Museums

Here are some posts about museums. Enjoy!

April 4, 2014

Simon and Carolyn’s excellent presentation on digital transformation has me thinking about where (and how) digital activities would ideally be integrated into a museum, and I keep thinking about how much easier it would be to do this if I knew what our product was. Like, as an art museum, what is the main thing that we make? It’s not the collections; it’s not probably even the objects. Is it the scholarship?

April 4, 2014

I’m really starting to have an issue with our usage of the word “digital” as a noun. I guess it bothers me because as soon as we use this word in this way, it becomes easier for us to generalize in ways that I don’t think are particularly helpful. We start talking about “what digital can do for you” or “how digital changes us” or whatever. It starts to feel as if “digital” is a sentient being that has its own morals, values, and desires.

April 3, 2014

So, I figured out that if I put a question mark at the end of the post title, Tumblr enables comments. So all of my posts will have awkward question marks at the end of their titles, which is probably a good thing, actually. Aaaaanyway, “content is king.” Sure, I guess? This feels like another false dichotomy to me, and the more we say it, the more we aren’t attacking this problem in the right way.

April 3, 2014

Eric Brockmeyer’s keynote has gotten me thinking a bit more about what net/digital/technology-native storytelling might look like. I don’t think we’ve yet figured out what that is. To a great extent, museums’ approach to storytelling in the digital domain has been a skeuomorphic one. We do blog posts that look like book excerpts, we do mobile apps that look like object labels. But talking with Peter Samis (SFMOMA) after the keynote got me thinking about the person as a physical repository and aggregator of content.

April 3, 2014

As usual, I’m starting to have more and more of a problem with a certain word that a lot of us have started to use with increasing frequency–“storytelling.” It’s a really nice sounding word, but I don’t think I understand the way that we (“we” being “technology-oriented museum people”, I guess) are currently using it. Is “storytelling” just the newest iteration of “it’s not about the technology, it’s about the content?

March 31, 2014

So, in preparation for our “Third Spaces” talk at Museums and the Web on Friday, I’m thinking about different kinds of mobile interpretation. Specifically, I’m interested in mobile interpretation in museum spaces that doesn’t rely on conveying information as its primary modality. Here I’m thinking about mobile apps that might allow visitors to control other elements (lighting, ambient colors, sounds) or otherwise experience objects and/or physical spaces differently. Is anyone out there aware of such a thing?

October 30, 2013

Now that I’m on the second leg of my “Drinking About Museums Listening Tour,” (ha!) a few themes are starting to emerge as I talk to museum professionals around the country (and soon, the world!), and I wanted to note them down before I forget. First, the good news. It’s clear that, as far as technology goes, we’re not fighting the same battles that we were even a couple of years ago.

September 26, 2013

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!

July 18, 2013

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 the music, 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 nuanced_ _understanding of what success with mobile applications in museums might look like.

July 5, 2013

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 postOn 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.

Aaaanyway…

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.