Monday, February 21, 2011

A Week of Museums: Part 1

Today marks the first day of our museum tour. My co-workers Yuliani Setiadi and Ben Culpin, and myself are spending an entire week exploring one of the most museum rich cities in the world, Amsterdam.

Wait a second, I know what you're thinking, "You're going to museums for work?! Why?!" Part of being a planner is the art of gathering inspiration from all over. Sometimes we spend a little too much time in front of our screens and with others in our industry and not enough time exploring our environment and talking to "normal people." I can only speak for myself but, I started work the day after arriving in Amsterdam and I am ecstatic to finally take some time to explore my new city, and even more ecstatic that my boss assigned us this amazing task.

Our first stop today was NEMO, a museum (mostly) for kids based around science and technology. It reminded me a lot of OMSI back in Portland, only there were some progressive differences. That's right Portland, take notes!

1. Take a look at Teen Facts:
Whoa! What's that?! Yep. An entire exhibit in a children's museum about sex. This would blow me away if I saw it in the United States, but I have to say I was quite pleased to see it and refreshed when Yuli informed me that the Netherlands has one of the lowest teen pregnancy rates when compared with other developed nations. When we returned today I took it upon myself to do some fact checking and the differences from the US to the Netherlands is appalling! Especially when congress is voting on and threatening the funding of PlannedParenthood, one of the most widely known education and family planning clinics in the US. Here in the Netherlands education starts early and the results aren't surprising; education makes a huge difference. While statistics always seem to be a bit dated, results from 1996-2002 all point in the same direction. The Netherlands teen pregnancy rate stays consistently low while the Unites States stays consistently (outrageously) high.
Education matters!

2. Let's talk about race.
Another taboo in the states, openly talking about race and acknowledging differences. Nemo has entire section dedicated to social constructs including race. You can enter this section through one of two doors:

After entering through the doors children are asked to think about the choices they made. They are able to watch a video which prompts several questions to provoke thinking about race and the effect authority had and continues to have on how we see differences. This kind of discourse is important, especially if we want to teach children how to question authority and think critically. Wonderful stuff!

Working for a brand like Pampers, we read a lot of books on child psychology and care. Recently we've been reading Nurture Shock which has a great chapter titled, "Why White Parents Don't Talk About Race." The chapter references a study conducted around race and questions the thinking that children are "color-blind". A lot of parents participating in the study felt like they were very open and conscious of racial issues with their children, but when researchers asked them to change the experiment up and actually have conversations about race with their children and report back on it, several parents dropped out. Author Po Bronson recollects his own nervousness around talking with his children about racial differences. For the most part he felt that he and his wife had subjected their children to a very diverse upbringing by placing them in multicultural schools and childcare. What Bronson comes to realize is that children are wired to notice differences at as early as 6 months old, and if you're not willing to have a conversation about those differences, children are left to question differences with their own conclusions.

After Nemo we journeyed to Foam to check out the W. Eugene Smith exhibit "More Real than Reality."

This was actually my second time through this particular exhibit, but I was just as fascinated as the first time. W. Eugene Smith is known for his photojournalism career with Life magazine and is known as the undisputed master of the photo-essay. Smith has covered such a range of people and events, which he describes as a "college education, upon a college education, upon a college education." This kind of in-depth journalism reminded me of something we've been talking a lot about at work lately: Informants. Rob Campbell coined this term in the plannersphere, but the basic idea is get to know people, all kinds of people from all over the world in all different industries. Befriend them and really get to know them because these are the people who will shed the most insights on your work.

Day one, success!


Emily said...

I saw a similar exhibit about sex and reproduction in a OMSI-like museum in Valencia, Spain. It was pretty incredible and definitely wouldn't be found in the US. Cool stuff!

Tiffany Anne said...

This is such a wonderful assignment... I cannot wait to come visit you :)