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.
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.