Today’s blog post is written by Lin Winton. Lin Winton served as the Fall 2014 Exhibit Design Intern, and worked hard in the development of our newest exhibit, JUNK. Lin is a lecturer in the Biology department at The University of Texas at Austin and a Biology curriculum developer. Thanks Lin for all your hard work at the Thinkery this past semester!
I got butterflies before I sent my first email with “Lin Winton, Exhibit Design, the Thinkery” as my signature.
“Are you sure?” I looked at my supervisor.
He was. This was really happening! I was really the Exhibit Design intern for the Thinkery.
I’ve wanted to design STEAM exhibits for children’s museums for over a decade. When I was in graduate school and my experiments weren’t working, or I had been in the lab for ten hours and my brain needed to stretch and walk around, I would design exhibits. I loved daydreaming about how to teach people science in a way that is intuitive and fun, down to the nitty-gritty details. Science in the laboratory and science in the classroom are crucial components of education and advancement; informal education outside of the classroom is equally important. There is no better way to learn something than by doing it yourself, and children have a natural curiosity and innovation that often fade away with age. Children’s museums are a dedicated space where children can tap into their curiosity and innovation with abandon, and adults can rekindle theirs. My passion for working in such an environment remained a secret dream until the Thinkery opened, and I applied to be a volunteer.
At orientation, the Volunteer Coordinator, Dana Mahoney, pulled me aside. She had read my application and wanted me to know about an internship that was opening up, in Exhibit Design! When my internship application was accepted, I went into maximum overdrive. I had ideas. I worked with the then-Associate Director of Education, Adam Nye, who always met my overflowing enthusiasm with encouragement and gentle guidance.
“That’s a great idea. We actually do that in a workshop already.”
“Children will jump off of that and break their legs.”
“I’m not sure we want everyone’s pocket lint….”
“I love that idea! Yes!”
“Are you writing these down?”
With Adam’s help, I got to collaborate with the amazingly talented Zach Dorn to design an exhibit that would inspire visitors to see ordinary objects as having extraordinary possibilities. I made phone calls and wrote emails to schools and companies to gather building materials for Zach to use in Junk City. I coordinated a schedule of community partners to do special weekend programming in Junk. I worked with the Education team to design hands-on activities like making buildings and puppets from recycled materials. I created admission tickets for Zach’s shows on opening weekend and wrote slogans for Junk City with Marketing and Graphic Design. I worked with Dana to coordinate tasks for community volunteers to help us build Junk, and worked with the Exhibits team to design and build the exhibit.
My internship with the Thinkery gave me real experience working in a museum environment, collaborating with a group of talented, fantastic people, and making decisions, then quickly adapting when my decisions could be improved upon (which was often). During my internship, I also:
- climbed into a dumpster,
- made the most of my mediocre PhotoShop skills,
- learned how to make and apply very realistic fake snow,
- spent hours trying to find Exactly The Right wooden crate,
- came to appreciate Pinterest a lot, and
- helped build something magical and inspiring that thousands of people will see.
And I’ve filled a notebook with ideas of what I want to do next.