Tribute to a Process, Not an End

Most museum exhibits specialize in product. Visitors want to see the telephone Bell invented, not the goofs and failures that came before. They are interested in the paintings artists create, not--with the rare exception of a Leonardo da Vinci--in the sketches discarded in the process. Viewers want to see polished statues and coronation gowns, not chips of marbk or a seamstress's needle and thread.

But the exhibit which opened yesterday at the Boston Museum of Science is different. "Creativity: The Human Resource" is a tribute to a process, not an end. It examines how people get somewhere, not where they are going. In diverging from a well-traveled path, its designers have tackeled a task which is, in itself, creative.

The idea of an exhibit on creativity evolved when the Chevron Family of Companies began searching for a way to celebrate its centennial. Planners and designers comparing the America of 1879 to the America of a century later decided that the single unifying force which accounted for a hundred years of change was the spirit of innovation. Out of this realization the conception of a tribute to creativity was born.

The next problem confronting the designers was the question of form. How could a process as mysterious and intangible as creativity be displayed? Someone proposed the idea of combing the artifacts and insights of creative people with a display of ingenuity-testing games and puzzles. The project was on.

From there, says David Ish, spokesman for the exhibit, construction of the exhibit was a process of selecting and narrowing. Because the exhibit was to tour American cities, the highlighted individuals were to be Americans. In order to get the notebooks, sketchpads and interviews required for the exhibit, they had to by living (Margaret Mead, one of those included, dies after preparation of the exhibit had already begun). A list of creative scientists and artists was drawn up, people were polled and eventually 15 individuals and one team were selected.


One unexpected result of the methods used in constructing the exhibit, Teri Buchanon, spokesman for Chevron, notes, is that is contains no writers. "The creative process a writer goes through is so internal that it is extremely hard to document," she explains, adding, "They don't have sketch pads or lab notebooks. Everything goes on in the mind."

The design process lasted about 18 months, and in may 1979 the exhibit began its three-year tour of 11 cities in the United States and Canada. It has already attracted record crowds in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago and New York, and is expected to do so again during its two month stay in Boston. On March 30 the exhibit will close its doors here and move on to Washington.

The exhibit contains a computerized library of creative achievements and a series of computer terminals which challenge the visitor to test his own ingenuity with exercises and games. Buchanon says these are extremely popular with children visiting the exhibit, while adults--already convinced of their own creativity and scared of being proved wrong--are more cautious.

By challenging each person to test his own creativity, these computer games, Buchanon says, embody the ultimate goal of the exhibit. "Part of what we are trying to get across," she says, "is that creativity is not just an aesthetic judgment. It's a spark of originality that is in everyone. We're trying to ignite that spark."


If you want to test your own creativity but can't make it into Boston, try these:

* How many says can you divide the square grid below into four parts of exactly the same shape and size by drawing lines from dot to dot?

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