INTERSECTION, New York / THE EDWARD M. KENNEDY INSTITUTE / 2016
The Edward M. Kennedy Institute (EMKI) is a new interactive museum located in Boston, Massachusetts. The Institute immerses students and patrons in the U.S. Senate’s mission, history, and work through digital interactive touch points, thoughtful user experience design, and a unique overall approach on collaboration between employees, customers and technology. EMKI redefines the traditional museum landscape of guided tours and self-education, and introduces a new way for patrons to learn through participation. Linking both historical traditions along with relevant issues hitting the Senate floor today, the Edward M. Kennedy Institute emphasizes a communal learning experience by facilitating a community out of random individuals. It also reflects the ethos of the Institute: that collaboration is necessary to achieve the greater good, inside and outside of the Senate walls.
In a full-scale reproduction of a U.S. Senate Chamber, up to 100 visitors can interact as Senators by debating, negotiating, and voting on real legislation, all powered by technology. Upon entering the chamber, people are handed a customized tablet which guides them through the voting sessions, and allows them to collaborate and negotiate with each other through simulations to pass a bill. The user experience design caters to the multitude of audiences who vary in levels of familiarity with technology, making the simulation personable, useful, and entertaining. An open platform and an extensible CMS were built so that external contributors can create new simulations to keep the content topical. Schools around the country were also provided toolkits to conduct versions of the simulations in their own classrooms with little infrastructure overhead. The result is an immersive educational experience showcasing valuable group interaction and dynamic learning.