Category Archives: interactive

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

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

Participatory Museum or Playground? Or Both?

After our trip to the Met’s Luce Center to try out their technology prototypes, I was struck by one of the comments made– namely, that a young child using the computers in the period rooms was able to exit the program in order to use Paint to draw her name on the desktop.  It’s sort of a delightful anecdote and a commentary on the best laid plans of adults often going awry,  but it got me thinking about my experiences with museums as a child.  My first memory of visiting a museum is pretty hazy, but it was definitely to visit the Please Touch Museum in Philadelphia (now housed in the fabulous Memorial Hall from the 1875 Centennial International Exhibition), and I was excited because I was allowed to dress up in “pilgrim” clothes and play pretend Thanksgiving with my siblings and other random kids.

It didn’t dawn on me until years later what the museum’s mission actually was, because it seemed light on traditional objects and heavy on being a child’s dream playground.  They have constantly changing exhibits which are interactive for both children and adults, and currently they  have something to do with literature (Alice in Wonderland), physics (a flight exhibit), and nature (a river exhibit).  The emphasis, as cued by the institution’s name, is of course placed on touch and learning by doing– something that seems to be a popular trend in science centers too, like we’ve discussed in class.  The point I want to make here is, that visiting the Please Touch (which my 5-year-old self called “Policetudge”–all one word), was memorable not because of what I might have learned about the Pilgrims, but because I could touch literally everything there.  To an extent I still hold that obsession of wanting to touch museum objects– there’s something about feeling the surface nuances and the weight and solidity of an object  that makes me feel as though I understand it more fully.

That said, I’m wondering how to classify the Please Touch Museum… now it feels more like a learning center or discovery center than my traditional concept of a museum (another bias leftover from childhood: my points of comparison were the more traditional style PMA and the Barnes Foundation where touching is, obviously, prohibited).  As we see with the Luce Center’s more intuitive study computers, there is definitely a rise in more entertaining and accessible technology or interactive features in museum exhibition design.  The Please Touch concept is just a simpler version of this type of interaction. I guess the answer to Steven Conn’s question “Do museums still need objects?” could start to get its answer here.  Apparently, they need more toys.

Michelle Jackson

Raymond Pettibon: Hard in the Paint

This show is actually pretty traditional in its presentation, but–in relation to our recent discussions in class regarding technology and all the trimmings in museum and gallery exhibits–it was totally refreshing to see a very no frills type exhibition.  Pettibon’s show at David Zwirner feels very D.I.Y. and rough around the edges, but aside from, say, the lighting, the work hold up on its own.  In the Chelsea world of high-tech video installations and the inevitable gadgetry involved, this show stands out in its simplicity.  Plus, the works themselves are gorgeous and pretty funny.  Also, be sure to check out the Luc Tuymans show, which is in another part of the space.

-Logan Sibrel

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

Yoko Ono: Voice Piece for Soprano…

Say what you will about Yoko Ono (I happen to love her).

The more I think about how there are more museums than ever, and less objects in these museums than ever; I begin to do a run through in my head of exhibitions with very few objects and how, subjectively, successful I find them.  Probably the most recent [basically] non-object piece/exhibit I’ve seen is Ono’s “Voice Piece for Soprano” at MoMA.  The piece is made of a large empty room, very little directional wall text, a microphone on a stand in the center of the room which is flanked by two speakers, and you–the participant.  I spent almost two hours on a Saturday sitting in front of the piece; watching countless elderly women hobble up to the mic and scream at the top of their lungs.  It was really intense.  I keep thinking about this piece in relation to the reading from last week, which explained the various reasons people choose to participate or not to participate.  My thought is that Ono’s piece offers an ideal model for a participatory piece because it is straightforward.  “Scream“.  It is easy to do, and not screaming makes you look like a weirdo.  Everyone is doing it (perhaps participatory museums should rely more on peer pressure).  Also, it feels amazing to get to scream at the top of your lungs.

Logan Sibrel

Participation & Technology

I made a comment on Monday about how I’m concerned about the overuse of technology in today’s museums, so I decided to try some further research to get a better idea of positive aspects of participatory technology.  I came up with this interesting article about a study of the Sotto Voce audio guide done in 2002.  The guide attempts to solve the problem of disconnected visitors who use headphone tours in art museums. The program acts as a connector between visitors and as a personalized tour guide.  For the full article: Revisiting the Visit

Michelle Jackson

Museum Without Walls: AUDIO

Apropos our discussion on Monday which briefly touched on the concept of Museum 2.0, a very relevant reinvention of the museum is currently taking place along Philadelphia’s Benjamin Franklin Parkway.  Museum Without Walls: AUDIO is essentially a downloadable personalized audio tour of public sculpture available as an app for your iPhone or as a podcast for your computer.  Implemented by the Fairmount Park Art Association, the tours encompass the 50+ sculptures peppered amidst the myriad cultural institutions of the Parkway, and are based on the idea of authenticity in the presentation and interpretation of sculpture.  These tours seek to purvey the different perspectives of artists, historians, teachers, scientists, writers,  local community leaders, and, yes, curators in order to present a more personal experience of Philadelphia’s rich tradition of public sculpture.

This idea is definitely interesting for its engaging use of public space, and its aim to reacquaint Philadelphia with some recognizable but perhaps still mysterious works of sculpture.  Also of interest is the added role of the spectator as an active participant in the “exhibit”: visitors are invited to submit their photos and/or anecdotes to the program’s website.  Added bonus: tours are free! For more information, including an interactive map, please see: http://museumwithoutwallsaudio.org/

michelle jackson

Cycles in Exhibition Design

Frederick Kiesler "Art of This Century" Exhibition 1942

In 1942 when Fredrick Kiesler designed Peggy Guggenheim’s gallery “Art of this Century” he incorporated armatures into his design that literally presented the artwork to the viewer by removing the art from the wall and placing it into free space. This ‘active’ exhibition design broke the inherent two-dimensionality aspect of the artwork and placed in within a three dimensional space. As a result, the audience and the art were comfortably within the same environment. As a result of this design, Kiesler’s exhibition was critically acclaimed and in the last few years there has been a Kiesler-revival. I am interested in the fact that today Kiesler’s work  not only remains provocative but is also increasingly relevant. Kiesler recognized not only the role of the surrealist art in his design but he recognized another important ingredient in his design – the viewer. His training as a set designer had prepared him for this role – he created sets but more importantly he created spaces for the actors within his sets. In our discussion in class we speak so often of the curatorial narrative, of the display of information, of the experience of the exhibition, of the expectations of the audience, but in reviewing Kiesler’s exhibition, it seems that we don’t actually think about the physicality of the exhibition and the viewer. We do indeed talk about how the viewer fits into the exhibition – culturally, academically, etc – but physically fits? Sometime the most important move is the simplest move – welcoming the viewer so they can exist in the same of the exhibition… the display, path, experience, etc then become relevant.

HC Smith

Esquire’s Augmented Reality

This month was Esquire Magazine’s Augmented Reality Issue. On the cover and throughout the magazine, picture codes known as Augmented Reality software were placed next to the featured articles. For example, Robert Downey Jr. had a code on the cover that he was selling. A male supermodel had a code next to the clothes he was wearing. Readers simply download AR Software to their computers and hold up the AR code to their webcam. Once the webcam registers the code, a video of Robert Downey Jr. in his interview pops up. A video of the Model modeling clothes pops up. These are not short clips. They run for a good three – five minutes. High –tech animations and graphics are of course included and by rotating the magazine at different angles, i.e. facing north instead of south, a different video pops up to talk to, entertain, and educate the reader.

The ease at which Esquire introduced Augmented Reality to the public struck me as something that Museums; particularly Natural History Museums can use to make their visitors more engaged. If they were to place these codes next to their still objects suck as earthen vases, traditional wedding costumes, or even primeval weapons, visitors can beep the codes located next to the objects and immediately watch a video of how they were used. For example, the Natural History Museum in NYC has a traditional Chinese Wedding Costume for a bride along with the Sedan Chair that she sits in. As accurate as those two items are, if I weren’t from Chinese heritage, I wouldn’t know the tradition and importance of the logic behind how the bride gets brought into the carriage. If a video can pop up immediately after scanning the adjacent AR code, visitors can be brought back to ancient China and see that the veiled bride has to be piggy-backed over a brazier on to the carriage by an older woman known as the matron of honor, that the bride was always sheltered with a red parasol and kerchief, and that the door of the Sedan Chair was always kicked open to chase away bad spirits that may have latched on the to bride before.

As these Augmented Reality codes can be beeped on any digital device, the Museum won’t have to worry about introducing a vast amount of technology into their actual exhibits. People can simply view these on their phones. Augmented Reality Codes and software can enhance the experience of viewing still objects!

Kelly Lo