Museum Exhibition: Theory and Practice (Heritage: Care-Preservation-Management)


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1st Edition

Are you sure you want to Yes No. Be the first to like this. No Downloads. Views Total views. Actions Shares. Embeds 0 No embeds. No notes for slide. Description this book Museum Exhibition is the only textbook of its kind to consider exhibition development using both theory and practice in an integrated approach.

If you want to download this book, click link in the last page 5. You just clipped your first slide! Clipping is a handy way to collect important slides you want to go back to later. One eminent psychologist who recognises the importance of interactive exhibitions is Howard Gardner.

Thus, it is argued, interactive museums are important learning environments because the rich variety of interpretative techniques can stimulate a multiplicity of intelligences. Piaget and others demonstrated that we learn by role-play with our environment, and that children learn differently from adults, and indeed, from children of different ages. Gardner, McCarthy and others have demonstrated that we learn in a variety of different styles, and Gardner argues that the formal school environment may not stimulate all areas of learning to their full potential.

Interactive exhibitions can provide a rich resource and multiplicity of environments for visitors of different ages and abilities to explore. That is the theory—but what actually happens in practice? The reality Several authors have commented that whilst many evaluation studies designed to improve interpretation within particular interactive exhibitions have been published, there has been very little systematic research about visitor learning in controlled environments.

The Science Museum is also embarking on a programme of pure research into learning in science museums, building on work previously carried out on visitors to Launch Pad by Stephenson. After the visit everyone was able to talk freely about the exhibits, and several months after the visit people were able to recall not only what they did with the exhibits, but also their feelings about them.

However, most of this thinking was concerned with effects rather than understanding or explanations. Significantly, visitors with little or no scientific training stated that they did not find Launch Pad threatening and nor were they embarrassed by their lack of scientific knowledge. Children in particular were inspired and motivated by the exhibits and viewed the visit as an enjoyable educational experience, not just a giant fun-fair.

However, it tells us little about changes in attitude or understanding brought about by the visit, although many visitors claimed that they subsequently had more positive attitudes to science. Stephenson has argued that only systematic and informed debate will help museums understand the effects of interactives and the public understanding of science. For example, are hands-on exhibits more effective if placed next to traditional displays and artefacts, or are they more effective in isolation within an interactive gallery with trained interpretative staff?

Stephenson was formerly Head of Education at the Science Museum. In particular, what are they learning and how are they learning it? At first, the process is participatory, then visitors give meaning to the experience through their own interpretations and explanations, and these are validated or confronted as visitors use related exhibits.

However, the evidence that they have actually learned anything, or indeed have not actually had previously held misconceptions reinforced, remains unproven. Interactive exhibitions remain a largely untapped laboratory for systematic research to investigate how people learn in an informal environment.

The reality, of course, is that most visitors to museums do not visit alone, and even when they do they will enter into a dialogue with members of staff either directly, or indirectly through the language of the exhibit labels. Vygotsky added a social dimension to learning theory with the recognition that much learning is culturally mediated, by a shared language and by contact with parents, family, friends and the media.

The role of enabling and interpretation staff in the learning process is considered in more detail in Chapter 7, but this section considers learning in the social context of a family visit. Families looking for experiences that are both educational and entertaining clearly make up the largest single market segment within hands-on exhibitions.

In the United States, census statistics in and suggest that museum visiting was rapidly becoming the single most popular out of home activity. However, numbers alone do not tell the whole picture of the quality and nature of family visits, of how family members interact with each other or how they learn. Systematic widespread research using consistent techniques across a broad range of museums and interactive centres has not been undertaken, although attempts have been made to build up a holistic picture of family learning and behaviour in museums from an increasing range of small-scale evaluative studies.

Wood stresses the importance of the family visit to the long-term future of museums by emphasising that future leisure choices are more closely linked to leisure experiences begun as a child in a family visit than in an educational visit. A study in the USA showed that 60 per cent of regular museum visitors said their interest in museums had been shaped by childhood family visits, compared to only 3 per cent in school visits.

Competition for leisure time and disposable income has resulted in family groups valuing the time spent together, and with outings increasingly serving to strengthen family ties. Family museum visits are rarely planned more than a day in advance, and are popular because museums provide a safe and non-threatening environment for family explorations.

Museum Exhibition

Several authors have commented on the ritualistic and cementing nature of museum visits. If, in addition, personal interests can be harnessed…then a museum visit can start to look like a successful outing even before it has begun. Research has focused on family behaviour for example, group interactions, time allocation and family agenda issues and the nature of family learning. It shows that families behave in consistent ways in different museums, and that they behave differently from other groups of museum visitors.

For example, Diamond studied the teaching behaviour of families in science centres, and found that the average visit lasted just over two hours, interacting with sixty-two exhibits. Families did not read labels before interacting with the exhibits, only reading the instructions if they were unsuccessful and if their attention was held. Children were more likely than adults to manipulate exhibits, whilst parents were more likely to read labels and study graphics than children.

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The research identified that visitors became more selective as they progressed through the exhibition, stopping for longer periods at fewer exhibits. McManus suggests that whilst parents are likely to select the exhibition to be explored, subsequent exploration and information-gathering is shared out between the family members.

The family purposefully moves in a loose formation to explore the selected area, with children typically leading in this exploratory behaviour. As individual members encounter interesting items they report back to the family group, with parents commenting on and interpreting the information introduced by children. Children, on the other hand, are much less likely to comment on information introduced by their parents.

If the family is relaxed and works harmoniously as a unit, the exploration is most likely to be successful. One area where there is inconsistency, however, is in the interpretation of gender-specific behaviour. Falk and Dierking conclude that there is evidence to suggest mothers are less likely than other group members to choose the exhibits to view, and that their interactions with sons are on a higher level than with daughters. This pattern which has been described above is an assimilation of small-scale evaluative research conducted in Europe and North America, much of which relates specifically to science museums, zoos and aquaria in the USA, most of which have a significant interactive element.

The evidence suggests that there is consistency in family behaviour, but where discrepancies do occur for example in gender-specific behaviour this may reflect cultural differences between countries—or indeed, over time—or simply the need for systematic, large-scale research across a broad range of institutions. At present, we do not know with any certainty how families behave in interactive history or art museums, or in other parts of the world. One small-scale comparative study of family behaviour at the non-interactive National Palace Museum in Taiwan concluded that Chinese families do behave in similar ways to those found in the UK and USA studies.

The developers of interactive exhibitions typically set out to provide a welcoming, attractive, informal, comfortable and easily understood environment conducive to gallery learning. In addition, the success of the visit is likely to be enhanced if attention is given to fundamental human comforts. This checklist is by no means exhaustive, but it is indicative of the issues that need to be addressed to create a favourable physical context for the visit.

Every hands-on exhibit chosen, every artefact, every structure, every label or graphic image communicates a message to the visitor. An effective exhibition requires an effective communications strategy, which includes every aspect of museum design, to help visitors make sense of their surroundings, to encourage them to interact with the exhibits, and to enhance the effectiveness of that interaction. Visitor orientation is a vital component of the communication process. This has four elements: geographical orientation to guide the visitor, psychological orientation to stimulate the right frame of mind, intellectual orientation to encourage understanding of content, and conceptual orientation to help develop associated ideas.

It follows that if the visitor is oriented geographically and psychologically, the intellectual and conceptual learning process will be facilitated.

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Integrating adults and children Typically, half the visitors to interactive museums are adults. Adults play a key role in the educational success of exhibits, by assisting with the difficult task of interpreting, explaining and teaching. Thus, the primary role of the adult is one of mediator, and every effort should be made to ensure their physical comfort by, for example, providing ample seating, clean toilets, cafeteria, parent-and-baby facilities. Furthermore, as the key decision- makers in the family, if they have not enjoyed the visit, they may resist pressure to revisit at a later date.

Adults in family groups are more likely to have a positive frame of mind if the exhibition is perceived to be designed for children. Improving the tangibility of the experience on offer begins with the image portrayed by the exhibition in its promotional material, extends to visitor orientation, and subsequently to the whole design and layout of the galleries.

The size and structure of the exhibition, the choice of materials and colour, the quality of the finish, the floor covering and the type of lighting, all identify the exhibition as being for a specific visitor segment, and determine a specific type of learning. The importance of appropriate psychological orientation cannot be overemphasised. This is manifest in the way that many adults stand back watching their children interact with exhibits, without contributing to or sharing in the learning experience. For example, when Eureka! Orientation must be designed to encourage adults and children to share the interactive experience together.

Another difficult issue is the provision of facilities for small children. The physical and learning needs of small children are very different from those of older children, and it is difficult to design exhibits that work at a multitude of levels and are simultaneously appropriate for small children. Therefore, the problem arises of whether or not to provide separate learning spaces for children under 5. Providing a dedicated space for young children, one which caters for their learning needs and excludes larger children is an attractive proposition, but this can cause problems for families with children in different age categories.

A more practical solution might be to include activities throughout the centre which are clearly identified as being appropriate to the needs of very young children. For example, if these exhibits provide a safe environment for parents to place a small child, thereby enabling them to continue to explore, this would also provide an opportunity for parents to interact with an older child at an exhibit in the same gallery. Parents with children are naturally concerned for the security and safety of their children.

Parents will not wish to leave their children unsupervised, so exhibits for the under-5s have to be highly visible to parents and to staff working in the gallery. The design of interactive exhibits Drawing on appropriate learning theory discussed earlier in this chapter, it is highly desirable that exhibits are designed which: 1 Have direct and obvious actions and reactions.

Designing hands-on exhibits is a formidable challenge: indeed, it has been suggested by an experienced designer of hands-on exhibits that it is not success that we should be aiming for, but to fail less miserably. Indeed, the simple ideas are often the best! It is also a mistake to incorporate interactive exhibits in every exhibition scenario: the hands- on approach is a seductive medium because of its popularity with visitors, but there are many areas where it is simply not appropriate for the story being told. The problems in creating an effective hands-on exhibit are diverse.

He had two main messages for the Eureka! If an action is possible, sooner or later one visitor will try it. The developers must try and anticipate this, protecting the visitor and the exhibit from any possible danger. Exhibits must be constructed to the highest possible safety standards, with guards to protect visitors from moving parts, and no sharp corners which might injure visitors. If the first rule of exhibit development is to accept that visitors will sooner or later do the unimaginable; the second rule is that if an exhibit breaks down, it is the fault of the museum rather than that of the visitor.

Physical safety is one issue, but if failure to interact with the exhibit leads to frustration, confusion or misunderstanding, the fault lies not with the visitor but with the exhibit developer. It is highly unlikely that the design will be perfect at the first attempt, and it is common for exhibits to go through a number of amendments before reaching the final version ideally evaluated at the cheaper prototype stage before going on to the exhibition floor.

There are many lessons to be learned: visitors do not go around exhibitions in a linear fashion, so each exhibit must stand alone and work independently from other exhibits, even if a group of exhibits are linked conceptually. The physical design of the exhibit is vitally important, since visitors come in all shapes and sizes, some with disabilities, from different cultural backgrounds and with different levels of interest and understanding.

Issues such as selecting the right control for the job, accessibility for people with different disabilities, ergonomics, visibility, noise interference with adjoining exhibits, all need careful thought and evaluation. Choosing the right control alone can be a difficult decision. There are choices to be made between mechanical devices such as pulley wheels, levers and handles; between different types of electronic switches; and between computer trackballs, mice and touch-screens.

There is no ideal solution for all applications: for example, a pulley wheel with a handle attached at the perimeter may enable the user to exert more force to operate a difficult exhibit, but this may be too powerful for another exhibit on which a dimple for a finger may be more appropriate to prevent abuse although this would be more difficult for someone with motor disabilities. Many factors will affect the decision, but ideally the choice of control should reinforce the exhibit concepts: for example, if the exhibit demonstrates leverage, then the ideal control will itself be a lever.

If the exhibit can be removed easily to a workshop for repair, then the visitor will not be confronted by a broken exhibit. If it cannot be removed, access to internal components needs to be easy so it can be repaired in situ, which in itself can present a good teaching opportunity with a well-trained and friendly technician. Role of text The best hands-on exhibits are intuitive to use, and do not rely on the visitor reading complex instructions or large amounts of explanatory text.

However, text and associated graphic images can play a key role in helping visitors use the exhibits. It is quite common for children to interact with an exhibit without reading any instructions, whilst their adult helpers stand back and read the labels. Ideally, the text should clearly outline the educational value of the activity and how the adult can enhance learning, otherwise the exhibit is fun, but of limited educational value. The assertion is often made at interactive exhibitions that visitors do not read text.

Research suggests that this is too simplistic an explanation, and that whilst most families especially children interact with exhibits before reading any labels, they do go on to read the text—especially if their initial interaction is unsuccessful. This piecemeal selection of text underpins the need for a clear framework for the presentation of text, and a simple conversational style of writing so that these interactions are facilitated.

Thereafter, the interpretation framework consists of a hierarchy of messages in decreasing importance: ones that we feel we must communicate, ones that we feel we should communicate and ones that we would like to communicate recognising that we expect a diminishing number of visitors to receive each level of messages. Clear directional signage and introductory texts at the entrance to each exhibition will assist geographical orientation and aid psychological orientation.

A large clear title for each exhibit will orientate the visitor conceptually, and clear instructions for manipulating the exhibit provide an essential prerequisite for intellectual orientation. If the language used in labels is inappropriate for the visitor or if they cannot quickly work out what the exhibit is about, then the exhibit is likely to be rated as dull or boring, or even out of order. This strategy might also be used to provide additional complementary information for teachers or parents, perhaps suggesting activities that children might want to do within the exhibition, or follow-up activities back at home or school, to reinforce the learning process.

Specific information informing adults what children might be learning can change a bored parent into an interested observer. Role of graphics Graphics images, like text, play an integral part in the communication strategy, assisting in the interpretation and orientation process. Accessible to non-readers and to speakers of other languages, they have their own unspoken code which gives a message to all visitors. Graphics can be used in a variety of ways: 1 To identify areas or themes.

The corporate identity can be used to give an overall framework within which a graphics policy can be developed. This gives both a visual coherence and helps reinforce the main exhibition message, which is of particular importance in visitor orientation. It does not mean that graphics have to be of a single style or approach throughout, but rather that an overall framework for development of graphics is created; and that any change from this framework should be the result of an informed decision to fulfil a specific purpose, as opposed to ad hoc development of individual graphic styles, which may confuse the visitor.

Both in the general geographical orientation and in exhibition interpretation, illustrations designed specifically for children are perceived positively by parents, thereby enhancing psychological orientation. Graphics designed to create an environment for learning can aid conceptual orientation, whilst a pictogram can simplify manipulative instructions, thereby aiding intellectual orientation. A complex image or pictogram may confuse the visitor and can add a further barrier to be disentangled. Graphics can also signal unintended messages, for example, on equal opportunities.

While text can be monitored relatively easily to ensure that no racial or gender group is either privileged or excluded, graphics present a more difficult problem. This is particularly the case where characters are involved in the storyline of an exhibition. The choice of a single character is rendered very difficult and recourse is often made to an animal or space alien, which may be gender and race free. Even this is not an ideal situation, as characters may be perceived by the public as having a different connotation for example, the asexual Scoot the Robot at Eureka!

Research on proposed characters at Eureka! In short, graphics can play a positive role in reassuring the visitor and in aiding comprehension. As with text, formative evaluation of images alongside the exhibit prototype is desirable if the exhibit and its surrounding graphics, objects, models, audio- visual material and computer aids are to be interpreted as part of a coherent communication strategy.

Communication strategies at Eureka! Using bold primary colours and a strong corporate logo throughout the exhibitions and associated educational and promotional material, the development team attempted to integrate graphics, text and exhibits into a coherent communication strategy. Geographic orientation is provided by a comprehensive signage system of hanging panels detailing main exhibition areas and facilities, also illustrated by a Satoshi cartoon.

Whilst there is an overall strategy for directional signage, each exhibition within Eureka! The exhibition is the only one with an orientation area, and exhibits, images and text are given a uniform treatment throughout, despite the wide variety of exhibit types. A central character, Scoot the Robot, appears in various two- and three-dimensional guises asking children questions about themselves: in effect, putting children in the role of experts on themselves and their bodies. The gallery incorporates a series of short, specific activities which are clear to children and whose learning possibilities are clear to adults.

Illustrations incorporating children of both sexes in equal numbers , of mixed race and of varying size and physical appearance are provided in an attractive cartoon style. The Eureka! The questions that appear on the exhibits are typically questions that children ask themselves. Supporting information for each exhibit is available for adults at eye-level, whilst background information is provided at key quiet locations throughout the exhibition in a file for interested children and adults. A passport collected at the entrance and with sections to fill in as the visitor walks around the exhibition, helps to maintain interest.

Living and Working Together presents a number of environments around a town square a house, shop, bank, garage, post office, factory and recycling centre for children to role-play and investigate simple technology. Each environment— developed by smaller teams than Me and My Body—has adopted a slightly different approach to its use of graphics and text, although the broad model is similar.

The context for learning is much more difficult to comprehend, although each space does have a short orientation panel with Satoshi cartoon outlining the possibilities for exploration within. Text and graphics have three main roles in this exhibition: operational instructions, supporting information and suggestions for role-play. Typically, role-play is not facilitated by written text but by the verbal interactions of museum enablers, who are often preoccupied with explaining the function of exhibits.

For example, in the shop the enabler present is frequently overseeing the operation of the real till rather than stimulating role-play. The expectation that something special is around the corner, and the small intimate environments, provide great opportunities for learning. However, the difficulty of presenting the weird and wacky alongside the commonplace within a familiar environment, and within a coherent communication strategy, is only partially met successfully.

Invent, Create, Communicate is a more traditional interactive science gallery which lacks the intimate learning spaces of Living and Working Together, or the simple and coherent interpretation strategy of Me and My Body. The exhibition presents a series of opportunities for children to use communication technology, with a strategy of providing an appropriate context for the use of that technology for example, a desert island for primitive communication or a yacht for distress messages. In addition, simple communication games are suggested which were devised to illustrate the strengths and weaknesses of each communication device.

A character, Squawk the Parrot, is used to aid interpretation, but its role is less clear or compelling than that of Scoot the Robot in Me and My Body. The exhibition is less successful for a number of reasons, one of which is that the use of real technology, such as the fax or videophone, often requires quite detailed operational instructions even though the equipment has been simplified for museum use.

Another difficulty is that the communication devices often require the interaction of two people at a distance apart. Like in the shop in Living and Working Together, enablers are typically preoccupied with explaining the technology rather than stimulating role-play. In total, Eureka! Its overall strategy communicates a message to adults and children that this is a special place for children to learn by discovery. However, within this framework, some elements are more successful than others.

The exhibitions were developed in less than two years, allowing little opportunity for formal evaluation of more than basic exhibition concepts. Me and My Body is successful because the Eureka! Early evaluative studies revealed that although most adults understood the context for learning at the museum, many felt that they needed more information about their potential role, on the content of individual exhibits, and more guidance on which exhibits were suitable for children of different ages. This research suggested that visitor orientation in general, and geographical orientation in particular, could be significantly improved.

The mixed use of museum objects and hands-on exhibits Increasingly, as Chapter 1 has illustrated, traditional museums are incorporating hands-on exhibits within their galleries. Museum education officers have a wealth of experience in encouraging visitors to touch and learn from objects, but this is usually in a controlled environment.

In recent years, many more museums have experimented with discovery galleries, where every object is selected so that it can be handled. One of the first experimental discovery rooms was opened in at the Royal Ontario Museum, and this was considered a great success by both the public and evaluators. In , the museum reopened this hands-on facility as the Discovery Gallery in a space of square metres. This new gallery was designed to provide direct access to specimens and exhibits for both adults and children, using a range of techniques from objects on open shelves and in discovery boxes and drawers, a discovery trail, a touch wall, and utilising scientific equipment to examine objects more closely.

The original gallery was designed in a linear fashion, with the visitor encouraged to learn on a sequential journey of discovery. Evaluation revealed that visitors did not interact with the displays in this fashion, selecting activities and objects more randomly according to their personal skills and interests, and learning more through shared problem-solving than guided discovery. Based on the experience of the early evaluation, the gallery was revised in , and three years later the museum published a reference manual to share its experiences with other museums planning or operating object-based discovery learning environments for people of all ages.

Museum Exhibition Theory and Practice Heritage Care Preservation Management New Edition by Dean Davi

The inclusion of hands-on exhibits within museum galleries or in stand-alone galleries within a museum is not necessarily incompatible with the other core museum functions. Hands-on exhibits are not appropriate for all exhibition themes. There is a danger that, if interpretation is reduced to participatory activities alone, very selective and superficial storylines may be presented which distort historical or scientific reality.

For example, whereas physics is ideally suited to interpretation with interactive exhibits, other scientific phenomena that are not reversible or repeatable, or that happen too slowly or too fast, or on too small or too large a scale, are simply not appropriate to be interpreted by interactive exhibits. The real issue is not so much whether museum objects and interactives can coexist in harmony, but whether interactive exhibits can be designed which play to the strengths of the museum by improving understanding of museum objects.

One of the new galleries at the Science Museum also called Things similarly aims to use hands-on techniques to interest primary age children in museum objects, and forms a new introduction to the museum for visitors of this age. The All Hands Gallery at the National Maritime Museum integrates objects and interactives as a key element of its interpretation programme, and has a comprehensive evaluation programme. There is clearly a distinction between a purpose-built museum gallery incorporating a whole range of interpretation tools and the traditional gallery adding a few hands-on exhibits as an afterthought.

However, the mixed use of artefacts and hands-on exhibits raises a number of issues for all museums: 1 Why do museums want to introduce hands-on exhibits?

Museum Exhibition: Theory and Practice (Heritage: Care-Preservation-Management)

Is it for sound educational reasons as part of a co-ordinated interpretation plan, or is it merely that they want to jump on the interactive bandwagon in response to declining visitor figures? Is there a danger that the selection of media may cause a selective and superficial approach to science or history to be presented? How can we design hands-on exhibits that improve the understanding of museum objects in a mixed gallery? This chapter has presented a simplified view of the theory and practice behind how individuals and family groups learn in an interactive museum environment, and it has been shown that the museum experience depends on the personal, social and physical context of the visit.

Learning in a traditional museum equates to traditional methods of lecturing, with curators imparting their expert knowledge through storylines usually presented in an incremental, linear manner. In a hands-on exhibition, there may also be closely defined messages which the developer wants to communicate, but the exhibits are designed so that the visitor discovers the educational objectives of the exhibit by interaction rather than by being told.

Either way, the exhibits are not usually arranged in a linear fashion, but so that they can be experienced individually and independently of each other. Both traditional leaning and discovery learning assume that there is a correct body of knowledge, and these are merely different techniques to enable the visitor to arrive at this expert view of the world, either by being told or by trial and error. There is, however, another model which concentrates less on the importance of the body of knowledge to be learned and more on the learning process, and especially the interests and needs of the visitor.

Constructivism suggests that learners do not simply add facts to what is already known, but that they constantly reorganise information and their view of the world as they interact with it. In other words, they construct knowledge for themselves as they interact with the world.

The constructivist museum accepts that visitors construct their own knowledge based on their personal, social and physical context for the visit. In other words, there is no single way to interpret the material presented. Visitors can enter and leave the exhibition at any point, as each exhibit stands alone on its own merit. Opportunities are provided for visitors to make connections with familiar concepts and objects, for it is only by making connections with the familiar that we reinforce or challenge our existing knowledge, to make meaning of our experiences.

However, by providing physical experiences which can respond to the varying needs of different interest groups and all ages of learning, the constructivist museum with its mixed range of hands-on exhibits, artefacts and other media perhaps offers the best opportunity of providing a meaningful museum experience for a truly broad museum public. This chapter investigates a range of different approaches to the development of hands-on exhibits, and identifies the importance of front-end, formative and summative evaluation. Exhibit developers conceptualise exhibitions, write the storylines and exhibit labels, design and build interactive exhibits, draft instructions, prepare the graphics, select and arrange any accompanying artefacts, choose the lighting, colours and constructional materials to be used in the display, and generally attend to the physical context of the exhibition.

As Chapter 2 has illustrated, the experience each visitor has within any museum—hands-on or traditional—is influenced by their physical surroundings, but it is also influenced by their prior knowledge and expectations, and by the people attending with them: in other words, the visitor experience is dependent upon this interplay of the personal, social and physical contexts of the visit. The most critical factor for the successful design and development of hands-on exhibits is the setting of appropriate goals for targeted visitors.

The development process begins with a broad conceptualisation of the exhibition and potential exhibits within it, and of the type of activities that will take place. As each exhibit idea is refined and developed, it is essential that measurable objectives are set for targeted visitors in terms of physical activities, enjoyment, behaviour, feelings, attitudes and understanding.

A focus on the intended activities of the visitor is essential in the exhibition development process. In traditional museums, exhibition development was typically product-led: new exhibitions were the responsibility of the museum curator, working sometimes—but not always—in consultation with a museum designer. Museum educators were frequently excluded from this process. Exhibition goals—if they were stated at all—were likely to concern the safety and museological significance of artefacts rather than the activities or experiences of visitors.

This process produced the scholarly, product-led exhibitions closely associated with traditional museums. A recent survey has shown that even in , only 33 per cent of museums in the UK had a structured education input at the planning stage of exhibitions and events.

In the modern museum, and especially in interactive discovery centres, the exhibition is much more likely to be orientated towards the needs of visitors. As far as is practicable and in keeping with museum guidelines regarding conservation and security, access to the reference collections by interested parties should be facilitated.

Networks outside the museum 1 In order to keep abreast of developments in museums and education and to provide an effective and worthwhile service capable of responding to the needs of its clientele, close links should be maintained with the local Schools Service and museum professionals. Professional education centres. Field study and outdoor education centres. Professional groups. Local archaeological teams. Societies with local involvement. In-service training should therefore facilitate opportunities for discussion and the interchange of ideas between both parties, and provide opportunities for working together.

Museum staff and volunteers should be kept informed of recent educational developments, and of the implications for the museum. Arranging events and activities programmes within the museum itself on-site or on-line is one approach. Another approach is for the museum to organise activities in other locations, perhaps in partnership with other institutions or organisations, and thus to develop new audiences for the museum and its work.

Decision on which events and activities to provide free and which events and activities to charge for is a policy decision for the museum to make. Lectures and illustrated talks programmes. Recorded music clubs. Guided walks programmes. Fieldwork programmes with volunteers. Training events for the public such as photographic recording, map reading, oral history recording or caring for collections. Training events for museum professionals. Arts festivals. Foreign visitor days. Oral history recording and workshops. Demonstrations of museum skills, e.

Craft exhibitions. Publication launches. Exhibition previews. Dance performances. Hospital visiting programmes. Dramatic performances. Informal education programmes. Transport rallies. Historical re-enactments. Not all of these suggestions will be relevant to every museum. Some museums will include a number of these approaches in their core services, others will only be able to develop a few ideas because they have limited money or staff.

Together, they provide a menu of opportunities from which museums can pick and choose to suit their own needs. There are of course many more ideas that can be added to this list. By organising regular events and activities programmes of this type, active museums can develop general interest in their work, and build political as well as public support for their services. By experimenting with different approaches for different market segments, the museum can develop a body of valuable marketing experience.

Opportunities will always exist to develop events and activities programmes in collaboration with other museums or other organisations. Sharing experience, costs and resources can often help to make a programme possible where otherwise a museum might be unable to undertake the programme on its own. Some museums will wish to focus resources on their formal education responsibilities, while others will wish to see these balanced by developing informal educational activities or leisure learning events and activities.

We examine here the middle of the spectrum described earlier — informal education or leisure learning. Formal museum education provision is discussed in Units 15—16; facilities use and entertainment are discussed in Unit In planning events and activities, it is helpful to draw up a matrix with the types of event and activity along the vertical axis and their details along the horizontal axis. Spatial needs. Visitor capacity — per hour, per day, per week. Frequency of event — per day, per week, per month, per year.

Target audience for event. Public or restricted access. Type of public engagement — general through to specialist user. Type and extent of mediation by staff required. Visitor dwell time hrs. Average persons attending. Number of persons per year attending. Cost of provision. Source s of income. Estimated income.

The museum can then make a choice from the planning list and run the selected programme s over whatever timescale is chosen. Suggestions and ideas for activities can be obtained from a wide variety of sources — museum staff, professional colleagues in other museums or educational centres running similar programmes, published case studies, visitors, schools, community groups, market research reports, etc. The museum should establish an archive of ideas for events and activities that can be progressively developed as information becomes available. It should also develop a list of available and possible activity leaders for the future.

Some of the groups at which events and activities programmes can be targeted include: Families — families cut across age and special interest groups, and are represented in every socio-economic group. Museum visiting is for many people a social activity, and families form an important social grouping for the museum to target. Pre-school children and their carers — pre-school children and their carers are also present across the socio-economic spectrum, and this group has special needs often disregarded by museums.

Children — children represent the museum-visiting audiences of the future. Programmes organised by young people tend to attract other young people. Adults — adults are often interested in leisure learning activities that are related to their occupation or leisure activities. Museums should be prepared to take suitable activities programmes to disabled groups or people in hospitals or other venues where visiting the museum is not possible. Care must be taken to publicise your events and activities effectively to ensure take-up. Marketing materials need to be appropriately designed for the intended target groups.

The museum should as a matter of course evaluate the success of a particular activity in a written report or case study, and where possible or relevant record the activity with photographs or video. These reports will also help to ensure continuity of understanding and expertise within the museum. The body of information thus built up can be a powerful method of demonstrating success to others such as governing bodies, funding organisations, press and media contacts. Evaluation reports can serve as an important component in a case-for-support to funding bodies for future events.

They may also allow the museum to extend coverage of a topic or subject that has only limited coverage in displays and provide opportunities to present material from reserve collections. The value of a touring exhibition hired into the museum is that it provides a ready-made temporary exhibition and thus can save time on the part of curatorial and design staff. If museums are to develop programmes of temporary exhibitions, there are a number of issues of policy and practice that should be borne in mind see Units 32—4. Will they include a percentage of touring exhibitions hired in? Will they include some exhibitions designed in-house to tour to other museums?

Through market research? What are the timetable implications for these? What are the time implications of the conservation programme? These questions are not designed to be comprehensive, but they do give an indication of the sort of questions that the museum will need to be aware of in developing temporary exhibition programmes and associated events and activities programmes. Key words Outreach — the method by which a museum can take services out into the community which it serves through, for example, touring exhibitions, School Loan Services, events and activities programmes.

Carer — children are looked after by many different people — parents, relatives, child-minders, friends. For each of these exhibitions, it targeted a special user group and developed a programme of events and activities for the group. The programme was carried out in conjunction with a variety of different organisations and individuals. In particular, a balance between science and arts activities was sought. Each of the programmes was recorded with a mixture of colour-slide and audio-recording to produce tape-slide programmes, and videotape.

Unit 18 Facilities for visitors Related Units — Units 9, 13, 19—21 The range and quality of the facilities and services that you provide for visitors to your museum will in large part determine the success of the museum. Visitors should be made to feel welcome and comfortable, and encouraged throughout their visit to return again and again and to recommend the museum to others. Even the smallest museum with very limited resources can make visitors feel very welcome and provide basic visitor facilities.

At the very least, museum staff can give guidance to visitors as to where car parks, bus stops, refreshments, or toilets are located, if the museum itself has none of its own. The checklist and questions here give an indication of the basic facilities that museums should consider providing for their visitors. Is there somewhere for your visitors to sit down? Is there a special rest area? Is it furnished appropriately with comfortable chairs, tables for reading matter, etc.?

Is it kept tidy and clean? Is it clearly marked a no-smoking area? Is there somewhere for visitors to leave their coats, hats or umbrellas? Is the area safe and secure? Can it be effectively staffed? Is it an appropriate size? Does the museum have toilets for visitors?

Are they kept appropriately supplied, and clean and tidy on a regular basis? Are they equipped effectively for disabled visitors? Are they properly signposted? Does the museum provide an information point or desk where visitors can obtain information about the museum, its collections and services? Are staff effectively trained to handle enquiries? Is there a shop or sales area in the museum selling souvenirs, education material, publications, etc. Is this well presented and maintained? Does the museum provide refreshments for visitors?

Is the area kept clean and tidy on a regular basis? Are visitors allowed to smoke in the area or not see Unit 20? Special needs. Voluntary support. Can visitors who are interested in the work of the museum offer to support its work through volunteer help? Are they encouraged to do so in the museum? Admission charges and times. Are the opening hours of the museum convenient for visitors? Are the admission charges sensitively set to different groups of visitors? Does the museum provide special discounts? Web site. Are there opportunities to develop it so that it provides interactive opportunities for visitors?

Other facilities. Depending on the size of your museum, you may wish to develop further facilities. In particular, there may be opportunities to create special study facilities available to particular groups. Special education centres with classrooms or lecture theatres may be used for a wide range of uses and audiences. External areas of the museum, such as gardens or parks, can also be used for a wide range of events and activities, and special facilities such as marquees or demonstration units can be erected on a temporary basis to cater for visitors.

All of these ideas and questions are not meant to be exhaustive. They are cited to act as triggers for museum managers to analyse the range of visitor facilities and services provided to visitors at present, and to question whether these might be extended or improved. In a number of cases, we explore different types of facilities in greater depth in other Units in this book.

Try visiting your own museum perhaps with some friends or members of your family to experience what the visitor experiences in the round. Caring for visitors, looking after their needs and wants through the provision of good-quality visitor facilities and services, is one of the principal responsibilities for all museums. As a result, it was able to implement a phased development programme, which included the building of a new visitor reception centre providing a range of facilities designed to accommodate visitors of all types, including those with special needs.

The new visitor reception centre was constructed because it would have been too expensive to adapt existing facilities effectively to serve disabled people. Funding for the centre was derived in part from a number of organisations with special responsibility for disabled groups. The centre allowed the museum to market itself more widely and as a consequence, the museum saw its visitor numbers increase substantially. Unit 19 Providing services: shops and sales points Related Units — 18, 86 Shops and sales areas play an important role in museums of all sizes although in some countries there are still, surprisingly, legal restrictions on selling in museums.

Wherever possible, museum shops should be accessible independently of a visit to the museum to increase sales, and customers should be encouraged to use the shop on a regular basis rather than only on a visit to the museum. The design and layout of a shop or sales point need careful consideration. Is the approach to be self-service or over the counter? Self-service, where customers can pick up and handle goods in advance of purchase, normally generates more sales than traditional over-the-counter shopping particularly among foreign visitors.

However, whatever method is chosen, the sales area needs to present its goods in a well-designed, attractive and organised way, clearly labelled and priced. Both layout and presentation need to encourage people to buy, but also need to ensure security against theft. High-value items will need special protection, perhaps behind glass or beyond reach.

Museum shops should stock items that are well designed and of good quality. Of course original historic artefacts or natural history specimens should never be sold! Stock items can be bought in ready-made from wholesalers or specially produced by manufacturers or printers for the museum directly and can be customised with the name or logo of the museum.

In public relations terms, items bought from a museum shop should continue to promote the museum long after the purchase. A museum is well placed to develop items for sale based on its collections and its work that are not available elsewhere, thus giving it a competitive edge over other retail outlets. The museum must ensure that it is not tying up hard-earned capital in buying in too much stock or in holding stock that is slow to sell and that can progressively go out of date or fashion. Museums may wish to license other organisations to produce sales items based on their collections.

The museum may itself take some of the licensed items for sale through its shop. Merchandising collections in this way can be a powerful way of generating income. Care needs to be taken in the contractual arrangements between the museum and licensee and professional legal advice should be sought. Storage conditions for items for sale should be clean, tidy and secure. The museum director should ensure appropriate records are maintained of transactions and that a regular stock audit is carried out. Cash receipts from the shop should be scrupulously recorded and banked on a regular basis.

Many museums are now extending their web sites to support their in-house retail operation. Having an on-line shop has many advantages in that the museum can potentially reach many more customers. Friendly and courteous service is essential, and staff working in the shop whether on a full-time or temporary basis should be effectively trained in their duties.

The museum may also wish to consider training shop staff in the languages of their main visitors. Customers should be made to feel welcome, encouraged to buy items and thanked for their patronage. Unit costs on a range of items were reduced, and the museum shops were able to stock a wider range of items than they would have been able to do individually. One museum took a lead role in co-ordinating the administration of the project for a small handling fee. The forum later entered into a range of merchandising projects, and established a joint trading company to run and develop a purchasing programme.

The museum had made a major contribution to the economic regeneration of its region, and had itself gained a wide reputation and a share in the increasing prosperity. The spectrum is a wide one. At one end of the spectrum is a refreshing drink with tables and chairs provided.

At the other end is a meal in a restaurant with waiter service. A hot or cold drink or a snack can often encourage a longer, more relaxed and pleasurable visit. Apart from improving customer service, food and drink in the museum, as with shops and sales points, can generate useful additional income. If, like your museum shop, there is an opportunity for the facility to be independently accessed by visitors then this can provide the museum with an additional, competitive advantage over other catering facilities.

Such an approach helps to create a distinctive image for your food and drink area and a talking point for customers. All food and drink areas should be well serviced and regularly cleaned. Service should be courteous and users should feel valued. A bad experience can ruin enjoyment, and can create poor word-of-mouth publicity. In most countries there are legal and licensing restrictions and requirements on catering. Compliance with statutory and religious requirements is essential. In particular, laws relating to health and hygiene must be scrupulously observed.

It is essential that legal advice is sought if a franchise, licensing arrangement or trading partnership is entered into. Careful records need to be kept of income and expenditure, and supplies need to be kept in clean, secure and appropriate storage, such as refrigeration. Supplies should be subject to regular inspection and stocktaking by museum management. Food and drink in the museum may be required for special occasions like receptions, exhibition previews, evening entertainment or corporate hospitality events.

Tables can carry information cards about events programmes in the coming weeks. Slide projectors or computer screens can provide illustrations of items in the collections with checklists supplied on tables. Information about the museum can be provided on place mats or on the reverse side of a menu card. Copies of exhibition posters for sale in the museum shop may be displayed on the walls of the food and drink area.

Costings were carefully evaluated, and the programme was monitored and evaluated in detail. The dinners and tours programmes were so successful that the museum established the programme as a regular event during the tourist season. The museum thus developed a range of new expertise. Visitors were able to experience a range of regional recipes and foods, relating to the collections on view. The series of dinners provided a different experience for visitors and it was reported on in a number of travel trade publications that resulted in increased attendances from overseas visitors.

Much will depend on what range of facilities your museum can provide. There are however a number of ethical and practical issues to be borne in mind, which we discuss here. Areas outside the museum in the ownership or control of the museum — gardens, parks, archaeological sites, car parks — might also be used by external groups for historical re-enactments, fairs, craft demonstrations, transport rallies and the like.

For example, if an organisation has booked a display area for an evening of musical performance and illustrated talks, how much time before the audience arrives will caterers require to organise their catering arrangements, or musicians require to arrange audio systems?


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Will these mean additional security arrangements or the display space being out of public use for a period of time? In drawing up a contract form, a checklist of questions like these will help to ensure that arrangements work smoothly for all concerned. If cancellation is made less than two weeks before the agreed date, then the full booking fee is charged.

If you are providing additional subcontractors such as caterers, tent erectors, extra security staff, there may need to be additional charges to cover their costs too. Their audiences or members will be visiting your museum. Having organised groups visit the museum for whatever reason always provides opportunities to promote the museum and its services, and encourage people to return to the museum on other occasions. Working with the organisation hiring your facilities to ensure a successful event is important.

After all, both parties have much to gain from success. In consequence, the archaeological society found that the hire charge for the lecture room had increased considerably and that the availability of the room was reduced. The society therefore decided to hold its meetings at another venue, and the relationship with the museum — important in terms of its mission — was weakened.

The museum might have established a sliding scale of charges to allow for priority relationships with external organisations to be maintained, rather than impose a single charge. Almost everyone in the world, if shown a knife, will know roughly what it is meant to do: it is meant to cut. But if shown — say — a Tibetan prayer wheel, probably most people will not have any idea what it is, and fewer still outside Tibet will know why it is used or how it is used. To be fully understood and appreciated, it needs to be interpreted or explained. Museums interpret things all the time.

Almost every time you put an object on display, or simply take it out of its storage box and show it to a visitor, you are interpreting it. However, interpretation can be done in a huge number of different ways, some more complicated or more sophisticated than others. It is worth spending a little time thinking about the different ways museums interpret the objects in their collections, and considering which are the best techniques for interpreting different things to different people.

Interpretation, too, is not limited to museums. Indeed, the use of the term in this sense originated in North America among people responsible for the care of the National Parks and of historic sites. Many museum managers, of course, are responsible for caring for ancient sites and buildings, and for interpreting landscapes.

The approach is the same, whether one is interpreting a plough, or the landscape the plough created. That person will of course come with his or her own interests, assumptions, beliefs, knowledge and curiosity. Every individual is distinct, and good interpreters, like good schoolteachers, adapt their technique to the people they are talking to. The audience for museums comes with particular goals. In reality, it is impossible to please everyone at once, so before planning a piece of interpretation, the museum needs to decide who its target audience is to be see Units 9— In each case the lecture would be very different.

So it is with other types of interpretation: the interpreter in our case the museum must be clear who is being addressed. Is it, for example, to introduce foreign visitors to Greek statuary, with enough information to enable them to enjoy it? Is it to summarise the latest research? Is it to awaken a sense of wonder, or to point out historic carving techniques? If you decide a display is best, what sort of display should it be?

This is a substantial book, intended to make sure that the departments of the museum achieve a consistently high standard in their communication with the visitor. It sets out the principles behind interpretation in the museum, but also goes into great detail, for example in prescribing styles of lettering, setting out procedures for commissioning audio-visual productions or laying down rules for light levels in displays.

Underline the interpretation techniques media, they are sometimes called used in your museum in the following list. Would your visitors enjoy the displays more, or learn more, if you used a wider variety of techniques, or do you think that these are the most appropriate ones for your visitors? New techniques are being invented all the time.


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  7. There is no magic way of choosing techniques. In some countries, electronic equipment will be formidably expensive, in others it may be cheaper than employing people. Techniques suitable for interpreting an archaeological site in the tropics are very likely not going to be suitable in the Arctic! It is vital to consider the impact that any technique might have on the objects or site being interpreted.

    Sound and light presentations, for example, might require levels of light that exceed conservation standards see Units 56—9. People learn most easily when they are relaxed. To use techniques that make people feel uncomfortable is clearly foolish. For example, computer-based techniques might not be suitable where computers are not familiar; live interpreters might be unsuitable where it is not customary to speak to strangers. Does the technique involve the audience? Does it encourage them to participate? We all learn more readily when we are actively involved in doing something than when we are simply looking or listening.

    Good teachers do not just lecture: they encourage their students to participate in learning through projects. The good museum tries to do the same. Will the technique continue to work, or can it be replaced? Every museum uses such presentation methods, perhaps in temporary exhibitions or together with displays of objects.

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    The more carefully their design is planned, the more effective they will be. It is essential for them to work very closely together. Each panel may well be devoted to one topic, and will consist of a subheading, some written text and one or more pictures photographs or drawings. The rule to obey is that all the text in one gallery should be produced in the same way, and all should be neat and clean. Text and labels should be crisp and smart. It is therefore a good rule to use equipment for producing them that will be available to produce replacements when necessary, for example a computer and laser printer.

    Such screens can be bought commercially, or they can be made out of plywood or blockboard. They can be painted, or covered with cloth see Unit Choose a cloth or colour appropriate to the exhibition; for example, an exhibition of local history might use a cloth of traditional local design to cover the screens.

    The screens will need some sort of feet to make them stand up, or they can be joined together and so support each other. To join them together you can buy special clamps, or a local blacksmith can make hooks and rings. Normally today everything is done on computer. The pictures, if not already digital, are scanned in, and placed in their position, alongside text and motifs. When both designer and curator are happy with what they see on the screen, they simply send the design off by e-mail to the production company.

    But some museums will be unable to use computers, while others may simply prefer to create exhibitions another way. In this case, the designer designs the layout of each panel in the form of a simple scale drawing, showing where the headings, text, photographs, drawings, diagrams and captions will go, and how large each will need to be. Some countries still have highly skilled traditional sign-painters and calligraphers. Using painted signs and handwritten labels in the museum gives it a special character and helps preserve traditional crafts.

    It is also often the cheapest way! Silkscreening is still one of the best ways of preparing information panels. It is attractive and long-lasting, and can be used for both text and pictures and for a wide variety of designs. The font size 18 points is recommended for most museum labels; introductory and section text should be bigger. Museums should avoid the temptation to use too many photos, and they should only be included if they serve a real purpose in the interpretation. The simpler fonts are best, and should be used consistently throughout the exhibition.

    Where computers are unavailable a good typewriter will be useful. Larger labels can be produced very cheaply using a photocopier. Handwritten labels can be the best of all, but only when they are written by a real expert in traditional handwriting. Some countries still have highly skilled traditional sign-painters.

    Using painted signs in the museum both gives it a special character and helps preserve a traditional craft. Text is easiest to read for most people when placed at a height of between 1. They should always be tested on site in advance of full commitment to production; children, people with impaired vision and people in wheelchairs should be asked to comment. The following Units show a few of the techniques used in museums today. Here we examine some of the three-dimensional techniques.

    Everyone likes to be able to touch as well as look at objects. Touching is an important way in which we experience things. For those with poor or no eyesight it is of course essential. Wherever possible, therefore, museums should try to allow visitors to touch exhibits, though in very many cases this will, for conservation reasons, not be possible. The museum may however wish to consider creating good-quality replicas for such purposes.

    Replicas, if used, should be well made, but be marked clearly to show that they are replicas. Room settings may — in an historic building — be genuine original arrangements, or they may be modern reconstructions based on the best available evidence and research. The room setting is an effective way not only of presenting furniture or pictures in the settings for which they were originally created, but also of making historical points.

    For example, the living space of poor people may be contrasted with that of rich people. Visitors can be allowed into the room, into part of it, or allowed only to look in. A tableau is like a reconstructed room, but includes life-size models of people arranged in a scene from history. Tableaux are used to show visitors how an historic building was used, to give a glimpse of life in past times or distant lands and to portray famous historic events. People-movers are small cars or other vehicles in which visitors ride through displays — usually through or past a series of tableaux.

    They enable the museum closely to control the number of visitors and what they see. People-movers are derived from fairground rides, and have been used in exhibitions for at least a hundred years. The idea of people-movers can of course be adapted to local situations. A ride in a horse and cart through the streets of an open-air museum is also a people-mover! Usually there are model people or animals or landscape in the foreground, while the background is a painting; the skill of the diorama-maker lies in merging the two together in a lifelike way.

    Like tableaux, the diorama, too, is a technique used in museums for well over a century. Dioramas are especially effective in natural history and geology museums, used to show the habitat in which animals live or the conditions under which different rocks were created. Full-sized dioramas are also used to portray domestic life in the past or in other societies, while small-scale ones portray famous battles or archaeological sites. Models are very widely used in museums and can be invaluable aids to interpretation.

    They are especially useful in showing the development of archaeological sites or historic buildings, but they are also used to interpret historic boats, modern machinery, dinosaurs, railway engines and cars, military uniforms — in fact almost anything! Dioramas and models need to be well made and on an appropriate scale relative to the visitor, to be successful. Museums should explain the basis of evidence on which they are presented.

    Unit 25 Presentation techniques: audio-visual and interactive Related Units — Units 22—4, 26 Audio-visual techniques are very common in museums. Too often, though, musums install them without thinking hard enough about why they are using them. Even in highly developed countries audio-visual techniques are often expensive to install and both expensive and time-consuming to run. They can help the visitor to understand the museum, but the museum must be clear why it is using them and be sure that it can maintain them. Instead, we can consider how they can help the museum present its collections and tell its stories to visitors, and what planning is needed.

    A browse on the Internet will produce a great deal of information on the different techniques. Audio-visual techniques enormously help museums to tell their stories and to explain their collections. One of the most interesting ways audio-visuals can help the museum is by offering alternative views. Some museums will have staff, volunteers or supporters willing and able to do so. Some museums may be able to use the staff and students at a local college.

    The dangers, again, are a lack of familiarity with the demanding gallery environment, and lack of continuity. Most museums will turn to a professional production company to design and create their audio-visuals and interactives. Choosing a production company is much like choosing a designer see Unit 32 ; talk to other museums, look at a variety of audio-visuals, go and talk to potential tenderers, make sure they have experience of working in museums or similar environments, and invite three or four companies to tender.

    Museum Exhibition: Theory and Practice (Heritage: Care-Preservation-Management) Museum Exhibition: Theory and Practice (Heritage: Care-Preservation-Management)
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    Museum Exhibition: Theory and Practice (Heritage: Care-Preservation-Management) Museum Exhibition: Theory and Practice (Heritage: Care-Preservation-Management)
    Museum Exhibition: Theory and Practice (Heritage: Care-Preservation-Management) Museum Exhibition: Theory and Practice (Heritage: Care-Preservation-Management)
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