Location, Location, Location

The same rule of thumb applies to creating a place-based project as it does to real estate. It’s all about location, location, location and digging deeply to understand the power of that place. You don’t have to wake up in strange surroundings to see the focal point of your project with new eyes.  Ask yourself the big questions.  Why am I building a museum or a new exhibition here?  What is special about this place and its people?  What am I most proud of about my community? What would seem special about this place if I were an outsider? What would I most miss about this place if I moved?

Locality is the first line to any number of resources to suit your vision.  Imagine creating an exhibit about water in three different locations. If you’re from northern Wisconsin, you likely take great pride in your lakes and would want to start there. Your museum could partner with the Lakeland College Environmental Center, the Muskie Hall of Fame, a local marina, the regional lake associations, The Northern Lakes Center for the Arts. These resources could help you identify and recruit local talent: content knowledge specialists, fabricators, local materials procurers, local landscape painters, boat makers, jig carvers. If you’re from Kalispel, Montana, your water exhibit could start with stories about Flathead Lake, the disappearing glaciers, and the many animals that rely on these natural resources in the surrounding mountains.  Maybe you partner with the Summit Nature Center, a team from the National Park Service, and science students from Glacier High School to collaborate on exhibit development. Now you’re in Tohoku, Japan. You’d likely build your water exhibit using regional wood and ore in a traditional Honsu style. You might focus on the movement and temperature of water, given your proximity to local hot springs, cold mountain lakes, and the effects of waves on your location, especially given the recent tsunami that struck Honsu island. Think about how place impacts not only your resources, but also your message.