Exhibition Redesign Kickoff: Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum
The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s grand entry hall gallery, Milestones of Flight, exhibits some of the major “firsts” in aviation and space history and has a huge impact on the overall visitor experience. Seventy percent of visitors enter through this exhibition, yet it has not been redesigned for many years while the rest of the Museum has undergone changes and updates. The Museum wanted to bring together a multidisciplinary group of staff members from Curatorial, Education, Web and New Media, and Exhibition Design to explore how well the space was meeting the needs of the millions of visitors who pass through it annually in order to kick-off a multi-year redesign of the exhibition.
To explore how the exhibition can better orient visitors to the rest of the Museum and its collection, we designed a two-day design thinking bootcamp to explore visitor needs and prototype new interactives and experiences. Staff observed and interviewed visitors on the floor, synthesized findings, and honed in on problems with wayfinding and interpretation in the space. They built and tested prototypes for new interactive exhibits, multimedia displays, in-person interactions, and online content, and staff are now beginning to apply design thinking methods such as empathy interviews and rapid prototyping to the reconceptualization of the gallery.