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Design Corps & Student Engagement with the Hood Museum

Sep 17, 2023   |   Hood Museum of Art

For three consecutive terms, Hood Museum staff worked with a Design Corps student team to revitalize student engagement with the museum. Through a comprehensive research and creative problem-solving process, Kiera Bernet '23, Mallory Barnes '22, Loane Bougennec '25, and Danielle Lu '25 used human-centered design principles and strategies to enhance campus engagement opportunities and ultimately propose a student-led project called "The Museum Journal: Pause, Pass It On," which launched on April 5, 2023.

Members of Design Corps lead Museum Club members through a design thinking activity during a weekly club meeting. (Photo by Isadora Italia)

Findings from their initial interviews led to two essential questions: How could the Hood Museum be seamlessly integrated into students’ daily lives? Alternatively, how could the museum be transformed to appear more novel and enticing to students?

To address these questions, the team conducted a second round of interviews that delved deeper into students' interactions with physical spaces, the different activities they engage with in their leisure time, and their aspirations for their time at Dartmouth. They also hosted a storyboarding activity with members of the Museum Club to "map out" how the members became familiar with the Hood Museum, providing the team with information on the pathways through which highly engaged students discover or access the museum.

The team embarked on a process of ideation that resulted in the formulation of three problem statements: "How might we lower the social stakes of going to the Hood? How might we make the Hood feel more student-centered? How might we make the Hood non-academically productive so that students can still feel that it's a place that they should like, that they are getting something out of it—that it keeps them going on their to-do list while still feeling really fruitful and insightful?"

The team's final idea was the "Museum Journal": "The concept was to, throughout the term, have one journal for one group of two to four friends, and the group would come together, decorate their journal, and decide one person to start," Barnes explained. "And each week one friend would go into the museum with the journal on their own time to reflect, answer different reflection prompts, write little notes, and then pass it on to their next friend. And the next friend would find their own time, go into the museum, write their own reflections, respond to their friend, and then pass it on. And this would take place throughout the entire term."

Once their idea for their project was finalized, the team conducted a prototyping session with a group of students, providing journal prompts and materials. The feedback received was positive, with 90 percent of participants expressing a high likelihood of returning to the museum for further engagement. The team shared that participants mentioned feeling refreshed, connected, and relaxed during the activity. Upon receiving the positive feedback, the team decided to implement the idea and launch the project on campus.

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