Watch this talk and tell me what you think in the comments…
I was honored to be part of the curatorial team for this year’s event. As always, it was life-changing. I think back on last year’s event and am amazed at the impact one day had on me, and the world around me. I encourage you to attend a local TEDx, or to start one yourself.
My friend Denise Lee Yohn did this amazing video, capturing the day.
Music by Hargo.
I’ve just posted my 41-minute interview with best-selling author Dr. Joseph Michelli. He covers customer service at Pike Place Fish Market, Starbucks, and Ritz-Carlton Hotels. (You’ll also find it on iTunes. Subscribe to get updates automatically.)
You’ll hear his take on creating hope and purpose with your employees, why failing to properly orient new employees is “immoral”(!) and how to share your vision with employees. He also covers some specifics about training tools used successfully, like Starbucks’ Green Apron book, and the Ritz-Carlton daily lineup.
I thoroughly enjoyed talking with him and think you’ll find he offers truly practical advice. His latest book is The New Gold Standard: 5 Leadership Principles for Creating a Legendary Customer Experience at Ritz-Carlton Hotels. Enjoy!
The Balboa Park Online Collaborative hosted a workshop on February 16 and 17, 2010 on mobile interpretive tools and strategy. Day One featured Nancy Proctor, head of New Media for the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Nancy manages the Museum Mobile project, a blog and wiki for collaborative work on mobile interpretation in museums. You can find an exceedingly detailed wiki page for this workshop here, including all of Nancy and Titus Bicknell’s slides.
Nancy began by reminding us that it’s not about the technology, a sentiment that Titus echoed the next day. The goal is to go from headphones to microphones, from a one-way broadcast to a two-way dialogue with visitors.
Why mobile? By 2020, it’s estimated that most people’s primary access to the Net will be via a mobile device, not a PC.
- Define your target audience
- Look at your mission and key messages
- Define your outcomes: what do you want visitors to know, feel, and do?
- What platforms are they already using?
All of this should sound very familiar to anyone involved with interpretive planning, and I loved to see how she integrated best practices into the notion of mobile interpretation, incorporating possible mobile interpretive tools alongside ones that are already in place and already working. Nancy credits Kate Haley Goldman of ILI for her early ideas on this methodology.
Early in the day, we paired up and pulled out a significant object that we were instructed to bring from home. [Note: the “significant object” discussion exercise is one used by SmartHistory’s Steven Zucker & Beth Harris when they do workshops with people on their dialogue technique.]
Without telling our partner about our object, we listed as many questions as we had about theirs. Then we asked, and answered, the questions. We grouped the questions into formal, functional, relational, and emotional categories, and discussed how this got us thinking about the objects. We used this warm-up for the question mapping exercise.
Nancy also introduced the notion of soundtrack vs. sound bite, which was an interesting way of looking at chunks of intepretive content. See the video below for her definition of each.
She introduced us to a useful tool called question mapping. We were sent out into Balboa Park after lunch and asked to find (or draw) a map of a museum space, then write down every question we had on that map, locating the questions on the map. Here is a portion of my map, done at the San Diego Museum of Art:
Some of my questions were:
- RE: nude sculpture: Does she mind being naked?
- Why is this room peach?
- Why did he use turquoise in a winter painting?
- Why all the dead birds?
Then we came back and created a very large matrix, which incorporated our questions as one of the columns. (See an example of a completed matrix on Slide 62 in her slide deck.) Other columns include: target audience, key messages, themes, location (in the museum), type of interp (soundtrack/soundbite/link), voice, feedback option, platform.
While this 11″ X 17″ sheet was a little unwieldy to work with on our laps, I found it to be useful in helping me think through possible themes, as well as getting creative with potential voices, links, and possible ways to get visitors involved.
One example I came up with is the theme of the use of color by artists. This theme could lead you throughout the museum via podcast, audio tour, iPhone app, labels, scavenger hunt, etc. Voices on audio tracks could include painters, curators, exhibit designers, color designers, and someone from the Pantone Color Institute, who forecast color trends each year.
Possible ways to get the audience involved might be “name that color,” vote on your favorite color, colorize a digital painting, try another color in this painting, send a postcard of this painting, or (this doesn’t exist) create your own custom color nail polish in the museum store.
Here’s my interview with Nancy:
If you are interested in the potential of gaming in museums, including the game the Smithsonian American Art Museum hosted called Ghosts of a Chance, as well as a compilation of recent alternate reality games (ARGs), see this blog post. If you’re interested in the potential of gaming in museums, read this article about Columbia College’s work on constructive/collaborative gaming.
All in all, this was a terrific first day and gave me some useful tools to think about incorporating technology and media into museum visitor experiences. My thanks to Nancy for taking the time to do the video interview, and to Rich Cherry of the Balboa Park Online Collaborative and Paige Simpson of the Balboa Park Learning Institute for bringing such stellar speakers to San Diego.
The Balboa Park Online Collaborative hosted a workshop on February 16 and 17, 2010 on mobile interpretive tools and strategy. Day Two on technology featured Titus Bicknell, Director of Information Technology for Experius Academy. You can find a detailed wiki page for this workshop here, including all of Nancy and Titus Bicknell’s slides. See this post for Nancy Proctor’s presentation and video interview.
Here’s my interview with Titus, that helps give an overview of his talk (minus the highly technical content):
Titus suggested that you begin with what the audience requires in terms of content, and balance that with your technology infrastructure and business model. Do you have in-house capabilities? A central technology resource (like Balboa Park does)? Will you be using external consultants or services? Are you for-profit? Nonprofit? Do you have to demonstrate ROI? (Later, he talked about the importance of understanding your technology infrastructure if you are going to create a mobile tour or app. If the digital assets your tour needs to display are located in servers off-site, it might take forever for those assets to load on a phone in the gallery.) All these questions should feed into your decision-making process.
Titus offered a complex diagram for helping you decide on choosing a platform. (Slide 21 of his slide deck.) First consider: Is the visitor going to provide the device, or is the museum?
If the visitor provides:
- No device with them (they visit your website and possibly download something in advance)
- Stupid phone (they can do a cell phone tour)
- Smart phone (they can download/play a podcast, use an app, or visit your website in mobile view)
If the museum provides:
- No-tech (map, wall text)
- Low-tech (provide a device with a pre-loaded audio/video tour)
- Hi-tech (wi-fi hotspot for downloading apps, tours, using social media, etc)
The goal is to find the perfect match for your site, given all these factors.
Keep in mind that visitors will judge you on what you offer, not what you don’t, and that they expect 100% accuracy. They won’t fault you for not having an iPhone app, but if you provide one and it doesn’t work, they’ll be unhappy. They don’t expect you to offer a wand or iTouch with a mobile tour loaded on it, but if you do, it has to work properly 100% of the time.
Now for some tech stuff, Titus’ Manifesto for mobile platforms:
- Content should not be required to be altered or created for a platform. That is, your assets (video, photos, etc.) should not have to be customized to fit a specific device, because the device will change.
- Assembly of assets should be managed by a metadata layer. This metadata layer can easily change for a new platform.
- Platforms should manipulate assets for optimized display automatically, filtered to ensure a good viewing experience. For example, a photo in your collections management system would be resized to fit an iPod screen if that’s what the user is holding, without affecting the original in your system.
- Store assets in the most appropriate way for the asset, not the end content. For example, keep the original photos as raw files or TIFFs, so you always have that high-quality image to go back to.
- Be technically promiscuous to achieve the best solution for managing and presenting content. (Don’t use only one technology, as that may not be the best solution for you.)
Make the most of what you already have in your collections management system; it’s low-hanging fruit that can be turned into mobile content fairly easily.
Use as much off the shelf as you can (for 80% of the work) and then customize the remaining 20%. You want your customizing to show on the front end (to the visitor). Don’t customize the back end, as it slows down your staff members who have to re-learn the interface. This is one example of why WordPress might be a good platform for you, as many people are already using WordPress for blogs and are familiar with the administrative panel and how it works.
If you are doing things in-house, document it. Don’t assume people know how to do it. It’s very easy to cut this step and you WILL regret it later. If you have a tech firm or consultants doing it for you, make sure that full documentation is part of their scope of work.
Two platforms he recommends are Drupal and WordPress. They are both powerful, widely supported, and open source. If you’re just getting started, start with WordPress. You can migrate it later into something more powerful, like Drupal. There’s been a full discussion of the relative merits of Drupal vs. WordPress on the Museum Computer Network’s listserv.
He then built a quick WordPress site while we watched (in about 15 minutes), including the plug-in for the mobile view, which people could then see on their cell phones as he worked. The advantage to this is that you can get it up quickly, keep customizing, it works on any PDA, and it doesn’t have to go through the iTunes store approval process like an app does.
This was a terrific two days and gave me some useful tools to think about incorporating technology and media into museum visitor experiences. My thanks to Titus for taking the time to do the video interview, and to Rich Cherry of the Balboa Park Online Collaborative and Paige Simpson of the Balboa Park Learning Institute for bringing such stellar speakers to San Diego.
Last week I attended a daylong workshop at the CAM Conference sponsored by the California Exhibition Resources Alliance (CERA). The workshop was a Technology Salon for Small Museums and featured presentations throughout the day on how to use technology wisely and efficiently for marketing, interpretation, and in exhibits. It was hosted by the de Saisset Museum at Santa Clara University.
I offered to show people how to create video podcasts and use the video for both promotion and education. So we decided we would create a podcast during the workshop, with the goal of having it up on YouTube by 3 pm. Online video is the most important tool a cultural attraction can use, as it’s now the most compelling online content. In addition, one video podcast can be placed, for free, in over 25 outlets. That means one short video is out there in 25 different online spaces, promoting your museum 24/7.
Here are a few of the steps we went through to make this podcast a reality.
- Choose content. I asked curator Lindsey Kouvaris to choose three items from their permanent collection that a) would be interesting to talk about, b) could be used to talk about behind-the-scenes aspects of museum work, and for which c) she had permission to broadcast the image.
- Prepare still images. Lindsey sent me high-quality stills in advance, along with their museum’s logo, and the necessary credit line for the photographer. I pre-loaded these into iPhoto in advance, and created a title card with their logo. The still images can then easily be pulled into iMovie as stills, and you can zoom in on them.
- Choose music. I chose four options from Garageband’s library that I thought might work for this museum. Once I arrived, I had Lindsey choose the one that best suited her institution’s personality. See my handout for more on legal music use.
- Charge camera, double-check equipment list before getting on plane.
- Shoot interview. I start by telling a joke to get the subject comfortable, and make sure they’re looking at me, not the camera. Once I’ve set up the camera on the tripod, I start recording and then make sure I’m nodding and smiling a lot to keep their energy up and focused on me.
For this workshop, I shot the last portion of the interview in the workshop space, so all the attendees could see how I did it. Lindsey was a trouper! Then I began editing while the other presenters were doing their thing. At about 1:15 pm, I plugged my laptop into the projector and showed them the partially completed podcast (about half done at that point). The sound levels weren’t quite right, but they could see everything coming together. And by 3 pm, it was indeed up on YouTube. I also showed them another video piece, and the multiple locations it had been used. Here is the final video:
While this felt a little crazy to do under the gun, it was a fun challenge and I think it illustrated that video has become both accessible, affordable, and easy. Click here for the handout I created, which lists all the outlets where I place my video podcasts and details about the hardware and software I use. Before I left, Lindsey had already embedded the link in their Facebook Page. 🙂
Thanks to Rebecca Schapp and Lindsey Kouvaris of the de Saisset Museum for hosting, and to Adrienne McGraw and Lexie Smith Kliebe of CERA for putting together such a terrific day.
I had the opportunity to sit down with Seb Chan, Head of Digital, New, and Emerging Technologies at Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum. Here’s what he had to say about making museums relevant by focusing the museum’s brand identity on your unique collection. What do you think?
My Seb Chan interview continues. Seb is the Head of Digital, New, and Emerging Technologies at Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum. He discusses the trend towards museums becoming more relevant by being more engaged with their communities, but why they can’t be like libraries. We need to embrace what makes us uniquely “museum.” The collection is the defining difference. He talks about how museums need to build their brands around their collection here.
Here is the last part of my interview with Seb Chan, Head of Digital, New, and Emerging Technologies at Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum. Here, Seb talks about walking through the visitor journey to make sure your experience as a whole works from the visitor’s perspective, and then gives some surprising tips about where to include participatory activities. Want more Seb? He talks about building your museum’s brand around your collection, and what makes museums unique (and therefore relevant).
Here how Conner Prairie moved from classic “monologue” interpretation to a visitor-centered approach. For more Conner Prairie videos, visit my YouTube page.