Sometimes, when I visit museums, the exhibits tend to lack substance and are most of the time, very similar. After walking through and reflecting on the material, I don’t feel like I’ve gained anything. It feels as if something is lacking. Xploration Lab 2012 (XLAB) fulfills every need and want in an exhibit and more. XLAB is an innovative museum experience where participants are fully immersed in each aspect of the display, and through their participation, aid in the creation of future engaging exhibitions for the Japanese American National Museum (JANM).
XLAB’s main focus is to educate visitors on the importance of culture and identity, and how sometimes, those two concepts are one in the same. In modern America, the teenage demographic, while seemingly hard to understand, is actually not so much of an enigma as many people are led to believe. They are on the precipice of adulthood and are beginning to stray away from their normal routine to engage in new experiences. XLAB is the perfect exhibit for any teenager because the subject matter is broad enough to entice them, yet specific enough to be relatable. In addition, teenagers are trying to figure out who they are and that is essentially what XLAB is all about. The interactive aspect of this exhibit adds a whole new dimension to the clichéd museum experience and makes it more effective in delivering its message.
As I walked into XLAB, I instantly realized that this exhibit would be unlike any other museum experience I had previously encountered. Since I’m a half Caucasian and half Japanese teenager, the first section that really caught my eye was What Are You? Each person who participated in Kip Fulbeck’s project had words to say that I could relate to as a teenager and as a person of multiple cultural backgrounds. Although the rest of the first room was wonderful and educational, the placement of My Voice is a Microphone made the activity somewhat easy to miss for people who weren’t paying attention to the layout.
The next room contained a lot more interaction and each section had content that would attract teenagers. One of XLAB’s more popular portions is Ways to Tell if You’re Japanese American. Even though the list was written from a Southern California Sansei and Yonsei perspective, almost every local Japanese American teenager can relate to at least a few numbers on the list. A common high school student would certainly enjoy two of the last activities: Pidgin and Express Yourself. Pidgin is a dialect that is the unofficial language of Hawaii. XLAB has taken this idea and added modern internet slang such as LOL, FTW, and ROFL, which has made it much more relatable for teenagers, while still infusing the cultural Hawaiian roots into the activity.
Express Yourself is another ingenious portion that focuses on how expression through what people wear is becoming more and more prominent. The section is composed of a large whiteboard where visitors could design their own shirts using dry erase markers, and magnets. Surrounding the white board are completed t-shirts that aid in the expression of ones culture and identity. The interaction involved in this activity helped make it one the most popular activities that XLAB had to offer.
Each and every activity had a successful way of delivering the overall message of culture and identity. People of all ages would enjoy this exhibit because of everything it has to offer. The interaction of each activity sets XLAB apart from the plethora of boring and formulaic exhibits that most teenagers are accustomed to. In essence, this exhibit is not one to miss, and everyone should take some time out of his or her day to experience what XLAB has to offer, before it closes on August 26th.
Writer Jeremy Parks, a summer intern at JANM, will be in 11th grade this coming fall at Campbell Hall High School located in Studio City. He will be a news editor on his school paper and is an offensive lineman on the football team.