Open Engagement, 2014

Queens Museum

During this year’s Open Engagement Conference Mary Miss/ City as Living Laboratory invited a small group of artists and a scientist to conduct a workshop responding to the Queen’s Museum’s Watershed model. Rather than have a regular panel discussion, the idea was that we would try to generate ideas about how the Museum might activate this recently restored artifact. The group consisted of Franco Montalto (Civil/ Environmental Engineer and Hydrologist), Eve Mosher (Artist), Elliott Maltby (Landscape Architect), and Mary Miss (Artist).  Though the model is an incredibly important resource for engaging visitors with information about where their water comes from, it is difficult to ‘read’ especially when compared with the very legible model of New York City at the other side of the hall.

We conducted preliminary research regarding visitors’ encounters with, knowledge of, and responses to the museum’s Watershed model, as well as their awareness and stories of  New York’s  water resources. This information was collected using brief comment cards that were handed out at the museum in the weeks leading up to the conference.  The three main questions were: Where does your water come from?, What is your biggest question after looking at this model?, and Do you have a water story?   We used the survey of responses to identify four main aspects of the model that could be expanded upon to communicate the current state of NY’s watershed; these included:  Infrastructure (Maltby), Water Cycle and Sources (Montalto), Geography (Miss), and Connected Citizens (Moser).  We divided the session attendees into four groups and brainstormed ideas that might make the model more engaging to visitors.

This document outlines and provides a narrative detailing what each group discovered during the workshop discussions with conference goers. Water is such an important issue globally as well as for our own communities that it is essential for us to re-imagine this underutilized resource.  We hope this report to the Queens Museum will encourage ideas for revitalized use and fuller engagement with the Watershed model.

The Open Engagement Report