Museums and Technology: Moving Forward into the Digital World

Added to Medium, January 24, 2019

Technology is continuing to be innovative, and museums do what they can to catch up with the latest to attract more visitors. Museum visitors have tons of access to technological items including but not limited to phones, computers, iPads, and laptops. There is also a number of technological advances that we don’t even realize we use on a regular basis such as radio frequency identification (RFID) found on E-Z Passes that help make commuting faster and non-humanoid robots. As our society makes technological advances, museum professionals need to educate themselves about what is out there for their own benefit and for the visitors they serve within their museums.

Museums have varying budgets and spaces available to use on technology. To take advantage of the ever changing technology, we need to figure out what interactive technology should be add to the museum and used by the visitors. There are advantages and challenges museums need to consider when integrating technology and interactive media. In American Alliance of Museums’ article “New Directions in Interactive Media for Museums” it stated that

The challenges of integrating interactive media into the museum experience are manifold. New technologies can engage but also potentially alienate museum visitors who have different cultural backgrounds and varying degrees of knowledge about the art form, history, and ideas involved. But at its best, interactive media that balances the creativity of right-brain thinking with the deductive logic of left-brain analysis can help with the intuitive discovery of unexpected connections and create newfound meaning.

As museum professionals, we should consider the advantages and challenges of incorporating interactive media in our museums and figure out how the technology will benefit potential visitors. Technology literacy is important for museum professionals not only to help visitors engage with programs, exhibits, and what else our museums have to offer but it is important for promotions and other important administrative work to keep our museums running.

The article “Museums and AI: Could Robots Be Your New Coworkers?” gave a couple of reasons why it is important for museum professionals should understand the landscape of Artificial Intelligence:

First, these corporate tools affect every patron of every museum, so ignorance of AI is poor business practice. Museum professionals can make exemplary exhibitions and labels, but without understanding the impact of AI systems on patrons accessing information, we could find ourselves with a dampened reach. Every moment, from the first awareness of the museum, to walking into the building, to likes on the patron’s Facebook post, is affected by AI.

If we remain ignorant of technology, museums will not be able to remain relevant in a changing society. Museum professionals should take the time to learn about how to utilize the available technology, and when we have professional development programs we should take advantage of learning from these programs as we move forward in museums’ futures.

Professional development opportunities not only help museum professionals learn about recent innovations but museum professionals also utilize new innovations to participate in professional development opportunities. For instance, there are podcasts about museums and historic sites from the American Association for State and Local History (AASLH); they have recordings from past conference sessions and livestream current conference sessions. American Alliance of Museums has Museopunks, a podcast for the progressive museum. Each month, host Suse Anderson investigates the work and personalities in and around the museum sector. I will leave these questions up for discussion:

How do you feel about the digital world in the museum? Are we too dependent on technology or are we not taking enough advantage of it?

Resources:

https://www.aam-us.org/2019/01/11/interactive-media-for-museums/

https://soundcloud.com/aaslh-podcasts  

https://www.aam-us.org/programs/about-museums/museopunks/

https://hhethmon.com/2018/08/31/3-reasons-your-museum-should-start-a-podcast/

https://www.aam-us.org/2018/12/26/museums-and-ai-could-robots-be-your-new-coworkers/

https://www.geniusstuff.com/blogs/10-everyday-technologies-you-dont-realize-you-use.htm

Museums vs. The Couch: How Museums Can Retain Relevance and Visitation

Added to Medium, September 27, 2018

Museums always need to think about and plan how they can stay relevant as society’s expectations change and as technology advances. In previous blog posts, I discussed about relevance and its significance in museums and history. For instance, I wrote about how museums can use the history of food to reach out to audiences. Also, I wrote about a Game of Thrones tour I took at the Met with Museum Hack. I wrote a book review on Nina Simon’s The Art of Relevance, and about using the Broadway musical Hamilton to help audiences connect with the nation’s past. This month I recently came across an article that talk about relevance and grabbing the attention of individuals who prefer to stay at home. Colleen Dilenschneider’s “Potential Visitors To Cultural Entities Are Spending More Time On The Couch Instead (DATA UPDATE)” shared data about individuals’ preference to stay at home and that cultural organizations should not be discouraged but rather work on finding ways to engage them.

While I have written about relevance in the past, it continues to be an important topic as new media, technology, events, et cetera, develop and change how people interact with the world around them. I have previously stated in my blog post “Does ‘Hamilton’ use Relevance to Teach Our Nation’s History?”: Relevance is significant especially in museums to understand who our community is and to help individuals feel they can connect to our past in a way that they can relate to. This of course still holds true now as museums and cultural organizations learn ways to attract attention from individuals who would rather stay at home. Dilenschneider’s article discussed about the numerous reasons likely visitors are more inclined to say home and all of them have one thing in common: increased accessibility from the comfort of one’s home.

Technology and the internet has given people ways to gain knowledge by using their computers to look up information they need or would like to learn more about. Individuals are able to binge-watch television shows without having to wait for the stations to re-air episodes. They can shop online for a variety of things especially books, music, food, and clothing. Possibilities for individuals to have everything at their fingertips are limitless. Dilenschneider pointed out that

If there are fewer reasons for people to change out of pajamas in the first place, it makes sense that cultural organizations may have an uphill battle before them. Motivating attendance may be that much harder. Indeed, we see that this is strengthening the “preferring an alternative activity” barrier to attendance.

This may not necessarily represent a failure on the part of cultural organizations…or rock concerts, sporting events, or the wonders of nature. Instead, this may be the consequence of our current, convenience-optimized, super-connected world. Even so, this growing trend impacts the double bottom line of cultural organizations to achieve their missions, and secure funding to continue to achieve those missions in the first place.

Museums and cultural organizations have many challenges when they look for ways to capture visitors’ and potential visitors’ attention then inspire them to engage with the exhibits and programs museums and cultural organizations have to offer. One of the examples is the Three Village Historical Society in East Setauket, New York where I am an Education Committee member.

Founded in 1964, Three Village Historical Society continues to meet its goals to educate the community about local history through events, walking tours, and educational programs. Inside there is an exhibit dedicated to General Washington’s Culper Spy Ring which was an American spy network, mainly made up of members who lived or grew up in East Setauket, that operated during the Revolutionary War. The spies were able to provide Washington information on what the British troops’ plans were to help win the War. A television series was produced by AMC in 2014 called Turn, which is based on the Culper Spy Ring and the Revolutionary War, for four seasons. Turn brought a number of fans to the Three Village Historical Society who wanted to learn more about the Culper Spy Ring. Even after the show ended, fans still come to the site thanks to the show’s accessibility on DVDs and on Netflix.

Another example of getting individuals’ attention and interest is Museum Hack’s themed tours. It was my turn to be on the other side of the visitor-museum relationship, and I shared what I experienced as a visitor. They have a number of different themed tours, and at the time of when I wrote the blog about the Game of Thrones tour I wrote:

I chose the Game of Thrones Mini Tour because I thought it was not a tour that I would expect to find in other places I have visited. Plus, I was interested in seeing how they would tie the show with the pieces displayed at the Met. I also enjoy watching Game of Thrones so I thought it would be a great way to refresh my memory about the series before the new season airs.

Each of the Game of Thrones tours is adjusted based on the tour guide’s knowledge of a piece in the museum itself, and to connect it someway to the HBO series. The main point of the tour was to show both museum lovers and those who are not fans of attending museums how awesome museums are by sharing how individuals interested in the Game of Thrones series can identify and interact with the museum exhibits.

Game of Thrones, which is an HBO series which is an adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire book series, is another show that is both accessible through streaming and DVDs. The last season of the series is premiering next year, and I can see the potential in the Game of Thrones themed tour continuing to gain stay-at-home visitors’ attention and interests even after the last season airs due to the show’s popularity. Even while I was attending graduate school, I knew about the importance of relevance capturing visitors’ interests.

I worked on a project with my classmates and the Connecticut Historical Society in Hartford. In my blog post I wrote about my experience planning the exhibit:

During my second semester of my first year of graduate school, I took a course on Museum Interpretation in which the major assignment was creating an exhibit at Connecticut Historical Society using food as the theme. My classmates and I were introduced to the project at the beginning of the semester, and my professor assigned books to provide background information on food history; one of the books was Warren Belasco’s Food: The Key Concepts (Bloomsbury Academic, 2008) which served as an introduction to the study of food studies and an essential overview to the increasingly critical field of enquiry. Other books assigned were about food and food preparation in different centuries in America.

These examples show the efforts museums and museum professionals go through to attract visitors of varying participatory levels and interests. All we can do is to continue to adapt with the changing society and learn from each other’s experiences.

If you have read Dilenschneider’s article, what is your reaction to her data? How is your organization maintaining relevance within the community?

Resources:
https://www.colleendilen.com/2018/09/19/potential-visitors-cultural-entities-spending-time-couch-instead-data-update/
http://www.threevillagehistoricalsociety.org/
Does “Hamilton” use Relevance to Teach Our Nation’s History?: https://wp.me/p8J8yQ-K
Museum Hack’s Relevance: Game of Thrones Mini-Tour: https://wp.me/p8J8yQ-bv
How to use Food to Create Relevance in Museums: https://wp.me/p8J8yQ-5d
Book Review: The Art of Relevance by Nina Simon: https://wp.me/p8J8yQ-4Q

 

The Future of Museum Education

Originally posted on Medium. January 5, 2017.

2017! It has been a few days since it has officially become the new year, and it has been so far so good. Everyone around this time of year hopes to start accomplishing their new year’s resolutions and I am no exception. To start the new year, I am going to be fulfilling my resolutions to be a better person and a better professional. I always strive to be a better person but it is important to remind myself about the important things in life, and if we all strive to be better people I believe we can make the world a better place for the individuals we treat well. In addition to fulfilling personal resolutions for the new year, I have also been researching about the future of museum education and the trends of museums.

I read Trendswatch 2016 published by American Alliance of Museums Center for the Future of Museums. For each year, the American Alliance of Museums has written a guide for museums to help shape their futures based on cultural, political, and economic challenges by doing the following: monitoring cultural, technological, political, and economic trends that are significant for museums; assist with museums to share with their communities challenges that will be faced for decades to come; and builds connections between museums and other sectors in the country. Trendswatch 2016 is written about trends that occurred in 2015 to predict what may occur for 2016, and it discusses the future of jobs as well as the use of technology especially digital technology used in museums and the relationship between museums and identity. This report discusses the 2015 trends in five articles after introducing the guide as well as providing examples of how organizations could use the report.

The first article was written about labor continuing to be reshaped by technological, cultural, and economical changes in the United States; technological advances will continue to reshape the nature of work, culture, and our economy. The second article discusses the 25th anniversary of the American Disabilities Act being passed and hypothesizes what the next 25 years will be like for creating equity for all people in diverse states; advances in technology has allowed museums to expand the spectrum of human physical, sensory, and cognitive abilities. In the third article, it shares information about augmented reality and virtual reality technologies that hold promise and peril for museums and argues that if AR and VR experiences become widely accessible and affordable museums will need to sharpen their positions and value the proposition within their communities. The fourth article pointed out that museums have found themselves entangled in the struggle over representation, identity and material culture. The fifth article argues that it is important to remind ourselves to make us happy we need to measure how we feel rather than money by revealing that people as well as organizations are rebelling against the focus on finance to point out the government has fostered accumulation of wealth at the expense of health, sustainability, and wellbeing. If we redefine success to include not just cash, museums will have the capability to make sizable contributions to our communities.

While I read these articles, one question came to mind: What will Trendswatch 2017 look like when it is published? If I was writing about trends in Trendswatch 2017, I believe a lot of the trends introduced in the most current report would reveal they continue to develop in 2016 and then start discussing how museums would be effected by introducing the new presidential administration. Then I read about trends for museum education to help me foster and improve my knowledge of the field.

I read Building the Future of Education: Museums and the Learning Ecosystem, also published by the Center for the Future of Museums and published in September 2013, is a bunch of essays by educators, students, researchers, and reformers that explore how leaders from the worlds of education and museums to combine its assets to create ways to make education better for the future. Each essay reinforces the idea that it is important to help schools and education organizations see museums can tailor their educational programs to the needs of state and local curriculum standards. Also, the essays discuss possible futures for education including vibrant learning grid (all who care about learning create a personalized learning ecosystem to meet the needs of all learners) and a fractured landscape (families who have the time, money, and resources to customize or supplement their learning experience have access to learning that adapts to their needs). They also emphasize the need to allow students to work on projects that are related and adapted to the real world of museums, businesses, organizations and communities.

It is important to figure out the future of museums and museum education all staff members need to emphasize the significance museums have in our communities now. What do you think about where education is going in our country?