In April 2017, a prototype mobile exhibition was carried out at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. Running over four days, the exhibition sought to assess engagement with audiences during food-themed activities. The exhibition consisted of three parts. First, a background explanation introduced Scotland’s ambition to be seen as a leader in producing quality food and drink Second, a personal story about access to nutritious food was told. Third, people were encouraged to contribute with opinions and ideas in a feedback area.
Photo credit: RBGE
The mobile exhibition was developed by staff at the Garden in conjunction with input from students at the University of Edinburgh. It took place in the corner of a room, where family audiences were able to undertake activities related to food security. One of the activities, aimed at young children, was an imaginative drawing task about crops with super powers that was inspired by the ability of legumes to fix nitrogen. These drawings were exhibited in a small gallery that was assembled over the course of each day that the trial was run. The exhibition’s background was illustrated by images of iconic Scottish foods and accompanied by a personal story told using images with captions. This story was based around the experience of one of the community gardeners after eating potato leaves (normally regarded as poisonous) inspired by working with an Asian women’s group.
Photo credit: RBGE
Overall, the mobile exhibition was successful. The trial demonstrated the great potential of the drawing activity in engaging children in thinking about crop plants and the future of food. This activity even worked for some adults, thus, it would be worth considering for future events where children are present. In addition, the pop-up gallery served to attract people who wanted to view the drawings. However, other forms of feedback that involved using sticky notes to add comments to a wall were of limited success. The static displays that used images and text were also of limited appeal as judged by the time that people spent looking at them.
In order to assess the impact of the exhibition, the team provided feedback forms. However, this method was unsuccessful so a small number of structured interviews that were carried out as well.
Based on these trials, the next step will be the modification of this prototype. The static personal stories, for example, will be replaced with a selection of digital stories that will either play on a loop or on demand. The use of audio will make the stories more engaging and emotionally powerful. The careful selection of images that will accompany the audio is intended to enhance the impact of the stories. How the listener then provides their feedback in response to the stories needs more thought, but one possible solution is to enable people to record their own audio clips.