Encountering the Unexpected raises a number of questions for museums around using their natural heritage collections across the life course to create opportunities for living and ageing well. There is no one model but we found that the following characteristics are important for creating high quality engagement experiences where unexpected encounters can be made:
High quality creative practitioners – who share the same values as project leaders, who can disturb the status quo, encourage alternative ways of thinking, provide learning opportunities, and help people to see the familiar in new ways, who value and can draw on the skills and experiences of participants, giving them the opportunity to shape content.
Specialists and experts who bring their knowledge and passion of the subject but who can enable others and open up a space for participants to explore for themselves.
An appropriate environment – welcoming and hospitable, a calm, accessible, respectful and equitable space where everyone can participate and explore
Engagement is structured within a framework but is not prescriptive, allowing for open-ended exploration.
There is an element of challenge within a supportive environment – this is taken in stages or layers to build confidence.
There are opportunities for participants to get into the ‘flow’, to be completely absorbed ‘in the moment’, to slow down and really concentrate.
Participants are seen as active (not passive), now and in the future. Sessions relate and connect to their lives beyond the museum.
Unexpected Encounters publication