What are Makerspaces?

The turn of the 21st century has signaled a shift in what types of skillsets have real, applicable value in a rapidly advancing world. In this landscape, creativity, design and engineering are making their way to the forefront of educational considerations as tools such as 3D printers, robotics, and 3D modeling web-based applications become accessible to more people. The question of how to renovate or repurpose classrooms to address the needs of the future is being answered through the concept of Makerspaces, or workshops that offer tools and the learning experiences needed to help people carry out their ideas. Makerspaces are intended to appeal to people of all ages, and are founded an openness to experiment, iterate, and create. The driving force behind Maker spaces is rooted in the Maker movement, a following comprised of artists, tech enthusiasts, engineers, builders, tinkerers, and anyone else who has a passion for making things. The formation of the movement stems from the success of the Maker Faire, a gathering that launched in 2006, and has since propagated itself into numerous community-driven events all over the world.

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(1) How might this technology be relevant to the educational sector you know best?

  • I see a need for museums, libraries, community centers, etc. to become a beacon for the community beyond their perceived role. As the digital age continues to augment our traditional means of access, we need to tackle the "annual visit" mentality. If we provide a space where creativity is encouraged, with a theme which can relate in someway to our mission, research, collection, exhibits, etc., then by default the institution becomes affiliated with the progressive technologies being showcased during events. - jaronowitz jaronowitz Oct 20, 2014- jludden jludden Nov 4, 2014
  • I love the idea of a museum becoming a 'beacon' for makers. Its ideal as a public place that often brings together creativity and aesthetics. Throw in a little technology and engineering and new forms of artistic/creative expression can emerge - located in a shared public space that can act both as forum and showcase - shazan shazan Oct 23, 2014.
  • Museums seem like natural hubs for creativity and putting that creativity front and center through the development of makerspaces has huge potential-- particularly, as jaronowitz notes, in response to the "annual visit" mentality.- jfoley jfoley Oct 24, 2014
  • Makerspaces foster, creation, exploration and STEM learning. Maker exhibits tend to flourish where the creator thinks their project will resonate and where the audience actually appreciates what they see. Finding that fit where creativity happens is important for success. Museums are perfect venue for creators to express their artistic works. - luannel luannel Oct 24, 2014 < Exactly! - Jeff.A Jeff.A Oct 28, 2014- shazan shazan Oct 31, 2014
  • As stated by the previous commenters, makerspaces are indeed relevant to museums because they will in turn make museums relevant to their communities. The ability to increase access to emerging technologies, as well as to allow for collaborative co-creation of ongoing projects, will ingest new life into a museum's community, and encourage repeat visits where all ages build upon their prior learning by combining both new AND familiar tools, methods, and skills. - LoriByrdPhillips LoriByrdPhillips Oct 27, 2014 +1 - Jeff.A Jeff.A Oct 28, 2014
  • Ditto to all of the above as the growth of interest in makerspaces in museums is positioning museums more effectively as anchors in their communities, encouraging more frequent visits/use of museum resources, and building 21st Century skills in critical thinking, problem solving, creativity and innovation, communication and collaboration, scientific literacy, and more...a wonderful opportunity to capitalize on the free-form, interdisciplinary learning that can take place in our museums. - CReich CReich Oct 29, 2014
  • I second all the comments made in this section. Makerspaces offer a fundamental approach in all kinds of GLAM institutions today where the focus is shifted from collections and objects to users and the skills they can acquire/put into play in relation to our collections/institutions. Having said that, I think museums have a special opportunity here because we have collections of unique objects which can form the basis for our makerspaces. Visiting a museum with a makerspace can send users in virtuous orbits from the original objects, over data and knowledge, to creative making and remixing of the digitized objects, back to the originals, and so on. - Merete.Sanderhoff Merete.Sanderhoff Nov 3, 2014- jludden jludden Nov 4, 2014
  • I am both really interested in makerspaces in museums, and on the fence. I think the jury is very much out in terms of how they will play out longer term. I think the next few years will be crucial. I do think you run into a scaling issue with them—the more successful the space, the longer individuals will likely spend there, and the fewer people you will serve—and the larger the institution, the greater it will be. For smaller museums and academic museums, I see greater potential for maker spaces. I've been watching the space at The Tech Museum in San Jose and will be curious to see how it will work as they keep changing and adapting. - weberj weberj Nov 3, 2014

(2) What themes are missing from the above description that you think are important?

  • I see reference to re-purposing classrooms and offering workshops, but the idea of digital creation can extend to online communities. As long as a central organization/organizer is able to moderate the content and maintain the group, I think the idea of Makerspaces could easily extend into a digital format which could complement real world meetings and allow others hindered by geographical limitations to participate. - jaronowitz jaronowitz Oct 20, 2014
  • I actually like the idea of a physical location acting as the catalyst for shared creativity. This of course can extend to online collaboration both before and after - but the expression of the maker community is often as a community or shared project and museums can certainly act as the seed/beacon for these social processes - shazan shazan Oct 23, 2014.
  • I'd like to see both physical spaces and online spaces developed. We have a community maker space in the university across the street and the buzz of creativity in the space is really exciting.- jfoley jfoley Oct 24, 2014
  • While there has been a great interest generated in the museum field around makerspaces, there is a lack of information regarding principles of making and evaluation.- luannel luannel Oct 24, 2014 This is a great point. - Jeff.A Jeff.A Oct 28, 2014
  • Firstly, a more specific mention of the museum rather than just the "classroom," noted above. Secondly, the description focuses heavily on the technical nature of makerspaces, while makerspaces reach their full potential when they incorporate non-technical aspects as well. The makerspace appeals to a wider audience, and can become more family-friendly, if it incorporates more of the craft aspects of maker culture. A makerspace can include a 3D printer, and it can also include crochet hooks. Bring in the quilters alongside the hackers. Then you have yourself a makerspace. - LoriByrdPhillips LoriByrdPhillips Oct 27, 2014 - alex alex Oct 30, 2014
  • I love the comment above--makerspaces can promote a more interdisciplinary approach to learning, which is how we live our lives! Integrating technology with arts and crafts creates an access point to things many participants would never venture to explore. - CReich CReich Oct 29, 2014
  • Building physical things is amazing from the creative point of view. But we should not forget that by every 3D printed part, an object made using 3D pen or similar technology we produce material objects that are sometimes not really usable - only for putting them on the shelf. We should be aware of these environmental challenges and use biodegradable material such as PLA or material that can be recycled. However, recycling use a lot of water and energy...- kaja kaja Oct 29, 2014
  • I agree with Lori's comment above--I think the classroom-centric framing of this issue is a little funky--I'm not sure that I've ever heard anyone working with maker spaces in museums define them as the answer to the question of how to repurpose classrooms in the 21st Century. Most maker spaces I've encountered in museums are expressly (and usually deliberately) constructed outside the traditional Education department structure and focus. I think it would be better to address maker spaces as tools for realizing the kinds of deep engagement and relationship-building for which museums have always strived, but only occasionally achieved.- Koven Koven Oct 31, 2014\
  • Let's think about something.... Why "makerspace?" In an art museum context, you would have a studio, and it would be a "makerspace." In a science museum, you'd have a lab. So why, I'm curious, do we have this need to rebrand something that is, in some ways, quite familiar? The obvious answer is that technology is (more) involved. Is that a sufficient answer? Not sure. A classroom implies a teacher. A maker space just needs a maker. But a studio just needs an artist, and a lab just needs a researcher. Hmmm.... - weberj weberj Nov 3, 2014
  • One last thing: when is a makerspace the right answer to a question, and what is that question? Or, what is the need or lack that a makerspace successfully addresses? I ask this because I believe that the success or failure of a maker activity results in part from a relationship to a subject domain or area that it can successfully address, and this a question of educational design, i.e. the concept driving the activity. Lacking that, all we are doing is fulfilling the desire of the machines in the space, doing what they want to do. And that's not a sufficient reason to have the space, in my opinion. - weberj weberj Nov 3, 2014

(3) What do you see as the potential impact of this technology on education and interpretation in museums?

  • Makerspaces are a natural progression in the transformation of educational spaces. By incorporating projects which are based on themes relating a particular subject, you can allow the visitor/learner to become an active participant in the creation of the lesson/exhibit. Think of it as a community of makers creating learning objects that can be used to piece together a dynamic lesson/exhibit. - jaronowitz jaronowitz Oct 20, 2014
  • Makers can 'make' influences and inspired by exhibitions and artworks. This is the major contribution that other - more neutral locations simply cant provide. - shazan shazan Oct 23, 2014 This is a great point! Museums are the only medium that communicate with objects and with re-use of them together with co-creating can bring new values. Furthermore, I think it's important to design makerspaces as a forum for sharing ideas and to encourage users (visitors) to work and create together for a common goal. - kaja kaja Oct 29, 2014
  • It has the potential to activate museums in really important ways, turning the museum into a place perceived as a passive learning process or experience (the museum will tell me things) to an active process and experience. - jfoley jfoley Oct 24, 2014
  • Makerspaces could potentially increase deeper community participation. Making this as a topic for further exploration could change how museums engage their audience- luannel luannel Oct 24, 2014
  • Makerspaces can help museums provide important 21st century skills to members of their communities. Especially at a time when many schools are not yet able to incorporate as many hands-on, project-based methods, museums can fill this gap by offering deeper dives into topics that both children and adult learners are seeking out. The iterative nature of makerspaces allows the museum to take an open authority approach to engaging with their communities, listening to their interests and providing opportunities to collaboratively co-create, together. http://www.nmc.org/news/seven-things-you-need-openly-engage-your-community
    - LoriByrdPhillips LoriByrdPhillips Oct 27, 2014
  • In addition to all of the above, makerspaces simply make the museum experience more accessible to so many audiences who might not otherwise participate--opening up opportunities to introduce the community to the broader educational offerings of these institutions. - CReich CReich Oct 29, 2014 +1 - Koven Koven Oct 31, 2014

(4) Do you have or know of a project working in this area?

  • I know VCU opened The Depot which offers the opportunity to use various technologies in a makerspace community. They have also started a Maker Meet which has professors from various departments discussing their use of various technologies in different disciplines. Very exciting. - jaronowitz jaronowitz Oct 20, 2014
  • I have watched our local (Jerusalem) community of makers move from makers fairs and group exhibitions into mainstream academia. http://www.musrara.org/
    I have heard that there are also several makers courses/ programs offered in art schools around the world. This is an areas that Museums can share in much the same way as they always have in other areas of artistic practice - shazan shazan Oct 23, 2014.
  • Think[box] at Case Western Reserve University is a community maker space-- anyone can use it, you don't need to be a Case student. http://engineering.case.edu/thinkbox/ - jfoley jfoley Oct 24, 2014
  • Museums are currently exploring the possibility of having a maker faire in Balboa Park. The idea is to have a hub that connects all museums with individual themes of maker exhibits. The Japanese Friendship Garden in San Diego participated during family day and installed aquaponics. Visitors including the creator were very excited to see this in the Garden. The SoCalmakercon is planning an event on Nove 14, 2014 their website is http://socalmakercon.com- luannel luannel Oct 24, 2014
  • MAKESHOP at the Pittsburgh Children's Museum is a leader in makerspaces in museums, and is currently researching the impact of makerspaces on 21st century skills via an IMLS grant. Their Instagram account is a beautiful account of the ebb and flow of the maker world that they've created within the space, and how they've connected with their community. https://pittsburghkids.org/exhibits/makeshop Instagram:
    http://instagram.com/makeshoppgh - LoriByrdPhillips LoriByrdPhillips Oct 27, 2014 wonderful - shazan shazan Oct 31, 2014
  • Pittsburgh Children's Museum is also working on an additional project funded by IMLS to work closely with other maker "experts" in museums and libraries to develop a framework for effective makerspaces, a downloadable e-publication, and a website of tools and resources to support these spaces. The Exploratorium is working with the Department of Education and IMLS in a pilot project to connect museum educators experienced in making activities with educators at 21st Century Community Learning Centers to introduce making in after-school settings. - CReich CReich Oct 29, 2014
  • Maybe old news for some but here's a link to a book that gives a nice overview of the tinkering/making space: http://tinkering.exploratorium.edu/art-tinkering - CReich CReich Oct 29, 2014
  • The Met's Media Lab has been running for quite a while, with facilitated meetups and maker-focused interventions. One of the more established maker spaces in the art museum sector.- Koven Koven Oct 31, 2014
  • This just came through the MCN list Maker Space for Museums http://www.artmuseums.com/makerspace4museums.htm
    Many past participants have been staff from Children's Museums! There is a kind of revolution going on in programming and museums are one of the leaders of the movement. Whether you call them Maker, Community, or Hacker Spaces, these DIY working areas in libraries and museums have become a popular meeting and creative program space for patrons of all ages. - shazan shazan Nov 2, 2014