How a Museum Garden Connects Community – A Smart-City Solution [Case Study]

Today’s Guest Post is by Paige Dansinger, Better World Museum . @betterworldmuseum is dedicated to social good, creative tech collaborations, and placemaking in physical & virtual space. This post is edited from the original on Medium, Sept. 26th/17. 

Better World Museum is creating an edible indoor garden as a form of social action.

Garden One is a project dedicated to creating more equity, inclusion and diversity through placemaking. The garden uses emerging technology to enhance human-centered design and helps make growing plants a mobile connected experience.

The public will be free to plant, water, and harvest the herbs & veggies growing in Garden One, or sit inside and just be.

The design is a giant orb downloaded from IKEA’s Open Source Growroom.


The design was originally created by SPACE10 and architects Mads-Ulrik Husum and Sine Lindholm. Paul Seim, of IoTFuse created the *first prototype model, currently installed at Better World Museum. On September 12th IoTFuse hosted a Hackathon. Many people came to share their knowledge and skills using emerging technology.

IoT Hackathon
The IoT Hackathon was awesome! Everyone just got to work creating water systems, working with soil sensors, a Makeblock Robot Kit was donated by IoTFuse. It’ll be exciting to see what we do with it.. attach a 360 camera?

How will this promote more equity in our community?

The answer is built into how we will use the structure and what we plan to do with creative technology in the design and approach to community outreach.

The shelves will hold many trays. Each will be planted with containers holding soil-based grow medium with soil sensors connected to a water-pump system and LED grow lights. The soil sensors will also be connected to a LED array of lights that is solely to communicate to the public when to water and when to pick the trays of plants, as well as to alert one on a mobile device.

Nobody needs to ask permission to interact because the design informs the public how and when through colored lights for visual communication and audible prompts for multi-sensory accessibility functions.

Paige Dansinger, iPad Sketch. Creative Tech for A Better World, IoT Fuse (2017)

The public will be free to plant, water, and harvest the herbs and veggies growing in Garden One, or sit inside and just be.

Better World Museum will also reach out into the community to invite diverse groups to visit and plant a tray in the garden. The visiting groups will plant seeds and spend time watering and tending the garden. An additional art activity or picking salad greens and herbs to share a nutritious snack as a method of community connection, is a way of convening with deeper meaning. Each group will be able to monitor the trays on their smartphones, or laptops at work or home by following an app created for Garden One.

Garden One not only addresses community connection to create a human-centered platform, it’s also a model of smart urban infrastructure for future addressing ecological and sustainability issues.

An edible garden indoors during sub-frozen Minnesota temperatures seems critical in providing green-space, living plant foods, and offering the possibly of survival nutrients in the case of disaster from extreme climate change or societal breakdown.

Garden One is not just a Public Art Project, it is a smart-city future solution for a better world today.

Why Better World Museum?

Better World Museum is an ideal setting to prototype Garden One. The location is right in the middle of downtown Minneapolis in a dead mall, popular in the 80’s, in the City Center building. Today it’s a hub for the working class and corporate elite, traveling visitors, along with commuters and people along Hennepin Avenue, which includes the Harbor Lights homeless shelter, and Youth Link organizations just a couple blocks away.

Unfortunately, vulnerable community members are often not welcome in many public spaces.

Garden One strives to create a peaceful, warm, inviting, healing, learning place for all.

People will be welcome to water plants or eat radishes and dill. Tethered iPads inside the garden on the interior benches will be available for people to draw plants, edit Wikipedia, or record video stories about being in the garden. Our hope is that we will grow so much basil and leafy veggies that we may consistently supply one of the organizations that support vulnerable communities with salad greens from Garden One..

Hattie Ball, Director of VR at Better World Museum, created a VR Garden Walk and Garden One Sketchfab model and VR Garden,TEDxMinneapolis, 2017

Another way Garden One is helping to foster community is with fun creative projects making gardens in different mediums. These creative gardens include painted murals, digital video, and Augmented and Virtual Reality.

Public participation is the core of these projects at the Better World Museum. People have opportunities in different mediums to express their unique voices and be part of our community, and larger world, thereby all growing better together.

Community Garden Mural
Community Garden Mural, First Family Day at Better World Museum, Exhibited in FUTURE Made Here MN, 2017. Photo Credit: Steve Lang

Read more on Medium

Paige Dansinger Paigecreates traditional and digital artworks which reanimate the history of art. Creating the prototype #DrawArt mobile application in 2012, she established herself as a specialist in developing digital engagement experiences in museums and social media with MuseumDraw. Paige is also the Founding Director of Better World Museum, (formerly Minneapolis Center for Digital Art). Paige’s work bridges creative technology, participatory public art, and community place-making.

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