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Spring 2012

Lauren Beckwith

Carnegie Museum of Natural History

Joanne Ong

Over the course of the Spring 2012 semester, the Carnegie Mellon School of Design Interactive Information Spaces Senior Project worked with the Carnegie Museum of Natural History curators and staff to improve the public’s relationship with the museum’s invertebrate zoology department, home to the museum’s renowned collection of specimens. This book outlines the process and development of this semester long project, in which we examined problems that currently exist within the Section of Invertebrate Zoology, and formed proposals for ways to enhance the visitor experience. This project was completed under the guidance of instructors Mark Baskinger and Stacie Rohrbach.




Project brief



Scheduling Objectives



Design Projections Considerations Framing Opportunities Organizing Ideas Preliminary Ideation Mock-ups & Testing Discoveries & Feedback


The Experience Overarching System Design Criteria Scenarios Additional interactions Extension



Visual Language Card System Wayfinding Card Dispenser Business Plan

Approach Audience Current Behavior Interviews Problem Indicators Considerations Re-defining the Problem


System Concept

Closing Thoughts



project overview



The Carnegie Museum of Natural History (CMNH) has been a hub for some of the best and brightest scientists in the world for more than 114 years. Today, CMNH scientists are working to increase knowledge of life on Earth through the study and collection of specimen reflecting our planet’s biological, cultural, and geological diversity. While CMNH scientists are highly regarded and renowned in their own fields, the Pittsburgh public is not aware of the cutting edge research that is happening in their local community. CMNH recognizes that they need to better communicate their current scientific activities to the public in order to bridge the gap between what is happening behind the scenes at the Museum and what the public sees and experiences when they visit, attend a program, or go to the CMNH website. CMNH is particularly interested in targeting collegeaged visitors, helping them understand the richness of the Museum research programs and their connection to our planet’s biological, cultural, and geological diversity.




The Carnegie Museum of Natural History’s

Our group is focusing on the tours portion —

invertebrate holdings are worldwide in coverage,

essentially establishing a schema for learning in

especially in the Afrotropical and Neotropical regions.

the museum. We are exploring how people move through physical and informational spaces, as

The insect collection contains approximately

well as designing a holistic interpretive system for

13 million specimens, of which over 7 million are

information, messaging and pathways.

prepared, labelled and ready for study. These collections augment studies by staff, but their greatest use is for research by hundreds of specialists worldwide where they constitute the basis for numerous scientific publications. These collections benefit present and future generations, and in their immensity comprise a public trust as a unique record of the natural world.





January 18: Course overview, project explanation February 1: Initial client meeting with CMNH February 20: Presentation of initial concepts to CMNH March 21: Second presentation of design concepts to CMNH May 10: Final presentation of system and prototypes to CMNH



We intend to use layered learning in order to engage our audience’s unique preferences and learning styles, while progressively building an overall deeper understanding of bugs and their significance to humans.




In order to determine what a system of tours could offer CMNH, we surveyed what currently existed at the museum. This includes how these tours are being conducted as well as opportunities where the implementation of tours could benefit pre-existing material. This information was collected by observing and interviewing the docents and scientists at the museum on the nature and perceived effectiveness of the tours they deliver. To supplement these findings, we also studied our target audience’s knowledge and interest in the museum and its tours. In addition, we interviewed these individuals on their preferences and how they learn to determine how to best implement our findings.



We focused our project scope on college-aged students in the Pittsburgh area because CMNH specified this group as the museum’s most highly underrepresented demographic. This group stands to benefit a great deal from what the museum has to offer in academic pursuits, and already has a highly concentrated population surrounding CMNH’s location.



In our interviews with the museum workers, docents and scientists, we discovered that free docent led tours are already offered on weekends, but are relatively unadvertised to the public. Similarly, behind the scenes tours of the entomology department are available for individual groups (such as schools and boy/ girl scouts) but are also not advertised or available to the general public. When behind the scenes tours are given, they are delivered by one of the scientists and have no consistent script or outline. Conversely, docent lead tours throughout the museum are given a general outline that connects all the elements of the tour and keeps the leader on topic, although this never carries over into behind the scenes. There is a disconnect throughout the museum both conceptually through the delivery of guided tours and visually through each exhibit’s differing displays of information.




To find out why college students weren’t utilizing the museum, we conducted a series of interviews on our peers about their current opinions on museums as well as what they knew specifically about CMNH. We asked them about what they wanted to learn, how they prefer to move through a museum, their opinions on guided tours and their interest in a behind the scenes tour.

Do you go on museum tours? “No. I’d rather experience something on my own because I feel like it’s a little more meaningful when you’re doing it by yourself then having stuff thrusted at you. I feel like generally they’re too fast or too slow and you just can’t find your own pace.”


What do you think of museums?

Are you aware of research @CMNH?

"Dioramas of fake people..."

“I am not.”

"Clean. Generally boring if it's historical."

Would you be interested in going behind-the-scenes @CMNH? “Yeah, that would be cool to see because you

“I think I’ve been told that before but I don’t

always know that museums have more than

really know any of the research that they do.”

they’re showing you, so I would definitely be interested in doing that.”

If you don't go to museums, why? "Stuff doesn't change that often." "I like things that are more interactive."



Perception College students are either unaware of what CMNH does and what it has to offer, or have an antiquated and mundane perception of all museums. Wayfinding There is little direction of tours, either for behind the scenes or in the museum’s forefront. In a self guided movement throughout the museum, there is little consistency in the signage of the exhibits. Accessibility The constraints of the behind the scenes space require tour groups to remain small. The schedule of the scientists and docents entails that they would only be able to give tours for a few hours a week.

Social There is no promotion of either type of tours outside of the museum and little knowledge of what exists to entice visitors to seek it out.




Layout of Exhibits


Relevant exhibits are spread out throughout the

The affordances of technology need to be considered

museum and will need an effective wayfinding

with respect to how much they may contribute or

system to direct visitors to them.

distract from the current exhibits as opposed to more low-tech options.

Preservation Any insects that need to be added to exhibits for the tour need to be handled in accordance with the preservation guidelines of the museum. Point of Entry The tour needs to be initiated at a prominent point in the museum, so that it is not overlooked. The system of tours also needs to be flexible enough to accommodate the variations in timing and movement through a space that the various exhibits afford.

Content The touchpoints of the tour need to be relatively discreet so that they do not distract from the exhibits they are placed in, but rather highlight the information they contain.




REDEFINING THE PROBLEM Guided tours behindthe-scenes

As a result of our findings, the scope of the project shifted to design a new conception of a tour that would suit the interests and learning styles of this generation of college aged individuals. In order to cater to this demographic’s sense of individuality, personal discovery and connection oriented sensibility, we set out to create a series of self-guided tours that could be tailored to each individual’s interests. We wanted to create an explorative experience, where visitors could engage in hands-on learning, making a more resonant and personal tour. In order to do this, we would utilize the pre-existing

Self-guided discovery throughout the museum

exhibits to draw connections and move bugs from just behind the scenes to all corners of the museum.



Finding the relevant narrative





In order to bridge the gap between the visitor and bugs, we decided to focus on the varying ways that insects affect humans and the environment. We broke up these points into topics of culture, biodiversity and evolution, and researched how


different types of bugs played a role in each.

Translation of insect’s


significance into folklore or story.

The push and pull between insects and the ecosystem today.

These groupings started to form a set of narratives that could guide the physical and intellectual movement through the museum. These concepts would also provide a secondary significance to the research being done on these bugs by scientists behind the scenes.

Evolution How insects and ecosystem affect each other over time.




Despite their differences in location and form, the

Insects already exist in exhibits throughout the

self-guided tours in the museum’s exterior must

museum, but are often overlooked. The presence

be able to relate to the docent led tours behind the

of these hidden touchpoints affords a unique

scenes, both stylistically and conceptually. These

opportunity in providing the visitor with an element

systems should inform each other and create a more

of challenge while searching for relevant information.

enriching overall experience. The proliferation of insects throughout the museum’s exhibits also draws a parallel to the ubiquitousness of insects in human life and their relation to a number of different areas.




In order to institute our system, we created a method of layered learning to guide the tour process. The visitor will first be drawn in by a visual hook

Visual Hook

which garners initial interest while also graphically introducing the content. Next they will be lead through the content through a logical narrative which helps them create connections and empathy with insects. Finally, they will be given a takeaway that facilitates reflective learning and the retention of their experience.

Relevant Narrative In our organization of the themes of culture, biodiversity and evolution, along with the role of bugs in each, we created a matrix that demonstrates how our content flows across these themes and how connections could be formed. This range of topics not only allows for enough diversity to fit the interests of a wide array of visitors, but it also enables the discussion of bugs to expand into every corner of the museum.



Beetles Butterflies & moths Flies Bees, wasps & ants




creation and rebirth

decomposition and fertilization

diversity in beetles across different

decomposers demonstrate bringing life from

pest control - eating the bugs that

death bringing the life cycle full circle

destroy crops and harm humans

butterflies represent migration


and transportation moths represent insanity, darkness and the afterlife

biomes reflects their adaptation to needs

decomposition sybiosis with plant population

in specific areas

metamorphosis as a division of ecological niches simultaneous development with flowering plants camouflage and hearing as survival techniques

symbol of youth

decomposition and fertilization

able to withstand extreme conditions

demonstrate endurance and vitality

carriers of disease

adapt to many different ecosystems

reflection of ideal hierarchical human society


evolved as specific pollinating agents,

symbol of knowledge, wisdom and deity

need plant diversity to maintain health nests reflective of constraints of environment

drove the rapid evolution of flowering plants bees evolved from carniverous wasps



We initially brainstormed a number of means through which these tours could be conducted, ranging from 2D, to digital to spatial. These all focused on an element of discovery and withheld information, whether it be in unlocking new facts about the museum through an ipad app, moving through a large scale gigapan image, uncovering hidden information on a flashlight tour, or decoding a dynamic map.




We developed two options of media that the information could be conveyed through, one high tech and one low tech. The high-tech option relied on the use of ipads to detect RFID tags located in exhibits that contain insects to unlock relevant information. The low-tech mode employed a series of wall decals hidden in the exhibits that would provide information about the insects once it was uncovered through the use of a special set of decoder glasses.




Through Through our observations our observations and discussions and discussions with with visitors visitors at theatmid-project the mid-project science science fair, afair, number a number of of points points were were brought brought to our to our attention: attention: Protection of iPads The number of discovery points to keep visitors engaged The challenge in finding these points while still keeping the idea of playful discovery Image based identification (making everything more visual) Making scientific terms more accessible to visitors How information is conveyed over time

Through feedback from the museum staff and visitors, we decided upon a low tech system, due to the affordances and potential distractions of the digital medium that we witnessed through our presentation.



system concept


The system of self guided tours eventually manifested itself in a low-tech form as a series of cards, located at various exhibits throughout the museum, that would allow the visitor to direct themselves through the tour in a way that forms connections from one point to the next while catering to their interests and allowing them to create their own individually resonant tour. Each card contains a point about one insect’s role in either culture, biodiversity or evolution, and then provides options for next destinations on the tour, within those three themes. In this way, the visitor can move fluidly between the different major themes and insect types in a completely adaptable yet logical progression.



Card holder Envelope

RFID key

Assorted cards



This system of tours creates a holistic experience that moves the visitor independently through CMNH’s exhibits along a narrative path they create themselves. The information they encounter relates bugs to their own world and interests through the themes of culture, biodiversity and evolution, and allows the visitor to make connections between them. This tour eventually leads the visitor to a guided tour behind the scenes of the entomology department, where they are able to make connections between the historical information they just learned and the research being done in the present. In this way, the museum’s many facets of learning are both united and informed by each other.


aur hall s o n di bees evolution

wasps evolution

expe rim en ta lg moths al biodiversity l

scarabs culture

bees biodiversity

ypt eg

moths culture

bees culture

butterflies culture

beetles evolution

flies culture

flies evolution

beetles biodiversity

wasps culture


wasps biodiversity


butterflies evolution

p o la r w or

a ric e am h rt o n

moths evolution

native america

bot any ha ll

y er

flies biodiversity

ladybugs culture





The key and introductory card must be mentioned

The cards must be located in a relevant exhibit

and available when the visitor buys their ticket to

of the museum, either relating to the insect being

enter the museum.

discussed or the culture it relates to.

The visitor must receive a ‘bug key’ which uses

Each card is housed in its own box, which has an

an RFID tag to unlock the cards and track the

adjacent placard providing a brief introduction to

visitor’s journey.

the topic of the card.

The introductory card must explain how the

If a relevant exhibit space does not exist, a

system of acquisition works and give options

temporary landing point may be created (such as

of starting points.

the butterfly wall).

The introductory card must introduce the concept of the behind the scenes tour and provide times when


it is available.

Each card must be of the same size.

System Connections Each card must provide at least one but up to

Most cards should be printed on paper, but some cards may utilize other media for relevant interactions.

three possible directions for the acquisition of the next card, that represent the topics of culture,

The graphics used on the cards must inform the

biodiversity and evolution.

textual information presented on the opposing side.

The options for next steps must be logically

Each card must convey information relating a given

connected to the content of the current card.

insect to the topic of either culture, biodiversity or evolution.

The connections must provide spatial direction of where in the museum the next card is located. 50

Behind the Scenes


The behind the scenes tour must be led by a docent.

The ‘bug key’ must enable the visitor to access their

The tours must only be available for a limited

card collection online once they leave the museum.

timeframe each week, in accord with the scientist’s

When viewing the collection, the visitor should


be able to track the order in which they acquired

The tour groups should be small (5-8 people at a time). The tour must identify the major steps in the work scientists do behind the scenes (acquisition and

their cards. The online collection must allow the viewer to see all the other cards available at the museum that they have not yet gotten.

surveys, identification, research, publication and the

The visitor should have the option of purchasing

loan program)

a case to hold all the physical cards they have

At least one scientist should address the tour

collected at the museum.

group and either explain the scope of his work or specifically what he/she is working on at that time.

Visitors should be given access to view collections of insects that are otherwise not available to the public.



Receives packet containing instructions, map and key

Visitor enters the museum and heads for the ticket counter

Visitor uses the map and intro card to discover the first stop on the tour

Is introduced to the option of a behind-the-scenes tour. Ticket attendant will assist in picking a time slot if visitor is interested

Buys admission and is given information about the new set of tours


Using colored keywords, the visitor can choose which card they want to find next

Box reveals first set of cards and visitor takes one

With use of key, card box unlocks via RFID sensors

Visitor continues discovering cards which leads them around the museum



Takes a docent led tour through the back areas

Visitor heads to the behind-the-scenes area when it's time for their tour, with mobile notification also as an option


Meets one of the scientists that does research for the museum and collects his/her "trading card"

Experiences insects up close and personal with Gigapan zooming

Takes a look at the insect identification process

Gets to try and and identify insects based on what they have learned



We went through the museum and identified a number of available spaces in relevant exhibits where we could employ visuals to help navigate and illustrate the narrative of the tours. Many of these spaces utilized blank walls in the cultural exhibits where we wanted to discuss the relevance of an insect to that culture, but the exhibit had no preexisting mention of the insect.








An example utilization of one of these opportunity spaces is the creation of a butterfly “dream wall” in the Native American exhibit. We wanted to be able to tell the story of how certain tribes believed that butterflies brought dreams to us in our sleep. However, we had no relevant landing spot in the Native American exhibit to place this information. To do this, we developed the concept of a “dream wall”, where visitors write down their dreams on a paper butterfly and attach it to one of the free walls in the exhibit, creating a space for this story to live in. Visitors receive the paper butterflies when they unlock the corresponding card, thus instilling multiple levels of interaction.




In collaboration with the digital group, we will be utilizing their system of ‘keys’ to unlock each card from its designated box at each exhibit in order to form a sense of exclusivity and additional effort in uncovering information. The use of this key, powered by RFID tags, will also enable the tracking of a visitor’s journey through the tour. Once they have left the museum, they can look up their collection online, as well as the rest of the museum’s collection that they have not yet attained. This not only enables the visitor to recall their experience later, but also entices them to return to the the museum when they see all the cards left to collect.





In order to develop a continuous visual system, we sought to select colors that stand on their own as decals but could also work together on the cards. The off-white serves as the base of the cards, while

C: 11

the yellow, turquoise and red function as spot

M: 20 K: 0

colors that identify the themes (culture: yellow,

Y: 67


biodiversity: turquoise and evolution: red). For the typopgraphic system, we wanted a friendly sans serif that is fairly easy to read by all ages. We settled on Klavika, a typeface familiar to the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, and kept the type hiearchy within the same font family using the bold weight as headers and the italic for captions and emphasis. C: 3

Y: 7

M: 3

K: 0


C: 2


Y: 52

C: 54 Y: 30

M: 58 K: 0

M: 12 K: 0


HEX: 75E0B2

A B CD E F G H IJ K L M N O PQ RS T UV WX YZ 01 23 45 6 78 9 Klavika Bold

ABCDEFGHIJKLMN OPQRSTUV WX YZ abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz 012 3456789 Klavika Regular

ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWX YZ abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz 012 3456789 Klavika Italic


CARD SYSTEM 1� Depending on the amount of information allocated to each card, we developed a flexible grid system that varies in composition to afford for the information length. We also took the amount of supplemental text (directions to the next card based on the themes) into consideration by leaving wide margins that surround the main text.


4 1/4� 66




In order to prototype our system of cards, we built out the culture collection and some of the behind the scenes cards. Each culture card employs a visual hook by graphically illustrating the legend or story being told on the other side. This story evokes a relevant narrative when it is placed in succession with other cards that connect it across the three themes. The behind the scenes cards follow the same format, without providing the connections to next cards since they are supplied on a docent led tour. They do, however, provide QR codes that allow the visitor to access more detailed information on the scientist the card highlights.




The butterfly dream wall card, found in the Native Americans exhibit, will function as a sort of greeting card, with a consistent front image and a varying back image that comes from a set of cropped patterns featured on the right. All of the card interiors will display the same information — the supplementary text on the left and the interactible butterfly on the right. When visitors add their dream to the butterfly and tear it out of the card, the resulting imagery on the butterfly's wings will be part of the cropped pattern featured on the back. This card, along with other interactible cards, are meant to encourage visitor contribution as well as secondary learning throughout the exhibits.






Visitors may recieve this takeaway when they take the behind-the-scenes tour, depending if they run into "Beetle" Bob Davidson. This card is made of 1/8" plywood, and visitors can build their own beetle by putting together the pieces. Each scientist will have their own "trading card", pictured below, as well as a special takeaway.



Visitors may recieve this takeaway if they meet Bob Androw, one of the museum's scientists who studies invasive species. One of these species is the bark beetle, who leaves interesting tracks as they burrow through the wood. This card would function similarly to the the butterfly dream wall card but will instead have bark beetle tracks laser-etched into the card.




We developed a logo system to help visitors identify with the themes (culture, biodiversity and evolution) as well as the location of the card dispenser within the exhibit.


In accompaniment to the theme graphic, there will be a label containing supplementary information that is relevant to the card content and exhibit.


5” 74







Boxes containing the cards will be located

1/4” throughout the museum in related exhibits. Each box is placed with a symbol designating if it is a culture, biodiversity or evolution card, along with a placard that gives a brief


introduction to the topic discussed on the card.




4 3/4”



1 3/8”



BACK 1/4” 3/4” 2/5”

embedded RFID



4 3/4”


1 3/8”

4 3/4”



We have located about 18 destinations for the tour, with a combination of culture, biodiversity and evolution points depending on the room. This tour would cover Dinosaur Hall and the Experimental Gallery (1st floor); Botany, North America and Africa (2nd floor); and Native Americans, Polar World and Egypt (3rd floor). While visitors may choose to visit all points in a room rather than jump from floor to floor, we determined that the system is flexible enough to allow such variation; for the importance lies more on the content of the cards rather than the order by which they were collected.







We estimated each box to be filled with

Plywood costs roughly $6/sheet (4 x 8 ft) and taking

The RFID reader and tag cost:

50 cards/day, 6 days a week. With 18 card

into account the cost of materials (wood, glue, stain,

$70/kit x 18 boxes = $1,260/year

variations, that's:

hinges) and labor, each box would cost:

50 cards/day x 6 days a week x 4 weeks x 18

$6.60/box x 18 = about $120 for 18 boxes

= 21,600 cards/month

(not including labor costs)

We contacted a distributor and it costs roughly $750 for 25,000 cards (4 color, matte, offset press)



Designing an experience was definitely challenging. We knew we wanted to incorporate the existing exhibits into the tour, as well as craft a guided tour that was flexible enough for variation based on the visitor's personal interests. The hardest part was defining the content and making sure it was relevant to the available exhibits. Overall, this was a meaningful opportunity for us to better understand how the museum functions and to discover ways for design to play a role. We are very excited to have been able to be a part of the new direction the Carnegie Museum of Natural History is headed in. Thank you!


CMNH Process Book  

Team Walkabout