Maker Lounge at Peabody Essex Museum
144 U.S. and Russian children's robot designs were displayed in the Maker Lounge at the Peabody Essex Museum (PEM) during an artist "Takeover" event March 15th-May 1st, 2015. The children's artwork served as a prompt for a blended physical/digital making activity for museum visitors of all ages. The space was configured to support individual and collective speculation on the infrastructure required to support the diverse activities of the robots designed by the Russian and U.S. children.
Led by PEM's Edith Shimel, the students of The Phoenix School engaged in a two-day workshop integrating their knowledge, aspirations and hands-on making with the original children's robot designs. This resulted in a beautiful, model-scale world designed, built and exhibited, embodying these young artists' imaginative projections for an alternate future. Among the many features of "Robotopia", the students envisioned free energy systems and a large park for robots to study and appreciate organic life.
This opportunity to further develop the exhibition yielded a full set of bi-lingual translations (Russian<->English for equivalency), an indexed digital archive, a custom exhibition app, museum-appropriate descriptive texts and a series of participatory art/education programs. The incredible Interpretation and Education departments at the PEM were instrumental in putting the idea of speculative co-design into practice and inviting the 7,000+ museum visitors to move beyond passively consuming and into speculating and creating/modeling alternate futures in the Maker Lounge, a unique space intended to push the boundaries of the traditional museum experience.
We would like to thank all the inter-generational team of speculative designers involved in dreaming and modeling their hopes for an alternate future. Feel free to contact us for more details on the blended physical/digital curriculum that emerged from this experience as well as additional resources.