How to Add a Maker Space to Your Museum

There’s a new trend we are seeing with museums. They are moving away from places of just observation and adding spaces of dialogue and creation.

This change requires a new type of space that is flexible enough for multiple arrangements, yet also provides the support necessary to create art.

Many institutions have areas for resident artists, but this space is designed to be open to the public. This maker space strengthens a museum visitor’s relationship with art through making.

What Was Old is New Again
The maker space concept is not new to museums, just forgotten. Before the 20th Century, museums like the Louvre and The Met were places of art making. The museum would grant artists permission to set up easels and copy works. By the mid-20th century, adults mostly learned about art through lectures and left art-making to children.

Museums and visitors are revisiting and evolving the concept through spaces like collection study, object study classroom, the teaching gallery and maker spaces. These spaces allow visitors extended study for selected works, areas to create, and an incentive to visit repeatedly.

Concept in Development
Recently we were asked to design a maker space within a university’s museum of art – a space that blurs the boundary between art, media and technology.

We recognized that as students increasingly grow up in maker space educational environments, extended learning spaces like museums should likewise evolve in a similar way. Therefore we immediately thought of a flexible classroom model we have developed over years of education design experience, and are adapting it for museum settings.

Essential Elements
Decided you want your museum to incorporate maker spaces? Here are some additional things for you to consider in the design:

  • Padded tables to protect precious objects
  • Stacking chairs and movable tables for multiple room configurations
  • Large flat screens for sharing digital works and presentations
  • Flexible power access integrated into tables
  • Wall-mounted art rails
  • Wall talkers
  • General and directional lighting
  • Storage (a flexible room always needs easy access to ample storage)
  • Wi-Fi connectivity
  • A wet studio (sinks can be a security risk to art pieces)
  • Lockers
  • Audio/video cabinets
  • Open shelving