Using the metaphor of the home

“In the modern view, the pitched roof was itself a “dead concept,” but equally unhealthy
were all those other dead concepts that got stored underneath the gable, in the attic. For there is where the ghosts of our past reside: the mementos that a lifetime collects; the love letters, photographs, and memories that clutter an attic and threaten to bear us back in time.” Michael Pollan, A Place of My Own

Message Carrier: Our team is designing designated points of reflection in each section of the exhibit in the form of a mailbox. Each mailbox will both mark a new section as well as allow visitors to respond to what they have experienced in their particular area. The reflection will always be an interactive activity that has to do with giving and receiving, hence the mailbox metaphor. Right now, we have five message carriers, one for each space. Below are our current concepts for each.

A private, reflective space
This vessel asks visitors to reflect on their own loss. After the visitor watches interviews and sees personal objects, they are prompted with questions related to loss. They write their response on a card, put it in the mailbox, and take someone else’s response. The message allows the visitor to walk away from a very intense and sad experience with a positive and supportive message from their community.

A place to share your news, meet new people and provoke challenging conversations
This vessel builds on the overarching concept of insider versus outsider perspectives in this space. The exterior of the vessel (in this case an actual mailbox) shows negative headlines from the media about Hazelwood. Inside the mailbox, there is an iPad that shows the positive, “real news” of Hazelwood. These are headlines that visitors can contribute by tweeting at a specific Twitter account that will retweet these headlines in their feed. We will cycle through the tweets on the iPad.

Gateway to the community
This vessel prompts all visitors to consider their role in their community. Inside there are colored cards with community roles written on them that the visitor can choose for themselves. For example, a visitor may choose the purple card that says “I am a creator.” They will write their name and place it on a grid on the wall. After multiple visitors add their cards, the grid will reveal a message, or series of messages that express the importance of every individual. After a many visitors participate, there will be a colorful mosaic showing the diversity of the individuals that make up Hazelwood.  

Unlocking the history of the place
This vessel asks visitors to imagine the future of Hazelwood. After learning about the Hazelwood’s history, visitors are primed to think about how it might develop. Inside the mailbox, visitors find envelopes with the prompt, “In the future of Hazelwood, I imagine this key will open _____.” They open the envelope, find a key with a tag, write their response on the tag, and hang the key on a grid of hooks on the wall.

Putting the responsibility and opportunities to set goals in the hands of the community
This vessel prompts the visitor to consider their goals and the resources they need to move towards their aspirations. The goal prompt cards have two components. The top portion, which states short-term and long-goals, will be hung up to display the different aspirations within the community. The bottom portion, which states resources needed to achieve the goal, is left in the mailbox for the Center of Life to review and share resources back to the individual. This gives the visitor accountability for achieving their goal by publicly displaying it, while also receiving helpful information to take steps toward achieving their goal.

Going forward, we want to make sure that the vessel don’t get lost among the other parts of the exhibit. From our experience showing our prototypes at COL, some people did not even notice the mailboxes. We will have to think carefully about their design, placement and form. We also want to keep collaborating closely with the various teams to make sure that the reflective activities build on the messages of each section.

Last, we’re considering putting an additional mailbox at the beginning of the exhibit that introduces visitors to the space. It might contain information like a map of the exhibit, a suggested flow, or a description of our concept. We’ll bring this up with the class soon, as we think it’s important that we all discuss how we will brand the exhibit as a whole.

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