Interpretive Tools Strategy: Indianapolis Museum of Art



The Indianapolis Museum of Art, one of the oldest and largest encyclopedic art museums in the United States, is widely recognized for its innovative use of new technologies, both online and in the galleries. The Davis Lab, located within the museum, is a dynamic space where museum visitors can virtually browse the collection and experiment with new technologies and learning tools.

For a temporary exhibition, Dream Cars: Innovative Design, Visionary Ideas, the IMA team wanted to develop a strategy for digital and analog interpretive tools for The Davis Lab in connection with the exhibition. The Dream Cars exhibition featured rare concept cars from the early 1930s to the 21st century, and in The Davis Lab, visitors were able to explore the process of automobile design through hands-on analog and digital activities and experiences.

The IMA received a grant to underwrite the conception, design, and production of the interpretive tools for the exhibition, and hired Designing Insights to run a two-day workshop with curators, evaluators, designers, and web developers to help the museum begin to answer the question, “How might we help museum visitors understand the car design process?”


We developed and facilitated an intensive two-day workshop that resulted in a strategy and actionable ideas for digital and analog activities focusing on the car design process. IMA staff identified visitors’ interests and knowledge around the car design process, brainstormed interpretive approaches and analog and technology-based activities, created rapid prototypes, and tested prototypes with visitors in the galleries.

One of the insights resulting from the workshop and subsequent research and iteration was that visitors relate to cars through highly personal narratives and preferences, and the ability to share one’s own stories vis-à-vis cars is extremely important. Staff from the Museum and the IMA Lab developed an app that invites visitors to design their own personal “dream cars,” and hands-on activities in The Davis Lab allowed kids to create and design their own vehicles.

Methods from the design thinking process have since been incorporated into the IMA’s visitor-centered exhibition development process in both the conceptual and implementation stages of other exhibitions.


Dana Mitroff Silvers
Maryanna Rogers