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California Science Center COVID-19 exhibit overview
6 min read

Using Visitors’ Own Phones in Exhibits: COVID-19 Heroes

Museums have a special role to play advancing the cause of community participation against COVID-19. It’s been rewarding working with California Science Center to advance this role in their All In This Together exhibit. The exhibit highlights how individual actions come together to affect community — how your actions can combat COVID-19.

closeup of photo upload display monitor
Exhibit display features visitors’ images of how they’re fighting COVID-19

We pushed our visitor participation platform further on this one, allowing visitors to upload a photo of themselves from their phones and a text statement how they are combatting COVID-19, such as “getting ourselves immunized” and “working at a grocery store throughout the whole pandemic.” To minimize the chances of divergent behavior, we built a banned words filter and structured the playback to favor pre-selected photos, while allowing temporary playback of new ones. The Science Center can also choose to display only pre-selected entries using the cloud-based Content Management System we provide. Results have been positive.

StoryHabitat mobile phone recorder
Visitors upload their text statement and photos from their phones

I appreciated the artful integration the Science Center’s design team did with the mobile photos display — mounting it in portrait orientation along with photos of other people combatting COVID-19, allowing visitors to become part of the wall of heroes. We coordinated with the design team to match the look and feel of the digital display with the photographic display.

Display wall with photos and upload monitor
COVID-19 heroes wall, with visitors’ own image uploaded from their phones in center

We built the system in a way to allow easy modification of the program to other topics, so that when a new exhibit comes along, the participation engine can be set up to gather images for that exhibit as well. This initiative is part of a range of tools we’re continuing to build allowing visitors in public spaces to add their stories — in videos, pictures, and words.


Brad has contributed to the field with presentations at AAM, ASTC, and ACM Interactivity, where he has led sessions on empathy in exhibits. He has served as a website judge for Museums and the Web and the New England Museum Association, and as a Reviewer for IMLS Leadership Grant proposals.