MW18 Presentation: Big Data Analytics in Museum Operations
Big data analytics in
MUSEUMS AND THE WEB, VANCOUVER
Chief Portfolio Officer, National
Museum of African American
History and Culture
Specialist, US Army Center
of Military History
Chief Executive Officer,
Management and Program
Analyst, US Capitol Visitor
Addressing the challenges of the high
season versus the low season at
The US Capitol Visitor Center
Managing visitor demand in a new build
museum at The National Museum of
African American History and Culture
A portfolio perspective across 47
museums of all sizes, globally at
The US Army Center of Military History
1. How to inspire change across the
2. Building the business case across various
3. Instrumentation technologies: where we
get data from and what we do with it
4. Capacity, scheduling and wait time
management: using data to solve visitor
5. Research projects and using data for
6. Portfolio management requirements and
7. Managing security, sovereignty and
privacy in government organizations
Management and Program Analyst
US Capitol Visitor Center
Micha Winkler Thomas
“Working together for Congress to inform, involve, and
inspire every visitor to the United States Capitol.”
U.S. Capitol Visitor Center opened on December 2, 2008
Our goal is to provide a welcoming and educational
environment for visitors to learn about the unique
characteristics of the House, the Senate and the legislative
process as well as the history and development of the
architecture and art of the U.S. Capitol.
~2.3-2.5 million visitors each year since opening
We will welcome our 21 millionth visitor at the end of May!
Building a business case
U.S. Capitol Visitor Center’s Strategic & Operations Plan:
Strategic Goals: Visitor Experience and
Education, Congress and Partners, Workforce, Operational
Efficiency and Productivity.
“Collect and analyze visitor data and feedback to inform
decisions for enhancing visitor experience, targeting
outreach efforts, and improving operational efficiency.”
Collaboration between divisions for a collective data story to
drive innovation and change
Data focused technology
Implemented new technologies to enhance the visitor
experience and improve operational efficiency.
● New reservation system for tours, special events,
and educational programs
● Multi-year quantitative and qualitative audience
● People counter technology to create consistency in
data + expand the capabilities for tracking visitation
● Virtual Queuing for staff-led walk-up tour passes
● CVC Data Dashboard collaboration: “the CVC story”
Special approaches for
Complex landscape requires data analysis (science + art) to
predict and anticipate visitation
Multiple factors include the expected - general tours of the
Capitol, Congressional events, and annual seasonal
events - to the unexpected - unanticipated weather and
Use data to learn the who, what, where, why and then
determine the how. Be prepared yet be flexible. Anticipate
sovereignty and privacy
The Capitol Visitor Center was designed to make the U.S.
Capitol more accessible, convenient, secure, and
informative for millions of visitors each year.
Data collection important for the safety and security of our
visitors as well - how many people in the building at any one
Micha Winkler Thomas, US Capitol Visitor Center
Data transforms ideas into successful strategic decisions.
The more you know your audience, the better you can serve them. Collect the data,
analyze and apply. Evaluate the outcomes, adjust the methods, and apply the changes
for a better solution. Fine tune until you have a process that works but be open to
change and innovation in order to continually strive for the best experience for the
visitor and for the operation.
Chief IT Portfolio Officer
National Museum of African American History and Culture
The National Museum of African American History and Culture
(NMAAHC) opened its doors on September 24, 2016, as the 19th and
newest museum of the Smithsonian Institution. It is the nation’s largest
and most comprehensive cultural destination devoted exclusively to
exploring, documenting and showcasing the African American story and
its impact on American and world history.
In just over four months after its opening, the museum welcomed 1 million
visitors. And the museum’s dwell time, the length of time a visitor stays in
a museum, is unparalleled—averaging six hours or more on weekends,
compared to 75 minutes to two hours for most museums. Each day, the
museum continues to welcome thousands of visitors ready to explore the
history and culture of African Americans.
Anticipating the growing interest in the museum
opening, museum leaders introduced a timed entry
process in order to manage visitation and ensure a
safe environment for a comfortable museum
experience. The timed entry process considered:
● Maximum building capacity
○ History, Community and Cultural Galleries
○ The Sweet Home Café
● Emergency response protocols and personnel
● Safety and control of indoor and outdoor grounds.
Building a Business Case for Timed Entry
Researching attrition with
● Peak Season 2017
● Non-peak Season 2017
● Peak Season 2018 (just entered).
Visitation is normalizing. Therefore, museum
leaders implemented two programs to understand
visitation and its demands.
● Attrition study with Dexibit to analyze data
collected from ETix and predict demand.
● Walk-Up Wednesdays in April 2018 is a pilot
to test no-pass entry.
Managing security, sovereignty
Technology Review Board requires 3-stage process
that is managed by OCIO at enterprise level:
● Privacy and Security
● Production Readiness.
Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of African American History and Culture
Data collection and visualization are important in decision-making,
but data analysis tells the rest of the story.
Data + Interpretation = Meaning
Museum Accreditation Specialist
US Army Center of Military History
Army Museum Enterprise
James Oelke Farley
Army Museum Enterprise
The AME is a network of museums, Training Support
Facilities (TSFs), heritage displays, and Museum Support
Centers (MSC) that perform education, training, Research
and Development (R&D), conservation and preservation,
unit and public outreach for the Army.
Mission: The mission of the AME is to support the training,
education, and esprit de corps of Soldiers and Army
Civilians; to serve as the repository and steward for the
Army’s artifacts; to support Army research and development
and civil works programs; and to facilitate public education
regarding the Army and its heritage of service to the nation.
The United States Army has 60 Army Museum Enterprise (AME)
activities of various sorts in Germany, Korea, Hawaii, and across the
continental United States. Forty six (46) of these are museums and
we average about 2.5 millions guests a year across the system.
Within just these museums - we control 422.5 acres of land with 45.5
acres of that being actual museum gallery and curatorial space.
We are in a process of consolidation, conversion, and closure of
facilities with the ultimate goal of about less than forty museums
(including the new National Museum of the United States Army), four
Training Support Facilities (TSFs), several heritage displays, etc.
All of these decisions driven by data.
Yet challenges remain in how to obtain identical datasets from such
a wide variety of non-contiguous establishments...
Building a business case
In creating the concept of an enterprise solution to manage the
Army museums, we needed to establish baselines. Quantitative
data from the past was gathered to identify trend lines in the data.
We examined staffing (civilian, military, and volunteers), our
educational programs (by hours, number of affiliations, attendees,
etc.), we counted visitors, we compared notes on costs (staff pay,
non-personnel, facilities, etc.), we looked at the physical plant
(size of grounds, number of buildings and square footage of
We even counted how many tanks, airplanes, helicopters, jeeps,
etc. that were on our grounds.
We continue to gather non-intrusive data to improve operations.
Average Department of Army civilian staffing of a facility is three employees.
Information Technology (IT) - The US Army Network Enterprise Technology Command
controls all computers through a series of 1200 NEC’s or Network Enterprise Centers.
Almost all computer controlled device solutions (IoT, PoE, etc.) would threaten the
security of those systems thus it appears we need stand-alone computers, an internet
access point, and a cloud-based approach for each facility. There is obviously a large cost
factor involved if that route is chosen.
Across the board solutions are being investigated - beam-breaks, thermal imaging, etc.
and other methods used in retail situations to judge impact and visitor pass-through. In a
perfect world, heat mapping of gallery spaces to show traffic flow patterns, etc. would be
preferable yet we must also be concerned with privacy of our patrons.
across multiple venues
The management of a disparate grouping of museums
across great distances, with varying degrees of public
access, and greatly divergent visitation are many yet data
allows us an opportunity to track operations from afar.
With cloud-based solutions we envision a future where real-
time tracking of data can be viewed at a centralized
headquarters. In a perfect world, we would like to see
environmental conditions within the facilities, know at a
glance how many visitors are within a specific museum, and
track cost per visitor, special exhibit impact, etc. for each
museum...all while maintaining the privacy and security of
sovereignty and privacy
The trick is to do all of this without becoming an Orwellian
presence within museums. We have to be cognizant of real-
world threats to our staff and visitors. Large ques of people
can be a soft-target. We need to ensure that we are not
intrusive i.e. no tracking of the cellular devices, etc. There
are other privacy concerns as well - retail stores have
access to video tracking software to do visitor counting; the
very idea of “tracking” anyone is disconcerting. We have yet
to identify a “one-stop” solution to our visitor counting
problems. We are still at work to identify a solution that
passes Army legal and ethical review while providing the
data accuracy we require.
James Oelke Farley, US Army Center for Military History
Quantitative and qualitative data
analysis is an important methodology in
leading organizational change in a large