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It’s been a couple of years since I attended the annual Museums & the Web conference. A must-stop for professionals working in the field of museums + all things online, this conference celebrated its 16th anniversary under new management with the same great content we’ve come to expect. A few of my conference takeaways: Cultural [...]
It’s been a couple of years since I attended the annual Museums & the Web conference. A must-stop for professionals working in the field of museums + all things online, this conference celebrated its 16th anniversary under new management with the same great content we’ve come to expect.
A few of my conference takeaways:
Cultural data sculpting
Sarah Kenderine kicked off the conference, wowing us with her work in immersive environments using panoramic and stereoscopic display systems. I was entranced by recent installations using 3D imagery, high resolution augmented panoramas, and circular screens to recreate cultural heritage sites, performances and narratives (imagine dancers animating images in a cave painting and physical interactions with enormous datasets). From Hampi, India, and the Mogao caves, Dunhuang, China, to adaptions of Beckett narratives, the work of Kenderine’s lab at the City University of Hong Kong demonstrates the amazing possibilities for enhanced exploration, interactive interpretation, and new modalities of human interaction for cultural heritage preservation. Project documentation available here.
Be where the puck is going
In a session on Digital Strategies, Bruce Wyman evoked Wayne Gretsky’s advice to “Skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.” Bruce spoke to the permeability of place as the future of interactive media and suggested restrictive digital strategies may run counter to our needs. In a period of fundamental change, we need to evolve the things that we are good at, be nimble, and design not for the device but for the visitor and their engagement. Wyman encouraged us to trust our audiences and serialize the experience by developing content that transcends and crosses platforms.
Like Wyman, Rob Stein is an eloquent technology advocate. In the same session, he advised to make sure your digital strategy reflects the larger museum strategy. And all you technologists who think you have difficulty getting upper management’s ear, work on your communication skills. Learn to write! Despite his claim that writing doesn’t come easy, Stein’s paper is excellent: Blow Up Your Digital Strategy: Changing the Conversation about Museums and Technology.
There was much talk in conference sessions and informal meetups about changing publishing models. In the session After Gutenberg, the Whitney’s Sarah Hromack described the evolution of Whitney Stories, a blog wherein the museum is wrestling with questions of authority—what stories do we want to tell, which staff are qualified to speak on behalf of the museum, editorial approval—and issues of sustainability. I haven’t had a chance to read the paper but the presentation was a refreshingly honest assessment of the inherent problems in this work and the reality of making it a part of our daily practice (not in addition to what we do but rethinking how we do our work).
A museum without labels
The Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) is Australia’s largest private museum, a “secular temple” of 6,000 square meters to worship materialism with nary a label on the walls. Visitors use the ‘O’ mobile device to read about art on display and listen to interviews with the artists. The museum’s unique take on audience engagement—including claims to remove the most popular work as evidenced in ‘O’ stats and restricting online collection access to visitors who have actually experienced the artwork—suggest this is indeed a museum visitors are unlikely to forget. I enjoyed this article on MONA’s founder, David Walsh, describing his vision for this “subversive Disneyland.”
Spreading an analytics culture
There were a number of good sessions addressing the importance of continuous evaluation and building a culture of analytics. The panel on the Culture24 research project focused on the key findings in their recently published report. Among them, be clear what you are trying to do online and who it is for. Revise the whole suite of metrics you care about and the tools used to measure them. Google Analytics is only part of a multi-tool solution that begins with a good problem definition.
One of the participants in the Culture24 project, the Tate went into more detail on its efforts in a subsequent session and paper Making Sense of Numbers: A Journey of Spreading the Analytics Culture at Tate. Using the Tate Liverpool Alice in Wonderland exhibition as a test case, they described the analytics tools used (including Hootsuite, Adwords, Google Analytics, Facebook Insights, ticketing system, and YouTube analytics), matrices, and reports built in response to the exhibitions communication plan and areas of activity, both on and offline. While the exhibition reporting was awe-inspiring in its quality and thoroughness, Tijana Tasich, Tate’s senior digital producer, admitted that more work, training, and resources are required to implement similar evaluations across the organization and its programs.
There’s much to learn from failed projects in our field and #MW2012 used this as a topic for its closing session. Hats off to the project cases studies that took the stage to reveal what didn’t work and why. Each project report included a round of bingo, with categories for failure occupying spaces on the card. Among them: poor organizational fit, must-be-invented-here syndrome, feature creep, tech in search of a problem, no user research, pleasing donors and funders, no local context, no backup plan, and not knowing when to say goodbye. Wifi was off during the session, forcing all of us to listen, learn, and not tweet specifics. Everyone should feel good after their time in the chair with therapist Wyman and his Labrador. We appreciate your honesty and hope we’re brave enough to take the stage at future conferences.
Best of Web Awards
The Walker was lucky enough to walk away with two awards for the redesign of our website (best in the category of Innovation/Experimental and best Overall). We are honored to receive the recognition of our peers and humbled to be in the company of so many excellent projects. The full slate of winners is available here.
We’re a serious bunch at the Walker Art Center, except when we aren’t. Cat breaks have made their way into Art News from Elsewhere, and we’ve tucked in a few Easter eggs for fans of these hidden amusements. Our new site includes a confetti drop that appears when you click on Parties & Special Events [...]
We’re a serious bunch at the Walker Art Center, except when we aren’t. Cat breaks have made their way into Art News from Elsewhere, and we’ve tucked in a few Easter eggs for fans of these hidden amusements. Our new site includes a confetti drop that appears when you click on Parties & Special Events in the calendar. And for those who find their way to a place that they shouldn’t, there’s a custom 404 page. God forbid there’s a server crash, we’ll send you to a page featuring Charles Ray’s Unpainted Sculpture.
For those of you hoping to attract a few bees of your own, here’s Eric’s script.
Jennifer Trant and David Bearman know how to stage a good conference. Museums and the Web 2009 continued the tradition of inspiring a community of museum professionals to do more, stay connected, and advocate principles of openness, sharing, and participation within and among our institutions. In no particular order, here are some of my takeaways: [...]
Jennifer Trant and David Bearman know how to stage a good conference. Museums and the Web 2009 continued the tradition of inspiring a community of museum professionals to do more, stay connected, and advocate principles of openness, sharing, and participation within and among our institutions. In no particular order, here are some of my takeaways:
Gotta do a game
I’d read about but didn’t understand SAAM’s “Ghosts of a Chance” until now. Can’t say that we’ll do an ARG but Georgina Goodlander’s enthusiasm is infectious and the programming that’s happening as a result of goac is something to emulate. Group activities, family and school programs, sms combined with looking at art = serious time spent at museums, fun, and engagement. “Fancy a cuppa?” Read her paper and play a sample game by sending the text message ‘goac black’ to 95495.
I never liked evaluation until there was WolfQuest
WolfQuest is a 3D wildlife simulation game developed by Eduweb and the Minnesota Zoo. Dave Schaller and Kate Haley Goldman reported on the evaluation, incomplete but three-fourths baked. The great thing about this evaluation is the sheer volume of data, no statistically insignificant results here. This is one of those rare instances where follow-up interviews with surveyed users reveals whether they actually did what they said they would as a result playing the game (e.g., lookup info about wolves on the Internet, make art related to wolves, visit a zoo). An unfortunate truth is we only do evaluation where funding requires it, and we rarely get the information needed to truly inform new versions or future initiatives. This project proves otherwise.
The conference that Twitter made
Twitter was the talk and technology of the conference. MW2009 was among Twitter’s top 10 trending topics, even claiming #1 on Friday. I will admit to not liking the Twitterfall on screen during the opening plenary—too much of a distraction—BUT the conference vibe and distillation of what people were thinking, feeling, seeing as evidenced on Twitter was amazing. Reading the topic feed provided entry into sessions that I hadn’t been able to attend and helped me select must-read papers for the flight home.
IMA puts Indy on the map
From Max Anderson’s opening keynote “Moving from Virtual to Visceral” and the generous sharing of information about cloud computing and ArtBabble to the Friday night reception and chance to wander the gardens and galleries, the Indianapolis Museum of Art set a high bar for local hosts. IMA is reason enough to come back to Indy (that and the Children’s Museum which I didn’t get to). Also, must say I loved the airport: small, clean, pretty with all the amenities (ample Starbucks, free WiFi) and I could check-in with an electronic boarding pass on my phone.
Winning is nice
The Walker’s My Yard Our Message won best of the web in the innovation category. For a team that’s been feeling like it lost the “new” in media during the long ArtsConnectEd development effort, this was nice. But the big winner was Brooklyn, who took top honors for exhibition (Click! A-Crowd Curated Exhibition), on-line community or service (Brooklyn Museum Collection, Posse, and Tag! You are It!), and best overall site (brooklynmuseum.org). Sadly, the award coincided with the museum’s announcement of cost-saving measures in response to economic challenges. Among these actions, a moratorium on staff travel, which meant no one from Brooklyn attended the conference. Instead they sent a video acceptance speech thanking their director, team members + dogs, and above all the audience and participants that made it all possible. I was nearly in tears.
Having been referred to as a “seasoned webster” in the conference Twitter stream, I resolve to stop expressing the feeling of being old. I have yet to figure out the reward for colleagues catching me in the act of “old” behavior but there will be one. Really, I’m not that old, I’ve just been in the game for more years than most M&W participants and … okay, I’m exhibiting old/been there behavior.
Nina’s mantra—translate those digital experiences into the physical space of the museums—is something we’re trying to do at Walker in the upcoming reinstallation of the collection. She started her mini-workshop with the British comedy sketch “Facebook in Reality” (a must watch if you haven’t already http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nrlSkU0TFLs) and then showed examples from Harrah’s gift card to the Bibliotheek Haarlem Oost book return/tagging exchange as examples of integrating technology into the visitor experience. Seemingly simple, great examples (read Nina’s paper), but oh so hard to do (as in coming up with the good idea). I’m still wrestling with her closing observations about the disconnect between IMA’s online and physical presence but her ideas are nonetheless aspirational.
We got great feedback on ArtsConnectEd, just what we needed going into the May 4th public soft launch. We developed the content submission technology—collection records exported in CDWA Lite XML format and harvested with OAI-PMH—to support the future possibility of including other collections but weren’t prepared for the number of people asking how they could get their stuff into the repository. It all holds great promise but there are a few politics to work out on our end.
It’s a little known fact that I put myself through college spinning cotton candy during the summer months. This project using live climate data and hacked cotton candy machines made me smile: Climate Hack at Transmediale Festival “Climate Hack is a workshop for emerging researchers, designers and artists dedicated to reframing the international political climate [...]
It’s a little known fact that I put myself through college spinning cotton candy during the summer months. This project using live climate data and hacked cotton candy machines made me smile:
Climate Hack at Transmediale Festival
“Climate Hack is a workshop for emerging researchers, designers and artists dedicated to reframing the international political climate using means well-outside the traditional political rhetoric. Using both old and new technologies, live internet data streams and a diverse collection of hacking skills, workshop participants will produce a series of projects for public exhibition during the finals days of the Transmediale festival in Berlin, Germany.
Driven by the often-absurd nature of politics and the collective creativity often generated from equally absurd artistic mediums, the workshop will rally around the task of hacking Cotton Candy machines. Custom and hacked electronics, connected to live political news and weather feeds, will inform and animate the project. The result will be a set of dynamic and playful art objects designed to invert our perception of “everyday politics”.”
The Walker recently launched a new site in the educational area of the iTunes Store called iTunes U, Beyond Campus. Beyond Campus features a broad range of audio and video material from sources other than colleges and universities, such as American Public Media, PBS, the Museum of Modern Art, and Smithsonian Global Sound. Now iTunes [...]
The Walker recently launched a new site in the educational area of the iTunes Store called iTunes U, Beyond Campus. Beyond Campus features a broad range of audio and video material from sources other than colleges and universities, such as American Public Media, PBS, the Museum of Modern Art, and Smithsonian Global Sound. Now iTunes audiences can easily search, download, and play Walker content just like they do music and movies.
For the Walker, this is the first step in a redesign and branding of the Walker Channel. Today, the Walker Channel is generally recognized as the webcasting branch of Walker public programming available at channel.walkerart.org. Future plans aim to redefine the Channel as the Walker’s digitally distributed network of variable content (largely rich media) that is made available to people through different mechanisms, both on-site (computer displays, projections, cell phones) and on-line (Walker domains and broader web).
While preparing a presentation on multi-user digital tables, I was directed to the Great War tables at the National World War One Museum, Kansas City, MO. Produced by Second Story, these tables are just one part of the museum’s use of interactive technology to tell the story of WWI. The two tables, each 26-feet long, [...]
While preparing a presentation on multi-user digital tables, I was directed to the Great War tables at the National World War One Museum, Kansas City, MO. Produced by Second Story, these tables are just one part of the museum’s use of interactive technology to tell the story of WWI. The two tables, each 26-feet long, feature “individual interactives where visitors can: learn about military technologies through 3D reconstructions; compare the arsenals, artillery and airplanes used by the combatant armies; watch archival video footage and browse photographic collections; and create their own propaganda posters and war memorials that they can email to themselves and others. At any time, museum staff can launch the tables into a group based interactive experience where up to 24 visitors engage in a series of interactive challenges that parallel the military, political and civilian aspects of the war.” For more on the tables, see the Second Story page. And don’t miss the Quicktime demo.
Visitors to the Walker’s Frida Kahlo exhibition have the option of renting a multimedia guide ($6, $5 Walker members). The tour was produced by Antenna Audio whose staff are providing bi-weekly reports on usage. Here’s what we know so far: Take-up rate varies widely depending on attendance with the average being 9%. Thursdays are our [...]
Visitors to the Walker’s Frida Kahlo exhibition have the option of renting a multimedia guide ($6, $5 Walker members). The tour was produced by Antenna Audio whose staff are providing bi-weekly reports on usage. Here’s what we know so far:
- Take-up rate varies widely depending on attendance with the average being 9%. Thursdays are our big day with typically around 22% (Walker admission is free on Thursday nights). Saturdays are also a big day but the take up ratio (.05%) is diluted by Free First Saturday (FFS) attendance. FFS is the Walker family day; we had 4,800 visitors on November 3rd, a large percentage of which were 12 and under.
- The numbers show far more non-members purchase the tour versus members (approximately 20:1). However, once members purchase the tour, they’ve come back multiple times, often with friends and family.
- The 50+ crowd are the folks purchasing the tour. Teens and 20-somethings think they know it all and tend to dismiss it. I wonder how much this demographic might change if the tour was free and/or offered on personal technology.
- Antenna’s new hardware appears to be holding up to public use. By the end of a 6-hour day, the players can get a bit sluggish but they brought in additional units so they can rotate more frequently.
- The comments from visitors continue to be overwhelmingly positive. Some of the quotes we’ve gotten:”Fantastic…indispensable for understanding the heavy symbolism of her work.”"…loved additional visuals on touch screen…” \r\n\r\n”…would have been lost without it…”
“…numbers next to paintings should be larger…” (Sigh. The labels, always the labels.)
“Excellent to have optional perspectives on the artist and contextual background on her life and times.”
“…the order of paintings didn’t jive with the audio and I had to skip all over the place to find where I was supposed to be.” (The tour is random access and some visitors still prefer a more linear tour.)
“Every exhibit should have these!”
Brent beat me to the punch with his Picasso iPod post. Much to learn from this project which gave us an opportunity to compare the same tour on iPods and cell phones. I was waiting for the phone stats and survey results but you’ll have to come back for that information. As Brent said, the [...]
Brent beat me to the punch with his Picasso iPod post. Much to learn from this project which gave us an opportunity to compare the same tour on iPods and cell phones. I was waiting for the phone stats and survey results but you’ll have to come back for that information.
As Brent said, the iPods were a huge success. In the course of the exhibition (June 16-September 9), over 3,500 visitors borrowed the iPods (25-23 devices available for free and loaded with the exhibition tour only). In busy periods, people queued for the tour. And in these same busy periods, visitor services found the loan process almost more than they could manage (witness the drawing on the envelop accompanying the last bunch of checkout sheets).* I sought a donation from Apple (they gave us 5 iPods, we bought 20) but fact is they should have paid us for this kind of promotion. In addition to providing a rewarding interpretative experience, we taught a new generation how to use the iPod–a common refrain heard at the front desk, “ now I can tell my grandchildren I used an iPod!”
Despite their popularity, the iPods will only be used for special projects (3 remain available for the permanent collection tour but ultimately we prefer visitors bring their own hardware). That said, Walker is working with Antenna Audio and SFMOMA to produce a multimedia guide for our upcoming Frida Kahlo exhibition, available on Antenna’s new XP-vision player for $6.
* This drawing is in no way a reflection of the demeanor of front-line staff who are often complemented for exceptional customer service. “Kill the iPod” courtesy the artist Joe Rizzo.
June is the end of our fiscal year, a time when everyone responsible for compiling statistics completes those all-important spreadsheets demonstrating program success (or so it is hoped). The report card on the Walker websites was a good one. This graph reflects the combined user sessions of the three domains managed by new media: walkerart.org, [...]
June is the end of our fiscal year, a time when everyone responsible for compiling statistics completes those all-important spreadsheets demonstrating program success (or so it is hoped). The report card on the Walker websites was a good one. This graph reflects the combined user sessions of the three domains managed by new media: walkerart.org, mnartists.org, and artsconnected.org (a collaboration with The Minneapolis Institute of Arts). In FY05-06, we had 6.3 million visitors, and in the year ending last month 8.7 million, an almost 40% increase.
The four main metrics we report are page views, unique visitors, user sessions, and user hours. We emphasize users sessions, believing they are the best comparison to the Center’s attendance numbers, while recognizing that all web statistics are subject to inherent caveats. For more on importance of using multiple metrics, see Brent’s recent post.
Here’s the breakdown on the Walker numbers by domain:
On walkerart.org, we’re especially interested in where visitors are spending their time. Traditionally, the Walker calendar, Gallery 9, and the home page have been the most popular sections. Last year, Walker blogs entered the top tier and continue to rise, outpacing the calendar in September of 2006, the home page in January 2007, and Gallery 9 in February 2007. The Walker blogs have remained on top ever since and are without question, the most visited section of the Walker site.
We’re all back from Museums and the Web 2007, catching our collective breath while trying to maintain the enthusiasm the conference generated. I last attended M&W in 2003, and a quick glance back at that program immediately suggests how much has changed in four years. In 2003, I presented mnartists.org’s 10 Tips for Building Online [...]
We’re all back from Museums and the Web 2007, catching our collective breath while trying to maintain the enthusiasm the conference generated. I last attended M&W in 2003, and a quick glance back at that program immediately suggests how much has changed in four years. In 2003, I presented mnartists.org’s 10 Tips for Building Online Communities. No where in my paper, or any other that I can find, does one find references to tagging, blogging, or social media. There are some overlapping themes (like Susan Hazan on virtual worlds and the Dead Sea Scrolls: 3D was huge in 03) but the specifics have changed as have many of the people.
For me, the big take away from this year’s conference was rethinking the Walker’s online identity as a web presence instead of a website. If our missions include public outreach (or audience engagement in Walker parlance), isn’t presence more important than place? It’s about being “ there” with the “ there” emphasizing the place where the public is. To some extent we’re doing this already but not as consciously as I’m thinking about it now.
Robin’s conference highlights
Colleague Paul Schmelzer posted a great recap of this session. I was familiar with the Internet Archive for its Wayback Machine. Now I’m determined “ to send Brewster our stuff,” beginning with the Walker Channel archives.
Mashups–web applications creating something new by drawing on content from multiple sources–have many benefits (e.g., “ free” services, dynamic content, development time savings) and drawbacks (commercial nature of open APIs, potential performance issues). Jim did a great job characterizing the landscape, using some of Ideum’s work to illustrate the possibilities. Maxwell Museum of Anthropology’s The American Image: The Photographs of John Collier Jr. did it for me. The site uses Flickr for content management under an account created for the deceased photographer (advantage to this approach: the photos are identified as Collier’s; disadvantage: one-way conversation since the Maxwell isn’t posting fictitious Collier comments on Flickr). On the website, image requests use Flickr’s open API to retrieve particular photographs or groups of photos. In one of the classroom activities, they use Flickr to compare Collier’s work with contemporary photos categorized with similar tags like architecture, defense, family, and school. As noted on the site “ the connections between the photos may be unusual,” although I’ve been nothing but amazed and inspired by the comparisons in the limited time I’ve spent browsing. The goal of the project is to build visual literacy skills. Jim noted that they weren’t necessarily satisfying that objective on Flickr but then again 10% of the site visitors are coming from Flickr. Not bad.
More on mashups: workshop slides and bookmarks are available on the Ideum blog.
We’ve been talking about bringing Walker-related/contemporary art news via RSS into the Walker (both online and onsite) so I was really interested in the Liberty Science Center project. T2ST pairs the Times Square model with interactive surfaces in the atrium of the new Science Center to display science and technology news retrieved through RSS feeds. Visitors interact with the installation via kiosks and research stations, cell phones and PDAs (the cell phone component is part of the Science Now Science Everywhere project). The SNSE system allows visitors to take away custom RSS feeds and news reports on their phones. “ This extends visitors’ engagement with the installation and sets the stage for the development of more elaborate participation in citizen science projects.’” Wayne noted a number of challenges including resolving the relationships between various pieces (e.g., visitor input with a scavenger operator that searches for news and stores data feeds in the database scheduling the actual displays); content policies (content is provided by automatic aggregators but staff must approve all sources); rights management (e.g., CNN’s RSS policy requires direct links back to the source); and providing context for images/media removed from original content. The new Science Center opens in July: can’t wait to see.
Advocating vocabulary alignment instead of unification, Schreiber’s presentation demonstrated the power and potential of the semantic-web. “ The main objective of this work, which is performed in the context of the MultimediaN E-Culture project, is to demonstrate how novel semantic-web and presentation technologies can be deployed to provide better indexing and search support within large virtual collections of cultural-heritage resources.” This is good stuff, and I hope we can incorporate many of the search strategies in the redesign of ArtsConnectEd. The online version of the demonstrator can be found at http://e-culture.multimedian.nl/demo/search. I really like the grouping of results by type of semantic link. A plea to the Getty voiced during the discussion: please make your vocabularies available as open APIs.
Presentations I wish I’d heard
One of the great things about M&W is David and Jennifer’s insistence on papers. I’ll be reading these:
I’ve heard several rave reviews of the Brooklyn presentation. They’re making friends in MySpace and Flickr, building on existing audiences, and really taking the museum program to where the audience is.
The presenters were taking questions when I walked in but the idea of an open source collections management system seems almost too good to be true. We use a homegrown FileMaker application for managing collections information; it has served Registration well but is less than ideal as a foundation for other applications feeding off the data. I spoke to Carl Goodman at the Exploratorium reception and was convinced there’s something here worth pursuing.
So much more but the job beckons. Thanks M&W for staging a great conference.