Category Archives: curator

Flickr Museums

Over the course of the Fall 2010 semester Museum Lab students worked in four teams of three to invent and develop fictional museums using Flickr. This experimental format supplanted the Lab’s more traditional design assignment as the majority of students were non-design grads from Media Studies, History of Decorative Arts and Fine Arts. The aim was to see if we could practice the internal functions of the museum – including collection, conservation, interpretation, education and exhibition – using Flickr’s editorial and content management features.

While Flickr did seem at times to be a bit of an antiquated program, and lacking in participatory features of more popular social networking sites it did provide an environment for discussing a wide range of very general museum issues in an an abstract and easy to manipulate surrogate to a real museum. Questions explored included: What is a mission statement? How does mission relate to a collecting policy? How do you create and manage metadata to sort and access information? What editorial decisions are involved in creating a thematic exhibition? How can we effectively use the tools of social networking including collaborative and participatory modes of interaction, user generated tags and comments? How does the from and functions of a networked media environment influence the reading of the content?

Salon de Refuse: A Trash Museum
A museum of re-purposed objects and materials for the creation of new works of art. The Salon de Refuse derives its name from late 19th Century Parisian Salon Refusés that was founded by artists who were refused by jury of the officially sanctioned Paris Salon.
Students: Michelle Jackson, Ryan Massey, Logan Sibrel.

Gotham City Street Art Museum
This Street Art Museum creates an online site for exploring graffitti, painted murals, paste-ups and other ephemeral urban artistic practices in public space.
Students: Tori Jones, Jayme Elterman, Kadie Yale

The Play and Learn Collection: Toys that Influence
This museum explores the effects of designed objects on early childhood development including gender roles, race, occupation and identity.
Students: Meagan Elevado, Racini Andres, Ruby Hoette.

New Yorker’s Tribute Museum
The Tribute Museum explores the space of memory archives the many often unoticed memorials and monuments in New York, including spontaneous acts of memorialization, tribute tattoos, and municipally sponsored memorial installations.
Students: Sinnead Lawler, Livia Di Mario, Jessica Peterson.

Critics invited to the final review included Shannon Mattern, Professor at the New School Department of Media Studies; Ilona Parkansky, Educational Media and Technology Planner at Ralph Appelbaum Associates and Susan Sellers, Founder and Principal of 2×4 Design.

Tim Ventimiglia

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Bill Moggridge wrote a book… and he’s giving it away for free.

A scenario from Dunne and Raby shows children growing meat to provide energy to operate a TV. <em>Photo</em> Jason Evans

A couple weeks ago, I attended  a lecture by Mr. Bill Moggridge, Director of the National Design Museum. It was an interesting albeit short lecture on what he finds interesting about curatorial design, as well as how the Design Museum looks to keep up with the trends of participatory and accessible exhibits. He currently has a new media committee trying to make the museum more available online. He has also written a book titled ” Designing Interactions” which highlights the different ways that artists and designers have been creating interactive and participatory technology. There are interview videos and biographies for each of the interviewed artists  both online and on a DVD included in the book.  Better still, he has offered this book FREE for download, either by chapter or in its entirety.

There’s some pretty great stuff here, and  I thought it would be of some interest to the class. http://www.designinginteractions.com/book

Jess Peterson

Listening to LaSalle NOLA!

In a week I’m going to New Orleans to hold my first exhibition, curate and be in complete charge of installation, reception, etc.  Because of this class, I’ve learned a lot about putting together a show.  I’m also going to use participation as part of the show so that we get a sense of what the community things about our proposal, what we are doing, and we can also use this data as part of our presentation to Chase in the final round!  So thanks for all the great lessons, I’ve learned a lot!  Wish us luck, if we win, our non profit organization gets $50,ooo.oo to see our project through.

Below is my proposal, please feel free to leave comments on how this could be better!

Listening to La Salle!

Listening to La Salle is an exhibition based on a project that the Chase Competition holds every year ranging from New York City to New Orleans.  This year, the New School along with the University of New Orleans and our non-profit organization, NONDC, are coming together to work on a proposal to make the street of La Salle, located in the heart of Central City, New Orleans, what it was and bring out its potential for the future.  With a great range of students, from business, architects, design, and fine arts, and a lot of research, we come together to create a strong, powerful, and meaningful project to help out the community of Central City.

Aside from the bigger picture, one of the ways we decided to get the community involved and to bring an understanding of what exactly we are doing was to have an exhibition.  Through our research we discovered a great art organization that work with local youth.  Below is their mission statement.

“YA/YA’s mission is to empower creative young people to become successful adults. We do this by providing educational experiences in the arts and entrepreneurship to New Orleans-area youth, and by fostering and supporting their ambitions.”

We felt that working with youth would be the most inspirational part of our project for the simple reason that they ARE the future of New Orleans.  They are the ones who ground us and bring us back to the bigger picture of why this project is so important.

Through this exhibition, it is not only about getting the youth involved, but it was also important to give the community a better understanding of who we are and what we are doing.  It is a chance to meet us.

This exhibition proposes; from the eyes of the youth, YaYa students will create paintings that represent their community, what it was, is, and can become.  Along with pieces from 2 MFA students from Parsons, The New School, in New York that will capture the history of La Salle street.  Aside from the fine arts part, the architect team will also provide images of what La Salle St. can look like in the future, through the rebuilding of the famous Dew Dropp Inn, Krump site, Smith site, as well as the new incoming occupants, the NONDC site.  We want to show how all these elements can bring the community together and build a better future.

From the New York side of the exhibition, we will be in charge of installation, de-installation, and transportation of all the pieces as well as providing of the food and beverages at the opening reception.  YA/YA will be in charge of providing the artwork and all it’s information as well as how any transactions regarding the purchasing of any work will take place.

The show will be held in the clubhouse of Harmony Oaks from November 23 – 29th.  Giving time for those who were unable to attend the opening reception to peak in whenever they have a chance to.

Racini Andres

The Met’s Luce Center for the Study of American Art

On Monday the MuseumLab visited the Henry R. Luce Study Center for American Art at the Met. Curator Amelia Peck and Technologist Leela Outcalt gave us a tour of the existing facility, talked about its history and showed us a prototype of the new user interfaces that they are implementing.

The Luce Center was the first of many Luce Foundation funded study centers including the New York Historical Society, the Brooklyn Museum, and most recently the Smithsonian Museum of American Art in DC. The Met’s Luce Center was created in the late 1980’s when American became an official department  after consolidating collections that were previously scattered across multiple departments. The Luce  Center was revolutionary for its high-density open storage approach and use of digital object records that could be accessed by visitors. There are now over 18,000 objects of decorative arts, art and design in the American Department and these are distributed in a variety of gallery types including art galleries, period rooms, the study center, a recently renovated courtyard and some back of house storage. Adding loaned objects they are currently holding over 21,000 objects. The basic idea behind the study center was to democratize access to the collection, not just for scholars, but for the visiting public. There is a great article in Museum News (July 1991) by Carrie Rebora chronicles the early years of the project and how it came about so I wont dwell on the history here (I will digress with one footnote–the entire collections database and user interface ran on two 330 MB drives with 4 MB of RAM!).

Amelia and Leela gave us their assessment of what works and what doesn’t and a peek at some new interfaces the are developing with Small Design Firm. Their plans include a much larger number of interactive study stations each with a large touch screen monitor at a table to support longer object browsing and study. The prototype of the new interface was quite sophisticated and allowed you to search using any field, and organize the collection chronologically, by accession date, and by material.

They are also adding small monitors to the ends of each case, allowing users to browse the contents of the case in closer physical proximity. These compact screens  are visually very simple and easy to navigate. Objects are represented as thumbnail photographs in a grid. Touching and object icon opens a page containing its metadata. The systems seems easy to navigate, is visually unobtrusive and is automatically updated with new data every week to keep pace with new acquisitions, loans and new curatorial information for each object.

The Luce Center’s collections interfaces and the period room interactive programs are a smart technological retrofit of an existing facility and provide a strong contemporary complement to older (but still effective) exhibition techniques. To me the most interesting aspect of this interface is that it enables the Met to graphically represent the entirety of the collection in a number of ways that reveal larger trends like the proportion of objects in the collection across decades, or the proportion of silver, to glass, to ceramic, etc. These visualizations reminded me of some of the great Victorian collections displays where the entirety of the museum’s collection were visible in a kind of panoptic spectacle that was meant to convey the collection’s taxonomic structure at a glance.

Tim Ventimiglia

Corning Museum of Glass

I actually meant to post this a while ago after attending a glass conference at CMoG in mid October and talking about that in class today reminded me.  I went in knowing the renovations were done by RAA in 2001, and was pretty curious to see what kind of innovations would await.  One of the sections of the exhibition space is actually called the ” glass innovation center” if I recall correctly.  Anyway, the architecture and exhibition designs for the educational areas and the glass studio were striking, as expected, especially given the level of audience participation in the glass making shows (which are really cool!)

I had to spend pretty much all of my time in lectures and in the glass galleries though, and was really intrigued by the layout of the exposed study collection.  The vitrine case-exhibition style is essentially the same as the regular gallery, just more packed (and sometimes equally packed!) with objects.  Sure, there are only accession numbers for this segment of the museum (with unfortunately no visible console or book for looking them up), but other than that there was sometimes very little difference between the study collection and the displayed collection.  The shelves for the display collection itself often went up over my head in the 20th century modern section (and I’m not really short, so this was a weird problem to be having). I had to resort to taking wobbly pictures, arms fully outstretched over my head and just hope it would get the right angle since I couldn’t see it.  This is kind of a disaster when your formal analysis topic is on the top shelf, but I imagine it’s not the best for the casual visitor either.

All that aside, Corning has an impressive, large collection, and even with the presence of the study collection, most of their objects are still stored in an offsite facility near the airport.  I’m not sure if the study collection rotates different objects, but given the breadth of the collection (and it grows every year!), it makes me wonder: how feasible is it for large and growing institutions like the Corning Museum to incorporate these aspects of back of house fully into the front of house?

michelle jackson

National Baseball Hall of Fame – Then and Now

After last week’s class discussion hearing the mixed sentiments about the move toward interactive displays and less objects in the Museum, I remembered my experience of visiting the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown a year and a half ago and my great disappointment in the renovations, “modernization” and restructuring of all their exhibition halls.  I first visited the Hall of Fame in high school, about 10 or 11 years ago and remember walking in and feeling like I was in my grandparents’ attic, seeing old relics and photos displayed with pride, but also crowded and cluttered. It felt as if I was discovering something, as you tend to feel when going through old family photo albums or clothes and jewelry boxes of past relatives.  Old lockers, some actual and some re-fabricated, were stuffed with the jerseys, gloves, cleats, baseball cards, and correspondence of famous players.  The museum really captured the essence of baseball and how it became “America’s Pastime.”

When I went to the Hall of Fame most recently, I was with a friend who had never visited and gushed over how personal and intimate the Hall of Fame was, the warm lighting, the display boxes made to feel like lockers and dug outs really indulged a baseball fan’s nostalgia.  Upon entry, everything was re-done, what used to be rows of cluttered lockers were now modern display cases with gallery lighting.  Objects, much fewer and isolated, seemed detached and inaccessible behind glass panes framed by dry wall painted in deep solid hues.  The warmth, accessibility, and feeling of discovery were gone and I felt that kids passing through the halls were really missing out on a connection that I made when I first had visited.

I’m curious to know why the Hall of Fame made the move from the dusty charm of its old displays to the sterile and impersonal.  I was surprised to see that even the Statistics Room, which used to have old score board-style listings of players’ names and stat numbers on removable hand painted wooden planks was replaced with boring white Arial font on a black background.

As I had mentioned in class, I don’t think technology and streamlining the display of objects is necessarily the right move for all Museums.  Careful attention needs to be paid to the visitor experience.  Some mediums don’t necessarily benefit from a minimalist and/or technological approach.

Megan Elevado

High Tech Versus No Tech

This weekend was a perfect time to ponder the idea of high tech versus no tech within museum walls, as I had the chance to visit two wonderful museums which represented both extremes.

The First was a trip to The Waterfront Museum in Red Hook (Brooklyn) (please watch this video, it’s adorable.) The Museum has a very unique characteristic: it is actually a floating barge, and the only one in New York to be exact. I accompanied a friend to sit in on a third grade’s class visit to the museum. 70 eight year olds filled the barge to learn about its history, as well as the history of transportation in the US and specifically in New York. There space was bare except for some paintings on the walls an old fashioned domino effect machine, and a juggling curator named David Sharps.

The children were completely engaged by his class lecture, excitedly participating with their museum educator. At one point, he used the term “obsolete” to describe the old purpose of the barge, and explain how he created a new purpose for it, (by turning it into a museum.) I started to think about the word in terms of our discussion about the ‘no tech’ museum. Are they obsolete as well or can we still find a use for them within our society? By the enthusiasm and smiles on the children’s face. I was reassured that there was still in fact a great need for a museum which focuses on the rudimentary values of social interaction and energetic education.

On the other side of the spectrum, there was the “YouTube Play” exhibit at the Guggenheim. An Asian blog described the event: “The Guggenheim Museum last week unveiled the winners of a video contest submitted via YouTube from artists around the world. The top 25 videos selected in the ‘You Tube Play’ competition were shown for the first time on a large screen at New York City’s Guggenheim. The contest, created with video-sharing web site YouTube, was aimed at showcasing innovative online video artists. The videos were projected onto the exterior of the museum’s rotunda in Manhattan.Varying from animated line drawings to cartoons, the top 25 videos were created by 39 artists from 14 countries” (NTDTV). Here’s a video of the spectacular exhibition. While I was not able to make it to the event itself, just watching the event online was a breathtaking site to see. Youtube is one of the quintessential examples of technology and when used appropriately, can create beautifully crafted artwork.

In both cases, I think that the choice to use or not use technology was done appropriately, based on the content and aesthetic that the museum wished to convey.  The Waterfront Museum proved to me that technology was not necessary in order to create an entertaining and educational exhibit, while the Guggenheim reassured me that the use of technology could be done tastefully and successfully.  The question does not seem to be “high tech versus no tech” but rather “how will this tech” bring value to the museum.

J Peterson