Hey, everybody! Well, it’s time to make it official–I am leaving the Denver Art Museum at the end of this month. It’s been a great three years here, and I’m immensely proud of having been able to be a part of the DAM for such a critical time in its history.
Never fear, I plan on staying in the museum community, so you can count on more half-baked theories and poorly-thought-out rants in the future (maybe even more than usual!). I’m planning on spending a lot more time with my four-month-old (that’s him over there on the left), and doing a little work for myself before I go wherever I’m going next.
To that end…for the first time in over ten years, I’m unattached to a specific institution, which is liberating and sorta weird all at the same time. So, I’m feeling like I should take advantage of this. Do you want me to come out to your museum and work on things with you? Let me know. My rates are reasonable (and typically involve beer). You will find me easy to work with, and totally willing to show you lots of pictures of my son (that’s him up above there) with very little prodding.
Peace out, y’all. See you soon, with a different business card.
Like many people in the museum community, I was both amused and angered by the recent(ish) article from the Guardian with the bull-to-a-red-flag title “Dear Museums, the Time Is Right To Embrace Mobile.” Amused because the central premise of the article is almost objectively wrong, and angered by the condescending tone the article strikes. Part of my issue with the article was that for all its criticism, it offered precisely no prescriptive instructions for how to deal with this supposed “problem”–it didn’t even bother to knock down the straw man it had set up. And there’s a reason for that–the museum space is an extremely difficult one for mobile. It’s easy for anyone to say “museums should have mobile stuff going on!” It’s much, much harder to articulate exactly what that mobile “stuff” should be.
Look, I’m glad that people outside the museum space are finally recognizing the value of mobile (probably because it’s a kajillion-dollar-a-year industry, I suppose; it used to just be about themusic, man). But it was hard for me to not read this article and see a bunch of Johnny-come-latelies mashing up the giant abstractions of “museums” and “mobile” and finding nothing more than a new market to exploit. As Nancy Proctor points out in her thoughtful response to the article, we’ve been working in this space for a loooooong time, and that experience has (hopefully) taught us that introducing mobile devices into museums doesn’t always equal automatic win. What I hope we have come out of the last few years with, though, is a far more nuancedunderstanding of what success with mobile applications in museums might look like. Continue reading How can museums make memorable apps?→
It’s sorta hard to believe that I’ve somehow never posted about #drinkingaboutmuseums here. I chalk that up to me forgetting that I have a blog for months at a time. At any rate, I was inspired by Ed Rodley’s now-not-so-recent post “On Drinking About Museums,” and thought that it would be a good time to lay out my thinking about the events generally, and the mechanics of our Denver event specifically.
What is it?
At its basest level, #drinkingaboutmuseums is an opportunity for museum people to get together and talk about their profession, over some sort of beverage. That’s pretty much it. Different cities have done it differently–the Denver group, for example, is always extremely loosely structured, while the Boston group often has formal presentations and agendas before the beering happens. Continue reading The majesty and wonder of “Drinking About Museums”→
If you think about it, fashion may actually be THE industry that started the curation trend – we just didn’t know it at the time. How could we? “Curation” is a relatively new term, but it’s finding its way into other realms; you hear about content curation, music curation – all meaning that in some way, these industries are personalizing their offer according to your individual wants, needs and likes.
Just a quick post, here, because I couldn’t quite get this out in 140 characters. I want to quickly address this idea, which was re-aired during the “digital strategy” session at the recent Museums and the Web conference but which has been floating around the museum technology space for a long time, of “taking technology out of the conversation.” It’s something that I hear a lot at conferences (with variations like, “learn to speak curator” or “think like an educator/scholar/conservator/etc.”). It’s a concept that sounds great in the abstract (“technology people shouldn’t focus on the technology–they should focus on the content!”), but which over the long term creates serious institutional liabilities. Continue reading Leave tech in the conversation→
Another year, another Museums and the Web conference that has left me completely hoarse and unable to talk. Wooo! I had a lovely bunch of people show up for my “Blow Up Your Online Collection” impromptu unconference session, and I wanted to attempt to get a few of the ideas that came out of that session down here before I start forgetting things again.
Hey, so apparently I have a blog! Who knew? At any rate, it looks like I’m going to be speaking at this year’s MuseumNext conference (travel budget permitting) in Barcelona, where I’ll be joining Nancy Proctor, Nate Solas, Robin Dowden, Hein Wils, Ferry Piekart, and lots of other museum smartsies for several days of kicking presentations and conversations. I’ll try and fill this out in greater detail later, but for now, here’s what I’m planning on talking about…
How much of museums’ total overall effort is bound up in potential? How much time do museums waste defining “best practices” instead of simply moving ahead with a solution that just works? Because the museum as it exists today is still essentially built on the 19th-century model, changes in practice still tend to evolve over years, if not decades. In a culture that now evolves at web-speed, the pace of museums’ own evolution is fundamentally unsustainable, if not suicidal. Continue reading The Kinetic Museum→
One of the best things that came out of this year’s Museums and the Web conference in Philly was an “unconference” session I organized around re-thinking and re-imagining what museum websites could/should be. It was a great conversation, with lots of interesting viewpoints. I hope to do a longer post about this in the next few days, but for now, here’s the video of a talk I gave at Ignite Smithsonian a few days ago that tries to get at the root of the problem I’m trying to identify. Continue reading What’s the point of a museum website?→
I’ve never done a year-end wrap-up post here at kovenjsmith.com before, but this seems better than doing real work, so here we are. A few things that I liked (or at least noted) in 2010:
Most important conversation I had in 2010: At Museums and the Web in Denver in April this year, Bruce Wyman had a long conversation that began with him saying, “you should really consider applying for the Director of Technology job at the Denver Art Museum.” And here we are!
Honorable Mention: The conversation I had with Madelyn five minutes after that, in which she said, somewhat tentatively, “yeah, I might consider moving to Colorado.”
Best Concert: Tune-Yards at the Bell House in Brooklyn. Holy crap! She blew us all away with just a uke, a floor tom, her voice, and a bad-ass bass player.
Honorable Mention: Pearl and the Beard at Union Pool for the Farm to Folks fest. If you haven’t seen these peeps yet, you need to do that right now.
Honorable Mention Runner Up: The True Love Always reunion show at the Rock Shop. Seeing John Lindaman on stage always makes me smile.
Best Moment With Madelyn: After driving three days (in separate vehicles stuffed with luggage and cats) out to Colorado, we stopped at the overlook on the Denver/Boulder Turnpike at Mile 42 to see Boulder Valley all lit up, just before driving to our new house for the first time. Yeah, that was the shit.
Usually I refrain from talking about museums on this blog except to discuss how museum policy/tradition/approach affects (or is affected by) technology, and I generally keep my political opinions to myself, so this is sort of a new thing for me. And this is probably just an overreaction to a relatively small issue. So please forgive this digression–I’ll get back to ranting about collections management systems or whatever soon enough.
The recent firestorm surrounding Wayne Clough (secretary of the Smithsonian Institution)’s decision to remove David Wojnarowicz’s work A Fire In My Belly from the “Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture” exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, and the public response to that decision, has provoked me out of my comfortable treehouse. Continue reading My take on #CloughMustGo→