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.