Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Amazing Colossal Video Wall

The Hard Rock Hotel has created "The Great Wall of Las Vegas." This is the mother of all touch screen video walls -- 72 square feet. Step right up and explore every digital artifact (photos and videos) in the Hard Rock collection:

This could solve conundrums faced by a lot of museums -- how do you provide access to the collection, without building a facility the size of the Las Vegas Convention Center (roughly 3 Malls of America, with the New Orleans Superdome for "backstage")? And how do you present media-based artifacts -- film, video, audio? Something like this provides an elegant solution that will appeal to "digital natives" who have never known a world without Google, Grand Theft Auto and Facebook.

Yes, I know something like this costs mega-bucks, but the hardware and software actually gets cheaper and better every year.

Friday, December 4, 2009

I've Seen the Future...or Have I?

The December '09 issue of Esquire presents...according to the cover...a "living, breathing, moving, talking magazine." Buy the magazine, download the software, hold the marker up to your compuer webcam, and Robert Downey Jr. is comin' at ya! Here's a video that tells you how it works.

A lot of people (including a majority at BRC Imagination Arts) believe that museums, science centers, brand centers and theme parks will soon be using augmented reality to add a new, exciting dimension to the guest experience.

We bought the magazine. We tried it out. We were...underwhelmed. What happened here is what often happens when people who know one medium well dabble in another medium -- they treat the second medium as a gimmick, rather than a tool.

As I played with the magazine, I was reminded of the scene in "A Christmas Story" where Ralphie finally gets his hands on his Little Orphan Secret Decoder Ring. He decodes his first secret message, and it's "Drink Ovaltine." An AD! The radio show used this new piece of technology to deliver a commercial! That's what this felt like.

Monday, November 23, 2009

"One Small Step..."

Click on the title and go to a site called "We Choose the Moon" -- a presentation on the Apollo 11 mission. This site was created for the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. Great animation, nice integration of mission information and interactive photo, video and JFK galleries. The mission is divided into 11 parts, and features the authentic sound of Mission Control communicating with the astronauts under the animation.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Smart Phone Scavenger Hunts

Greg Snyder and Myles Nye, aka the Wise Guys, operate a whole range of site-specific “scavenger hunt” style games in the Los Angeles area. Many of these games involve challenges that incorporate the use of smart phone (iPhone or Blackberry) QR tag-reading apps such at Neo Reader or BeeTagg. Check out their site.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Bad Projector Karma


I’m so sorry I offended you yesterday. As the session organizer, I did all of the normal stuff you like. I assembled the participants in the room before the session. We connected all of the equipment ahead of time and tested it. We sat in a circle. We sang the “What Could Possibly Go Wrong” song as we ate lunch at the foot of the projection screen. All the normal stuff, right?

So what happened? Why did you have let 0 show up. I know you’re sensitive, but when you pout, you also get surly. You know 0 means a one-way ticket to equipment crash-ville. Don’t think I don’t know who caused that projector to overheat again and again.

I know calling the session, The Emerging Digital Museum, was like ringing a dinner bell for 0, but did you have toy with me? You’re the only thing between me and 0. You’re my only protection, so I can’t just blame 0 can I?

Look, I don’t want to blow this out of proportion. I am sorry for whatever I did or said. We’ve done a lot of great work together, but the truth is you’re just going have to thicken your skin. Yesterday was just the tip of the iceberg. This conversation is going to continue and people are going to say things that you don’t like.

But that’s no excuse to serve them up on a platter for 0. You know that part of you just wanted to see me run around that room like a crazy person. I guess it was kind of funny.

Anyway, do you want to go to that Apple store this weekend? Do you think the new 15-inch MacBook Pro would make me look fat?


Final AAM Questions

These are the final questions used to start the conversation at the Emerging Digital Museum session at AAM on Sunday, May 3, 2009:

How do we define the concept of the emerging digital museum?

Can we adapt traditional museum content development techniques to meet the needs of our changing audience?

How will recent participatory, contributory and collective trends be capitalized on by museums?

How will we use web 2.0 and 3.0 to link physical spaces to virtual communities and worlds?

What trends in formal education will influence how we plan future museum experiences?

Is mobile access to information making the world more museum-like?

How will the emerging digital museum change staffing needs for museums?

Will museums in the near future become oases away from the hyper-linked world around us?

Sunday, February 15, 2009

What Does Shane Battier Have To Do With Museums??

Shane Battier plays basketball for the Houston Rockets. He “is widely regarded inside the N.B.A. as, at best, a replaceable cog in a machine driven by superstars.” His scoring average is nothing special, nor are his other stats. Yet according to the New York Times Magazine article (click title of this post), Shane Battier might be as valuable to the Rockets as Yao Ming. He should be an All-Star. Why? The author, Michael “Moneyball” Lewis says...

“When he is on the court, his teammates get better, often a lot better, and his opponents get worse — often a lot worse. He may not grab huge numbers of rebounds, but he has an uncanny ability to improve his teammates’ rebounding. He doesn’t shoot much, but when he does, he takes only the most efficient shots. He also has a knack for getting the ball to teammates who are in a position to do the same, and he commits few turnovers. On defense, although he routinely guards the N.B.A.’s most prolific scorers, he significantly reduces their shooting percentages. At the same time he somehow improves the defensive efficiency of his teammates — helping them out in all sorts of subtle ways.”

Battier’s problem is that, until very recently, NBA teams have had no interest in measuring what the author calls “the right things” -- the intangibles that produce victory.

So what does this have to do with “The Emerging Digital Museum”? What if....museums could develop an entirely new way of measuring their worth to the community, and these numbers could be used for fundraising and promotional purposes? For example...

• # of guests who developed an enduring (lifetime) interest in the subject because of a museum visit.

• # of guests who shifted career goals because of a museum visit -- perhaps becoming a teacher, and influencing the lives of thousands of young people

• # of people who decided to move to a community because it boasted a such a great museum

• # of guests who formed life-changing friendships, meeting other people as enthusiastic about the museum as they were.

If all this sounds a big silly, so did the ramblings of the brilliant iconoclast Bill James when he began (self) publishing his “Baseball Abstract” back in the early 1980’s. When Oakland Athletics General Manager Billy Beane began using James’s stats, Beane's Oakland team (30 million dollar payroll) often equaled or bettered the New York Yankees (180 million dollar payroll).

The digital world allows museums to measure guest interest in new ways (exhibit visits, time in museum, website hits, Facebook links, blogpost chatter, etc.) Is your museum the “Shane Battier” of the museum world? What statistics could prove that?

Sunday, February 8, 2009

What "Digital Natives" Want In A Museum

A “digital native” is someone who has never known a world without networked computers, 279 channels of cable television, video games and text-ready cell phones. And -- I would argue -- one thing digital natives want in a museum is to “go deeper” -- to experience the meaning of exhibits and artifacts, as revealed in stories.

Last week Mark Hayward shared a story about the wildly successful “Titanic: The Exhibition” at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry. More than 850,000 guests experienced this breakthrough event. Why was it so successful? Perhaps because people brought two sets of stories to the exhibit -- what happened aboard the actual ship, and what happened in the recent smash hit movie. The Titanic attraction satisfied a public hunger to remember both sets of stories, and to share them with friends and family members.

What if the Smithsonian had brought a modern “digital native” approach to their exhibition of the Enola Gay? The Smithsonian ran into a buzzsaw of criticism as it was about to put the Enola Gay fuselage on display as part of an exhibit, “The Crossroads: The End of World War II, the Atomic Bomb and the Cold War.” Groups like the American Legion and the Air Force Association objected to the sympathetic portrayal of Japanese casualties as opposed to the role the atomic bomb had in ending the war. Historians defended the exhibit, but in the end it was canceled. Today the Enola Gay is a major permanent exhibit at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center of the National Air and Space Museum, with a purposely bland summary of technical data and virtually no history.

I would suggest that, in the 21st century museum, curators will welcome the “fight” (i.e. struggle to define historical meaning) the Smithsonian is evading. How can guests learn the meaning of what happened at Hiroshima on November 6, 1945 unless they can see it from all sides, and every perspective?

My understanding of those events is shaded by the stories my mother told me. She heard about the atomic bomb on the radio. She immediately knew two things. One, her husband (my father) would not be sent to Japan to fight (and possibly be killed) in a land-based invasion of Japan. Two, the viability of the human race had become more tenuous because of the unfathomable killing power of this amazing weapon.

Imagine an Enola Gay exhibit that included informed, thought-provoking input from the Air Force Association, Hiroshima survivors, military experts, American and Japanese historians, young people who have grown up in the shadow of terrifying super weapons...and my mother.

Might even be another “Titanic.”

Saturday, January 31, 2009

"Indian Museum Will Put Entire Collection Online"

First some facts from the (clickable) Washington Post article above, then some questions.

• The National Museum of the American Indian has 800,000 objects in its collection. It currently displays about 1% of them.
• In four years, all 800,000 objects will be available to the public in its "Fourth Museum" (its website)
• The Museum will not only describe the objects. It will also describe how the object became part of the collection (as per requests from the public).
• The Museum web interface will allow people to contribute information about objects, increasing their "story power."
• Putting the collection online will allow millions of native peoples who will never visit the physical museum itself to discover and enjoy its riches.

• What is a 21st century museum? Is it a place, or an experience?
• How would putting your entire collection online change your museum?
• What happens when visitors become participants in your curatorial process?

Friday, January 30, 2009

"Add Interactive Fun to a 27 Year Old Venue? KimPossible!"

How can you re-invent your museum to attract “digital natives” – young people who have grown up with the Internet, video games, and 24/7 connectivity?

Do you have to tear out your exhibits, replace artifacts with plasma screens and risk alienating your older visitors with flashy, loud, bright eye candy? Maybe not.

Walt Disney World’s Epcot Theme Park has a reputation as a staid, slightly stuffy “educational” experience with few attractions for younger people. To change the “blink” on Epcot, Disney just introduced the “Kim Possible World Showcase Adventure.” Kevin Yee went there, and describes how the attraction works. (Click on the title of this post to read his adventures.)

What’s most interesting about “Kim Possible” is how Disney solved their “digital native” problem. They didn’t build a new attraction. They simply re-defined Epcot as a great site for a digital “treasure hunt adventure game.”

Everyone wins here. Kids can play with parents. Parents don’t have to put up with bored, cranky kids all day. The game creates a “park within a park”, presenting a different experience for different generations. All this is accomplished with a clever use of digital technology – no new buildings.

When this game has run its course, new games can be introduced and promoted with relative ease.

Have you ever thought of your museum as the site for a treasure hunt? Maybe you’ve got a treasure trove of young guests just waiting to be discovered.

Digital Learning and Museums

One evening last summer while driving home from work I heard an interview with Maryanne Wolf, director of Tufts University’s Center for Reading and Language research. The subject of the show was how digital learning interfaces are affecting and/or changing the way we process information and even how our brains are hardwired.

In Wolf’s recent book, Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain, she starts by exploring how humans invented, taught and learned language over the past 5000 years. She then examines how individual children acquire and master spoken and written language. Finally she looks at what happens in the brains of children and adults who struggle to acquire language skills.

The radio story got me thinking about the potentially profound implications that Wolf’s work has for communication in museum experiences. How will museum designers, planners, curators and educators anticipate and accommodate the changing needs of this emerging digital generation? This topic seemed like a natural for a panel presentation at the 2009 American Association of Museums conference April 30 – May 4 in Philadelphia. So I called some friends and we put a session together.

The Emerging Digital Museum session will be held on Sunday, May 3rd at 2:00pm. Our presenters include:

Eric Mauriello, Partner/Chief Strategy Officer

Carolyn Brown, Co-Founder and Co-Director
Iowa Language and Literacy Institute

Mira Cohen, Director of Education
Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum

Barbara Lombardo, Partner, Americas Learning Solutions Leader
IBM Global Business Services

Martin Storksdieck, Director of Project Development
Institute for Learning Innovation

This blog in intended to spark a pre-conference dialog about this rich topic.