Grainland at Minnesota Historical Society

Grainland is by some accounts the heart of the Minnesota History Center’s 44,000 square feet of museum exhibits. I conceived and designed the crawl-through grain elevator and walk-through historic box car with the help of the Minnesota Historical Society‘s exhibits staff several years ago. For many of the years since then it has been the Center’s most visited exhibit, and by now has entertained and educated millions of visitors.

Grainland represents a different kind of interactivity and user experience. In an age of touch screens, it is a cross between an historically accurate midwest grain elevator from the turn of the last century and a modern playground.

As the MHS says:

Are you soy, or are you corn? You can choose! Experience the ups and downs of being a freshly harvested crop by climbing into a replica grain elevator where bins and chutes are replaced with steps and slides and curving nooks and crannies to explore. Then hop into the vintage 1900 farmer’s wagon loaded with grain for market, or step into an authentic 24-ton Soo Line boxcar. The kid-size twists, turns, and tunnels will keep your little “crops” active while learning about how grain leaves the farm and ends up on your table.

An exercise in imagination, the proprioception and inherent movement in those twists and turns and climbs and slides reinforces the informal learning in ways that more passive experience design struggles to do. Similarly, a 48,000 pound artifact like the boxcar is affective by virtue of its sheer physicality alone. Together they represent a unique experience, and one with a character very different from the often passive, dry museum atmosphere.