User Experience

User experience (U. X.) is important at any location that aims to attract visitors/ consumers through their doors. This is even more important when talking about public institutions’ interaction with their intended public. When this occurs in GLAM, the public expects a seamless and easy process. This, however, is not always the case. It is a museum’s job to make sure that every experience is visitor- friendly. This post will focus on different museums and their attempt to efficiently achieve peak user experience. Every museum needs efficient user experience, whether they use digital devices or not. In some instances, user experience can be as simple as having clear maps drawn up. As museums transition into technological areas, it becomes more and more difficult for museums to create devices and exhibits that will give everyone an enjoyable experience. In some cases, U. X. refers to creating an exhibit that’s accessible to many people at once. In some cases, it’s about having only one or two people interact with the exhibit at a time. The good thing that comes out of studying U.X. exhibits is that anyone who wants to move forward has the past “mistakes” to look at and can know what not to do.

Interactives offer people opportunities to engage with exhibits in ways that is not possible when there is just “dry” information on the wall. However, it is very important to note that many times it is not possible to allow multiple people access at the same time and it is also important to leave room for interactivity for co- participants (people standing in the background). For example, in Free2Choose there are six people sitting down and answering questions, but there are groups around each individual chair that talk and contemplate what the humane and rational answer should be.

Thus, interactivity in a museum is an attempt to turn the museum from a ME experience into a WE experience. The idea in a “me to we” is to get individuals see the museum as a place for social engagement. Designing experiences that allows more and more people to invest their time and use them to help them get better is a way of getting a better user experience. While many people go to museums to have a social interaction they don’t necessarily want to be talking to other people the entire time they are there. Successful “me-to-we” experiences allow there to be both individual time and group interactivity. For example, the Ontario Science Centre’s Facing Mars doesn’t have a direct interaction with users, but using a LED board showing participation numbers may cause people to pick one side or the other. The two choices laid in front are choosing to go to Mars or not. On the outside of the exhibit the bright LEDs shows how many people choose to go to Mars and how many did not. On the other hand, after going through the Mars exhibit and seeing what life would be like on Mars, they were again asked to choose whether they wanted to go to Mars or not. Again the numbers were shown. The numbers showed that more people wanted to go to Mars before the exhibit then afterwards. This illustrates the Network Effect: translating individual’s actions into something the community can benefit. It begins with individuals interacting with the exhibit. The computers then collect the data of the interaction and process it. Then, the machine relays the collected information and displays it where the community can see and process. This is the one of the essential for good user experiences- many people benefitting from the actions of a few.


However, having people directly interact with each other may not always be good. For example, Exploratorium’s Spinning Blackboard was setup to provide a high-quality, multi-user experience. They invited visitors to make patterns using a spinning disc of sand. In the exhibit’s original version, everyone worked together on one big disc. They were able to easily and unthinkingly mess up all the surrounding patterns, which led both to confusion and frustration. The shared platform hindered rather than improved individual experiences. On the other hand, the Cooper Hewitt doesn’t seem to have this problem. Their interactive tables can be used by one individual or six, and whatever one person does, does not affect his or her neighbor, unless that person intends to. For example, if someone sees a person building a chair on the table then they may want to “throw” them a similar chair. Once they throw the chair it is up to the receiver to say whether they want to use it and if not, they can remove it without an issue.


All the available digital and social interaction is great. However, it does not account for the many existing social barriers that prevent many from taking advantage and successfully engaging. The Dallas Museum of Art or DMA found that making admission free it allowed for many more people, who were not able to find money in their budget, to visit and experience this social interaction. The DMA also found that they had created “a civic platform where education and citizenship go hand in hand.” Another social barrier, the first being available funds to spend on admissions, is that many museum- goers come from various backgrounds and lived experiences poses another social barrier. As was seen in Free2Choose, each and every group had a different reaction to the questions. While in one group the answers might have been 90% that X is definitely the answer, when looking at the data as a whole it came out that only 60% of people felt that indeed X was the answer. Evidently, not everybody is alike and will have differing beliefs. Thus causing distinctions in the way people interact with other visitors and the way they interact with the museum. Using each and every example of less-than-perfect user experiences can help every museum design exhibits that will address the faults and lead to a rise in positive user experience.


The Guggenheim Museum


On a sunny September morning, I decided to visit the Guggenheim. Because it was Sunday and most of the trains weren’t running, it took a while to get there. But the anticipation grew. Being that it was September 11, the train station (that I transferred through) by the 9/11 Memorial was crowded, and got me thinking how the sight of the monument, without any digital interaction, successfully arouses people’s emotions. I wanted to follow the crowds and go. However, I had already made plans to go to the Guggenheim. Right away the outside of the Guggenheim just takes your breath away, but walking inside was a whole different story. The museum was turning over its exhibits. There were archival boxes everywhere, and the one thing I was looking forward to – an iconic feature of the Guggenheim, the ramp – was closed. This meant that the biggest part of the museum was off-limits and the thing I had wanted to see, because of its iconic placement in so many movies was now out of bounds. Nonetheless, I was not there to enjoy the pieces of art myself, but to see how others viewed and interacted within its spaces.


To start off, I went to the admissions desk and with my Pratt ID card got free admission for both my girlfriend and I (nice!). Then I asked the registrar if the museum had an app and if it was free. He then gave me a brochure and showed me that the info was available on the back page. What he did not tell me, which I had to find out on my own, was that they have a free audiovisual guide (which is their app on a protected IPod). Right away going into the elevator was pretty cool because I had my first taste of interactivity: the elevator had a touch screen option that presents each floor’s plan and its displayed exhibits. Through the touch screen you could navigate the floors and pick which floor you wanted to visit. With that said, it seemed that for the most part the “interactivity” ended there. As I was going up in the elevator I looked at my phone and realized that there was no connection so I thought let me connect to the Wifi – and let me say for such a famed museum the Wifi available was terrible. When I finally got it working the service was very slow and it took about ten minutes to download the app. Once the app was open I was told I needed to download an update that was 94.3mb (which also took a while) and then it installed and started again (all on its own).  Once finally operating, the app had some cool interactive Bluetooth ping service. Otherwise, the app seemed very low tech with lots of necessary downloading of videos to view, but there was no streaming (click and play) possible; and most of the videos didn’t seem to work on my phone.20160911_115418_HDR.jpg


After not getting much from the app myself, I decided to observe if anyone else was using it. Right away I saw a guy using his phone but when I went to take a closer look, it appeared that he was in fact texting. What I saw on most of the floors was that many people were not using any devices. This, I feel is very common for an art museum, especially one that does not allow photography. At one point after not seeing anyone using apps I decided to ask a couple who were surprised to hear about any apps existence. “We did not know there was any app,” they said. After asking a bunch of different people it seemed this was prevalent. The app was only mentioned if asked or if seen in the brochure. Once I got down to their lower floors there were some people who you could see were using the museums audio-visual guide, something that was also not advertised though afterwards found out that it was free. After standing around in the exhibit, a big hall with backless couches, for about 20 minutes I saw some strange things: one person was on his phone looking up the weather; one person sat with headphones (couldn’t see what he was listening to); one lady was using her phone to look at images of the Statue of Liberty (wasn’t too creepy); one older lady was using Wikipedia to look up artists –it seemed she did not know there was any app.


As I was walking around, I noticed a gallery guide with a button on her shirt that said “ask me about art.” I decided to watch her and see who comes over and what questions she was asked. At this I was sorely disappointed. Most people ignored her and those that did come over were usually asking her where the bathroom is or for other directions. I got the feeling that she might be bored, so I decided to go over to her and ask her some questions myself. She said there was not much digital interaction, mostly human and usually a lot more people ask her questions when the art is ambiguous and needs explanation. While she was talking to me she ran over to a woman to chastise her for not listening to the signs, and taking pictures. (There were security guards standing in each and every room making sure no one touches or takes pictures). There was one room with a bunch of video displays but none of them had interactivity. There was a long couch with no back while two screens playing videos on repeat. Screens are not interactive, patrons just watch. There was one piece of art that had some interactivity (my description may not do it justice). There were circles and squiggles on the floor and there was a video camera showing live feedback on a screen 5 feet away. Whoever would stand on the circles would show up on the screen like a security camera. (It presence and function made sense since it was in the Middle East exhibit where many feel they are under observation at all times).

On a whole, I feel like there was not so much interactivity at the Guggenheim. Like many typical art museums, there is art on the wall and people look, stare and contemplate its meaning. Nothing more. My only comments are that they should be more forthcoming with visitors about their being an app and free audiovisual guides. My only regret is that I went at a time when the ramp was closed and wasn’t able to get the full experience.

Disability and Integration

“My disability exists not because I use a wheelchair, but because the broader environment isn’t accessible.” When Stella Young said this she was referring to the sad state of affairs revolving around people with disabilities. In the United States over 15 percent of people have some form of disability that doesn’t allow them to fully comprehend or navigate the way others can. Working at a social institution, it is our jobs to make the institution open to the public- and just like I have full access so to everyone else, regardless of his/her limits should also have access. This week’s blog will focus on what museums can do to make it as easily accessible to everyone, and how my personal experiences working with children with autism and other disorders helped me really understand why there needs to be universal access.

Throughout time there has been a long evolution in including people with disabilities in society. It used to be that anyone with a disability would be put into a rowboat and sent out into the ocean. People began to progress away from the idea of killing but these individuals were still kept on the outside in state institutions, albeit isolated and exhibited terrible conditions. Institutions, like Willow Brook, deprived these individuals of basic rights and needs. In the 70’s the spotlight was turned on to the way disabled people were treated, and then the change came to integrate them into society. It took a very long time but after three different set of laws and almost 25 years later the United States passed the Americans with Disabilities Act. The ADA set out rules that put into place regulations that mandated every public space, like museums, to be accessible by those with any and every form of disability. Afterwards many other sets of rules were established outlining specifically how museums needed to accommodate disabilities to grant everyone the same experience – as the goal of the ADA is to get rid of any obstacles or barriers from equality.

In the health care world, where I work, there has been a similar change from being glorified babysitters to having a mandate to teach each and every person skills that we ourselves take for granted. The government gives a lot of money to my organization to take every service receiver to different institutions so that they can receive a cultural education. Even so, I hear many complaints and concerns about not feeling included. Whenever I take my clients anywhere they usually need to get special treatment, and you can see on the faces of the people that serve them that sometimes the workers are thinking “man, I have to deal with these people again.” This is why the idea of a universal device is so crucial to make everyone feel included. The fact that these services are available for each and every person no matter their ability makes them feel a little better about themselves.

The point of a universal system in a museum is that it is supposed to be “little to no cost” to the participant or to the museum, which has to incorporate these accommodations into their building. Now as we discussed in class and as Allison reiterates, all these steps are supposed to be done at inception. While planning the pre-design phase, it is important to discuss what needs and abilities should to be met. This should be discussed again and again at each and every phase. For example, discussing adding more spaces in doorways for wheelchairs and other design issues and allowing for extra room for secondary languages on the walls of exhibits (e.g., ASL, Spanish or whatever language is popular in that specific area). While many people would consider those that couldn’t speak a disability, a person who can’t speak English is not, and they are not given the same accommodations. As Allison defines, disability is “anything that results in restrictions on an individual’s ability to participate in what is considered “normal” in their everyday society.” Under this definition not speaking English, in America, would be considered a disability. Especially in a melting pot like New York where over 200 languages are spoken, and in a country where over 60 million people don’t speak English, these needs should also be accounted for.

And there are many ways to address these language issues. The Oakland Museum has its areas top three languages (English, Spanish, and Cantonese) at the entrance and by every header, main topic and interaction. In the Museum of Jewish Heritage, a Holocaust Museum, many things are showcased in their original German or Yiddish and then translated into English, because many people visiting will still be reading and speaking those languages. Additionally, if I remember correctly, its audio guide is available in over 5 languages. Allison brags, and rightly so, that the 9/11 Museum offers translations in over 8 different languages. Not to put the hardworking staff at the 9/11 Museum down or anything but they have the advantage of opening up in the past 5 years, thus making it easier for them to comply with all these ADA mandates, and being such a world wide museum they were forced to deal with people from many countries, speaking many languages, from the start. Many older museums are now being forced to deal with the ever-growing barriers between those with disabilities.

With the presentation that Allison gave, I think that many museums can look to the 9/11 Memorial for guidance. With its 5 different types of guides through the exhibit – for those able to listen and see, for children, for those interested in the architecture, for those needing ASL, and my favorite the Audio descriptive tour. As we were listening to the little snippet of that tour, I tried to close my eyes and imagine what it would be like if I was blind, and wondered if I would I be able to feel the same emotions. When I read the description of the video I realized that it gives deaf people just as much of feeling as if they were able to see, if not more. This lends to a visitor with a disability to feel as if he or she fits in and is not singled out and an outcast, which is exactly what the universal system sets out to do.


The Learning Experience

“If museums lost power would that affect the learning experience?” This week’s blog will explore this question posed by Mike Murawski and discuss how interactivity, digital and not, affects our experience in the museum’s physical space and also with the museums screens. To start off there is a huge difference in learning when you have more than one experience or mode of learning. Statistically we learn more if we see, hear and do things than if we are just reacting to one out of the three. That being said, as Leah put it, we don’t want to “just be observing but to actually interact.”
One thing many people brought up about our adventure to the Pratt Exhibit was that without being told that they were allowed to, no one entered into the open “kids room.” As John put it “sometimes you have to be forced to touch.”  Thus, once people started going in and interacting there were more people seeing it as a way of learning and became a place of interaction. When I was in Yad Va’Shem, the Israeli National Holocaust Museum, the tour guide told us a story about an exhibit that no one really understood. The exhibit was of 500 pairs of children’s shoes that lay underneath a glass floor, and it was only ever glanced upon. That was until the museum put up a sign telling people that the purpose was to show people how the children shoes are just like ours, to help us better connect to these murdered children. Once people started walking over and connecting to the exhibit you could see that it had a longer affect on the visitors. This, however, while it might not fall under the traditional definition of “interactive” (since there is no input by the visitor) the argument can definitely be made that there is indeed an input of walking over the shoes and the output of viewing the exhibit from the intended perspective. In an exhibit like this, whether the power is on or off the exhibit still has the same exact effect.


While speaking about perspective it is very important to whom, is the museum trying to “market their merchandise.”? In our break out group, we discussed what a museum does to bring in the local population and how with the advent of technology it tries to connect with people outside its sphere. What we came up with is that a museum is first and foremost to those in its immediate vicinity – an Oakland museum dealing with issues that its community faces. However, at that same time, there are other areas in the country that also need addressing. Thus the exhibit also speaks to those globally. For most cases, in order to know if a museum can extend further out one needs to look no further than its budget. The Metropolitan Museum of Art has a huge budget for technology, and can thus afford to hire tech experts to create interactive designs, like Met Kids. (The second the power goes out everything that the Met staff worked for will be gone and have no lasting effect whatsoever). Many other exhibits just can’t afford the technology or the staff that it costs to create and maintain it. Thus, for many instances the budget controls the reach. But even if a museum has a small budget that only allows it to reach its own constituents who are the target audiences? What types of people are they trying to bring in? To return to the Oakland example, the museum is trying to bring in those affected by gentrification. However, most people who are affected by gentrification cannot pay the hefty $15.99 admissions fee.

Different people react to the same stimuli differently. It is a fact of learning. Not everyone can be taught the same way. Some people like to learn through repetition and passive absorption. Others use constructivism – ideas building upon other ideas and experiences, which all come together to constantly and continually grow in learning. Museums don’t care much for the behaviorism approach, and depending on which museum it will be some sort of mixture between cognitive constructivism and social constructivism. Museums don’t want people to walk in with a blank slate, come in and learn and then forget everything and walk out again with a blank slate. Rather, they try to give people as many varieties of “seeping in” as possible. So a museum will have texts that will need to be read, but at the same time it also has visual components: pictures, videos and even audio. Some museums even go as far as, to make it even more likely that the information will stick by, designing physical activities that connect with the objects around to further enhance the educational experience.

Most educational experts will agree that some sort of experience is necessary to cement what is learnt. That is why many schools will take young children to a science institute or museum to let the children build on what they learned. When asked in class if there is anything that was not thought of or left off the list it got me thinking. It seems very interesting that throughout the “intrinsic motivations” of a child’s learning there are all these ways to motivate a child to learn except for the experience itself. The creators do not take into account the fact that maybe some children want to go and experience just for the stimulus that occurs in their brain every time they learn something new. Its all good and well that they are challenged, curious and feel in control, but at the end of the day what’s most important is that they feel like they learned something new that day. But maybe that goes without saying. The important thing is that the child comes away after his/her visit with some new knowledge about the world. That as a patron they were able to interact with the exhibit and be stimulated and have a growth in knowledge, which we, as educators, hope will “stay on the slate” and not be wiped off.

To Creep Or Not To Creep

A museum can dazzle and fascinate those that walk through its doors. However, how does a museum get people to come inside? Can a museum use commercial methods of data mining to get people inside? While many of the things a company will do may seem unethical and downright creepy, does this same weirdness apply to the trusted institution that is a museum? In this week’s blog I wish to discuss the pros and cons of using patrons’ data and how we can go about collecting and using this data in an effective way that is more helpful and wont be viewed as creepy.

In the commercial world, people freak when they realize just how much their technology is “following them.” On the Today Show, Jeff Rossen asks the live audience if they were aware their service providers were able to follow them. Many did not. They were shocked and wary about the companies possession of their data and many past recordings. In general, with the advent of hackers and hacking, people are more cautious than ever about giving out their personal information, like credit card information and birthdays. However, these same people admitted that they would cave if they felt that the benefits outweighed the risk.

People do not like to feel marketed and to have their information bundled and sold as a commodity. There is an extreme issue of non-transparency. When giving personal information to a company or website an uncertainty exists of whether the information given will be sold to a third party or not. This uncertainty continues to grow as the commercial world continues to lack boundaries to what they are willing to do. With little to no federal laws to protect against data farming, there is almost no line that will not be crossed. With that said, using these technologies in a museum might not have that same effect of turning people off.

A museum is viewed as one of the most trusted of public institutions. There is a transparency that can be seen throughout. People view the museum as a holder of truth and can’t fathom that anyone in a museum would try to do them harm. Therefore, the argument can be made that people will be more trusting that any information collected by the museum will not be divulged to random third parties and that everything will be used for the benefit of the museum, which is in essence, also, for the benefit of the community at large.

However, not all information needs to be gathered in creepy ways. While observation and tracking do involve actions that can be viewed negatively, those are not the only ways that information can be ascertained. There are other ways of gathering visitor feedback with the full knowledge and consent of the patrons. There are surveys that can be taken at the exit which visitors can rate their experiences, positive or negative. We can even add a suggestion option in which they can suggest whatever they think would make the next visitors experience even better. Then there is also the possibility of conducting exit interviews in the exhibit – sometimes very candidly – asking them what they felt about the exhibit. While this is usually one on one, or even one on two, sometimes we want to get a group of people to gauge their varied experiences and thus focus groups are created. Focus groups can sometimes last for hours, yet in those meetings the peoples views can legitimately be dealt with, and any issues resolved.

There are many ways to efficiently use all types of data. Quantitative data tells us the raw numbers –how many people visited the museum, how many people visited the online websites, how many people tagged or posted about the museum. All this data and more can be quantified and used as a guide for future interactions. As discussed in this week’s breakout groups, quantitative information can be useful for planning family events and estimating how many people might visit a certain event or exhibit based off past quantitative data. By knowing the raw demographics, we can know whether our target audience is visiting in the numbers we thought they might. If according to the data we see that for whatever unknown reason the numbers don’t add up, then we can use qualitative data – learned from the different type of information evaluations mentioned in the previous paragraph – to understand why the numbers aren’t the same and maybe what we can do to achieve the desired outcome.

But this is not the only way to improve or troubleshoot our exhibits. Museums have come up with tests to check into how each exhibit is holding up. These three tests examine the exhibit in three crucial phases: at the beginning, or front end, when ideas are still being put together and nothing is set in stone; at the middle, or the formative, when there is a test on the program and its development on whether it will work and the people will come use it; or lastly, the summative, which is similar to an exit survey where the question is asked did the exhibit work and did the viewers take away the message intended.

When people visit a museum they want to see that there is a framework in place for their visit. (They may choose to opt out of using the guided framework, but they want their own options.) When each person has his/ her own reasons for coming to the museum it becomes hard to satisfy each and every person with their own experience. If a person seeking one experience in the museum visits and gets that experience it is a sign of a good visitor experience, e.g., a person who visited to relax and leaves recharged. However, a sign of an excellent visitor experience is someone who came in for one experience and received that experience in addition to receiving a second one, that in the visitors mind was completely unexpected and unplanned. For example, if a father visits the MOMA to teach his child what art means, he becomes the facilitator, if at the same time he relaxes because of the calm and serene environment that is around him he also becomes a Recharger. Thus receiving an excellent visitor experience.


This week’s topic focuses on museum interaction. Interaction requires there be two sets of people: those that walk in through the front entrance and those that come in through the staffs. Museums and their staff have to put out a front – both digitally and physically – that looks inviting to the visitor. In return the visitor will be interested enough to walk through the front doors. There are many issues and problems that prevent this from occurring as seamlessly as a person walking into a ball game. People go to a ball game to have a fun day out – purely recreational. They often leave the stadium forgetting most of what they saw aside for the final score. Museums, on the other hand, are not only concerned about the engagement during the actual physical visit, but also about the visitor’s experience in preparation for the visit, as well as a post visit- what additional knowledge they left with that was not there before.

The visitor’s experience, therefore, is very important. Because museums are sometimes viewed as cold, quiet and snooty, it is very hard to get people to walk in and feel welcomed. Museums need to change their image from the past, where shushing patrons can be the norm, to the museum of the future that encourages taking pictures, engaging in discussion and dialogue, and wanting there to be noise and interaction with patrons and all the information that is in front of them. While many museums try to move forward, i.e. tagging photographs with the Terra Cotta warriors, many museums still have bans on cameras and any outside digital intrusions. They do not believe in being “digitally integrated.” Additionally, museums have always worked for the community as opposed to with the community. Some museums have advanced and allotted money and space to exhibits that showcases the public and their stories – curated by the people. For the people, by the people. But there are still many ways for museums to vamp up their visitors’ experience, like by adding outlets for cell phone or making people friendly apps. For example, museums like the Tate, have even branched outside of their physical building with apps like the Magic Tate Ball- an app that gives you art wherever you are.

However, we cannot always compare the technological boom that’s occurring in a museum to the technological boom that occurs in the outside world. As Jack Ludden put it, “Each museum’s collection is unique. Museums do not want a “cookbook approach” to aggregating and disseminating information. When data is well managed, users can interact with it in open and collaborative ways.” Museums do not always have the funding that other institutions, such as healthcare, may have. A patient in a hospital is specially treated based on their symptoms. There is no ‘one pill fits all’ diagnosis. Museums cannot change the exhibit for each and every person that visits, nor make them feel like they are the center of attention. The job of any good museum is to make the visitor feel like there is some connection between him and the staff and between him and the objects that are all around him. To achieve this job a museum must pay great attention and put great thought into their strategies for visitor engagement.

A visit to the museum is meant to be an experience that one takes away with them when they leave. But there are many things that may prevent this experience from being the best – the cultural biases the visitor bring in, why they are going and what ideas they bring in with them. The museum ,like those that visit, have similar issues – what goals are they pushing for, their purpose, and their own institutional bias – all block the user from having the best experience. Ignoring all the issues mentioned, the question still arises of what experience the museum is trying to create. Is it one where the digital world is integrated, or is it like the prison museum in London where there are no computers or connection whatsoever? To know this, museums must first figure out how big a part do they want technology to have behind the scenes? Do we want to make ourselves completely relevant to the new modern world? The Tate museum panders to those not physically wanting to come in, but rather wanting to “see” through the virtual reality and other digital platforms. Or do we want the opposite, where it’s the physical object of art that is “transformative”? The SFMOMA prides itself in having a Digital Content team that is very concerned about physical content and not about seeing the art through a screen. We must ask, does the museum want to have staff that aren’t technologically capable but then have a specific tech department to deal with all the issues regarding technology and integration, or does the museum want employees that each and everyone is capable of working with the technology and everyone can be helpful in their own area and connecting technology to it.

According to Jack Ludden, everyone should be educated about technology and everyone should be relentless in their search for innovation and new ways of education. This would seem to lean more towards the Tate methodology. However, in my opinion, where everything is new and digital, it adds a more modern bias that art from the pre-digital world would definitely not have had. The argument can be made that to take antiquated pieces of art and to modernize them by mixing in digital effects or even placing MiPads or digital medium next to it, may take away from what the original artist wanted to be seen through the piece. However, we can ignore the modern bias and chalk it up to being necessary, by saying the good of education outweighs the bad. Each and every museum must choose on their own terms what is best for them. The most important part is innovation. If a museum sees that something is not working, then those aspects should be put under the microscope and examined whether it needs to be altered or completely gotten rid of. Thus, as museums see what works best and what doesn’t, the visitors experience will evolve and people will be having a greater interaction.


The Museum and the Digital

What is a museum? What should a museum be? Well according to the AAM, a museum is required to follow generic guidelines that include: having a mission, being educational and accessible to the public. However, if you just call yourself a museum the AAM will not contest. A museum, according to Eugene Dillenburg, is anything that has a physical exhibit meant to reach the public. This is the basic definition of a museum – a space open to the public that showcases exhibits, aimed to entertain or educate.

Before we talk about what a museum really is  and who their members are today, we must examine from where the museum evolved and what issues have remained throughout its evolution. The modern “museum” as we know it has evolved from European countries to the United States, and then to most parts of the colonized world. This in itself has brought many issues. One of them being the exclusivity of European museums. In today’s time, there is a push to allow everyone access to the education that a museum can provide, and through the use of “soft power” the museum can wield its power for the betterment of all people.

In Europe, the museum was created mainly from collections that were donated by or kept in the hands of the rich, the temples and the churches. Thus, access was not available to all. Whatever access was given to the public might have come with a price tag that many people just could not afford to waste on “recreations.” While in the past 200 years museums have made huge strides in their involvement of the public with free admission, there is a lot more that could be done and more places to either offer free admission or at least one free night of the week. Even with over 850 million people visiting museums each year, the museum naturally has to fight to get the attention of the masses and get them to enter through its doors. Museums can draw people in offering them education, culture, art and sometimes even a good time with music, fashion shows and other special live performances. That being said, museums have the power and choice of how they connect to its patrons and what they leave them with.

The theory of soft power argues that by using everything at its disposal – government, innovation, education, and diplomacy – museums can open people’s minds and educate them on matters that they might not have known. When researching the New Museum, one can see that on July 10 there was a Black Lives Matter Event, and there are many other initiatives and events that are going on that educate people on the problems that exist in today’s society. However, not all museums have caught on to this trend. Many still use the same formats that separate and try to divide us. When museums have many floors, it is the Europeans and American history, art and culture that dominates. It is as if they are looking down on the minorities beneath them. Such realities leave us asking how museums can survive in the modern world.

The argument of whether “Smombies,” or smart phone zombies, are good for a museum or the bane of their existence, might give us some insight into how museums cope with digital modernity. According to Jonathan P. Bowen and Tula Giannini digitalism may work even better in places like museums, where they turn from just receiving the information to full participants in the information process. When entering the museum the same external roles flow internally seamlessly, so the same actions that happen on the outside happen on the inside, i.e. the change in the relationship of visitors from one of seeking and receiving information to full participants.

On the other hand, the argument can easily be made that if people focus on their phones, they will not focus on the object and pieces themselves. Thus, the phone distracts the viewer and directs their focus on the digital copy and away from the piece itself. This can easily be seen in recent works of art, like the Mona Lisa where everyone is preoccupied with taking pictures, and don’t appreciate the masterpiece before them. Whenever you focus on one thing, such as an electronic device, you are not focusing on what is in front of you, i.e. the exhibit.

According to Amber Case we have two different “selfs.” Therefore, it is not only our duty to educate your physical self, but we also need to educate our digital mind. We have an obligation to bring our digital self into the museum to allow them the same sort of education the physical body is receiving. Both our selfs should be present. While that may sound like a silly idea, but with the creation of the “wormhole,” there is a feeling that the world must know that your digital self has an education. However, with every argument there is always a counter argument that says to truly appreciate the works of art and the history that is waiting in the museum you need to cut yourself off from everything. After taking a few days off and away from the digital world we can reach a stage where we have separated from our devices. At that point we can fully appreciate the works in front of us – relaxed and ready to soak up everything.

These are all issues that need to be addressed from the top of the food chain all the way to the bottom. The consumers and viewers, patrons of the museums, need to open their mouths and speak about the issues and create dialogue. For a museum is not just about those designing and running it, but rather needs to include those who come in to see and want feel part of the museum. That is why it is just as important for the administration as well as the patron to address and discuss all possible solutions so that everyone gets the best experience and can get the most out of each and every visit.

The Future of the Photo Archive

This article transcribes a conversation with two professional digital photography archivists – Tracey Schuster and Anne Blecksmith – about how they got into the field, how they see the field evolving and where the future of the photo archive is. This is worth the read for anyone wanting to go into the archival field because these are some things that are necessary to know- why archiving is necessary, the basics of scanning and archiving, and where they believe the field is heading. As students studying archives and their uses, we need to pay attention to the effects that comes from archiving. While we are on one side preserving a digital copy of the object, on the other hand we are subjecting the object to our own personal views and biases with our digital interpretation, i.e. digital manipulation. This effect, the professionals say, can even occur unintentionally, and while it cannot be prevented we now have a better understanding  of what is occurring.