Technology in the Mindful Museum


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Writer and commentator Adam Gopnik has described the mindful museum as a place that is primarily about the objects it contains while also recognizing that it should not seek to explain what cannot be explained. “And that means simply that wall labels and explanatory text of all kinds should be as modest and invisible as conceivable,” he said in the first annual Eva Holtby Lecture on Contemporary Culture at Toronto’s Royal Ontario Museum just months before the ROM opened its Michael Lee-Chin Crystal addition in June 2007. How should museums interpret Gopnik’s view in today’s world of flat screens and wireless networks and one where most museum and gallery visitors can receive instant information via their cell phones, Blackberrys and iPods. And where does that leave the ROM as it grapples with technology solutions for providing context and interpretation in its powerful new gallery spaces? Created by Brian Porter for the 2008 Technology in the Arts: Canada Conference.

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Technology in the Mindful Museum

  1. 1. Technology in the Mindful Museum Technology in the Arts Conference University of Waterloo May 10, 2008
  2. 2. Technology in the Mindful Museum Tony Hushion Brian Porter
  3. 3. Overview • The new ROM and its five pillars of identity • New media and IT development at the ROM • Museum models and the “Mindful Museum” defined • Examples of digital media applications • Technology planning for future galleries • Lessons learned and opportunities for smaller museums • Temple, Agora or Coliseum? What is the new ROM?
  4. 4. The New ROM • A first rank museum of world cultures and natural history • A powerful agent of public education and research • A pleasurable agent of social integration in Ontario • A potent agent of urban renewal in Toronto • A significant generator of economic activity in Ontario • A fiscally sound and robust institution • A leading example of functional governance and workplace culture
  5. 5. Five Pillars of Identity ROM is a…. • Civic Destination • Museum Destination • Knowledge Destination • Social Destination • Virtual Destination
  6. 6. The New ROM Metrics of success: • Attendance more than 100 % ahead of last year • Admissions revenue more than 100 % in same period • Web site traffic running 30 % ahead of last year • March Break one of the most successful on record
  7. 7. The New ROM June 2007 Garfield Weston Exhibition Hall (“Blockbuster” space) Roloff Beny Gallery (ICC) October 2007 Sigmund Samuel Gallery of Canada December 2007 Gallery of the Age of Mammals James and Louise Temerty Galleries of the Age of Dinosaurs
  8. 8. The New ROM February 2008 Sir Christopher Ondaatje South Asian Gallery Wirth Gallery of the Middle East April 2008 Patricia Harris Gallery of Textiles & Costume Ajmera Gallery of Africa, the Americas and Asia-Pacific December 2008 Teck Cominco Suite of Earth Sciences Galleries January 2009 Schad Gallery of Biodiversity: Life in Crisis
  9. 9. Feature Exhibitions 2008 China Month (May) at the ROM • Shanghai historical photographs: Until Oct. 26 • ICC Shanghai Kaleidoscope: Until Nov. 2 Ongoing • Darwin: Until Aug 4 • Out From Under (Disability): Until July 13
  10. 10. Feature Exhibitions 2008 Opening soon • Wedgwood: June 7 – July 2009 • Caribana Art Exhibition: July 24 – Aug. 4 • Sobey National Art Award: Aug 30 – Oct 13 • Diamonds: Oct 25 – March 22, 2009 • Ancient Ukraine: Nov 29 – March 22, 2009
  11. 11. Future Exhibitions 2009-2011 • Chinese paintings – January 2009 • Ydessa Hendeles (ICC) – Winter 2009 • Dead Sea Scrolls – 2009 • Terra Cotta Soldiers – 2010 (tentative) • Season of India – 2010 • Water – 2011 • Season of Africa – 2011
  12. 12. Shanghai Kaleidoscope “In the two-screen video installation Let’s Puff (2002), Yang Zhenzhong fashions a wry visual metaphor for the winds of change that have swept through China’s cities during the past decade.” - Christopher Phillips, Guest Curator Institute for Contemporary Culture SK Catalogue, ROM, May 2008
  13. 13. Shanghai Kaleidoscope “…(a) hyperactive journey through the non-stop energy of the Next Culture.” - Gary Michael Dault Globe & Mail May 3, 2008
  14. 14. Let’s Puff
  15. 15. Let’s Puff
  16. 16. Shanghai 1860-1949
  17. 17. China Exhibitions • timely metaphor for this conference • Shanghai – one of the world’s most frenetic and fascinating cities – symbolizes new China • both exhibitions dependent on technology • SK a combination of various media that perfectly captures the duality of new and old which is the city of Shanghai • historical photographs, many digitized, link the city’s past with its present • Travel writer Jan Morris: “raffish excess”
  18. 18. New Media Resources •Information Technology Services Web/database/network/systems •Media Productions Video/television/multimedia & exhibition/gallery AV •Publications Co-publishing/academic/catalogues •Digital Imaging Centre Photography/scanning/copying/image licensing 3D imaging unit •Information Centre Rights and Reproductions co-ordinator Digital Media Assets co-ordinator
  19. 19. Ivey Imaging Centre Photography Studio
  20. 20. Digital Sound Studio Sound Booth
  21. 21. Web Designer Programmer Video editing suites
  22. 22. New ROM Landing Page • ROM web site is largely a marketing site • Transactional, not attraction or engagement • Facilitates ticket purchases, signups, bookings
  23. 23. New ROM Home Page
  24. 24. ROM Page on Facebook
  25. 25. The Museum as the new Agora “Our societies have become segmented and particularized in a world of increasing mobility and technological change…in this context, we need new shared space – places of encounter – a new Commons – a new Agora. Museums are capable of contributing to this because…they can engage diverse interests on their own terms.” - William Thorsell, ROM Director and CEO Address to the Empire Club Toronto, May 3, 2007
  26. 26. Museum Models 1. Mausoleum – traditional view as a repository. – also “temple” model where objects are sacred 2. Machine – productive, place where you learned how to be modern – transformation 3. Metaphor – for our larger life – arena of socialbility, ie. the Agora 4. Mall – drained and devoted to pleasure –an attraction
  27. 27. The Mindful Museum “The ‘mindful museum’….. should first of all be mindful in being primarily about the objects it contains... - Adam Gopnik, Writer & Social Commentator Eva Holtby Lecture on Contemporary Culture Institute for Contemporary Culture, ROM, Oct. 13, 2006
  28. 28. Adam Gopnik
  29. 29. The New ROM Charles Pachter’s Canada Projection in Chen Crystal Court Digital Art Installation Oct 2007-Feb 2008
  30. 30. Charles Pachter
  31. 31. Digital Signage
  32. 32. Traditional Recognition
  33. 33. Digital Donor Wall
  34. 34. Digital Donor Wall
  35. 35. Digital Donor Wall
  36. 36. Education – Digital Gallery
  37. 37. Education – Digital Gallery
  38. 38. The New ROM James and Louise Temerty Galleries of the Age of Dinosaurs Gallery of the Age of Mammals
  39. 39. The New ROM Sir Christopher Ondaatje South Asian Gallery
  40. 40. The New ROM Daphne Cockwell Gallery of Canada: First Peoples
  41. 41. First Peoples – Paul Kane
  42. 42. First Peoples Theatre
  43. 43. The New ROM Patricia Harris Gallery of Textiles & Costume
  44. 44. The New ROM Teck Cominco Suite of Earth Sciences Galleries Opening December 2008
  45. 45. TC Earth Science Galleries • 6,900 sq-ft gallery • showcases more than 2,300 minerals and meteorites – 25 glass cases – 52 flat screens • e-labelling – current RFP for delivery solution • Canadian Mining Hall of Fame Gallery – interactive video wall showcasing biographies and personal stories of inductees • development of Earth Sciences module for Digital Gallery
  46. 46. “Mock-up Wall”
  47. 47. Specimen Digitization
  48. 48. The New ROM Schad Gallery of Biodiversity: Life in Crisis Opening January 2009
  49. 49. Schad Gallery of Biodiversity
  50. 50. Schad Gallery of Biodiversity • 10,000 sq-ft gallery – 1,000 + specimens • three major themes: Life is … Diverse … Interrelated… In Crisis • live and recorded video and multi-media displays to focus on global eco-systems such as coral reef, rainforest and the tundra • animal-borne imaging examples • Earth Rangers studio – state-of-the-art space for digital and live programming on latest scientific research and relevant issues • presents social networking web opportunity
  51. 51. The New ROM Iconic Objects
  52. 52. Iconic Objects • new marketing campaign to highlight “must- see” star pieces in the collection • always ‘in-market’ approach • interpretive plan calls for production and installation of short video sequences highlighting importance/significance of pieces • delivery through flat screens at each location • respectful of Gopnik’s ‘mindful museum’….. mindful in being mostly about its objects.
  53. 53. Maitreya Paradise Wall painting
  54. 54. Figure of nude blue female
  55. 55. Sekmet
  56. 56. Earl of Pembroke Armour
  57. 57. Ming Tomb
  58. 58. Barosaurus
  59. 59. Death of General Wolfe
  60. 60. Lessons Learned • enhanced accessibility – audio tours • evening and weekend IT support • remote monitoring & updating • hire for specific skill sets • donor intervention – how much? • avoid technology for the sake of technology • allow time for R & D • test, test, test …
  61. 61. What Can Small Museums Do? • seek curatorial support (test the waters) • talk to visitors (measure the “groundswell”) • do a POST assessment: • People (visitors – enhancing their experience) • Objectives (goals?) • Strategy (providing context, more engagement?) • Technology (solution) • involve prospective donors • develop digital assets – collection images • consult other cultural organizations • think big but start small – baby steps
  62. 62. Temple, Agora or Coliseum? • where is the ROM in this trio? • new book Bold Visions on the ROM’s architecture: novelty of crystal suggests “bread and circus” aura but it is not a site for passive entertainment artifacts are generally not given a theatre setting • technology plays a role in providing context and interpretation but is not pervasive – it is a facilitator
  63. 63. Last Word “What looks like an attraction a.k.a coliseum, on the exterior, is a temple inside. The ROM (remains) a place for the enjoyable contemplation of artifacts and specimens. - Kelvin Brown, author of Bold Visions The Architecture of the Royal Ontario Museum ROM, December 2007