Expanding the Outreach of the Cape Town Museum of Childhood through Mobile Exhibits


Project Sponsor: Sarah Atmore (CTMoC Project Manager)

Team Members: Grace McCarthy (biotechnology 24′), Grace Solod (biotechnology 24′), Patrick McKenna (Chemical Engineering 24′), Trevor Faber (Mechanical Engineering 24′)

Advisors: Gbetonmasse Somasse, Thidinalei Tshiguvho


Due to economic and geographic barriers in Cape Town, only a limited population can benefit from the educational experiences offered by the Museum of Childhood. We collaborated with the museum to develop a mobile exhibit which will share their message of celebrating childhood with communities outside their reach. Utilizing results from surveys and interviews, we developed an exhibit message, designed immersive storytelling booths, and created a virtual tour, which would allow the museum’s overall message to reach a larger audience.

Executive Summary

Museum to Celebrate Childhood in a Diverse City

Established in 1852, Cape Town is known for its vibrant arts, culture, and community that enriches the lives of its residents. One of the many cultural opportunities available to them is the Cape Town Museum of Childhood, which is dedicated to the exploration and celebration of childhood. The museum focuses on educating its visitors about the importance of supporting and celebrating childhood, children’s rights, and the safety of children. The space itself is designed for people of all ages to explore their creativity and learn about the importance of childhood in a fun and engaging way.

Easy access to the exhibits is limited to more affluent residents living near the museum. The city of Cape Town experiences significant economic and geographic disparities which isolate less privileged populations and limit their access to certain resources like the Museum of Childhood. The Cape Town Museum of Childhood looks to address this reality by providing opportunities for engagement with the museum’s programs.

Expanding the Museum’s Outreach Through a Mobile Exhibit

The goal of this project was to collaborate with the Museum of Childhood in developing a mobile exhibit platform to share the museum’s message of celebrating childhood with communities outside their reach. We achieved this goal by addressing the following objectives:

  1. Assess the community’s interest in a mobile exhibit platform
  2. Identify the potential message of the mobile exhibit
  3. Design a mobile exhibit prototype with the potential to provide new learning opportunities for community members across the city of Cape Town

To achieve these objectives, we gathered survey responses from museum visitors to identify what was currently working and which exhibits were more favorable than others. We interviewed representatives from the Parent Centre (who work directly with parents in townships and other low-income communities), libraries, and schools to gather perspectives from the target audience. These interviews, as well as interviews with staff from the Museum of Childhood (MOC) and the Center for Early Childhood Development (CECD), helped to identify potential messages for the mobile exhibit. We analyzed the collected data and perspectives from all stakeholders and used it to inform the themes and message of the exhibit, as well as to design the template. This tool helped us develop the ideas and blueprint for a final product.


Overall, the surveys showed that the most common favorite rooms in the museum were the three most interactive exhibits, which were the “100 Years of Toys” room, the “Arts and Crafts” room and the “Story Room”. Surveys also showed that people spent the most amount of time in the most interactive rooms with a focus on storytelling or hands-on activities.

The target audience interviews provided new and useful perspectives on important issues impacting the lives of children in Cape Town and highlighted a few key points. These included addressing the importance of the relationship between a parent and their child, and the importance of including an interactive element to the exhibit to keep the visitors engaged with the content.

The interviews with staff members from the Museum of Childhood and the CECD covered content ranging from the potential message of the museum to how the mobile exhibit might work, logistically. The idea that childhood is a lifelong experience, not limited by age, and the importance in highlighting diverse experiences were mentioned repeatedly. Both messages were incorporated into the final deliverable. Our interviews with the Museum and CECD staff did not show any conclusive preferences in terms of physical and logistical aspects of the design, namely, exhibit staffing, ideal visitor engagement time, and how long the exhibit should remain in one location. From the staff interviews, we identified important elements to consider when building a mobile exhibit (Figure E1). Given the lack of clear preference for logistical and physical aspects, our approach was to focus on developing the exhibit around the message as opposed to the other way around.

Figure E1. Concept Map of Staff Interviews.

Finally, utilizing the designer template used by the Museum of Childhood for past exhibit developments allowed us to expand upon ideas and themes brought up in our findings to develop a central message for the exhibit. The collaborative process culminated in the following final message: Celebrating diverse childhood stories. Within this message, we developed the following key learning goals for the exhibit:

  1. I want the visitors to learn how to be aware of different childhood experiences.
  2. I want the visitors to learn how to be understanding of different childhood experiences.
  3. I want the visitors to learn how to be empathetic towards others, especially children.


After developing the message and learning goals, we were able to develop the two main deliverables outlined below: A guide to developing immersive storytelling booths and a virtual tour of the museum.

Immersive Storytelling Booths

Based on the described findings, we created a detailed plan for the implementation of a mobile exhibit for the museum, contained in Appendix I. The exhibit utilizes four total booths. Three main small booths each provide a unique, immersive experience focused on different childhood stories. A fourth booth then acts as an interactive activity in which visitors can incorporate their own stories into the exhibit. The booth design is seen below in Figure E2.

Figure E2. Proposed Immersive Story Telling Booth CAD Rendering

Virtual Tour

The second deliverable produced was the virtual tour of the museum, linked in Appendix J. This tour allows people who do not have the physical or financial means of getting to the museum to experience what the museum has to offer. While not a complete replacement to an in person visit, the virtual tour allows the “visitor” to see each room in three dimensions and explore the layout of the museum. The virtual tour can also be included with the mobile exhibit via a QR code. The QR codes can be placed on the sides of the booth so anyone visiting the booths will be able to have access to the museum itself. The virtual tour will provide an opportunity for the museum to connect with a larger audience, addressing the bigger picture of the project. A reference image of the virtual tour can be seen in Figure E3.

Overall, the goal of this project was to develop a mechanism by which the Museum of Childhood can reach a broader audience to further spread their message and raise awareness on important topics relating to children. By increasing the number of people who understand the importance of childhood and childhood safety, the Museum of Childhood can support the development of a safer and more inclusive childhood experience for young people across the city of Cape Town, and potentially beyond. We were able to design a mobile platform prototype that will benefit the Cape Town Museum of Childhood and increase their outreach.

Figure E3. Still Image of the Arts and Crafts Exhibit from the Virtual Tour


Based on our findings and the status of the deliverable, we recommend that the following actions be taken to contribute towards the development of the mobile exhibit:

  1. Secure funding to support the development and construction of the story booths
  2. Determine whose childhood stories will be told in each booth
  3. Collect the multimedia elements to support each story
  4. Contact contractors and graphic designers to carry out the construction and interior design of the booths.

If funding cannot be secured within a reasonable timeframe, it is also possible to create a pilot exhibit which utilizes the overall message and exhibit structure outlined in the exhibit description and construction guide.

To utilize the virtual tour to its full potential, we recommend the software is implemented in the following areas:

  1. The museum website
  2. The museum’s social media platforms (Instagram, Facebook, etc.)
  3. Within the mobile exhibit (and future mobile exhibits and outreach programs) using QR codes

Full Report and Presentation

Expanding the Outreach of the Cape Town Museum of Childhood through Mobile Exhibits Full Report

A Mobile Museum Exhibit Presentation 2022


Virtual Tour


Construction Guide and Design Proposal for a Mobile Exhibit


Through the analysis of survey data, assessment of interview responses, and multiple brainstorming sessions with various groups, we settled on the following message for the mobile exhibit: Celebrating diverse childhood stories. The concept of diversity is broad and multi-faceted, and can address differences between people such as age, race, location, gender, and ability, among many other characteristics. Within this message, we developed the following three learning goals for the exhibit to address:

  1. I want the visitors to learn how to be aware of different childhood experiences.
  2. I want the visitors to learn how to be understanding of different childhood experiences.
  3. I want the visitors to learn how to be empathetic towards others, especially children.

If successful in achieving its goals, the exhibit will act as a resource for people of all ages to become aware of and develop an understanding of the diverse range of childhood experiences. In the bigger picture, this level of understanding, when adopted by a majority of the population, can create a safer world for children.


Figure 10. Immersive Story Booth CAD Rendering.


Our design plans for a total of four immersive booths. The booths were designed with the following design parameters in mind:

  • Portable
  • Easy to assemble
  • Immersive
  • Striking
  • Structurally sound
  • Ability to stand alone

To booth consist of the following to address these design parameters.


Each booth will be created out of five sub sections, a front panel, two side panel, rear panel and a roof. The panels and roof will be bolted together with 24 carriage bolts, washers and nuts at the joint of the structural frame of each panel. The bolts can be easily installed and uninstalled with minimal tools, a simple wrench and mallet will allow for the exhibit to be assembled anywhere. As each panel comes together the structural frame combines to create four posts to support the booth. This bolt design allows for a booth that can be transportable and structurally sound while still allowing each booth to be assembled by two people in under 20 minutes. The implementation of an impact drill would further reduce the assembly time. To visualize the construction process, we created the following video which shows exactly how each part comes together to form the final product: https://youtu.be/2eYHhbzCuc8.


Figure 12. Immersive story booth below out rendering, showcasing the five sections of the mobile exhibit


The five sections make the booths easy to transport, all sides of the booth can be carefully stacked and placed in the back of a bakkie (pick-up truck). Separating each panel with a blanket will ensure safe transportation without damaging any of the interior work or exterior paint. Besides the panels the only other aspects of the exhibit that need to be transported are the hardware, and any arts and crafts material associated with the fourth booth.

The five-section design also opens up the possibility to easily change the contents of the interior of the booths. Using a wallpaper method would allow for new interiors to be rolled onto each side individually.

The booth has been designed to account for a slight roof slant causing the entrance of the booth to have a height of 2.1 meters and the rear 2 meters. This slant serves the purpose of allowing any rainwater to run off the roof without pooling up. Each booth will have an open bottom to allow for ventilation and air circulation on hot days. The interior of the booth has basic dimensions of 1 meter wide, 1.2 meters deep and 2 meter high. These dimensions were derived from two factors, available building material and creating an experience that can be shared between a parent and their child. Plywood comes in 1.22-meter-wide sections so for the sake of simplicity the booth was designed to use the plywood sheets without the need of cutting down their width or using more than one sheet per side. These dimensions also allow for a space that can accommodate an adult and two small children, curating an immersive experience with enough room for it to be shared between an adult and a child.

To continue to encourage an immersive experience the interior walls of the exhibit have been designed to be uninterrupted, meaning the interior post of beams, allow for a seamless flow of ideas from wall to wall. The doorway to the booth will be covered by a curtain, making the booth its own room. A battery powered motion light mounted to the roof of the booth will light up to exhibit, further changing the atmosphere. It will be important for the light to be mounted directly above therefore not casting any shadows obstructing the interior. Speakers on either side wall of the exhibit, creating a surround sound feel. It is important that the speakers are also battery powered allowing the booths to operate without relying on access to electricity.

All the materials for the booths can be sourced locally from South African vendors, Somerset Timbers has all the wood available to build each booth. The frame of each panel is made from 50mm x 76mm structural pine, the roof incorporates 76mm x 114mm structural pine along with 36mm x 50mm structural pine runners. The walls are made from 18mm exterior plywood although it should be noted that the booth could be built out of slightly thinner plywood with the same blueprints to save money. The roof will be made from corrugated sheet metal.

To protect against weathering all structural wood should be treated to H2 standard. A further coat of clear polyurethane will be beneficial in further protecting the frame and any exterior paint. While moving the booths to a new spot the ground they are being placed on must be considered. If placed in dirt concrete footing will help protect the post against rot.

The final consideration is connecting the storytelling booths back to the museum of childhood. This can be done two ways, using the museum’s color scheme and including a QR code for the virtual tour within the mobile exhibit.



In an effort to make it as easy as possible for the museum to capitalize on the physical design of the Story Booth a series of blueprints have been developed. The blueprints start with a full assembly view and then break down into each subassembly (each of the five sections) and then further breaks down into each individual part of each sub assembly. The table of parts on each assembly drawing allows the viewer to establish which parts correlate to the parts within each sub assembly.

Story Booth Blue Prints


Interior/Contents of the Booths:

Overall, the exhibit should consist of three main booths, each with a different story. Each story should highlight a different childhood experience of growing up in South Africa. The choice of what stories should be included and the development of how they should be presented will be a process beyond our project’s reach, but in order to address the message of celebrating diverse childhood experiences, it is important that they cover as broad a range as possible.

The interior of each exhibit will contain a multi-faceted, sensory experience. Before entering the booth, the visitor will press a button, starting the chosen audio recording which will play throughout their visit. There are two main options for the audio component of the exhibit. The visitor could either listen to a recording of the room subject’s story (similar to the story room) or they could listen to background noise and music that fits with the theme and time period of the story. Either way, the recording will enhance the visit by adding an additional sensory component and further immersing the visitor into the story being told. Upon walking into the booth, the first thing the visitor will see (on the wall opposite the door) is an image of the room’s subject. This will take up a large portion of the center of the wall and will be the focal point for someone first entering the room. Surrounding this image will be a collage of other images from the subject’s childhood or images that reflect their experience. These images can be collected directly from the subject and other members of their community. The collage wall will also contain short pieces of text or quotes to complement the imagery. Each of the two side walls will add to the story. One wall will show the story’s setting, most likely by depicting the neighborhood the subject grew up in, or one similar to their own. This imagery might consist of a combination of drawings/cartoons (similar to the District Six room walls), real images, and text. The opposite wall will consist of a few more themes. Firstly, to provide context to the story, the exhibit wall should include background on geographic and historic information that might be important in understanding the subject’s point of view. On this wall, it would also be useful to incorporate more specific information and facts about the person, such as their childhood favorite games, meals, music, etc., so the visitor can understand some of the ways they might be similar or different than the person who the room is about.

The final element to the booths will be the inclusion of prompting questions. This is an important aspect of all the current rooms at the museum that should be included in the mobile exhibit as well. The questions can be incorporated throughout all three main walls. They should prompt visitors to think deeply about the stories they are experiencing and aid them in developing a deeper understanding of the importance of diverse experiences. It is also important that they provide the opportunity for conversation, especially between adults and children. Some sample questions include the following:

  • How can you relate to [name of subject]?
  • How do you feel about [name of subject] story?

While the questions should not be so deep so as to confuse younger visitors, they should be thought provoking enough to spark interest and understanding in all who experience the exhibit.


Interactive Element:

The fourth booth will be almost structurally identical to the other three, but the content will be different. It will house an interactive activity which allows visitors to connect the stories of the other three booths with their own story. After walking through the first three booths, the visitors would enter the fourth booth, in which they would have the opportunity to tell their own story. Instead of a picture of the room’s subject on the wall opposite the door, there will be a mirror and a message reading “Tell Your Story”. Across the rest of the wall will be prompting questions that appeal to a range of ages and address themes from each of the previous booths. These questions are different from the questions contained within the three other booths. The first three booths have questions that ask the visitor to think critically about the stories being told, whereas the fourth booth asks them to think critically about their own story. Some sample questions include:

  • What is your favorite game to play?
  • What does your home look like?
  • Specific questions based on presented stories.

One of the side walls will contain a small table or desk with paper, markers, pencils, and other arts and craft supplies. The rest of the blank walls would be filled with clotheslines and clothespins, on which visitors would be able to leave their responses. The visitors would be able to enter the room, think about the questions, draw or write their own response, and either take their response with them or hang it on the wall for other visitors to see in the future. A similar type of “leave-your-mark” activity was successfully used by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in their traveling exhibit, Fighting the Fires of Hate: America and the Nazi Book Burnings (Badger & Harker, 2016).

Though the fourth booth would be an ideal situation for the interactive element, restraints on time, size, and finances might make it less feasible. Another option for increasing interaction with the exhibit would be to have a table outside the three story booths. This would still allow for visitors to have the opportunity to draw or write their own story without the cost of building and transporting an entire fourth booth. While this option is more cost effective, it loses the sense of cohesion and fluidity that the fourth booth would bring to the exhibit.

Recommendations on Next Steps

Based on our findings and the status of the deliverable, we recommend that the following actions be taken to contribute towards the development of the mobile exhibit:

  • Secure funding to support the development and construction of the story booths. Included in the exhibit description and construction guide is a cost estimate for build materials, but additional costs will include hiring a contractor to follow through with the design process as well as hiring a graphic designer to put together the designs for the interior walls.
  • Determine whose childhood stories will be told in each booth. This will involve identifying potential story themes, identifying subjects within the community willing to share their stories, performing interviews with each subject, and narrowing down the participant pool to contain a small number of diverse stories.
  • Collect the multimedia elements to support each story. This will include finding photographs from the subject’s childhood (or from people with similar childhood experiences), creating audio recordings of the subject’s story, developing graphics to accompany the stories, and collecting the supporting background information to provide sufficient historical and geographic context to the story.
  • Contact and hire contractors and graphic designers to carry out the construction and interior design of the booths. The blueprints provided within the construction guide should allow for a seamless transition of ideas.

If funding cannot be secured within a reasonable timeframe, it is also possible to create a pilot exhibit which utilizes the overall message and exhibit structure outlined in the exhibit description and construction guide. A similar experience to what the booth offers can be achieved through less expensive means if the interior of the booths is displayed as large posters. The “Tell Your Story” activity could then be located at a table at the center of these posters, keeping the interactive element intact. In this iteration, the exhibit loses the sense of complete immersion into the life of another, but still allows for the visitor to learn about and picture the lives of those whose childhood experiences differ from theirs.

There is also an opportunity for long term expansion of this exhibit, given it is

determined to be a useful resource for the museum after its implementation. The current model for the exhibit calls for three storytelling booths. If the museum decides that the project has been successful though, the exhibit could easily be expanded to contain more booths, and therefore more examples of diverse childhood stories.