introduction
The Digital Cinema Distribution Master, or DCDM, is a collection of data file formats, whose
function is to provide an interchange standard for Digital Cinema presentations. It is a
representation of images, audio and other information, whose goal is to provide a complete and
standardized way to communicate movies (compositions) between studio, postproduction and
exhibition. A specific instance of a DCDM is derived from a Digital Source Master (DSM) that
is created as a result of a post-production assembly of the elements of a movie (composition). A
DCDM can be transformed into a Digital Cinema Package for distribution to exhibition sites (see
Section 5 PACKAGING). Alternatively, it can be sent directly to a playback system for quality
control tasks.
This definition is universal, applicable to all size screens. What follows are sections of the DCI
Spec covering the DCDM that will require rewording or rethinking for DIGSS.
6
3.1.3. Major DCDM Concepts
The Digital Cinema Distribution Master (DCDM) is the fundamental interchange element in the
system. Since digital mastering technology will continue to change and develop with time, the
DCDM is designed to accommodate growth.
…it is the content provider’s responsibility to convert the DSM into the DCDM specification,
defined in this section, before it can be used in the Digital Cinema system.
So far, so good, though what’s missing is an acknowledgement of the requirement to create
custom DCDM’s for various screen types and exhibition formats. The DCI attempted to address
this point in their (brief) Stereoscopic Digital Cinema Addendum, dated Jul 11, 2007, 3 months
after the April 12, 2007 publication of the DCI Spec master document:
2.1. SINGLE INVENTORY OF STEREOSCOPIC DIGITAL CINEMA PACKAGES (DCP)
A single stereoscopic DCP shall be able to be used for all stereoscopic implementations (e.g., no
stereoscopic exhibition system shall require a unique color or density timing). It is not required
or intended that the same image track file used for stereoscopic DCPs also be used for
nonstereoscopic DCPs.
Additionally, no signal pre-processing unique to any single stereoscopic exhibition technology
shall be required of a stereoscopic Digital Cinema Distribution Master (DCDM) or DCP.
The intention as stated stands in stark contrast to the present day reality, as noted in this extract
from a March 25, 2010 Carolyn Giardina article in The Hollywood Reporter entitled, “How
Avatar Changed the Rules of Deliverables”:
“In total, there were 18 different versions of Avatar created for the domestic market, plus an
additional 92 for international markets, which were released in 47 languages. The international
versions included more than 52 subtitled and 18 dubbed versions on film, 58 subtitled and 36
dubbed versions in digital 3D, nine subtitled and eight dubbed versions in digital 2D, and 23
subtitled and 15 dubbed versions for Imax.”
While the goal (for both DCI and DIGSS) remains universal interoperability, the physics of
projecting 2D and 3D images on flat and dome screens – coupled with current limitations in
digital cinema technology - will mandate the creation of multiple DCDM’s for giant screens.
Suggested wording to this effect (relating back to the DCI Spec, not the DCI Stereoscopic
Addendum) would be:
…it is the content provider’s responsibility to convert the DSM into the DCDM specification,
defined in this section for both flat and dome 2D and 3D giant screens, before it can be used in
the Digital Cinema system.
Moving on, the following section of the DCI Spec will need to be modified to include the 4:3 (or
1.33:1) aspect ratio that underlies the design of most traditional giant screen cinemas:
3.2.1. Image Concepts and Requirements
3.2.1.3. Center of Image
The center of the image structure shall correspond to the center of its image active pixel array.
Horizontally, there will be an equal number of pixels to the left and to the right of the center
point. Vertically, there will be an equal number of pixels above and below the center point. The
center of the image structure will depend on the down stream mapping of the content (e.g.,
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HDSDI or TIFF files). For a 4K ‘scope (4096x1716) image structure mapped to a TIFF file, the
center is between horizontal pixels 2047 and 2048 (note: pixel counts begin at (0,0)) and between
vertical pixels 857 and 858. For a 2K ‘scope (2048x858) image structure mapped into an HDSDI
stream, the center is between horizontal pixels 1023 and 1024 and between vertical pixels 539
and 540.
The following requirements in the DCI Spec are not universally practiced on multi-projector
fulldome systems, and it is unknown if they can be. For example, at present two of the major
fulldome digital systems providers provide and project their final content in sRGB - not XYZ -
color space. We would need to enlist their involvement in a transition to an XYZ (and higher bit
depth) specification, or we could adopt a universal fulldome sRGB standard if we can prove –
through a series of on-screen testing – that such a standard yields acceptable on-screen quality.
3.2.1.4. Colorimetry
The color encoding of the Digital Cinema Distribution Master (DCDM) embodies a deviceindependent, X’Y’Z’ color space. Since the DCDM incorporates all of the creative color
decisions and these decisions will be made on a calibrated projector in a controlled mastering
room, it is by definition an output-referred image state as described in [CIE Publication 15:2004,
Colorimetry, 3rd Edition]. The picture is colorimetrically defined for its intended display on the
cinema screen.
3.2.1.7. Bit Depth
The bit depth for each code value for a color component shall be 12 bits. This yields 36 bits per
pixel.
3.2.2.2. File Mapping
The DCDM Image Structure shall be mapped into the TIFF Rev 6.0 File Format and further
constrained as follows:
 16 bits each per X’, Y’, and Z’ channel, stored in the nominal TIFF R, G and B channels.
 The DCDM gamma-encoded X’, Y’ and Z’ color channels are represented by 12-bit unsigned
integer code values. These 12 bits are placed into the most significant bits of 16-bit words,
with the remaining 4 bits filled with zeroes.
 The image orientation shall place the first pixel in the upper left corner of the image.
 The DCDM picture file shall contain only the active pixels in the image. In other words, it is
not allowed to pad the picture to the full size of the DCDM container.
There are many questions to be asked about Aspect Ratio:
Do we include a 16K spec?
Do we include an 8K spec?
Do we exclude ‘scope in any/all resolutions?
Do we include resolutions under 4K?
There is no way to answer these questions within this document: they (and others) are the basis
for discussions pending on-screen observations. For example, if animation and some CG
imagery looks acceptable at 2K (begging the question: how do we define acceptable?), should
we exclude 2K imagery from giant screens, or establish an unnecessary 4K minimum
requirement on imagery that neither contains nor warrants 4K resolution?
8
Some of these questions can only be answered through on-screen testing. For example, we
would need to demonstrate through testing that higher resolutions (e.g., 8K and 16K) result in a
discernible increase in on-screen resolution for a statistically significant portion of the giant
screen auditorium, enough to warrant a revised specification on resolution (pixel count).
At the very least, the following DCI Spec chart on Aspect Ratio would need to be amended as
follows, to include the 1.33:1 aspect ratio:
3.2.1.8. Aspect Ratio
Some examples for the accommodation of images of various aspect ratios in the containers are as
follows:
4096 x 1716 2.39
3996 x 2160 1.85
4096 x 3072 1.33
2048 858 2.39
1998 1080 1.85
2048 x 1536 1.33
The DCI Spec for Audio covers bit depth, sample rate, reference level and channel count. It also
offers general parameters for channel mapping and suggested speaker layout for cinemas. These
specs are generally applicable to giant screens as is, with the proviso that the DCI’s suggested
speaker layout be excluded from DIGSS. Following are 3 of the basic DCI parameters:
3.3.2.2. Bit Depth
The bit depth shall be 24 bits per sample. DSM Audio Material having other bit depths shall be
justified to the most significant bit per [AES3-2003 Section 4.1.1].
3.3.2.3. Sample Rate
Irrespective of the associated image frame rate, the audio sample rate shall be either forty-eight
or ninety-six thousand samples per second per channel, commonly expressed as 48.000 or 96.000
kHz. At 24 FPS playback, there are exactly 2,000 audio samples per frame for 48.000 kHz and
exactly 4,000 audio samples per frame for 96.000 kHz. At 48 FPS playback, there are exactly
1,000 audio samples per frame for 48.000 kHz and exactly 2,000 audio samples per frame for
96.000 kHz.
A theater playback system shall have the capability of performing sample rate conversion as
needed.
3.3.2.4. Channel Count
The delivered digital audio, contained within the Digital Cinema Package (DCP), shall support a
channel count of sixteen full-bandwidth channels.
Finally, the DCI Spec goes on to establish DCDM specifications for Closed Captioning, Subtitling and Show Automation, all of which may be relevant to DIGSS.
2 – DCP (DIGITAL CINEMA PACKAGE)
The DCI Spec defines the DCP as follows:
2.1.1.4. Digital Cinema Package (DCP)
9
Once the DCDM is compressed, encrypted and packaged for distribution, it is considered to be
the Digital Cinema Package or DCP. This term is used to distinguish the package from the raw
collection of files known as the DCDM.
It goes on to establish detailed parameters for Compression (DCI Spec Section 4) and Packaging
(DCI Spec Section 5). The processes described are relatable to all Digital Cinema (see, for
example, clause 4.1, below), but the Spec is specifically tied to 2K and 4K resolutions and XYZ
color space. Even the current 4K specification may be selling 4K short, limited as it is to a
maximum bit rate of 250 Mbits/sec. Resolutions in excess of 4K would require such massive
compression (to meet the 250 Mbit/sec max.) as to potentially render the increase in the source
DCDM’s resolution meaningless. The main challenge here will be to demonstrate through onscreen testing if less compression (higher bit rates) result in a discernible increase in on-screen
resolution for a statistically significant portion of the giant screen auditorium at each proposed
resolution, including 4K, and to follow-up that testing with discussions with manufacturers and
exhibitors to determine what bit rates are practically achievable in commercial settings.
4. COMPRESSION
4.1. Introduction
Image Compression for Digital Cinema uses data reduction techniques to decrease the size of the
data for economical delivery and storage. The system uses perceptual coding techniques to
achieve an image compression that is visually lossless. It is important to note that image
compression is typically used to ensure meeting transmission bandwidth or media storage
limitations. This results in image quality being dependent on scene content and delivered bit rate.
Digital Cinema image compression is much less dependent upon bandwidth or storage
requirements, thereby making bit rate dependent on desired image quality rather than the reverse.
4.2. Compression Standard
The compression standard shall be JPEG 2000 (see [ISO/IEC 15444-1]).
These DCP decoder specifications will require amending based on our final decisions on DIGSS
resolution and aspect ratio:
4.3. Decoder Specification
4.3.1. Definitions
 A 2K distribution – the resolution of the DCDM7 container is 2048x1080.
 A 4K distribution – the resolution of the DCDM
8 container is 4096x2160.
 A 2K decoder outputs up to 2048x1080 resolution data.
 A 4K decoder outputs up to 4096x2160 resolution data from a 4K compressed file and
outputs up to 2048x1080 resolution data from a 2K compressed file.
 All decoders shall decode both 2K and 4K distributions. It is the responsibility of the 4K
projector to upres the 2K file. In the case of a 2K decoder and a 4K distribution, the 2K
decoder need read only that data necessary to decode a 2K output from the 4K distribution.
The decoder (be it a 2K decoder or a 4K decoder) need not up-sample a 2K image to a 4K
projector or down-sample a 4K image to a 2K projector.
4.3.2. Decoder Requirements
10
 Once deployed, the decoder, for any given projector, shall not be required to be upgraded.
 The output of the decoder shall conform to Section 3.2 Image Specification. These images
are basically:
 4K = 4096x2160 at 24 FPS
 2K = 2048x1080 at 24 or 48 FPS
 Color: 12 bit, X’Y’Z’
 Enhanced parameter choices shall not be allowed in future distribution masters, if they break
decodability in a deployed compliant decoder.
 All decoders shall decode each color component at 12 bits per sample with equal
color/component bandwidth. Decoders shall not subsample chroma.
 A 4K decoder shall decode all data for every frame in a 4K distribution. A decoder shall not
discard data (including resolution levels or quality layers) to keep up.
 A 2K decoder shall decode 2K data for every frame in a 4K distribution and it shall decode a
2K distribution. It may discard only the highest resolution level of a 4K distribution. It shall
not discard other data such as further resolution levels or quality layers.
 All decoders shall implement the 9/7 inverse wavelet transform with at least 16 bit fixed
point precision.
 All decoders shall implement the inverse Irreversible Color Transform (ICT) using at least 16
bit fixed point precision.
5. PACKAGING
The following introductory notes from the DCI Spec section on “Packing” (of the DCP) are
instructive:
5.1. Introduction
The DCDM, as stated in the System Overview, is a collection of files, such as picture essence
files and audio essence files. These files, as they stand by themselves, do not represent a
complete presentation. Synchronization tools, asset management tools, metadata, content
protection and other information are required for a complete presentation to be understood and
played back as it was intended. This is especially important when the files become compressed
and/or encrypted and are no longer recognizable as image essence or audio essence in this state.
Packaging is a way to organize and wrap this material in such a way as to make it suitable for
storage and transmission to its destination, where it can be stored and then easily unwrapped for
a coherent playback. In seeking a common interchange standard for Digital Cinema between
post-production and exhibition, it is understood that there may be multiple sources of content,
distributed by more than one distributor, shown in a single show. This will require special
consideration to achieve DCP interchange. Thus, an interchange packaging structure is needed
that operates across several domains. The section also provides a set of requirements for the
Material eXchange Format (MXF) track file encryption. These requirements are complementary
to the requirements in Section 9.7 Essence Encryption and Cryptography.
11
5.2.1. Functional Framework
For the purpose of documenting the specific requirements for a Digital Cinema Packaging
system, it is helpful to divide the system into a set of components. The performance requirements
for each of these components will be described in the following sections:
 Composition – A self-contained representation of a single complete Digital Cinema work,
such as a motion picture, or a trailer, or an advertisement, etc.
 Distribution Package – The physical files and the list describing the files and providing a
means for authentication as delivered in a Distribution Package (from Distributor to
Exhibitor).
One of the basic precepts of the DCI Spec is a so-called “open standard” – a system that allows
for playback of properly executed Digital Cinema Packages on all digital projectors. This is laid
out in the following passage:
5.2.2.2. Open Standard
The Packaging standard is required to be based upon an open worldwide standard. This format is
encouraged to be a license-free technology. It is required to be a complete standard that
equipment receiving a compliant package can process and interpret unambiguously.
This call for an open standard is one of the thorniest technical and political issues to overcome in
our deliberations governing the development of DIGSS. In the “non giant” digital cinema world,
an open standard works because distributors, equipment manufacturers and exhibitors are serving
a vast network, whose potential number of screens measure in the tens of thousands, not in the
hundreds, as in the case of giant screens.
In the “non giant” exhibition world, the main suppliers of content – in the form of the 6 major
Hollywood film studios – created the DCI, which in turn created the DCI Spec, to (among other
things) maximize the distribution potential of digitally released titles. The sheer number of
screens, and the considerable clout of the major Hollywood studios (not to mention the sizable
budget they established for the DCI) made the DCI Spec possible. There is no analog in the
giant screen world, where the only centralized player is IMAX Corporation, with no clear
interest in establishing an open platform that would empower a more competitive projection and
content environment.
Politics (and economics) aside, there are still considerable technical challenges to an open
standard for digital projection on giant screens. First and foremost are those associated with the
divide between flat and dome screens, and the wide ranging projection solutions – from tiled to
overlapping, with resolutions ranging from low-end video to 4K – applied in a variety of ways
by a multiplicity of vendors. Also to be considered are the ways in which content design,
capture and finishing must, by necessity, be customized for various projection platforms.
Still, an open standard should remain a goal for DIGSS, in that – if achieved – it could serve to
revitalize content providers, and help create a giant screen thematic and visual identity that goes
beyond simply screen size.
The DCI Spec goes on to establish very detailed standards for the formatting of DCP’s, as well
as laying out requirements for metadata, playlist compatibility and encryption. The applicability
of these additional specifications for DCP’s relates back to the issue of an open standard, and the
12
feasibility of a uniform code for giant screen DCP’s. In short, it is a range of issues that require
further deliberation.
LINK 4: DISTRIBUTION - NO SPECIFICATION
Author: John Jacobsen
Like DCI, DIGSS will make no stipulations about how programs are leased, distributed and
transported from the encoding/DCP Process (Link 3) to the projection playback system (Link 6).
Distributors and theaters may make whatever business and transport arrangements they want,
including shipping hard drives and satellite transfers.
LINK 5: PROGRAM TRANSPORT
Author: Andrew Oran
5.1. Introduction
Transport refers to the movement of the packaged Digital Cinema content. This can be
accomplished in many ways, such as physical media, Virtual Private Network (VPN), or
satellite.
The DCI Spec’s guidelines for the transport of digital cinema content are general, and applicable
to all digital content regardless of resolution and with little specificity relative to formatting. As
such, they can easily be incorporated into DIGSS with little or no revision.
LINK 6: SECURE MEDIA BLOCK: SPECIFICATION: DECODING THE DIGITAL CINEMA PACKAGE
Author: Ed Lantz
PROJECTOR RATIONALE/DISCUSSION
OBJECTIVE
These draft specifications attempt to reproduce the current state of the art in giant-screen analog
film projection with digital projection technologies that can feasibly be deployed in the near
term. Furthermore, they have been harmonized with the DCI Digital Cinema System
Specification, v.1.2, to provide compatibility with major feature film releases and to obtain other
benefits of DCI compliance.
Wherever appropriate, these specifications have mirrored the specifications developed by the
Technical Task Force of the Giant Screen Cinema Association.1
The development of these
specifications also follows the basic methodology of the GSCA report, using James Hyder’s
database of all nonprofit giant-screen theaters in the US and Canada,2
the GSTA Theatre
Membership Technical Standards document (second draft), the Fulldome Master Show File

1 Andrew Oran, GSCA Technical Task Force Report, page 1. The report for the GSCA is based in part on recent data
collected by surveys completed by its members, totaling 76 GS flat-screen theaters and 39 full-dome theaters. It is
also based in part on data describing all of its members, including 107 GS flat-screen theaters and 26 full-dome
theaters. The specifications have also been influenced by data pertaining to the worldwide inventory of both flatscreen and fulldome theaters.
2 From the LF Examiner Database of Theaters and Films (as of May 1, 2010). Figures provided by James Hyder as a
custom search for this project.
13
Standard draft document,3
and Ed Lantz’s paper from the 2004 Fulldome Summit entitled
Display Specifications: A Proposal.
4
PROJECTION SPECIFICATIONS
Flat Screens:
6.1 Aspect Ratio of 1.33:1 must be supported for full GS compatibility without letterboxing. Masking
to aspect ratios up to 2.39:1 is permissible to accommodate the full range of popular film formats.
The 1.33:1 aspect ratio should be achievable without narrowing the screen width (from which
critical theater design parameters are measured) if the theater is to reproduce the GS film
experience with the full gamut of available GS films.
6.2 Peak White Luminance shall be maintained at 20–22 fL for 2D silver screens and 6–8 fL for 3D
silver screens with polarizers. (Note: from GSCA Task Force report5
.) Future Research Question:
Should off-axis seats at least have 12 fL luminance?
6.3 Luminance Uniformity. The peak-to-peak luminance variation over the screen surface shall be no
greater than 20%. (Exceeds DCI). Future Research Question: Should off-axis seats still have
20% uniformity? Do we need an off-axis luminance uniformity spec? If so, what should it be?
6.4 Narrow Angle Luminance Uniformity. For systems that blend multiple projectors to form the
giant-screen image, or that otherwise exhibit brightness variations over small angles, the image
brightness uniformity across non-uniformities (worst-case peak-to-peak variation of brightness
measured at three points along a line perpendicularly intersecting nonuniformity/blend region)
shall be 5% or less. This specification applies to any image consisting of a uniform value of red,
blue and green components (full white, full black, gray, or uniform color) across the measurement
area.
This specification can apply to edge-blends and to dome screen issues with dust collection in
perforations except over support ribs.
6.5 Image Resolution shall be 4096 horizontal pixels minimum, however resolution of 8192 horizontal
pixels is recommended for an optimal giant-screen experience. (Exceeds DCI.) The 8192 pixel
resolution will provide eye-limited resolution for viewers seated in the front row (assuming front
row is 0.33 screen widths away from screen). However this specification is meaningless unless
there are off-the-shelf systems available with 8193 pixel resolution. Therefore the 4K resolution is
recommended as allowable with the 8K preferred but not required. Future Research Question:
Minimum and recommended resolution of to be substantiated through butterfly screen testing.
6.6 Sequential Image Contrast shall be 2000:1 minimum. Exceeds DCI specification that permits
tolerance down to 1200:1 for exhibition.
6.7 Intra-Frame (Checkerboard) Contrast shall be 150:1 minimum. Exceeds DCI specification that
permits tolerance down to 150:1 for exhibition. Future Research Question: To be validated with
in-theater tests.
6.8 Color Gamut and Color Accuracy. Recommend DCI compliance.
6.9 Pixel Structure. The device structure (mesh) of the projector picture array must be invisible at the
reference viewing distance. No visible contouring (DCI compliant specification.).

3 Fulldome Master Show File, Version 0.5, Sept. 12, 2005
4 Ed Lantz, Display Specifications: A Proposal, 2004 Fulldome Summit, Valencia, Spain, 2004
5 Second Draft Technical Standards, GSTA Theatre Membership, January 2003
14
6.10 Contouring. Images shall not exhibit any contouring (step in luminance) or color deviation from
the neutral gray. (DCI compliant specification.)
6.11 Frame Rate. The display shall be capable of refreshing unique image frames at 24 frames per
second for 2D systems and 48 frames per second for sequential eye 3D systems; recommended
additional rates include 30, 48 (2D), 60, 96 (3D) unique frames per second.
6.12 Ghosting. For 3D systems, crosstalk between eyes shall be less than 15%, with a goal of less than
10%. This specification can probably be tightened — to be determined through future testing.
Future Research Question: Maximum crosstalk to be substantiated through testing.
Dome Screens:
6.13 The dome shall display an image that is a minimum of 130º in the vertical field of view and a
minimum of 180º in the horizontal field of view. It is recommended that the image fill 180º of the
vertical field of view and 360º of the horizontal field of view.
6.14 Peak White Luminance shall be 3–4 fL measured at a 45 degree elevation above the center front
dome bottom. This specification was taken from the GSCA Task Force report. Future Research
Question: Recommended brightness of 3–4 fL to be substantiated through testing.
6.15 Luminance Uniformity. The peak-to-peak luminance variation over the screen surface shall be no
greater than 20%. This specification exceeds DCI spec.
6.16 Narrow Angle Luminance Uniformity. For systems that blend multiple projectors to form the
giant-screen image, or that otherwise exhibit brightness variations over small angles, the image
brightness uniformity across non-uniformities (worst-case peak-to-peak variation of brightness
measured at three points along a line perpendicularly intersecting nonuniformity/blend region)
shall be 5% or less. This specification applies to any image consisting of a uniform value of red,
blue and green components (full white, full black, gray, or uniform color) across the measurement
area. This specification can apply to edge-blends and to dome screen issues with dust collection in
perforations except over support ribs.
6.17 Image Resolution shall be 4096 horizontal pixels minimum, however 8192 horizontal pixels is
recommended for an optimal giant-screen experience, 16,384 maximum. The 4096 pixel resolution
will not provide eye-limited resolution even for viewers seated in the back row of the dome screen.
However, just as standard GS films are screened in domes with their equivalent pixel resolution
spanning a much greater field of view, it also makes sense to allow the minimum pixel resolution of
GS digital systems to also be projected in a dome. The 8192 pixel resolution provides eye-limiting
resolution for viewers seated approximately 0.25 radii behind dome center, and the 16,384 pixel
resolution provides eye-limited resolution for viewers seated 0.66 radii from the front of the dome
screen. The highest resolution digital domes are now approaching 8K pixels. Future Research
Question: Minimum and recommended resolution to be substantiated through testing.
6.18 Sequential Image Contrast minimum 2000:1 minimum (DCI compliant).
Exceeds DCI specification that permits tolerance down to 1200:1 for exhibition. Future Research
Question: To be validated with simulations or in-theater tests.
6.19 Intra-frame (checkerboard) contrast shall be 12:1 minimum (noncompliant with DCI).
This specification is very sensitive to dome screen reflectance and theater finishes. A 12:1
checkerboard contrast is achievable with a screen reflectance of approximately 0.35 or less.
Future Research Question: To be validated with simulations or in-theater tests.
6.20 Color Gamut and Color Accuracy. Recommend DCI compliance.
6.21 Pixel Structure. The device structure (mesh) of the projector picture array is required to be
invisible at the reference viewing distance. No visible contouring. (DCI compliant.)
15
invisible at the reference viewing distance. No visible contouring. (DCI compliant.)
6.22 Contouring. Images shall not exhibit any contouring (step in luminance), or color deviation from
the neutral gray. (DCI Compliant.)
6.23 Frame Rate. The display shall be capable of refreshing unique image frames at 24 frames per
second for 2D systems and 48 frames per second for sequential eye 3D systems; recommended
additional rates include 30, 48 (2D), 60, 96 (3D) unique frames/second.
6.24 Ghosting. For 3D systems, crosstalk between eyes shall be less than 15% with a goal of less than
10%. Note: Maximum crosstalk to be substantiated through testing.
6.25 Dome Master mapping shall be equidistant polar/azimuthal (from draft fulldome standard). This
specification requires a simple spherical mapping between dome and digital image which deviates from the
original Omnimax specification which cannot accommodate mapping onto a full hemisphere. It is compliant
with the draft version 0.5 of the Fulldome Master Show File specification6
.
LINK 7: THEATER ENVIRONMENT SPECIFICATIONS
Author: Victor Becker
The term “reference seat” refers to the location of the eyes and ears of a viewer sitting on the
centerline of the theater in a real or imagined seat exactly midway between the first and last rows
of seats.
SPECIFICATIONS FOR ALL SCREENS:
7.1 The plane of the seating area shall be angled to the horizontal plane no less than 12º and no more
than 30º. It is recommended that the tilt be 20º to 25º.
7.2 The eyes of the viewer in the reference seat of the theater shall be located above the bottom of the
screen at a point between 0.28 and 0.33 times the height of the screen.
7.3 The screen surface shall be free from all visual defects, including scratches, dents, dirt, or any
artifacts that can be detected by the human eye. The screen surface shall be spectrally neutral and
free of visible specular reflections. The screen surface shall have a total variation of less than 2% in
gain and color across its entire expanse.
7.4 The ambient interior and exterior noise that intrudes into the theater space shall not exceed Noise
Criterion 25 (NC-25).
7.5 Neither the screen nor its support structure shall produce audible sound or sympathetic vibration in
the presence of audio system energy of 105 dB at any frequency over a range of 20 Hz to 16,000
Hz, as measured at room center.
7.6 The reverberation time for sound in the theater shall not exceed 0.5 seconds for a theater with a
screen narrower than 80 feet or a seating capacity of under 400. In any theater larger than this in
size or capacity, it is recommended that reverberation time not exceed 0.8 seconds.
7.7 The intelligibility produced by the theater’s audio system shall have an Articulation Loss of
Consonants (ALCONS) of no more than 5% and/or achieve a Speech Transmission Index (STI)
rating of no less than 0.68 for the reference seat.

6 Fulldome Master Show File, Version 0.5, Sept. 12, 2005 (www.imersa.org)
16
7.8 The audio system shall have audio characteristics that conform to the relevant Digital Cinema
Initiative specifications for bit depth, sample rate, and reference level (DCI Specification 3.3.2).
7.9 The audio system shall have 16 full-bandwidth channels and a physical placement of speakers in
the theater shall that conform to the Digital Cinema Initiative specification of channel count and
speaker placement (DCI Specification 3.3.3).
Flat Screens:
7.10 The screen width shall be not less than 70 feet (21.34 meters).
7.11 The screen height shall be no less than 50 feet (15.24 meters).
7.12 The eyes of the viewer in the farthest seat from the screen shall be no farther than the width of the
screen.
7.13 The eyes of the viewer in the center seat of the row of seats closest to the screen shall be no closer
than 0.33 times the width of the screen.
7.14 No seat shall be located outside of the space defined in plan by two lines that begin at the screen
centerline and extend 45º in either direction for 2D screens and 35º for 3D screens. It is
recommended for all screens that no seat be located outside of the space defined in plan by two
lines that begin at the screen centerline and extend 35º in either direction.
7.15 No seat shall be located farther from the centerline of the theater than 0.45 times the width of the
screen.
Dome Screens:
7.16 The diameter of the dome shall be no less than 60 feet (18.29 meters).
7.17 The eyes of the viewer in the center seat of the closest row of seats to a dome screen shall be no
closer than 0.30 times the diameter of the dome.
7.18 No viewer’s eyes shall be located within 4 feet (1.22 meters) of the inside edge (in horizontal plan)
of the dome and/or dome lighting trough. It is recommended that this no-seat zone be increased as
much as dome diameter and required seat count allow.
7.19 The dome and projection system shall display an image that is a minimum of 130wº in the vertical
field of view, with 20º of that field below the horizon line of the reference seat and 110º above it
and a minimum of 180º in the horizontal field of view. It is recommended that the image fill 180º
of the vertical field of view and 360º of the horizontal field of view.
7.20 The dome and projection system shall display an image that is a minimum of 180º in the horizontal
field of view. It is recommended that the image fill 360º of the horizontal field of view.
7.21 The dome shall maintain the integrity of it hemispherical characteristics at a surface variance of no
greater than 1/2 inch (12.5 mm).
7.22 The dome shall have seams between its constituent panels that are invisible under full-color
projection.
7.23 The center top speaker in a dome environment shall be assigned audio channel #9 of a minimum of
the 16 available channels.
Design Guidelines Requiring Additional Investigation:
1 The degree of specificity in the range of angles for the tilt of a dome.
17
2 The determination of the distance between of the closest center front seat and the dome
screen.
3 The creation of effective ADA-compliant experiences and their impact on theater geometry.
4 The development of effective theater entry and exit options.
5 The evaluation of the importance of the seating plane being parallel to the dome’s spring line.
6 The impact of theater finishes on acoustics and ambient light control.
RATIONALE/DISCUSSION:
Objective
The primary objective of DIGSS is to develop for the worldwide network of science-based
institutional giant-screen theaters a set of specifications for the physical architecture and
environment of a theater experience that will satisfactorily accommodate existing analog and
new digital cinema systems.
These specifications will guide the adaptation and renovation of existing theater facilities as well
as the development of new theater spaces for the museum field.
Wherever appropriate, these specifications have mirrored the specifications developed by the
Technical Task Force of the Giant Screen Cinema Association7
and by the Digital Cinema
Initiative.8
The development of these specifications also follows the basic methodology of the
GSCA report, using James Hyder’s database of all nonprofit giant-screen theaters in the US and
Canada.9
Principal Determinants of the Aesthetic Impact of the Visitor Experience
The fundamental determinant of the effective and satisfaction-producing immersiveness of the
GS theater experience is the ability of the experience to draw viewers into a projected “reality”
as if they were actually within the location or situation that the image and sound emulate. The
principal determinant of the theater’s ability to “fool” viewers is the filling of their eyes and ears
with the desired image and sound, and removing from their eyes and ears any evidence of the
reality of the theater or the projection and audio systems responsible for the experience.
The world of sound is well suited to pull off this aesthetic trick. “Simply” remove unwanted
sounds (see discussions of acoustics later in this report), and provide an audio track with
appropriate volume and reasonably dynamic movement and the listener’s mind will happily
engage in the “willing suspension of disbelief” that defines successful theater.
The world of vision is much trickier. The human eye can naturally see about 180º in the
horizontal plane and 120º in the vertical plane,10 making it much harder to direct. The selection

7 Andrew Oran, GSCA Technical Task Force Report, page 1. The report for the GSCA is based in part on recent data
collected by surveys completed by its members totaling 76 GS flat-screen theaters and 39 dome theaters. It is also
based in part on data describing all of its members, including 107 GS flat-screen theaters and 26 dome theaters.
The specifications have also been influenced by data pertaining to the worldwide inventory of both flat-screen and
dome theaters.
8 Digital Cinema System Specifications, Version 1.2, March 7, 2008.
9 From the LF Examiner Database of Theaters and Films (2010, Jan. 1). Figures provided by James Hyder as a custom
search for this project. The statistics reflect the 42 flat-screen GS theaters and the 36 dome-screen GS theaters culled
from the database.
10 Margaret M. Fleck, Research Associate Professor, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
18
of a more limited field of view that is able to convince the eye and the brain becomes a central —
perhaps the critical — decision upon which to base the geometry of a theater devoted to
immersive experiences.
Imax Corporation determined early in its development of large screens that a workable minimum
field of vision for its viewers was 53º. This standard has produced unarguably successful theater
designs and has been assumed to be the standard for the minimum viewing angle for decades by
multiple suppliers.11 It will be assumed in the discussions that follow that the existing analog
giant-screen theater layouts by multiple suppliers have created a body of empirical evidence that
will inform DIGSS.
SPECIFICATIONS FOR ALL SCREENS
Angled Seating Plane #1
The plane of the seating area shall be angled to the horizontal plane no less than 12º and no
more than 30º. It is recommended that the tilt be 20º to 25º.
This specification is intended to ensure the viewer’s immersion in the experience projected on
the screen. Seating planes angled less than 12º do not measurably enhance the human perceptions
of orientation, space, and distance. Seating planes angled more than 30º are physically difficult
for viewers to negotiate and present hard-to-resolve issues with building and safety codes.
This specification is not included in the GSCA specifications; no data are currently available to
determine how many of the 78 theaters in Hyder’s database meet this specification.
Angled Seating Plane #2
The eyes of the viewer in the reference seat of the theater shall be located above the bottom of
the screen at a point between 0.28 and 0.33 the height of the screen.
This specification is intended to orient the eyes of the viewers to the screen image in an optimal
manner that is consistent from theater to theater, giving the producer of the image and sound a
predetermined physical point of view applicable to all audiences.
This specification is not included in the GSCA specifications; no data are currently available to
determine how many of the 78 theaters in Hyder’s database meet this specification.
Screen Quality: Visual
The screen surface shall be free from all visual defects, including scratches, dents, dirt, or any
artifacts that can be detected by the human eye. The screen surface shall be spectrally neutral
and free of visible specular reflections. The screen surface shall not have a total variation of
more than 2% in gain and color across it entire expanse.
The “purity” of the GS theater screen is essential for the “willing suspension of disbelief” so
central to good theater. Discoloration, stains, and wrinkles can quickly degrade the experience by
constantly reminding viewers that they are in a theater (and one that has not been well
maintained) rather than in the environment being portrayed.
This specification is not included in the GSCA specifications; no data are currently available to
determine how many of the 78 theaters in Hyder’s database meet this specification.

11 Andrew Oran, GSCA Technical Task Force report, page 2.
19
Sound (and Vibration) Isolation
The ambient interior and exterior noise that intrudes into the theater space shall not exceed
Noise Criterion (NC)-25.
Isolation of the seating area from all external sound is important to maintain the immersive
quality of the presentation. Police sirens, aircraft, trains, thunder, heavy rain, and hail are a few
examples of the sounds that are certain to distract from the theater experience. Because
retrofitting sound isolation in a theater is extremely difficult and expensive, it is important to
ensure than the design and construction of a new facility is completed with the proper isolation
materials and techniques.
It is also important that the theater in its entirety be protected from any source of external
vibration that can create instability in the theater projector systems that could be amplified by the
various factors of the location and throw distance for projectors. External vibration can originate
from sources outside the control of the theater facility, such as subway trains, railroad lines,
heavy truck traffic, and similar realities of urban life.
Internal noise is usually generated by the failure to meet the complex challenge of isolating the
seating area from the theater and mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems that serve the
facility.
The materials and technologies for achieving this isolation are not new or complicated but they
often entail a significant construction or renovation cost — a cost often hard for the owner to
justify but very important for successful theater “magic.” Competent acoustic engineers
experienced with GS theaters will understand these challenges and will be able to meet them
effectively and affordably.
Screen Quality: Audio
Neither the screen nor its support structure shall produce audible sound or sympathetic
vibration in the presence of audio system energy of 105 dB at any frequency over a range of 20
Hz to 16,000 Hz, as measured at room center.
While arguably more important for dome screens with their many metal components, this
specification is intended to eliminate any possibility that a screen could create distractions from
the aural experience.
This specification is not included in the GSCA specifications; no data are currently available to
determine how many of the 78 theaters in Hyder’s database meet this specification.
Audio Characteristics of the Theater Space
The reverberation time for sound in the theater shall not exceed 0.5 seconds for a theater with a
screen narrower than 80 feet or a seating capacity of under 400. In any theater larger than this
in size or capacity, it is recommended that reverberation time not exceed 0.8 seconds.
The GS theater experience requires a significant amount of acoustical “deadness” — the control
of sound reflections via sound absorption materials and techniques — for the magic of the
theater to work. “The goal is for the sound (which has already been post-processed and mixed by
the filmmakers) to reach the listener’s ears with very few reflections and remain uncolored by
the room itself.”12 This “calls for a very short reverberation time. The key design factor is

12 Kenric Van Wyk, The Secret Lives of IMAX Theater Designers”, Acoustics By Design, Sept. 11, 2008
20
engineering the proper amount of acoustical absorption for the room’s surfaces so it performs
within the specifications.”13
This specification is not included in the GSCA specifications; no data are currently available to
determine how many of the 78 theaters in Hyder’s database meet this specification.
Performance of the Audio System
The intelligibility produced by the theater’s audio system shall have an Articulation Loss of
Consonants (ALCONS) of no more than 5% and/or achieve a Speech Transmission Index (STI)
rating of no less than 0.68 for the reference seat.14
The generation of the audio signal inside the theater is, of course, based on the nature of the
audio system installed in the GS theater. This specification is intended to guarantee the
intelligibility of the sounds unfolding in the theater, increasing the human perception of the
reality of the events that the sound is portraying or supporting. A high degree of clarity in the
sound — even when the intent is to present chaos or confusion — can greatly increase the
viewers’ sense of immersion in the action or environment on the screen.
This specification is not included in the GSCA specifications; no data are currently available to
determine how many of the 78 theaters in Hyder’s database meet this specification.
Audio System Characteristics
The audio system shall have audio characteristics that conform to the relevant Digital Cinema
Initiatives specifications for bit depth, sample rate, and reference level (DCI Specification 3.3.2).
This specification ensures that the digital quality of the sounds produced by the theater’s audio
system are consistent with the producer’s intent. The DCI specifications clarify required bit
depth, sample rate, and digital reference level for successful playback in the theater.
Although the GSCA specifications acknowledge that a quality audio design is “essential,” no
specification is included in the GSCA specifications; no data are currently available to determine
how many of the 78 theaters in Hyder’s database meet this specification.
Audio System Equipment Parameters
The audio systems shall have 16 full-bandwidth channels and a physical placement of speakers
in the theater that conforms to the Digital Cinema Initiatives specification of channel count and
speaker placement (DCI S 3.3.3).
The intent of this specification is to orient the ears of the viewers to the audio environment in a
manner that is consistent from theater to theater, giving the producer of the show’s sound a
predetermined and reliable physical source of sound for all audiences. It is particularly important
that the location and/or the direction of movement of each implied sound source accurately
portray the content producer’s intent.
The specifications for the assignment of audio channels and the physical location of speakers are
clearly laid out in Section 3.3.3 of the DCI specifications.15

13 Ibid.
14 STI & ALCONS indexes suggested as applicable criteria of sound quality by Haines B. Cole, Calf Audio, Ithaca NY,
May 20, 2010. The specifications of these two criteria have been adjusted as per comments at the DISCUSS
colloquium.
15 Digital Cinema Initiative, version 1.2, March 7, 2008, Section 3.3, pages 30–34
21
This specification is not included in the GSCA specifications; no data are currently available to
determine how many of the 78 theaters in Hyder’s database meet this specification.
SPECIFICATIONS FOR FLAT SCREENS
Flat Screen Width
The screen width shall be not less than 70 feet (21.34 meters).
This specification conforms to the GSCA’s specification for minimum width. When it is applied
to the 42 nonprofit flat-screen GS theaters in the US and Canada (including one theater with a
flat screen convertible to a dome), 38 meet the specification, two are inches narrower, one is two
feet narrower, and one is five feet narrower. This small number of non-complying theaters
suggests that there is no reason to differ from the GSCA specification.
Flat Screen Height
The screen height shall be no less than 50 feet (15.24 meters).
This specification is based on applying the “traditional” giant-screen aspect ratio (approximately
1.33) to the minimum screen width. The resulting 52.5 feet height was adjusted downward to 50
feet to accommodate nine theaters (21.5% of the total number of flat-screen theaters) with screen
heights that fall between 50 feet and 52.5 feet. Of the 42 theaters, 40 meet this specification; the
two that fail to meet it also fail to meet the minimum screen width specification.
This specification is not included in the GSCA specifications; they instead specify that a screen
that falls short of the minimum width can be considered a “giant screen” if it is at least 3,100
square feet (288 square meters) in area. Because this GSCA specification would allow screens to
be significantly shorter than needed to establish the strong sense of vertical immersion
considered essential by many in the museum field, a minimum screen height-based criterion is
preferred over an area-based criterion. Note that the GSCA minimum screen area specification is
met by all 42 nonprofit theaters, including the two theaters whose screens are both narrower and
shorter than the proposed DIGSS.
Farthest Seat from a Flat Screen
The eyes of the viewer in the farthest seat from the screen shall be no further than the width of
the screen.
This specification conforms to the GSCA specifications. All of the flat screen theaters for which
this particular dimension is available (17 of the total of 42) meet this specification.
Closest Seat to a Flat Screen
The eyes of the viewer in the center seat of the row of seats closest to a flat screen shall be no
closer than 0.33 times the width of the screen.
This specification is not included in the GSCA specifications. All but one of the flat screen
theaters for which this particular dimension is available (15 of the 42) meet this specification.
The lone exception is the same theater that does not meet the DIGSS screen criteria.16
Boundary #1 of the Seating Area
No seats shall be located outside of the space defined in plan by two lines that begin at the
screen centerline and extend 45º in either direction for 2D screens and 35º for 3D screens. It is

16 That theater, however, does meet the GSCA flat screen area specification.
22
recommended that no seat be located outside of the space defined in plan by two lines that begin
at the screen centerline and extend 35º in either direction for all screens.
This specification prevents seats that are close to the screen — whose view is somewhat
impaired by the difficulty of taking in the full scope of the screen image — from being further
impaired by viewing the screen at a significant angle. It limits the acceptable width of the first
four or five rows of seats in the most theaters.
This specification is not included in the GSCA specifications; no data are currently available to
determine how many of the 42 theaters meet this specification.
Boundary #2 of the Seating Area
No seat shall be located farther from the centerline of the theater than 0.45 times the width of the
screen.
This specification prevents seats that are farthest from the screen — whose view is somewhat
diminished by the reduced immersion created by distance from the screen image — from being
further impaired by viewing the screen at a significant angle. It limits the acceptable width of the
most of the middle and rear rows of seats.
This specification is not included in the GSCA specifications; no data are currently available to
determine how many of the 42 theaters meet this specification.
SPECIFICATIONS FOR DOMES
Dome Diameter
The dome diameter shall be no less than 60 feet (18.3 meters).
This specification conforms to the GSCA’s minimum diameter specification. All of the 36
nonprofit dome screen giant-screen theaters in the US and Canada17 meet this specification.
Closest Seat to a Dome Screen #1
For the GS theater experience, the eyes of the viewer in the center seat of the closest row of seats
to a dome screen shall be no closer than 0.30 times the diameter of the dome.
The “sweet spot” of a dome screen image is generally accepted to be approximately 20º above a
horizontal plane passing through the eyes of the center seat in the center row of the theater. The
increase in the viewing angle of each row in front of the center of the theater (and the
corresponding increase in the viewer’s physical discomfort) can be partially alleviated by angling
the seat backwards. At some point, this solution becomes untenable and the view of the dome
becomes unacceptably acute. This specification is intended to prohibit seats with unacceptably
compromised views of the dome image.
Note that this specification does not apply to non-GS theater uses of the theater.
This specification is not included in the GSCA specifications; no data are currently available to
determine how many of the 36 theaters meet this specification.
Closest Seat to a Dome Screen #2

17 From the LF Examiner Database of Theaters and Films (2010, Jan. 1). Figures provided by James Hyder as a custom
search for this project.
23
No viewer’s eyes shall be located within 4 feet (1.22 meters) of the inside edge (in horizontal
plan) of the dome or dome lighting trough. It is recommended that this no-seat zone be increased
as much as dome diameter and required seat count allow.
When the end seats of each row get too close to the edge of the dome (whether or not that edge is
further defined by a cove wall), the viewer becomes too aware of the physical presence of the
dome and the immersiveness of the experience is significantly reduced. This loss of immersion is
particularly evident in dome theaters where the radii of the rows of seats are shallow; the
resulting orientation of the seat compounds the awareness of the dome. This specification is
intended to prohibit seats with unacceptably compromised views of the dome image.
Note that the gap at the perimeter of the dome created by this specification provides excellent
potential for visitor circulation.
This specification is not included in the GSCA specifications; no data are currently available to
determine how many of the 36 theaters meet this specification.
Field of View — Vertical
The dome and projection system shall display an image that is a minimum of 130º in the vertical
field of view, with 20º of that field below the horizon line of the reference seat and 110º above it.
It is recommended that the image fill 180º of the vertical field of view.
This specification is based on the traditional guidelines of giant-screen theaters, which appear to
be consistent with the generally accepted height of the field of normal human vision as measured
in degrees. In addition, it helps to codify the location of the horizon line of the reference seat and
to ensure the sense of the image extending downward out of sight that is one of the components
of the giant screen immersive qualities.
Field of View — Horizontal
The dome and projection system shall display an image that is a minimum of 180º in the
horizontal field of view. It is recommended that the image fill 360º of the horizontal field of view.
This specification is based on the traditional guidelines of giant-screen theaters, which appear to
be consistent with the generally accepted width of the field of normal human vision as measured
in degrees. In addition, it helps to ensure the sense of the image wrapping around the audience
that is one of the components of the giant screen immersive qualities. The recommended 360º
field of horizontal view obviously ensures the greatest sense of immersion possible in that
characteristic of the projected image.
This specification is not included in the GSCA specifications; no data are currently available to
determine how many of the 36 theaters meet this specification.
Dome Integrity
The dome shall maintain the integrity of its hemispherical characteristics with a surface
variance of no greater than 1/2 inch (12.5 mm).
This specification is intended to ensure clarity of focus on the dome by preventing parts of the
dome from being either closer or further from the focal plane of the projector(s). It is also
intended to prevent anomalies in the image when rapid or precise movements of objects or
people are portrayed on the screen.
24
This specification is not included in the GSCA specifications; no data are currently available to
determine how many of the 36 theaters meet this specification.
Dome Seam Invisibility
The dome shall have seams between its constituent panels that are invisible under full color
projection.
Seams between adjacent panels of the dome must be overlapped. Panel joint seams must be
overlapped by no more than 2 in., and must have an opaque flat black material of minimum
thickness between the layers.
The seam-backing material must be such that reflectance of the seam areas does not change over
time.
Seams must be invisible under full-color projection. This is a subjective test and some
allowances may be made when white light is projected onto the screen but when a picture is
presented, the seams must not be discernable.
This specification is not included in the GSCA specifications; no data are currently available to
determine how many of the 36 theaters meet this specification.
Additional Speakers
The center top speaker in a dome environment shall be assigned audio channel 9 of the 16
available full-bandwidth channels.
This specification is intended to provide both the predictability of the effective source of the nine
localized channels and room for the accommodation of many ancillary functions as specified in
the DCI Specifications.18
This specification is not included in the GSCA specifications; no data are currently available to
determine how many of the 36 theaters meet this specification.

18 Digital Cinema Initiative, version 1.2, March 7, 2008, Section 3.3.3 Channel Mapping, pages 31–34


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