Our #MuseumCamp2014 Project: Abbott Square in Santa Cruz

At the beginning of Museum Camp, each group of four people chose/location a topic to research. This was somewhat random in that the choice was modeled after a “robber’s gift exchange” where each group chose an object that corresponded to a number and Santa Cruz location. Subsequent groups could steal the object/location and each object could be stolen up to two times. My group had prioritized our top three choices and were fortunate to steal one of the locations we wanted, which was Abbott Square in Santa Cruz. Abbott Square is adjacent to the Santa Cruz MAH. The Santa Cruz community and the MAH have secured a grant to transform the space into a town square that can become a destination that can further add to the downtown Santa Cruz area.

As part of Museum Camp, our group (as well as the other 19 groups) developed a research question, hypothesis and methodology about the space and then carried out an experiment to test the hypothesis. Our research question was: How does transforming a pathway influence people’s experience of a destination?  And our hypothesis was: Novel alterations of pathways increase increase engagement between people and the place. We decided to use colored duct tape to alter the pathway and observe how this changed people’s engagement with the space.

The images below show the space with no treatment, the treatment (which also included a “selfie station” using the hashtag #mahfun), and the result.










Some people walked along the novel pathway and some did not. We found that children all enjoyed the pathway and often drew their parents and other adults into the experience.

03kid wparents on path











At the end of one part of the pathway, we set up a table where participants chose a token to answer this question: Since arriving in this space, have you talked or interacted with anyone new?  Those that participated in the polling station, selected a) No, none; b) Yes, one; c) Yes, a few; d) Yes, many.






We charted the results.











And in the end offered these conclusions:

  • Adding alterations to an interstitial space increases people’s acknowledgement and awareness of that space as evidenced through researcher’s observations of engagement by passers-by with the novel pathway.
  • Adding at least one novel change to an interstitial space can increase social engagement, but adding multiple alterations may actually decrease social engagement as evidenced by the respondents who indicated they did or did not interact with a new person within the studied space. (see graph #)
  • Youth seem more inclined to interact with the novel pathway and often triggered adult participation. Young people also spent more extended periods of time finding alternative ways of interacting with the novel path.
  • Adults unaccompanied by children, who did engage with the novel pathway, tended to pause, smile, and then choose to engage suggesting a possible impact with regard to state of mind.
  • Other variables not factored for in research design are considerations that may have impacted the findings – but are not accounted for including:
    • Volume of traffic flow
    • Timing of other events occurring nearby
    • Placement of data collection station

In particular this is potentially meaningful when considering the variation in function for the environment between destination as opposed to a passage on the way to a destination such as a scheduled event in a neighboring environment i.e. MAH or Vino.

  • Additional insight may have been gained if it were possible to compare total respondents and/or participants to total individuals and families that were in the space at the time of the study.
  • Revelation that the survey activity – polling at end where participants placed a token in a bucket to indicate their answer – was a form of engagement in itself.
  • Novel path was more engaged in than the selfie station (Hashtag was not used by any participants as tracked by keyhole.co).

Our team felt successful in implementing our Museum Camp project and in the process, formed personal bonds and understanding that will inform the work we all do in our respective places in Detroit, New Orleans, Orinda, Ca and Aptos, Ca.





2 Responses to “Our #MuseumCamp2014 Project: Abbott Square in Santa Cruz”

  1. 1 http://www.skillsight.com/UserProfile/tabid/2692/userId/50496/Default.aspx August 3, 2014 at 7:25 am

    Nice post. I learn something new and challenging on sites I stumbleupon everyday.
    It will always be helpful to read articles from other writers and use something from their websites.


  1. 1 Final Reflections on #MuseumCamp2014 | California Dreamin' by Rob Darrow Trackback on August 4, 2014 at 2:53 pm

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