Museums need more Nerds, Aspies and Geeks…


Do you have an interest or something you collect that others may find interesting? Have you ever thought to share your knowledge and expertise with a local small museum? Are you great with organizing and layout or can see ways to make your local museum more appealing? I myself never thought about it much until this past weekend.

On Saturday, I went to two local small city museums: a local historical museum and a local industry and technology museum.

While I enjoyed much of what I saw at each museum, I realized what these small places seemed to lack were diversity of people bringing their interests to the table. The historical one also seemed to lack depth of interest, which at least for me is what brings history alive. When we see others passion for something it sparks something in us as well. At the one Industry museum they had the Cray Supercomputers and it was so cool and interesting. You could touch them and see the work that went into creating these wonders. The guide was lively and interested in telling about these machines and their relationship to the area we live. At the Industrial Museum there was a large collection of metal soldiers that took up two rooms. They also had a room full of one man’s Leinenkugel beer collection. While I am not a fan of beer nor soldiers, I was awed by the dedication these people had to collect a room of their interests collectibles, it was awe inspiring. What we collect and prioritize brings us joy but could also bring knowledge and joy to others.

I walked away from my day thinking how much I have to offer my local museums in the way of history in my interest areas and how much others have to offer in their interests.  At the historical museums the whole of their pre-computer collection was a slide rule, calculator, statistics book and engineers rolling ruler all in a 3″x8″x10″ drawer. What if I gave them my seconds or the items I am not fond of or if I would donate items I find?  There was no computer technology section or history of technology. But I bet there are people out there that collect it and would be able to help a local museum develop a display or room with things they aren’t using or people like you would be a great resource to find the items needed to set up a display? Think how interesting that would be? Or how neat would it be to see the history of video gaming and some interactive old computers and gaming systems as well as the newer ones? How engaged would the young people be with computers and gaming to see how the things they love today came to be? More than that most kids would find any collection interesting especially science and math if a person were to be very creative in how they display their interests.

Most of us Geeks, Nerds and/or Aspies (Asperger’s) really care about our interest areas and usually have a lot of information to share and sometimes no one who is interested in listening. What is amazing about local museums is they tend to always need volunteers and seem to be open to interesting collections or ideas of how to make the museum draw more crowds. I am not sure that larger museums would have space or want additions or volunteers but most smaller museums have hardly any budget to work with and operate with donations and volunteers.

Go visit your local museums they can be amazing places that are just not on your radar. Local Museums are usually inexpensive or free and you can stay as long as they are open. When was the last time you went to your local museum(s)? Check them out see how each feels to you. While there you can visually see if they have space for a temporary or permanent collection. Then talk to the person in charge that day or get the name of the person you would need to talk to by phone. See if they are open to the idea or would be interested in either a temporary display of your items say over the summer or during the winter or having you develop a display for their museum to house permanently. If your town doesn’t have a museum you could work with your community to create one if there is a building available. At the very least these ideas may make you think of ways to display your own collection in a new and interesting way at home.

Think of ways to make your collection interactive and come alive whether you are there or not.

Ask yourself:

  • Is there is enough information that would help people with no knowledge of your collection understand it and appreciate it more?
  • Will they understand what each item is, what it does or how it works?
  • How can you make your collection interactive and keep people involved in the area for more than a glance?

Even if your collection is behind glass you can:

  • Provide pictures of it in use or old advertisements.
  • Label cards in large print about the model. make and year and where it was used or by whom.
  • Build a sample model of several items that can be touched. (Cardboard slide rules or a wooden marble adding machine or even Lego adder etc)
  • Supply cross sections of the items you have on display in pictures or models that can be touched)
  • Pictures of stages of use or where used.
  • Have seconds that kids or adults can fiddle with that you aren’t worried will get broken as items may get dropped or bent from use.
  • Offer times during their open hours that you are willing to come in to talk about your collection or:
  • Make a power point or CD or DVD or mp3 of your spiel and equipment to play it on in the area.
  • Create a craft drawing area that children or adults could design their own machine. ( i.e. bicycles or machines that help do something, a logo or graphic art for a video game or build a cardboard Kaleidoscope)
  • Interactive game that will help someone understand better how to use it.
  • Build or find creative ways to showcase items. ( a slide rule on a shelf isn’t very appealing but upright or boxed with others in a display case at an angle may show them off nicely.

While I was at the Industrial Museum, I mentioned my interest based on one of the displayed items and they were very interested in me developing a calculating device display. So that is my plan to create a awesome display with hands on activities and also to volunteer a couple hours here and there to help out with my display as well as share ideas and help with other displays. So stayed tuned! Please share your ideas or thoughts in the comments section about your local museums are they interesting and let me know if you have any luck displaying your interests?  What are some other places you can think of to share your collections with others?

Please Note: Some small museums are only allowed to show items set up and decided on by its board of directors or by the people who originally donated money to set up the museum and it may limit their ability to have your collection displayed. So, if you don’t have luck at one museum keep looking for others nearby, other venues ( stores, libraries etc) or work to set up your own with other interested individuals.

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