Megan Dowsett is a creative consultant working with museums and galleries, and an illustrator who is finding her voice through personal and local projects.

Through the name Norris and the Flamingo, she shares the sense of adventure that runs through all of life, wherever we are on our journey. A sense of imagination, of possibility and discovery, for children and adults alike.

11 June 2015

Rules for a Playful Museum

I visited Manchester Museum recently for the joyously playful launch of their booklet Rules for a Playful Museum. Oh what fun! From climbing between the enticing strings of a spider's web, to flying paper aeroplanes and hopping from carpet to carpet, I've never enjoyed such playful interpretation of a natural history collection!IMG_7529

I should confess, I'm not enormously attentive when I visit a museum without a sketchbook in hand. I'm not so good at reading the panels and making thoughtful conversation with my visiting companion. There's too much to read and so I don't know where to start.

I solve this problem with my sketchbook, but I often wonder what less confident people than myself must do - and how many others are visiting museums and reading the panels out of a sense of duty. 'This is what we must do - it's on the tourist sites list'.

IMG_7526So I was excited by the idea of playing, but slightly curious about how it might achieve the museum's objectives - how would playing send visitors away having gained something specific to the Museum? 

Until I found myself discussing the qualities of the beaver. Good looking? Ugly? Slightly sinister, actually. It's those claws. And the teeth! I mean, clearly they need them, but ... and the fur, so much less soft than on a cuddly toy! And why do they build dams anyway? Do they live in them?

IMG_7522All this was provoked by a heap of cardboard boxes and the challenge to build a den for one of the animals. I'd be thrilled to hear this energised discussion going on in front of a museum object (although slightly surprised, in the London Transport Museum!). And suddenly I connected, that all these games linked perfectly to the displays on hand.

We built a den for the beaver.