2014-01-09 MHTA Networking Event at MIA


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Presentation from MHTA Networking Event at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts on January 9, 2014. Topic: digital technology and strategy at the MIA, including interactive interfaces in the gallery spaces.

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  • Welcome to the MIA – and just in case you’d forgotten what it can be like around here when it’s NOT winter.
    I’d like to give you a quick introduction about myself, what we’re up to regarding strategy and technology here at the museum, then tell you about our latest project, which I hope you’ll take some time to explore tonight as part of your visit.
  • In an attempt to define who I am and what I do here at the museum, I’ll start with what I strive NOT to be: just another senior executive inhabiting a lofty title in a top-heavy organization. Not my style!
  • Instead, my aim – and as I understand it, one of the important reasons I was hired – is to be a strategic partner, helping the organization meet its goals partly through the appropriate and innovative uses of technology, as well as to make sure that the technology in-and-of itself is not the end goal.
  • This role requires me to be a keen listener, to immerse myself in the culture of the organization and the stories we are striving to share, and - perhaps most importantly - to put myself in the shoes of our museum visitors.
  • Museums, like many non-profits, are mission-driven. In support of the MIA’s mission, digital technology is primarily focused on ACCESS: connecting the public to the collection and all we know about it.
  • But simply making something accessible is no guarantee that it’s interesting! In order to ENGAGE audiences, and connect them to what is meaningful and inspiring, it’s vital that we re-imagine our assumptions, along with our methods and our modalities, within a 21st century frame of reference.
  • We are moving away from simple demographics to meaningful descriptors. If you ask a museum visitor “why are you here today?”, she won’t say “I’m a 34 year old college-educated mother of 2 from a suburb located within 20 miles from this location”; instead, she’ll say, “I love to show my kids a really interesting time” or “I’m sort of a frustrated artist myself”, or some other reason, or MOTIVATION, for visiting that day. In essence, we must REINFORCE that which you believe yourself to be!
  • In the cultural heritage sector, digital technologies can serve as a BRIDGE between the visitor and our world-class collections and knowledge, using a method that is up-to-date, interactive, exploratory, and (we hope) ENGAGING across a broad spectrum of the public.
  • Because, ultimately, THIS is NOT the goal. We do not strive to transform our institutions into halls of computing.
  • THIS is the goal: Happy Visitors! Engaged, excited, inspired, and “attached” to our organizations. We want them to think of us as their “third space” – not home, not work, but a familiar and comfortable place for community, connection, learning and FUN.
  • Digital technology has been working to fulfill this ideal for more than two decades now. In fact, the MIA was one of the first fine art museums in the world willing to place computers adjacent to works of art in the gallery spaces. Of course, we also created CD-ROM “publications” and were actually in the first wave of developing websites (Netscape-optimized!). But inherent with all of this was an ASSUMPTION: All visitors ASPIRE to become art aficionados, so we really only had to deliver content for that ONE audience type – the rest would follow. Hmm …
  • In today’s world, we find that we must focus more on DELIVERING engaging stories, which include MULTIPLE LAYERS of meaning to satisfy a variety of identity-based needs. We must also be nimble, respond to demand quickly, and we must emphasize mobile delivery – because so many people now carry powerful computers with them at all times, and expect to use them at will.
  • We consider our public to be Participants, seeking to interact with us at the level they desire,
  • ... Then we can plan to deliver those layers of content via digital media that enable those needs to be met.
  • From all of this conceptualizing, we developed the TDX Concept. Overall goals included …
  • Of course, this is no small undertaking, and we must express deep gratitude to the General Mills Foundation for recognizing the importance of the TDX effort and being generous with the initial pool of project funding. We have ambitious plans, and of course everything comes with a price tag!
  • The museum is making a concerted effort to move from a department-based, somewhat siloed approach to a more project-based, cross-functional collaborative team approach. Our project pushed hard in this direction, establishing a Core team responsible for seeing the project through, but also (as you can see) involving staff from a wide swath of departments – as well as outside experts – to complete the work. Easy? Nope. Effective? Definitely.
  • We employed an “agile-ish” production model for TDX.
    Iteration: sketches – discussions – early prototypes – feedback loops – working prototypes – more feedback – refinement – launch (then repeat?).
    We are quite pleased with the results.
  • 2014-01-09 MHTA Networking Event at MIA

    1. 1. Welcome
    2. 2. Director of Technology? Let’s conduct a comprehensive search to hire a seasoned executive leader to head an initiative to plan for a committee to oversee a task force dedicated to the implementation of state-ofthe-art technological solutions based on industry standards and implemented by a cross-disciplinary team spear-headed by a dedicated manager and augmented by a carefully-selected team of outside experts who can create the synergy necessary to blah blah blah and spend every last cent until there is truly nothing left at all :
    3. 3. “ … to remain viable, museums must rethink not only what types of knowledge they create, but how/with whom they create it, and finally how they communicate it.” - Alex Bortolot, MIA Content Strategist (emphasis mine)
    4. 4. Museum Visitors Identity-related needs determine leisure activity choice
    5. 5. Museums are Awesome!
    6. 6. Overall Interpretive Framework PARTICIPANTS Surface swimmers Snorkelers Scuba divers
    7. 7. Layers of Information INFORMATION PARTICIPANTS Invite, welcome Surface swimmers Inspire, delight Snorkelers Inform Scuba divers
    8. 8. The Digital Experience (TDX) at MIA Overall Goals Audience engagement Consistent interface Stories, personal voice Optimized for mobile Adaptable
    9. 9. FUNDING Thank you!
    10. 10. Project model - rapid prototyping and iteration
    11. 11. 18
    12. 12. 17
    13. 13. 5
    14. 14. 15
    15. 15. 14
    16. 16. 13
    17. 17. 12
    18. 18. 11
    19. 19. 10
    20. 20. 9
    21. 21. 8
    22. 22. 7
    23. 23. 6
    24. 24. 16
    25. 25. 4
    26. 26. 3 3
    27. 27. 2
    28. 28. 1
    29. 29. Next steps • Evaluation - summative • Open source code release • TDX Phase 2: late 2014-early 2015
    30. 30. Please Explore! • African Galleries – 2nd floor – Staff on hand to answer questions • • Cocktails and networking continue here until 8pm The museum galleries are open tonight until 9pm
    31. 31. Thank you! Douglas Hegley, Director of Technology dhegley@artsmia.org @dhegley