Museum Of Jewish Heritage

As the end of the semester was coming up, I reflected on all the different museums I had already visited this semester (Guggenheim, Whitney, AMNH, Cooper Hewitt…) and what other museums I may want to visit. Upon my reflection, I noticed that most of the museums were of art or design. Although I enjoy art, I thought the next museum I’d visit would be more along the lines of where I would like to work, so I decided to go to a history museum. Perusing a list of museums, I decided to go to the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Downtown Manhattan. When I exited the train, I saw that there were not many people around – partly because of it being Sunday and partly because of the extreme winds. However, when I got to the museum I realized that the winds had not stopped people visiting as the place was packed. When I got to the front desk I found out a few things: the first floor of the museum was closed for exhibition changes; the admission had switched to suggested donation; there was a completely free new exhibit that I had not heard of; and the museum did not have an app, but they did have audio guides (in over 8 languages) available for an extra cost.

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After thinking about where I wanted to start, new exhibit or permanent collection, I chose to start on the 2nd floor with the permanent collection. The moment I walked through the doors of the elevator I realized that this was not going to be a quiet, reflective museum experience. The high volume of noise that immediately hits you as you enter makes a person think shouldn’t people be quite and respectful? But when I walked though the doors I realized that the noise was not because people were joking around or doing whatever, but rather there were active groups having discussions and connecting the information and exhibits in front of them to what they knew about the Holocaust. There were many groups of parents walking with their children, and groups of adults walking around. Most of these private groups were small, none larger then 4 people. There was a museum educator taking a family group of seven through the exhibit, She was not asking questions, but rather putting in bits of information to keep the conversation going between the parents and the kids in the group.

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The museum offers an all-around full senses experience. There was music playing from speakers in each room, so that there were no quiet areas, except for a few intentionally quiet reflective areas. Additionally, there were many TV screens that were casting either videos of what happened or the recorded testimonials of the survivors who lived through and had sat down to record for posterity what they had lived through. While movies were catching people’s attention, it did not take away their attention from other jarring images. What was a little surprising was that many people stood/sat in front the longer videos and watched them throughout. One group that I watched sat through the full 6-minute video. Additionally, all the movies that were playing, regardless of language, had subtitles on the bottom of the screen in English. But it wasn’t only the music and video playing that added to the atmosphere, the walls itself – those that did not house information or artifacts – were integrated into the exhibit by having images as wallpaper. Each room had a different subject and that subject had related pictures as the wallpaper. In addition to everything else going on, it was clear that English was not the only language being spoken. There were many volunteer tour guides leading groups. In the two hours that I was by the museum I was able to distinguish at least 7 different languages: English, Hebrew, Yiddish, Spanish, Russian, German and Chinese.

I got to the end of the permanent collection and saw that there was a group of 25 kids that were sitting on the floor and working, so I decided to observe them and see what they were doing. What I discovered was that they were from a Jewish Sunday School program, and that the curricula that they had worked out with the museum concluded with the exercise that they were doing now. They had separated into groups of three and each picked a different object in the exhibition to report and present on, explaining what they chose and why. They were first asked about their objective observations of the object and then if they felt a personal connection. Followed by why this object stood out to them. Some kids stood at attention and were very interested while others just claimed they were tired and wanted to sit in the corner and relax. The teacher in connection with the museum educator tried to stress the connection between the people that had survived the entirety of their persecution 60 years ago with how these in today’s world still had a connection even if they didn’t happen to be Jewish.

Then I walked through the divider between the permanent collection and the Leo Frank exhibit where I passed by a very interesting semi- interactive exhibit. The exhibit titled Voices of Liberty had an outside art component that the artist literally grew trees through the middle of huge boulders. The interactive part of this exhibit consisted of two consoles that let the user jump through the timeline “fast- forwarding” and watching the seedling go through the rock and grow. This illustration was meant to show that although the seemingly impossibility and hardships this little seedling was able to break through the impossible to survive.

On a whole, the museum surprised me. It wasn’t the quiet and reflective place that I thought it would be. Nonetheless, this was a pleasant surprise because personally, I would rather have people discussing everything out loud and having conversations, then having just internal thoughts and not connecting them with other people, which while also being good is just not the same.

Sources

  1. A New AR Invasion: Pokémon Go!, Center For the Future Of Museums, July 2016- Before I got to VR I was thinking maybe Augmented Reality could somehow be implemented, but I quickly discounted this idea because it usually distracts the user and like Pokémon Go can be downloaded outside the Library and played anywhere. http://futureofmuseums.blogspot.com/search/label/Gaming
  2. Herminia Din and William B. Crow, Museums Unfixed in Place and Time, American Alliance of Museums August 2009- As I was reading this article I started thinking about how virtual reality could be used in the public forum. After reading over this assignment I realized that this idea would be perfect and went back to the article for ideas. https://lms.pratt.edu/pluginfile.php/661084/mod_resource/content/1/Museums%20Unfixed%20article.pdf
  1. The Louvre Museum Virtual Reality App Through the You Visit website- The Louvre Museums has an online VR component that allows user to walk around the Louvre from your bedroom. This idea formed the bedrock of my idea offering the possibility of the mind being in one area and the mind in a completely different world. http://www.youvisit.com/tour/louvremuseum
  1. Jonathan Shieber, Museum Collections Enter VR With The Launch Of The Woofbert VR App For Samsung Gear, Tech Crunch, November 2015- Once I established that is was possible to transport the mind away from the body, so to speak, I decided to see if there was a technology out there that allowed for multiple places at once. The Woofbert App allows users to go through multiple art collections from different museums through the same app. https://techcrunch.com/2015/11/17/museum-collections-enter-vr-with-the-launch-of-the-woofbert-vr-app-for-samsung-gear/
  1. The Oculus Company Website-Once the idea was down I started looking at possible existing hardware. One existing company called Oculus uses a VR headwear with finger controls. While it is not a full body suit it does use some body motions. https://www.oculus.com/
  1. Low-latency Inertial Motion Capture Suits and Sensors, Yost Labs-Looking further I found a company that offers sensitive motion sensors that would be very useful for this project. The company called Yost Labs uses a 3-space sensor to make sure that it catches all movements. https://yostlabs.com/3-space-sensors/
  2. Jonathan Nafarrete, Visualize Built a Full-Body Virtual Reality ‘Cell’ to Play In, V R Scout, October 2015- I finally stumbled onto a pre-existing idea that fully imported everything I wanted for my project and bundled it all under the name of a cell. http://vrscout.com/projects/visualise-full-body-virtual-reality

 

User Persona

Once the project is completed, and the entire gaming system is set up, 15 year-old Jamal hears about free cool games, from a school guidance counselor, and decides to check it out. He goes into the library and asks the librarian who immediately sends him up to the 3rd floor. Before reaching the third floor, Jamal was expecting to see couches, a Playstation, Xbox, maybe a Wii, but what he finds shocks him. He sees 6 “cells” with people wearing headsets in VR suits walking around and moving their arms in all different directions, moving their avatars in the fake world. He asks the staff what’s going on who explains that each of them is playing a different person in a different world. The staff explains the different available worlds and Jamal chooses the Hunger games.

  • Staff then helps Jamal put on the headset and suit and gives him instructions.
  • Jamal puts on the Headgear and body suit and using his connected hands turns on the system and selects the Hunger Games.
  • He then goes through an automatic test where the game asks Jamal to move around to calibrate the system to his movements.
  • Jamal plays for many hours until his mom texts him that it’s late and he has to come home.
  • As he leaves, the staff asked him what he thought. Jamal smiled and said: “I’ll definitely be back.”

The Hangout: Virtual Reality In the Library

When I was looking into different options for how to design the available space that was given for this project in the library, I reflected on previous discussions that I had with colleagues and thought back to a very interesting topic of virtual reality and how it can be, and when it isn’t, useful both inside and out of a museum. Many people believe that virtual reality should be outright banned inside a museum because it is only a distraction from the art that is in front of the person. Virtual and augmented realities like Pokémon Go or other screen based programs keep the viewer’s eyes either on the screen or on the creations taking the full attention away from the real art on display. However there are many positive uses of virtual reality outside of the museum, for instance, people who are sick and physically unable to physically visit the museum can now use different facets of virtual reality for their own use and benefit. Thus, I decided to see how it would be possible to integrate a virtual reality system into a library in a way that would not only be fun and enjoyable but also educational. It is also important to note that the intended audience would be teenagers and kids. The library system as a whole needs to find ways to attract them, and utilizing modern technology is one way to do that. By offering them an experience that no one else can for free is a surefire way for them to come in and stick around.

While thinking about different ways of integration, I came up with a few possibilities-such as a virtual reality tour as a finding aid; or for libraries that offer training to help immigrants become Americans to create a virtual reality history, so that users can live through the time periods needed to pass the immigration test. After thinking about this last idea I realized that while it was a good idea it needed to be tweaked to give access to teenagers who wouldn’t enjoy history. Everyone knows that we go to the library to read and enjoy the books, but what if we could take that enjoyment one step even further and take the visualization that happens in the brain when reading and by using VR to create the world from the storybook so that the user can step inside the book. There is one thing to be able to read and envision what is happening in our heads but it is another entirely to be able to act out and see the authors’ world through the eyes of the main character.

Using virtual reality equipment that all ready exists we will create a full body system that places the user in a virtual world out of the library books, so that the user can experience the story as the main character. While the virtual reality software is already available, the story line and graphics and everything needed for the game portion would have to be started from the beginning. Thus part of the money from the grant would have to be put towards a graphic designer along with a story designer as well as someone to rewrite the software. The physical design of the room would be workable with any open flat open area such as an open floor: an empty space with six separated interactive areas each one with a virtual reality machine and space to allow the user to move within it while his mind would be moving simultaneously in the virtual world. Besides from electricity and maybe an Internet connection not much would be needed from the participating library except for its physical space.

Taking all this and putting it together we now have a flat open area with six sections, each section having its own virtual reality headset and software now the thing that is still missing is the six different virtual stories that each system would play. There are definitely some permanent stories that would need to be there and some that would be able to switch out as some books come into popularity and others fade out. On the permanent side (obviously admitting to having a personal bias in this case) would be a Harry Potter storyline that would either focus on one year or make pick different important “missions” from all seven years; the Saga of Darren Shan which while it may be a little unknown it has all the essences of a great storyline- vampires, vampire killers, love and death; the Percy Jackson series which can include the first 5 books or even the second Olympians series; a Series of Unfortunate Events would be a very cool and long story that would keeps users coming back for more as they work their way through the orphan children troubles; the recent favorite the Hunger Games; and my personal favorite the mysterious Shutter Island. Or they could be switched out for books that have historical significance, such as a To Kill A Mockingbird that would let the user feel how it felt to live in the Jim Crow South.

To get all this done we would need to apply for additional grants to help pay for the virtual reality systems as well as graphic designers for the games and audio experts to do the voices and other technology related staffers. While there are many generous grants available out there are three that stand out and seem to have the best fit for the envisioned program. There is the NYC Government that has all different types of program to help students after school; there is the Bloomberg Philanthropies organization that funds virtual reality in different museums and other programs aimed for educating the youth; and finally there is the Grants from Institute for Museums and Libraries (IMLS) which is given through the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) that offers technology grants to libraries and looking through their requirements it seems like this program would be a good fit for the grant. Once the money would come through, and the space allotted from the museum work would be able to commence almost immediately.

The Whitney Museum Of Art

On two separate occasions, I visited the Whitney museum and my experience could not have been any different. This post will be an amalgamation of the two visits exploring what stayed the same, what was different and perhaps the reason as why that is. I visited on September 25 and October 9.

Regarding the weather, the two dates were polar opposite: the former was a warm bright sunny day, while the latter was cold, wet and gloomy. This however did not have any apparent impact on the museum’s attendance. It was crowded as always –jam-packed with people from various backgrounds. On the 9th, however, there was a noticeable increase in the amount of kids, in comparison to my previous where kids were almost nonexistent. This factor can easily be attributed to the kids’ art program schedule coinciding to when I was visiting. Usually the program runs from 1-3pm. On the 25th, I arrived at 3:15pm and on the 9th at 11:40am. Therefore, I saw many more kids._mg_6970-0

The Whitney’s brand-new building has a striking figure over-looking the Hudson. This enticing view, as well as the man-made Highline Park that is right next- door, sets a very pretty scenery before even entering the museum. Upon entering, everything is brand new – from the shiny glass to the digital signs spewing whimsical random idioms. After waiting on line, I discovered that unlike the Guggenheim, the Whitney charges for their audio-visual guide. Though, on an interesting note they give them for free to visitors under 18. Since the admission price is a hefty 25 dollars, it certainly did not surprise me that not too many people splurged the extra 6 bucks on the guides. On both my visits combined, I don’t believe I saw more than 20 visitors actually walking around with the guides. The free tour, on the other hand, on every floor, was filled to capacity. Wherever there was a tour guide he/she was always surrounded by a large group, consisted (from what I could see) of mostly older individuals or older couples.

Unlike the Guggenheim, the Whitney not only allows, but also openly encourages the use of photography. Thus, there is a different atmosphere in the Whitney. It is loud, flashy and crowded, at times too much to take in all at the same time. Because each floor of the Whitney is essentially one huge room cut into smaller exhibit rooms by dividing walls, there is not a lot of walking space in areas where people are prone to congregate and stand in for a long time.

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In the Whitney, there aren’t many interactive exhibits, if at all. There are some exhibits that involve the visitor, like a TV screen with headphones attached that requires the visitor to put them on. In the 40 minutes I sat there watching, I saw a total of 4 people (all of them under the age of 35) pick up the headphones and listen. Now, this may be because there are guards all over the place constantly reminding people not to touch anything, combined with there being no sign by the headphones saying put me on. However, what I did witness was that when one person picked up the headphones, there was a more likely after- effect of the next person picking them up. For instance, there were two girls wandering, one unsure, sneakily picked up one set of headphones and her friend seeing her do that and the guard not telling them to stop, also picked them up.

One thing I noticed were the substantial crowds that formed around digital pieces with sounds, such as movies and videos. Not only did those pieces draw them in, it also made them linger for longer periods of time. As opposed to the other pieces of art where people would just “graze” and continue on. While it might not seem intentional, their placement in a gallery has a purpose. Having an eye-catcher at the entrance to an exhibit will bring people in and cause them to stay for a longer period of time. Once the media catches the viewer’s attention, then it is more likely that people will continue into the exhibit and spend more time then they would have without.

The most interesting complete digital experience, in my opinion, was the Black Friday exhibit done by Sophia Al-Maria. Located on the first floor, it occupies its own huge space and commands crowds for long periods of time, even though staying a long time could be painful on the ears because of the booming noises. The exhibit itself consisted of one huge 20-foot tall screen that played a video of a woman (presumably Al-Maria) walking around a huge mall/ church. Taken from various vantage points and angles, and using special effects the artist wanted to create an experience of dizziness, which the artist equates to what people experiences when they first walk into such huge “capitals of capitalism.” In addition to the big screen, in front of it lies a big mound of sand with various forms of electronics sprinkled around-phones, Smartphone’s, tablets, Ipads, TV screens (modern and old). Each screen played a different image, or set of images: some had a thousand images whirring by so that one clearly couldn’t be seen; while others had stills or different effects on the images, like a screensaver on a computer. After doing some research I realized that in fact these were two separate parts, and thus had different titles. The screen was Black Friday, while the flickering electronics was dubbed the Litany.

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The reason why this exhibit fascinated me so much is the interaction that happened not on a physical scale, i.e. touching, but on an emotional scale that activated all your senses. When you walked in the loud noise immediately attacked your ears, the flashing bright lights attacked your eyes, and the loud music also made the floor shake making an all out attack on your senses that caused the person to be dizzy and disorientated. This was very cool to see how one exhibit alone is capable of evoking such powerful reactions and sensations.

Final Class

With the recent election results and the politically correct movement the point that is made is that the words that we use are very important. How we talk to a person can either make them feel included or push them far away and make them feel like an outcast. As a museum these same principles apply, how we talk to communities- are we warm and inviting? Are we open to the community? Or as Monica Montgomery calls it do we have transactional diversity? Transactional diversity is the idea that the museum has a transaction with a person or community and then when it’s over, the transaction is done and the connection severed. Monica’s whole PowerPoint talks about how we as museums and we as individuals need to connect to people and puts forth rules for community engagement and base building for a museum. This final blog will focus on how a museum can bring people in, involving the people, and then once they leave to keep the involvement going.

Within many communities there is the idea of threshold fear- the sense of discomfort upon walking into an unfamiliar and potentially threatening space. This idea in the museum world translates into community members being scared of the content inside or members that don’t feel warm or welcome inside the museum space. Using Monica’s 5 levels of community engagement we can get people involved and make the museum into a place that as everyone in the class listed about themselves, feeling safe in a museum. The five levels are as follows- inform which means to let people out there know that the museum exists; consult which is going out and asking the community what they would like; involve takes this one step further and lets the community have give and take allowing their opinion to be important; collaborating is actively involving community leaders and asking their opinions on relating exhibits or projects; and community leads is the highest level where the museum gives the space to the community and allows them to use the space as fits them and allows the museum to be a space for the communities voice.

Using these levels as our measurement of growth we can ask ourselves relating questions, such as do the people around us know that we are here? In Monica’s case, at the beginning the people in the surrounding areas did not know that the museum was there but after much time they came to associate the house with community events that they had been invited to. Other questions such as do the people outside of our immediate circle know that we are there? Which in the case of the Lewis Howard Latimer Historic House many even after community building was done, people outside that area did not know about it. However in the case of the Guggenheim even people outside of New York know about it because of its commanding size, location and stature. The final and most important question that must be asked is do people feel warm and welcome? The answer to that is very complex. A small historic house such as the Latimer in Queens can connect and feel homelier then big institutions like the Met who can’t possibly focus on each individual group that will come through its doors. The Latimer under Monica seems to have successfully catered to the African Americans in the area as well as the Chinese, Spanish and White so that no matter what your language, color, gender, or level of knowledge you are able to get the full positive experience.

But reaching the people is not necessarily confined to the museum space. The Laundromat project, which is not actually run by a museum, is a project that combines many different aspects bringing art and social justice to the people where they already congregate, instead of trying to get the people to come to the museum. Using laundromats or areas of congregation and utilizing them as vocal centers is an idea that social activist have used but museums have been sorely lacking in. Museums have always used artist to connect to ideas or to get people to connect to museum through art but the laundromat project aims to use artist’s ability to bring unconventional perspectives and creative solutions to challenges in an open public space. The community does not want to be treated like a child where the idea and biases that are in an institution put forward works that connect how they feel. However, pieces should be put together to let the individual, and community as a whole, unleash his/ her curiosity and get the mind thinking on its own without having someone else voice putting thoughts in their heads. Free thought is something that is hard to come about in a museum because of biases of the institution and its curators. Therefore, going back to the highest level of community engagement is the idea of community leads where the individual community comes up with the program getting rid of any institutional biases (with the hope that the community is open minded)

In conclusion, I thought this last class was a great way to finish the semester off. The whole semester we have been talking about inclusion- inclusion of people of color, people with disabilities, people outside of the museum. But as a whole this focus has been on people outside of the museum usually further away. This final week, with the very energetic presentation by Monica, closes off the semester by reminding us that while it is very important to bring people in, it is just as important to make sure that the people in the immediate environment of the museum know that they are always welcome. This brings to mind the activity that we had sometime in the middle of the semester where we asked ourselves if certain museums were targeting local audiences or if their targets were for the general public. No matter where the “focus” of the museum is we should always be welcome and open to each and every person no matter where they are from, who they are or what background they come from and always with a smile.

Accessing the Museum

During the past few weeks we have been discussing how the museum can give access to people outside of the physical building, and how to let people reach the museum without the physicality of visiting. This week focuses on a slightly different angle, how the museum worker (not the institution) interacts with people and other museum professionals. Mark Shlemmer realized that there was an existing issue of interactions between museum professionals and others and so he came up with a very interesting idea that utilizes the existing technology that is Twitter and called it @ITweetMuseum. There are many simultaneous ideas at work at the same time with this Twitter handle as Mark clearly set out in his PowerPoint. He has informal meetings of professionals in the cultural field to get them out and have a new focus and eyes on different works. He has created a method and mode of discourse that uses Twitter to pose questions and answers that anyone in the field can propose ideas as possible answers. The results of all these conversations and the discourse going around has all been catalogued by Mark himself and can be reviewed and researched for new ideas and thoughts. This is a very crucial idea. Before if one wanted to be on the front of museum dialogue they would have to visit conferences and go to lectures. @ITweetMuseum allows the museum professional to not only be a part of the dialogue, no matter his/ her level of expertise, but also do this from the comfort of their home- at the scheduled time or even weeks later.

Creating modes of discourse such as #askacurator or #museumworkersspeak, allows for an open discourse to happen and the numbers show that people are becoming involved. These people are not looking to participate with museums or institutional responses but rather they want the same level of professionalism that the job demands but also being from the personal accounts and offering a more personal touch to the conversation. When dealing with an institution there are certain boundaries that one has to stick to, people don’t want to only hear the black and white of it- they want to hear and see the grey, know what thoughts and arguments went into the decisions that are being made and what possible outcomes can be expected. These are things that as an institution it is hard to talk about because if there is a mistake then it reflects badly on the name of the museum. However, a person making a mistake happens and is not as bad and doesn’t really damage the museums rep.

It is true that many museum workers feel invisible and feel that their work is not appreciated, mainly because many people have no idea what exactly happens behind the scenes. The visits that Mark creates brings cultural professionals to museums, that are mostly not their own, allows for an acknowledgement to happen. For one museum professional to see, appreciate and acknowledge all the hard work of all the invisible people behind the scenes. Additionally, I know that sometimes one begins to work and think only about the collection or works that one is around all the time i.e. at work. Thus, it is always important to get out and view what other museums are doing and maybe see how any issues you are having are being answered or discussed and solved in other places.

I am not someone who is “savvy” with social media platforms. Sure I know how to go on and use various platforms but as a whole I don’t consider myself a poster. I use it mainly for jokes or messaging friends I have met outside of the country. That being said when I was looking at the assignment for this week, to find a few social media platforms that are interesting, I had to ask myself what platforms or whose platforms would really interest me? So for the first time in a while I went on to Twitter and started looking for serious prospects- something that would interest me and at the same time be thought proving. So I thought back as a kid what was a great fascination for me and I thought let me search for NASA. What I found was that while the pictures were amazingly cool it didn’t really interest me enough to get me thinking so I decided to move on. In college my focus was the Holocaust, and while I’ve been to many Holocaust Museums around the globe I had never been to the one in Washington D.C. When I opened up its Twitter page the first thing I saw was that the museum has reached the milestone of 40 million visitors and this got me thinking. So I decided to investigate and found out that the museum had been dedicated in 1993. Meaning that in under 25 years it had averaged over 1.7 million visitors which according to their website states that of those 40 million 10 were children. When I thought of this it got me thinking how many museums I went to as a kid and how privileged I was, when there are so many more under-privileged children who don’t get access to museums which leads to children missing out on both history and culture.

Additionally, for me one of the biggest issues in the museum field is the fact that you have to know about internships, jobs and fellowships in order to be able to access them and apply. Many times without knowing the right people it is impossible to know about them. Listening to Mark go on about the possible ease to converse and create bonds without actually meeting the person, opens up possibilities of finding out new information that @ITweetMuseum has at its fingertips. If I wanted using the lists that Mark created inside the twitter page I can branch out and find people and ask them questions in ways that personally I wouldn’t be able to do in person. I can get lazy and talk myself out of going to events and actually talking to people (what it takes to network). Being In New York, and going to Pratt offers so many options. However, it is up to the individual to grab the initiative and make the leap forward in order to be able to fully use all the opportunities at my disposal.

American Museum of Natural History

This week’s visit to the American Museum of Natural History was a new experience because the past few museums apps that I have used have either been a bust(Guggenheim) or not “out there” (Met-just website). For so many reasons the apps at the AMNH not only wowed us as a group but seemed to bring people into the exhibit in new and exciting ways. The app MicroRangers is supposed to work only within the physical space of the museum and through the use of avatars projected onto an explorer coin, which allows the user to help save the microcosm. The app asks users to go through the exhibit and following missions that leads the user to different dioramas and help save the animal or life that is in the diorama. For example, when walking through the mammal kingdom I chose the Rabid Raccoon mission. Where the app asked me to first find the exhibit and scans the raccoon which then leads the avatar to explain your mission. The avatar asked me to figure out if there was a rabid raccoon (while teaching how to tell) and then using a mini- game to help save the remaining unaffected raccoons by throwing them vaccines to eat.

The idea behind the app is great! It carries out a two- fold experience, it first encourages people to spend time and explore the exhibit that, because it is on the way to a bigger exhibit, is usually just passed by. And it also is a new way for the museum to teach the user about climate change and allow the user to be a part of the fight against climate change showing them there are things that everyone can do. The app takes a new and interesting approach to getting people involved in cyber activism. The Ranger app succeeds brilliantly in invoking action through play and thought through thinking about issues not actually displayed inside of the exhibit.

What interested me the most about the MicroRangers app is the fact that it was a mixed accomplishment, that is to say, there were many people involved in the making of the app. While this is usually the case, here it was special because it was a collaboration between the museum staff and two groups of high school kids. The story line of the game was developed over time by these high school kids to give them a multi- faceted educational experience. They had to familiarize themselves with the entirety of the museum and think of possible stories and problems with the microbial ecosystems. This covered history, museum studies, and biology. Then they moved on to help develop the game- which gave them skills in technology and app development. In the game they continued helping adding their own voices as the games different voices- through the use of the museums sound rooms they developed further skill and recognition of voice technologies. In addition, it was not the museum who made the final decisions but rather the kids through their discourse and testing that came up with all the different choices for the app e.g. the color of the avatar being yellow because red would look scary. Lucky for the museum that the AMNH is large enough to have most of the systems in house as to bring the cost down. For example, the 3D features of the game were created through the collaboration with the exhibition department.

There are certain things within the game that show a clear use of user experience. The idea that the game could very well be expanded throughout the museum is great, however forcing people to go up the stairs and through the over 20 buildings that makes up the museum would just get people lost and cause them to be frustrated and give up the game. Therefore, it was a very smart decision to keep this app all on one floor in exhibits that are near each other. Additionally the fact that the game is free is a huge plus. Even more so is the fact that there is usually a person standing at the entrance of the exhibit talking people through the game and explaining exactly how all the different part works. The only downside for these people who choose not to go upstairs and sign up for the coin is the fact that they miss the cool factor of having the heavy coin.( Even though the paper postcard works just the same.)microranger_dynamic_lead_slide

What was cool was the amount of augmented reality in the app. As Hannah said there are three different uses of AR- the avatar that appears floating on top of the coin; the game that similar to Pokémon Go moves with you so that you can for example kill all the bad floating microbes; and the AR that puts you inside the animals. While integrating everything must have been challenging on all parties, it was a pleasure to see my classmates having a good time. This shows that while the game may have been intended for kids 7+ years old, older people can have just as much fun. Additionally, it was hilarious to see how the drawing turned 3D which wowed us just as much. No one had expected what we were drawing to suddenly pop up in 3D with everything that we drew and the specific colors that we drew it in. For me it was a very rare, and welcome, sight to see the energy being put into drawing kids and teens into the museum be so successful and so well designed that it could have such an effect on adults.

Even though I hadn’t been to the AMNH in a long time it has always been my favorite museum- partly because of the enormity of information and history that the museum holds and mainly because of the fascination and joy I had every time I went to the Hayden Planetarium. Needless to say, every memory I had of the museum stayed true and exceeded all my expectations.

Outside The Museum

The idea of an empathetic museum, one that is there for the people in a time of crises, went hand in hand with the topic of the day: the virtual museum. Now, one might wonder what is the connection. The answer to that lies in the museum making its content available to the public. There are many things that prevent access to a museum. Allowing online or outside access sidesteps the physical need to be there. The question is then what can museums offer outside of their doors? Libraries in times of crises have opened their doors and given safety to the public in times of need (see Baltimore Public library and New York Public Libraries). Museums have not been as helpful during times of crises, but there are other cultural ways that they have helped out. Museums have tried in other ways to still be pertinent public institutions in the eyes of the public. The museum has developed connections for many people outside its physical museum walls. This week’s blog will focus on what museums have to offer, outside, for each and every type of person.

For the researcher, student, scholar or straight up history junky, many museums offer online access to their archives, collections and other available manuscripts and documents. No matter who you are or why you want to view them these services are usually offered for free (after signing up). Additionally, many resources are available for teachers who are bringing their students to the institution, for resources that help pre-visit and after. Others museums are offering learning experiences for the average person such as Smart history offered by the Kahn Academy, that not only offers free art education but also offers free classes for almost every single subject.

They also cater to those who would rather connect through an online forum by allowing them to now connect through online communities hosted by the museum’s website. For example, the Shakespeare Translator Group was a great way for people who love Shakespeare to unite, both online and also occasionally physical meetups, to meet people who share their love and help translate olde English. This can also be seen in the community that was built around the Brooklyn Museum exhibit Click! A Crowd-Curated Exhibition. In this exhibit, people couldn’t see what exactly other people were doing, but they were all connected as one community, voting on what they thought defined Brooklyn best.

The next level of output is the digital media that museums put out through their assorted platforms. There are many museums that are active on Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook and other social media platforms, posting content and pictures for the public to consume and enjoy. Some museums still do podcasts, either through their website or ItunesU. Others like the MOMA have their own Youtube channels where they upload videos documenting their work or their artists’ works. Many times the reason they are doing so is to show the public all the work that really goes on behind the scenes and to reveal the “invisible hand”.

Then museums try to connect with apps, in the hopes that through it they can funnel content towards their viewers. Many museum apps, like the Guggenheim, are supposed to be used in tandem with a physical visit to the museum. Others, like the Magic Tate Ball app, allow users to access the art from any place on Earth. Others use augmented reality and virtual reality apps to use both in the museum and outside. The Woofbert app allows visitors to view a museum collection through VR app for Samsung gear.

Other museums use new technology, called immersive technology, to create websites that allow the users to get deep into the content all in the comfort of their own homes. The Remembering Lincoln website allows users to view and respond to contemporary thoughts on the assassination of Lincoln in 1963. Through this website, users can learn things not necessarily meant for the researcher or scholar. Similarly, the Met’s online Heilbronn Timeline allows a new level of interactivity to learning. By being given so many different novel ways of accessing thousands of years of art, the museums allows viewers to not only search art keywords with ease but also to search by place, time or people and be able to connect to items like it with ease.

Other innovators, like Jonathan Chomko and Matthew Rosier, have created what is called a “distributed digital experience,” an experience using multi- dimensional, multi personal, multi experience experience, without using anything digital. In their walkabout outside Banqueting House, they created a device that lets users listen to those had once populated the now Lost Palace. The device that they created is so genius because it allows us access to something that without technology would be lost to us. Additionally, because it is not an app on a Smartphone, tablet, Ipad or an electronic device, visitors pay more attention to what they are hearing and seeing around them as opposed to users who would use an app and be completely enveloped in the screen and not focus on what’s in front of them.

All the examples that have been brought up so far have been digital in some or all aspects. However, some museums have even been successful in bringing their museum to the museum without anything digital. The Riding the Rails exhibit going around in a mobile truck took he exhibit away from the building and brought it to events and places to give open access to those that otherwise maybe would not be able to go to the museum. The Philadelphia Public History Truck, another example of mobile non-digital access, is a mobile museum defying traditional notions of access and engagement issues via community curating, creating a mobile culture of civic engagement in Philadelphia’s public spaces. While for whatever reasons museums were not there to help during past disasters like libraries were, in regards to opening up cultural content and mobile availability museums keep trying and developing new ways to grant more public access.

Visit to the Met

The Metropolitan Museum of Art is one of the biggest and most famous museums in all the world and home to our second- class visit. This post will focus on our tour through the museum and how it relates to other topics we are talking about in class. A little bit about the museum as described by Neal- the museum is a cosmopolitan with people coming from all over the world. Interestingly enough the demographic of museums goers ahs shifted from being white Europeans has shifted over the past decades along with the global economy to many visitors coming from China and Brazil. As can be seen by the spectrum of exhibits the museum does not pick one “side” to the story. Rather they try to be fair and portray everyone as interconnecting as possible. This can be seen in the very interesting Jerusalem Exhibit that portrays 3 differing religions and how they all occupied the same space over 400 years.

Coming in from the outside the museum has a formidable front- the famous steps, the different artist attempting to hawk their wares, and the fountain shooting up water in cool arcs and sprays. Being as I hadn’t been to the Met in a long time (over five years) walking inside was like seeing everything anew. The lines, the noise, sounds and everything together all adds to the ambiance of the experience of trying to hustle our way in through the main doors. Going through the door and seeing the whole class already there made me look at my watch and go thank god I’m not late. Then I had a chance to look around the museum and was shocked how it all looked so familiar, how welcoming and inviting it looked to me, almost as if to say “you can come in anytime but you can never leave”. But then being a New Yorker, I started getting annoyed at all the tourists pushing and touching everything and realized why I prefer museums “off the beaten path”. But then Neal started talking and I was trying to just zone out all the noise and just focus on him (a hard job). Anyway, he started talking about how the museum is an “echo- system” and it got me thinking how true user experience really is when everything is connected and when you are able to optimally access each and every piece of information from any place- physical, mobile or digital.

The idea that the primary form of access to a museum is now through mobile devices really adds to the idea of the “digital Met” being the fourth space, after the Met 5th Ave, the Met Breuer and the Met Cloisters. If we listen to evolving trends, then we come to realize that many people like having a tour available for them but even more so they want the ability to be able to pick and choose content and design their own tour after what is most interesting for them. Thus, the museum has evolved from giving interpretation in to a housing of artifacts, where the only thing that the museum needs to give is the physical object and the visitor will want to do the interpretation on their own. Of course that doesn’t mean there are interpretations available. As Neal discussed, there are many audio tours available, some of which are interpreted by the director himself.

What did fascinate me more than the art itself, was the money, time, and effort put in to make each and every exhibit separate and different in regards to floor/ wall design and physically putting up walls and columns, fake or real, of the era that the exhibit had on display. As the article The Cobbler’s Children: Invisible Work and Information Professionals in Museums says many people don’t understand all that is going on behind the scenes and they just go in assuming that all the magic just happens by itself and that it happens without work. The other extremely fascinating idea is that the same piece of history can be used in two separate departments showcasing two different exhibits. Like Neal explained the Paul Revere spurs are dually in the Arms and Armor Department and American Decorative Arts Department.

(http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/7865, http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/7867)

The user experience that I personally had seemed to be of the highest quality that one would expect of a museum of such high quality. The mobile website responded quick to the touch and everything loaded very quickly. The Wifi was easy to connect to and easy to use. The only other “bad” experience that I had was that because the Met is so large and humongous it is so easy to get lost and wander around without any knowledge of how to get to where you want to go. I am sure that there is a better way of navigating but it was nicer to wander around the different halls and exhibits and being excited about all the art around me.

To put the whole day together I was trying to connect my group project to see if the Met had the same problem we had seen in the Whitney. What I found was that there were not that many teens in attendance. From what I saw most of the teens there where with their parents and most likely were tourists visiting and not part of the demographic of local teens that we were hoping to see. While there may be excuses, such as many teenagers would be in school at the time. The issue that Neal brought up very nicely is that “museums are not fighting other museums for the attention but are rather fighting with the attention of other digital programs such as Netflix and chill.” Other then what is viewed at the stereotypical wealthy Upper West Side wealthy Gossip Girl teens, it doesn’t seem like many of the teenagers in attendance, who were also not tourists, were New York City public school kids. Even after 3 o’clock when their school gets out and even though the Met is suggested donation, it seems that the museum is not the go to place for an after school hang out.