MUSEUM OF MISTRUST
The Museum of Mistrust is concept pitch for an interactive museum that teaches visitors about con artists. In this museum, the visitors will learn about the history of cons, what is considered a con compared to other crimes and the professional con artists that made them happen. The museum is also a place where people can experience different confidence tricks first hand. Some will be direct cons where the visitor is aware that they are are a part of while others will be cons that are less apparent and the users will just have to see if they have the skills to figure it out. How they are affected by each con will be tracked using RFID cards that are given to them at the beginning. This museum is meant to give a full experience of con artists to give the visitor more awareness of what can happen and know that everyone can be a mark.
Using the RFID cards throughout the museum, the visitor’s actions can be traced to understand their vulnerabilities and present them back to them. Not everyone will have the same ones so that goal is to show it in a personal manner. While this museum is meant to be entertaining as well as informative, the biggest takeaway for the visitor will be to understand these vulnerabilities and use it as a way to prevent cons from happening to them in the real world.
User Experience Research
Because of the nature of this concept, historical information was necessary to start research. I read a variety of books, watched documentaries and movies, listened to podcasts, conducted a variety of internet searches, and interviewed experts.
- There are a number of different categories of cons which can be found here.
- Con artists stands for confidence artists.
- The term "mark" means victim.
- The more confident a person is in catching a con, the more likely they are to fall for it.
- Con artists do not take, they will just convince us to give.
- No one can prevent a con.
Once I was able to understand what cons meant to me through historical research, I looked at others around me. My goal was to better understand statistics and minds of my peers on this subject. I sent a variety of Google Forms asking a variety of questions such as:
- Demographics (gender, age, nationality, etc.)
- What does the term “con” mean to you?
- Have you ever been conned? If so, how?
- What are cons like in your hometown or country?
- How confident are you that you can spot a con before it happens?
- Most are confident in spotting cons (especially men)
- Most have not experienced
- Internationals were less likely to understand the term “con” but once explained had a variety of hometown examples.
At the end of the surveys, I asked if anyone would like to talk about their first hand accounts. I interviewed a variety of people to get details of their situation and to understand how that had changed their perspectives. I also gathered second hand experiences to know if seeing someone go through something can have an effect.
- Most did not want to admit to being conned.
- Most were more aware once going through the experience.
- Seeing others go through a con experience didn’t have the same impact as going through it themselves.
Although becoming a full con artists wasn’t possible at the time, I found the first hand experiences through a few different ways. Games such as three card monte and magic tricks allowed me to practice and understand the importance misdirection. Searching personal information through free internet searches provided me with a better assessment of how personal information can be stolen.
- Storytelling is an important part of misdirection.
- Magic acts and cons have similar approaches.
- Often only a name is needed to gather personal information.
- People are uncomfortable when their personal information is told to them out of nowhere.
We are all marks.
The big revelation was that anyone can be the mark or a victim of these. Most do not want to believe this. While we all like to think that we are so much smarter than the “fools” that fall for these, none of us can really say that for sure. Con artists are called artists for a reason. They have the beautiful ability of knowing just what to say and just what to take from you. The only way of really understanding is by going through it yourself.
This concept was inspired by the movie, "The Sting" and the use of immersive techniques within museums. I started by intensely researching what cons are through books, documentaries, interviews, and the internet. I categorized various the various cons and brainstormed how they could be replicated in a museum setting to give the same effect to the visitor. Once the ideas were picked, I again used the categories to determine which room would be the best fit. Using Vectorworks, 3D floor plans were created to illustrate these concepts learned and how they would be experienced interactively in physical space. To further the realism, I imported the visuals to Cinema4D and used lighting techniques. Below is the progress of this:
Set up like a town, each exhibit is located in a different “building” based on the category of the con. This is meant to give a warm feeling of a small town which will make the visitor more comfortable and lower their inhibitions just like con artists can do. When the visitor first walks into the main part of the museum they are greeted by a large road with each building located on either side. The buildings located in this town are: an Internet Cafe, Art Gallery, Movie Theater, General Store, Cafe, Worship House, Bank and Back-Alley Casino. While some buildings are more elaborate than others, each is guaranteed to make the visitor more aware of the cons around them.
Although being fooled by an fake art isn’t common for everyone, art forgery is an important part of con artistry and a necessary part for the Museum of Mistrust. In the Art Gallery, the visitors can learn about the famous art forgeries like Han van Meegeren while also attempting to pick out the fake art compared to real prints. Another installation in the Art Gallery is the touch tablets attached to a large screen that let the visitors create their own “forgeries.” This installation lets the visitor explore what it means to be the forger and how that can compare to the artist.
Some of the most common cons happen on the internet. To experience these, the visitors can enter into the Internet Cafe. In here, they will get to understand how vulnerable they are to each internet con. They will also be able to test their skills as a con artist by playing a head to head game with a partner in who can scam who first. They will also have the ability to create fake news which will be published in the Museum’s newspaper as a way of understanding how this is a con that we are all currently experience and how to prevent falling for it.
Another large part of confidence tricks is the Hollywood aspect of them. The public is usually first introduced to cons in the forms of television or movie and this is something that won’t be overlooked in the museum. In a movie theater, visitors can see glimpses of a variety of these movies and documentaries during their normal visits. In addition to that, there will be weekly full screenings of each movie or documentary. The theater is also equipped with a stage that will allow for talks from experts and professionals to further educate visitors.