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Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County: Using Storytelling to Inform Exhibition Planning

Case Studies

Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County: Using Storytelling to Inform Exhibition Planning

Emily Paulos

A museum that serves a million visitors a year has many stories to tell about the intersection between museum staff and the public. In 2014, the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County opened its massive "Nature Gardens/Nature Lab" indoor/outdoor permanent exhibit. As part of the launch preparations, the museum invited StoryCenter to assist in a series of workshops designed to explore how storytelling could inform the planning and implementation process and build a stronger sense of trust and awareness, among the many layers of staff engaged in the project.    

At a day long summit involving over 50 staff members, and in a follow-up series of four, two-day workshops, each for eight-10 staff members, we worked with marketing, exhibit design, gallery interpretation, and other senior staff in presenting an overview of Storywork and story sharing processes. The stories shared explored the ways in which engaging the public had changed staff members' thinking about their own role in the institution and its values, and the emotional connections they had as professionals, to the mission and program of the organization.

As follow-up to this important organizational development work, we were invited back to the museum to produce two short documentaries – one about the impact of the leadership of retiring President and Director Jane Pisano, and another focused on the Grandes Maestros exhibition of Latin American Folk Art in 2015.