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Channeling the Burn

No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man 

Smithsonian American Art Museum's Renwick Gallery


Visitor Flow Maps, Engagement Strategy

How might we keep visitors safe without sacrificing Burning Man's spirit of radical participation?



No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man at The Renwick Gallery was the first gallery takeover since the blockbuster exhibit, Wonder, a selfie sensation which revolutionized the museum and spurred the Instagram museum craze. The gallery was anticipating record attendance, and knew that they needed a strategy to manage visitor flow.


As a Graduate Exhibition Design Intern, I was assigned to concept and visually represent the exhibit's visitor flow. Given the laissez faire spirit of Burning Man, high safety standards of The Smithsonian, and location across from the White House, this posed a unique challenge. 


Each touchpoint inside and out of the museum was mapped out to ensure an effective visitor experience. External line management required close collaboration with the Secret Service, National Parks Service, and Blair House to establish an appropriate cue. Inside the museum, we looked closely at the interactivity of each piece to ensure it, and visitors remained safe. Placement of signage, stanchions, gallery  attendants, and security guards were considered to make sure museum staff was prepared to manage a record-breaking visitor turnout.



This experience taught me the direct impact of a carefully considered visitor flow. After the opening in DC, I joined the staff in support of Android Jones' VR simulation. This provided me with the unique opportunity of closely observing the effectiveness of our plans, and continuing to react and adapt the visitor flow.


Exhibition attendance numbers exceeded Wonder, the show was extended for months at The Renwick, and went on to travel to the Cincinnati Art Museum and the Oakland Museum of CA.

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