Reviews of The Participatory Museum

Here’s what cultural professionals have been saying about The Participatory Museum. To add your own review, share a comment via the left sidebar, or better yet, write a customer review on and I will duplicate it here. If you write your review on Amazon, it reaches many more people, for which I would be grateful.

Jump to review by: Sonnet Takahisa in CuratorMac West in Informal Learning ReviewSeb Chan, Kathleen McLean, Daniel Spock, Eric Siegel, Leslie Bedford, Elizabeth Merritt, Bruce Wyman, Harry White, Maria Mortati, Mandi Zanski, Claire Antrobus, Robert Connolly

Curator volume 54, number 1 (review by Sonnet Takahisa):

Simon offers so many good thoughts, challenges, and examples that I found myself wanting to make sure I could go back and find them easily… This is a book that will be well-used by practitioners from all walks of the profession.

Informal Learning Review (review by Robert Mac West):

This is an important book for the twenty-first century museum/cultural organization. Read it–and act.

Seb Chan, Head of Digital, Social and Emerging Technologies, Powerhouse Museum, Australia:

The Participatory Museum is essential reading for all museum educators, designers, curators, program developers and forward thinking directors. Through a well chosen and wide range of international case studies, Nina teases out the implications and opportunities for museums in engaging with a public increasingly familiar with new modes of interaction resulting from nearly two decades of the public web. Refreshingly, she avoids the technical aspects and focuses on how all types of museum can reach out to new audiences and avoid alienating existing ones whose expectations have now changed. She neatly balances the practical ideas for immediate implementation with their broader strategic thinking, making The Participatory Museum *the* go-to recipe book for the coming years.

Kathleen McLean, designer of participatory museum experiences and author of Planning for People in Museum Exhibitions:

This book is an extraordinary resource. Nina has assembled the collective wisdom of the field, and has given it her own brilliant spin. She shows us all how to walk the talk. Her book will make you want to go right out and start experimenting with participatory projects.

Dan Spock, Director, Minnesota History Center:

In readable and engaging prose, Simon provides a multiplicity of practical, real-world examples and strategies for eliciting and enhancing public participation in ways that deliver real value to museum-goers and museums alike. This book will prove essential for any museum seeking to affirm its connection to the public in new ways relevant to the times in which we live.

Eric Siegel, Director and Chief Content Officer, New York Hall of Science:

Nina’s confident, enthusiastic, pragmatic tone overcomes any concern that her ideas are just the latest buzzwords, and fosters a sense of possibility and engagement for museum professionals. As I read this book, there were about 20 times when I thought “we should try this!” The Participatory Museum has the resonance of a manifesto and the potential to make a transformative impact on museum practice and visitors’ experience in museums in the coming decades.

Leslie Bedford, Director, Leadership in Museum Education graduate program, Bank Street College:

Simon is an excellent teacher; she gently leads her readers through what is likely to be new and intimidating territory. She articulates a useful set of intelligent principles, grounded in research and theory, of the sort that promotes reflective and effective practice…  This is the convincing marriage of theory and practice that good graduate programs and professional development efforts espouse and will welcome to their reading lists.

Elizabeth Merritt, Founding Director, Center for the Future of Museums:

Nina Simon’s new book offers practical advice on how museums can become forums for discussion of the crucially important issues of our time. Drawing on lessons from sources as diverse as the publishing industry, casinos and Nike, as well as from innovative museums around the world, this essential guide helps museums break down barriers to cultivating new audiences. I predict that in the future this book will be a classic work of museology.

Bruce Wyman, Director of Technology, Denver Art Museum:

In a blur, I imagine Nina racing into the workroom imploring us all with, “Come, Watson, come! The game is afoot.” The tone and enthusiasm of this book engages and empowers a new generation of museum professionals to reinterpret how we interact with our visitors. Included throughout are thoughtful case studies, interviews, and personal experiences which guide us along a new path of participatory design. This book intrigues, delights, and kept me coming back for more.

Harry White, Science Centre consultant, Cardiff, UK:

This is a field report from the cutting edge of modern museology. Nina sets out the case for participation in a clearly structured distillation of her wide experiences, including lots of case studies which are backed up with more detail on the linked website.

I read the book on holiday and came back fired up with new ideas to try. Can’t recommend it highly enough, if you’re in the business, just add it to your basket now, you won’t regret it.

Maria Mortati, Exhibit Designer and founder of the SF Mobile Museum:

After years of providing insightful, tactical and creative posts on museums, web 2.0 and participation, Nina has put together a clear case for fostering visitor participation. She provides compelling case studies from around the world in museums, libraries, and other industries. All done with her signature smart and fun approach.

If you want to understand the world of participatory design and it’s possibilities for your institution, this is an excellent resource.

Mandi Zanski, Exhibit Design graduate student, Fashion Institute of Technlogy:

As a student of Exhibition Design at FIT in NYC, I found Nina’s book to be a must read for anyone who is interested in creating meaningful and personal cultural experiences. The book serves as a guide for understanding exactly what visitor participation can be, can look like, and how it can be evaluated. The organization of information and the numerous case studies used help the reader to digest the otherwise complex task of empowering individuals in cultural institutions. Everyone is talking about “interactive, social” exhibit environments, but Nina Simon actually describes ways that this can be achieved successfully. An inspiring read that I will refer to for the rest of my career!

Claire Antrobus, Independent Curator and Arts Manager, York, UK:

If you want to know what participation could offer your museum, art gallery, library or cultural organisation then this book is for you. It’s packed full of inspiring examples and practical advice as well as a very clear framework for helping arts professionals understand what participation offers, and which approaches and models might work best for your institution.

Participation is a hot topic, but also one which is poorly understood and feared in some quarters. This book unpicks some of the myths around participation and provides a very clear and simple framework for understanding the benefits and models of participation. It also makes a strong case for why participation is important and how it’s helping museums and arts organisations become more relevant and sustainable.

The main audience will be those working in the design and delivery of museum displays and exhibitions, but the book also has much to offer those involved in managing and leading cultural organisations – with a clear focus on management implications (and useful chapters on evaluation and sustaining participation). It’s well-written and easy to navigate – with great indexing and references for anyone interested in following up the ideas.

Essential reading for anyone interested in increasing participation in museums and arts organisations: from students, to specialists in design and learning, curators, managers and leaders of institutions.

The book combines inspirational ideas with down to earth examples from many different types and scales on institutions and makes you just want to just start doing it!

Robert Connolly, Director of the Nash Museum and Associate Professor of Anthropology, University of Memphis:

As an avid reader of Nina Simon’s Museum 2.0 blog I was quite pleased when she announced she was writing a book. Now in hand, my initial read of The Participatory Museum lives up to my expectations. Ms. Simon is clearly on the cutting edge in the practical, hands-on, applied end of Museum work. I particularly enjoy her outside the box thinking that is firmly grounded in practice. The volume is an excellent resource to kick start creative thinking from conceptualizing through to implementing and evaluating visitor participation appropriate for the monster and miniature museums alike. The Participatory Museum is a welcome addition as an assigned text for my course offerings in Museum Studies.

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  1. We learn through experimenting and doing, we remember what awakes in us some emotion, we treasure what gives us some sense of achievement, we enjoy what we understand, we share what we like. These human-nature features may be enhanced in our cultural centers by developing participatory projects. The Participatory Museum offers a doable recipe illustrated through many best practices from around the world. A model of participation process itself during the final writing phase, this book of Nina Simon, written in her ususal bright & witty style, invites the reader to effectively plan and develop truly participatory experiences. We become richer of ideas after its reading. Then it’s up to us putting them into practice.

    Posted March 4, 2010 at 1:05 am | Permalink
  2. Hi Nina

    I finished reading the book last week and really enjoyed it. I’ve posted a review on amazon and my own own blog:

    It’s given me plenty to think about – both in terms of museums and galleries – but also in across my professional life.

    Thanks a million


    Posted April 18, 2010 at 1:07 pm | Permalink
  3. Hi Nina,

    Thank you for your hard work! I am a business and user experience consultant working in cultural and art related projects and I enjoyed your book. I wrote a review here in our collaborative blog related to 2.0 and participatory experiences in art and culture. It is in Italian, however here is the link:
    Shortly, what I wrote about your bok is that business and strategy-minded consultants will appreciate it, because you give a lot of hints about the “behind-the-scenes” of the cases you present, and this helps me in building upon your (giant) shoulders and evaluating methodological, competence and process issues in museum organizations. And… I really enjoyed the “antiboredom team” idea.

    Posted August 23, 2010 at 1:56 pm | Permalink
  4. Published a review on our museum blog

    Just in time before Nina’s talk in Barcelona:))

    Posted November 6, 2010 at 8:08 am | Permalink
  5. Hi Nina

    Thank you for the examples and ideas in your book which is very useful in my job as a museums professional – and also for other with interest in approaching and recognizing museum audiences in new ways.
    For the Scandinavian language readers there is here a review – in Danish – of The Participatory Museum in my museum focused blog:

    Best wishes
    Martin Brandt Djupdræt

    Posted June 11, 2011 at 2:23 am | Permalink
  6. alexander kaijage

    thank you nina. i get a help from your notes but i faled to get a title of your book so pliz can you send to me the title and the year of publication also the city of publication? i will thanks you more and more.

    Posted April 24, 2013 at 10:04 am | Permalink
  7. Linda East

    As I read Chapter 2, these thoughts came to mind:
    1.Asking employees for their opinions is only valuable on a long term basis if the institution truly uses the information. As a public high school teacher, I was regularly asked for advice, feedback and suggestions (along with my peers), but we felt that our advice was not heeded. Rather the decisions were made by administrators who did not have first-hand experience or were far removed from their previous experience. The needs of the classroom — or the museum staff — often goes unmet due to power struggles.
    2. Many times when I visit museums, I want to be a “faceless visitor.” I enjoy the feeling of being immersed in the art and information without being “bothered.” Although I have years of experience teaching and studying art and am typically a very social person, sometimes my preference is to have the feeling of being alone and anonymous. Perhaps it could be compared to the mysterious feeling we sometimes imagine that we would feel if we were strolling alone on the beach of a desert island — at peace with our surroundings.
    3. One exception to that feeling, however, is to be welcomed with a program that I am choosing for social or financial benefits. If there are perks to be gained such as new friends or free parking, I could be coerced into providing profile information.
    As I continued to read though other chapters, I felt that Simon’s obvious goal is stage 5, but I wonder how many visitors would share her agenda. We all have different personalities and learn in different ways. Any program that a museum offers, in my opinion, should be offered gently.

    Posted October 2, 2014 at 4:25 am | Permalink

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