Thursday, April 22, 2010

"Backwards Field Trips" -- The Museum Goes to School

The New York Times notes a trend -- schools are having a hard time finding money (and time) for field trips, so more and more museums (like the Museum of Science in Boston) are traveling to schools.
“Even if they can’t come to the museum, we can bring the excitement of science to the school,” said Ms. Slivensky, one of seven traveling educators at the Boston museum.
So why is this an "Emerging Digital Trend"?
To make up for the decline in visits, many museums are taking their lessons to the classroom, through traveling programs, videoconferencing or computer-based lessons that use their collections as a teaching tool.
The advantage is that students connect with the museum. The challenge is that they're not in the museum, so they don't get a "full immersion" experience.
“It’s such a conundrum to advocate as strongly as possible for the magic of the real thing, but also create greater access using the Web, hoping we aren’t dissuading people from feeling the urgency of coming to see the real thing,” said Dana Baldwin, education director at the Portland Museum of Art in Maine, where school visits dropped more than 40 percent from 2007 to last year.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

"Docent In Your Pocket"

Another New York Times article, this time addressing how museums (in this case, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art) can attract "millennial generation multitaskers." The solution? "The event included handing out to museumgoers iPod touches loaded with a rich mix of pictures, interviews, video and graphics exploring 200 pieces in the institution’s permanent collection."

"Like almost every major art museum in the country, according to communications officers here and in other cities, the San Francisco institution is using mobile multimedia devices — iPods, iPhones, BlackBerrys and other smartphones — to tell the stories of its exhibits in new ways."

The article details how a variety of museums are re-inventing the "audio tour" by allowing guests to use hand-held devices to "go deeper" into the shows and exhibits. What's most interesting about this article is what's not stated -- that the battle to bring museums into the digital age is over, and now it's all about the best ways to integrate the analog and digital worlds.

"New Guard Steps Up" (NY Times)

The New York Times profiles a group of young, ambitious museum curators. Key quote -- "This is a generation who grew up entirely in the digital world and they are untroubled by distinctions of media."

Take-aways include:

• Young, ambitious curators create exhibits that attract young audiences, many first-time museum goers.

• These curators understand that creating exhibits is the art of story-telling.

• (from the article) "They don’t simply organize exhibitions, they also have a hand in fund-raising and public relations, catalog production and installation." They are able to see every part of exhibit creation, including raising the money and promoting it, as one piece.

• They also understand the importance of "reaching beyond the museum walls" to reach guests, connect them to the museum, and empower them to connect to each other.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

PBS Frontline: Digital Nation

This Frontline is a "must watch" for anyone trying to grapple the shifting digital landscape that we live in. It looks at topics such as the psychology of video gaming in South Korea, playing and working in Second Life, multi-user games such as World of
Warcraft, the recently opened Army Experience Center in Philadelphia, and remote warfare conducted in Afghanistan and Iraq via unmanned drones controlled from a base outside of Las Vegas.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Disney Blogger Weighs In On Billion Dollar "NextGen" Project

"" blogger Kevin Yee (click title link) ruminates on why Disney is going to spend a billion dollars to develop, produce and implement the "next generation" way to connect with this technology might work...and what the possible downsides might be.

Yee is one of the most important Disney watchers in the blogosphere. He has excellent sources throughout the Disney company (especially inside Imagineering), so his take is always illuminating. He explores the pros and cons of this technological leap.

The ubber-question that seems to underlie all the other considerations is this one:

"Will Disney use this technology primarily to pad the bottom line -- steer guests toward high-pried retail opportunities, close off under-used parts of the park and amass data about guests to manipulate them buying more Disney more of the time...or will Disney use this technology to give people a better, more personal guest experience?"

What's your take?

Friday, January 22, 2010

When Members Contribute to (And Help Curate) Collections...

The New York Times (click title) covers the "next generation" of guest involvement in contributing to, shaping and even co-curating museum content. Several museums-to-be are soliciting content from future guests, and sharing this content on-line. The Smithsonian has something called "Smithsonian Commons," which allows visitors to "download, share and remix the museum's vast collection of public domain assets." They'll be able to use the museum as a kind of micro-Internet, creating personalized niche views of the collection by using (fully licensed) images on their web sites and Facebook pages.

The Smithsonian's new media director, Michael Edson, says that this is a mission-shift "from an authority-centric broadcast platform to one that recognizes the importance of distributive knowledge creation." (Whew!)

The most important question raised seems to be, "How do museum curators encourage participation, create interest through involvement, and give up enough control to engage people, without losing control?" Any thoughts?