David Kelley’s Bringing Design Thinking to the Creation of PAHM

On January 25, 2014, Palo Alto History Museum director, Stanford professor and founding d.school faculty member, Professor Michael Shanks, led an exciting design retreat to explore new ways of unleashing the potential for a history museum in Palo Alto. Inspired by the rigors of “design thinking,” it was a day of deep understanding, empathy and possibility.

The design retreat took place at the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford, aka the d.school, and was attended by a diverse group of stakeholders including Palo Alto History Museum and Palo Alto Historical Association directors, and members of the Stanford Historical Society, the Palo Alto Libraries and faculty from the Palo Alto school district along with former mayors and city council members. All share a fundamental belief in Palo Alto’s rich heritage of innovation and global impact. The day started with an insightful keynote by David Kelley, founder of both the d.school and IDEO in Palo Alto.

What did we learn? Plenty! By experiencing empathy for all who might benefit from a new kind of history museum, we uncovered and explored numerous Points of View and how to anticipate the needs and aspirations of future Palo Alto History Museum participants of all ages and descriptions. From history researchers who delve into the city archives to new residents launching the career of their dreams, the d.school process illuminated exciting paths toward a participatory museum capable of engaging many generations of history lovers and future thinkers.

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