Test, test, repeat
I imagine many organizations in Ottawa are thinking that it would be nice if the first of July was just a little farther off—like September, maybe. Sure, we too could benefit from more time before our opening, but the stress of a looming deadline just makes you stronger, right? The Museum is, for all intents and purposes, complete. The last few stragglers among our artifacts are ready for installation and the interactives and digital labels are bulking up with the final software and data in them, so it’s all there, functional and looking fantastic.
For a couple of weeks, now, technicians have been pulling levers, cranking wheels and swiping and tapping every touch panel in the Museum and will continue do so until the doors officially open. All that is well and good, but what about getting a sense of how people who know nothing about the Museum would respond to the interactives and understand the content? How might we do that before they arrive so we can make those little tweaks and adjustments that help to create that “it just works” feeling?
At the end of May we invited students from local schools to come into the Museum and, ready or not, take it for a spin around the block. Twenty teenagers participated, bringing with them a broad range of learning styles and curiosity (or not) in the Bank and economics. They were at the younger end of our primary target audience (15–25) and a predictably difficult demographic to attract to this kind of subject. At the very least, we could rely on their frankness.
Although most of the hands-on aspects of the Museum were designed for just this sort of audience, it was still amazing to watch how naturally the kids manipulated the touch panels. They seemed to instinctively know when to swipe and tap, whereas duffers like me often had to pause and think it through. It was most interesting, though, to see what captured their attention. We have one unit that is a full-on video game which of course made a hit. But a surprising number of kids found the plumbing-themed interactive that helps to introduce the Bank’s role in maintaining the safe and efficient operation of the key elements of the financial system very absorbing—and quite a few really got caught up in the foreign currency area of the artifact display cases.
The radio frequency ID bracelets were also very popular. This wearable technology carries visitors’ language preferences as well as their aliases and the little cartoon avatars they build before entering the gallery. For the interactives, visitors just have to tap their bracelets on a bright circle to have the unit operate in their chosen (official) language and for many of the stations, visitors’ avatars and aliases will also pop up. Our guests really liked this aspect and wanted to see their little characters showing up wherever they logged in with a bracelet—even in videos alongside the Governor. Something we didn’t see coming: the students didn’t like saying goodbye to their avatars. They wanted some means of taking them home: more food for thought.
Likes and dislikes were explored more deeply at an afternoon de-briefing in the “IdeaSpace,” the Bank’s highly flexible, and very comfortable, meeting and brainstorming centre. Enlarged floorplans of the Museum were tacked on the walls and the students were asked to place sticky notes on features they really liked or those they didn’t, as well as where they encountered problems.
All sorts of comments popped up about seating, lighting and sound levels, placements of signage and computer performance. These were the sort of practical things one expects to discover before opening day. What was gratifying was the interest the kids had in learning more about the topics that had been “gamified.” Where they were asked to play a game or adjust levers and wheels, they often wanted more background information on the subject or wanted the interactive’s metaphor more deeply explained. (Interest had been piqued!) Also, for a generation that is more at home with a smartphone than a book, it was interesting to see that they still wanted and expected to see traditional, printed labels beside the artifacts.
This was a very valuable experience for us and we will be doing more such testing sessions in the future. Many of the suggestions we can act upon immediately; some will have to wait for a while—like the one in which students recommended that the inflation control interactive have four levels: beginner, intermediate, expert and insane. We’ll speak to our technology team about that one after opening day.
Among other events preceding our opening day was our participation in Doors Open Ottawa 2017. Relax, our doors were not actually open on 4 June; Canada Day is still our opening day. However, we took the opportunity to provide people with a virtual look at the Museum.
The Bank invited the public into its spectacular 12-story atrium, the “Knowledge” information centre and the beautiful 1938 entrance hall with its mulicoloured marble finishes and art deco details. The tour included a stop at the Museum’s kiosk where visitors were given a little introductory chat about the Museum in addition to being shown a video. The video consisted mostly of conceptual images, but they are accurate ones and very good for raising expectations and piquing curiosity. In all, more than 750 people participated in the Bank’s Doors Open event and the Museum got some great news coverage (sorry, English only). On Canada Day, instead of doors open, it will be open doors—nothing virtual about it. Come check us out.
The Museum Blog
Unpacking the Collection 3
Before banks were established in remote regions of Canada, paying employees involved shipping currency long distances into wild and often lawless locations. The alternative to this risky enterprise was for the company to issue its own money. Called scrip…
The 2015 Commemorative $20 Bank Note Revealed
It’s a historic day for us as well. It isn’t every day that the Bank of Canada introduces a new commemorative note.
Unpacking the Collection 2
During 1952, Comfort produced a number of pencil and watercolour design models for the face of the new notes. Some were updates of the traditional style while others were radically modern treatments.
Swindle! Canadian Phantom Banks
In exchange for pizza and a day out of the office, several Bank employees were persuaded to dress up in period costumes and re-enact three key moments from the history of this shady “bank”.
Unpacking the Collection 1
In the mid 60s, high denomination notes were in such low circulation that Bank of Canada Governor Louis Rasminsky and the Minister of Finance discussed the possibility of actually dropping the denomination altogether.
The Canadian financial system of today is diverse… A little known but once prolific system member was loan and building societies. These firms made loans for the construction or purchase of property against mortgages as collateral.
Everyone loves getting presents, and we’re no exception. We recently received a very exciting donation of 50 silver coins. The collection was purchased in Lima, Peru, at an estate sale in the 1950s.
The Adventure of Exhibit Planning IX
Our little team from the Museum stood in the education space of the Sherbrooke Nature and Science Museum on a chill November morning while the exhibition technicians assembled our finished exhibition. Yes, finished.
An Exhibition Installation
You could work in the exhibition-fabrication business all your life and still run into things you wouldn’t expect: a never-ending series of “uh-ohs.” It’s one of the things that makes the job so interesting and demands a high level of creative problem-solving skills…
What do you think of when you think of money? Is it coins? Is it bank notes? Three-hundred years ago people weren’t sure bank notes were really money; it took a long time for them to get used to the idea.
Royal Canadian Numismatic Association Convention
The show… is an ideal opportunity for the Bank of Canada Museum to share a part of the National Currency Collection with Canadians. This year, we decided to tell the story of Canada’s phantom banks and the financial crisis of 1837.
The Adventure of Exhibit Planning VIII
On this trip, we were all excited to see the 8-foot-tall wooden panels with the full copy printed directly onto them. Using a new process, staff of the exhibition fabrication department at the Sherbrooke Nature and Science Museum have produced some very impressive results.
The Adventure of Exhibit Planning VII
An exhibition fabrication company was finally selected by the Museum to produce the upcoming “Voices from the Engraver” travelling exhibition. It’s all very exciting.
The recent additions to the National Currency Collection described below are from very different parts of the world and are between 1500 and 2500 years old.
The Big Nickel
The commemorative 1951 5 cent piece was issued to mark the 200th anniversary of the naming of nickel and its isolation as an element. Recently, I had the great pleasure to participate in the Big Nickel anniversary festivities and give a talk about the design competition for the 1951 5 cent coin.