The ubiquity of social media in most people’s lives is evident. No matter what your level of engagement with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or any of the other myriad platforms for you to connect with others in the digital realm, you can see the impact this type of communication has had on our everyday lives. People are checking their phones, using their tablets, and silently communicating with one another constantly. It may seem passive, a way to pass the time or casually glimpse into the lives of others, but the truth is that social media is a huge part of most people’s day-to-day life. While it may seem like a novel space for everyone and their mother to share the events in their life (interesting and banal), it can be used to engage with people and share what is going on inside and behind-the-scenes at the museum. It may even attract new visitors! Museums have always been—or at least thought of themselves as such—places for contemplative thought and meaningful learning, but they can also engage visitors this new way. The reach of social media extends far beyond the museum’s walls, so it must be worthwhile, right?
Instead of meeting in the classroom this week, we visited the American Museum of Natural History. Before arriving, I downloaded two apps: Explorer and MicroRangers. These are only two of nine apps produced by the museum and intended to be used onsite during one’s visit. Upon entering the museum, we were all given a Communicator Coin that would allow us to use the MicroRangers app in the within certain areas in the museum. This coin acts as a platform for different characters to appear in Augmented Reality (AR) when looking at your smartphone’s screen. There are different narratives, games, and missions within this app that require to the visitor to move around in the galleries and visit different parts of the museum. The Explorer app is designed to act as a personal tour guide or allow visitors to discover the museum in a new way.
The museum has become the default home for art and objects of cultural significance in the modern world. While the convenience of being able to see the greatest treasures from around the globe and artistic endeavors in one building are wonderful, we sometimes forget that they are often token examples of their culture and place. André Malraux (1901-1976) first described the musée imaginaire – ‘the imaginary museum’ or ‘the museum without walls’ – as the ideal place to learn about culture and history. The physical museum is a great place to start building the imaginary museum, but we need to fill out the collections to further develop our understanding of the world. Creating opportunities for and promoting digital experiences outside of the museum is one way to embrace Malraux idea.
According to Business Insider, the top two museums of 2016 in the United States are #1.) The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, NY and #2.) the Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH. As a native Clevelander living in New York, I am very excited for both institutions but I am not surprised to see them at the top. The Metropolitan has one of the most comprehensive collections of art in the world and saw over 6.7 million visitors this past year. The Cleveland Museum of Art (CMA) also has a world-class collection, but they don’t see quite that many visitors. It is hard to compare any city to New York, but Cleveland is on par with New York on a per capita basis in terms of attendance of cultural events. These two cultural heritage institutions are leading the way for museums in many ways but the one I want to talk about here is how they are operating in the digital culture of the twenty-first century. And how they are succeeding with two different approaches. Continue reading “Digital Assets and Information in Museums”
You might think that incorporating digital technology and having a social media presence will automatically increase participation within the museum and awareness of the museum’s collection, but it isn’t quite as simple as that. The museum is a part of the community it serves locally as well as the broader community that interacts with its digital presence. Social interactivity and collaboration within the museum is what many museum professionals are pushing for these days, but how are they doing this? Continue reading “Social Interaction and Participation in the Museum”
Regardless of your reasons for becoming a museum professional, part of working in the field is working well with others. The curatorial staff has a different agenda than the advancement department, the board of trustees has different tasks than docents, and visitors have a different perspective than the public programming department. All museum professionals can benefit from understanding the basics of Project Management. With all of the new and exciting potentials of digital media, museum staffs across the board need to work with one another to create the best possible experience for visitors. Continue reading “Planning, Executing, and Evaluating Digital Projects in Museums”
Back in 2010, the United States Department of Justice announced that new regulations in the Americans with Disabilities Act would require website managers make their content accessible to all users. This meant providing means for anyone with an internet connection the means to consume the information available online. For all of those who haven’t ever had an issue with reading or seeing what is on the screen, this may not seem like that big of a deal; But for those who have physical or mental disabilities, it was overdue. Imagine that you’re that you are blind, the internet—the world of information available at your fingertips—was still vastly unexplored. Needless to say, this was a big deal. For museums, this goes beyond the ADA’s requirement; Providing multilingual content for their visitors is also crucial, especially at international institutions. Continue reading “Making Museums Accessible for Everyone”
Last week in class, we discussed audience research, visitor study, and evaluation. These endeavors are essential in keeping the museum close to the pulse of their audience. While there are many ways in which museums collect and use this information on their visitors, the goal is to improve the experience for everyone. Museum staff tasked with this job of looking at the day-to-day operations and interactions between visitors and the collection must extract raw data, piece it together to understand something, and then develop a plan to create a more meaningful experience for future visitors. This is by no means an easy task and there aren’t really any shortcuts or cheap options. It is hard work. Continue reading “Museums, Technology, and Engagement”
Whether you are a tech-savvy teen, a Wall Street business-type, a museum professional, or even a Luddite, you are aware that we are living in a Digital Age. It seems like everyone has their phone, tablet, and/or laptop with them at all times. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, although it can definitely be; Distractions, diversions, dilemmas exist on these screens and they are entirely digital. Our handheld data-streams aren’t inherently evil, but they are beginning to toe-the-line between helpful and harmful.
Alright, now that I have gotten the vague and dramatic pitfalls and blunders of the Digital Age out of the way, let’s talk about museums. How can museums embrace and integrate digital technology into the museum? How can museums use “big data” to improve visitor experiences? How can museums expand their collection and resources digitally? There are plenty of other good questions that are being asked and many that have yet to be thought of, but, I think that this is a good start. Continue reading “What is a museum in the Digital Age?”
At first blush, when we think about Museums and Digital Culture as two separate entities, they might not have that much in common. Historically museums have been a place of quiet edification and reverence. This kind of museum has roots that go all the way back to Ancient and Hellenistic Greece being a holy place dedicated to the Muses and an institution for study, contemplation, and philosophic discussion. Continue reading “Museums & Digital Culture”