Hack The Museum

Eighty museum designers from around the world came together to create an exhibition together in 48 hours

Exhibited From July 19-August 18, 2013.

Hack the Museum, a series of experiments that invites you to explore how we connect with art and history artifacts.

This unique project was possible because of international interest in The MAH’s reputation for exploring new forms of engagement in museums. It featured new experiments in exhibition-making developed by a group of diverse artists, engineers, architects, and designers. Over the course of two days, teams of participants will develop risk-taking exhibits around objects from The MAH's permanent collection.

What happens when 80 museum designers come together to create exhibits under 48 hours?

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Hack the Museum resulted from an experimental camp/workshop at the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History. Working with Balakrishna Chennupati, a UX Designer from Nokia, Sarah Groh, a guest services SCMAH staff member, and exhibit designer Maria Mortati. 80 museum designers from around the world were brought together to Hack the Museum, and create thoughtful and creative exhibits using artifacts from the permanent collection of The MAH.

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The 2.5-day event was instigated as a camp rather than a typical conference, allowing the designers to come together, sometimes for the first time, and collaborate on a truly unique exhibition. A camp instead of a conference, included workshops, dinners, and 'camp confessionals', where a tent was set up in the Atrium and an iPad provided to record confessionals of the designers as they worked on their projects.

Teammates were assembled into groups of 15, having already been formulated by Nina and her staff, and a game called “white elephant” was used to choose each team's object for the exhibition they will produce. After the first dinner, each team came up with an exhibit concept where they posted it on the wall for others to see while everyone situated themselves for the next few days.

After several workshops, the teams finally assembled and created their prototypes before creating the final masterpiece. What followed was the result of bringing designers from around the nation together to collaborate into a truly unique experience for all.

Top Exhibitions Results


'One Painting, Many Points of View'

This exhibit was focused around a painting, yet the team's goal was to provide multi-sensory perspectives of the painting. As such, a physical "beach scene" tableau complete with beach chairs, cooler, table, etc. was set up in front of the painting. Objects found at the beach were all be used to allow visitors to experience this one painting from many different points of view.


'Untitled, Totem VII, 1977'

On display for the first time in 30 years, the piece was named 'Untitled, Totem VII, 1977'. When it was discovered that the sculpture hadn’t been shown in 30 years, the mighty team of museologists created a semi-fictional narrative about its history in a crate, animating the object, and winning a prize for creating the most empathy for an object. Made of knotty pine, enamel, and nails, it had been in storage in the permanent collection of the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History since 1983. The thoughtful exhibit included giving the object it's own Facebook where visitors could further learn about historical provenance of the object as it resided in storage. on display for the first time in 30 years. Peter Zecher, a California artist, passed away at 50 in 1996, and several of his works have disappeared, making it of further importance to showcase the artpiece. Along with working many types of media, Zecher was known for bending geometry to his artistic imagination, creating free-standing floor sculptures.


The central challenge of the Camp was to develop an exhibit around an object from the collection in randomly assigned teams, in two-and-a-half days.

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75 campers here from around the world who will be working in teams to develop exhibits based on artifacts from our permanent collection. The campers composed of half museum professionals, half artists, architects, and designers of all stripes.

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