Melanie Bump: Midterm

Museum Technologies

Wordsmith Badge Mid-Term.



Until recently, I thought “no-photo” policies were a given in best practice museum
standards. I would never have second-guessed our current “no-photography policy”
in my day-to-day duties. However, it wasn’t until recently that I developed an
uncertainty about this policy. Is this common museum practice becoming outdated
and unfounded?

It was these few lines in Nina Simon’s book that sparked my investigation into TO

“In museums, the most frequent way that visitors share objects with each
other is through photographs. – When people share pictures with each other,
either directly via email or in a more distributed fashion via social networks,
it’s a way to express themselves, their affinity for certain institutions or
objects and simply to say, “I was here.” – When museums prevent visitors
from taking photo, the institutional message is, “you can’t share your
experience with your own tools here. – Photo policies are not easy to change,
especially when it comes to institutions that rely heavily on loans or traveling

(The Participatory Museum, Simon, 176-7.)


Many museums have strict no photography policies. It is a very common practice
and there are very specific reasons why museums have theses rules. Some of the
claims behind strict no photo policies are intellectual property laws, conservation
concerns, disruptions, security and revenue. Many objects are sensitive to light
and can be damaged by flash photography. In some galleries they have increased
light levels to accommodate non-flash photography by patrons. Certain museums
are concerned they will loose revenue generated by the sale of their museum
sanctioned images, in the gift shop. In some cases museums restrict photography as
a security measure to keep thieves or vandals from scoping the scene of the crime
before the job. Other museums feel that the act of taking pictures in a gallery setting
is distracting and can reflect poorly on the object if taken inappropriately.

One of the leading arguments for photographic restrictions is intellectual property
law. This is a complicated issue. Museums have to respect copyrights will lenders,

donors and artists. An institution can own an artwork but not the copyright. There
are organizations dedicated to protecting artists’ rights that will investigate and
sue museums that violate those rights. When creating photograph policies it is
important to keep all of these factors in mind. However, it is possible to create open
photograph policies that protect objects, visitor experiences and artists’ rights.

The aforementioned reasons for strict no photo rules have driven museums policies
for years. Recently more and more museums are becoming open about their photo
policies. In a search of blog conversation, museum based and non-museum based,
the topic became a hot talking point, a few years ago. Some bloggers (as visitors
to museums) complained that all museums “as public institutions” should allow
photography, describing the museum’s guards as “breathing down their necks” and
museums as capitalizing on sales of postcards in the gift shop. Cory Doctorow November 13, 2008

My latest Guardian column, “Warhol is turning in his grave,” describes the photography ban in
place at the Pop Art Portraits show at the National Portrait Gallery in London. It’s an amazing
show, and practically every work hung in it violates someone’s copyrights, trademarks, or both
(this is pop art, after all). In a stunning display of either Dadaism or irony-impairment, the gallery
has hung the show with a “no photography” policy (not a “no flash photography” policy, either),
and the even extend the ban to the “no photography” signs themselves, which, they claim, are
copyrighted works. Any gallery that bans reproducing Warhol on the grounds that you’ll violate
his copyright should be forced into an off-site, all-day irony training session.

January 28, 2008 Fred Benenson

After having many conversations with people working at museums

who are concerned about photography, the really clear point is that

they don’t care about copyright or respecting patrons so much as

preserving the income of their gift shops.

As museums changed their policies to allow photography, other bloggers were not
happy with the new open policies and the distractions of the camera in the gallery

I now know that it is a scandalous practice detrimental to museums. On
visits to the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art
yesterday, I wasn’t overwhelmed by the crowds so much as blown away
by the number of people who only looked at the art through a camera lens.
Pause, click, pause, click they walked through the museum documenting their
trip meanwhile getting in my way, accidentally taking a photograph with
flash, and generally showing little interest in the art.

(Art Ravels Blog, May 2, 2009.)

“I always thought picture taking was prohibited in museums. I just spent a
few days in DC going around museums and camera rudeness was rampant.
People taking pictures of each other next to paintings, someone talking
loudly about why her camera didn’t work, one guy monopolizing a painting
by taking up close pictures of every face in it. Two questions: is it just
another form of rudeness that could be allowed with some etiquette rules?
And – does the need for the photo taking take away from the direct and quiet
ability to experience the art? I know it interfered with my experience but am
I just being an old crank? (janbb, Jun 11, 2011)

In February 2009, Wikipedia’s New York members (Wikimedians) and the Brooklyn
Museum of art launched the short-lived Wikipedia Loves Art. The program
invited photographers to take pictures of the Brooklyn Museum’s copyright free
artworks to be used on This project allowed visitors that would
not normally have access to photograph collections, the access. The Brooklyn
Museum was forced, for the first time, to relinquish control of how it wanted the
image to look, and the story the image told. This was drastic and uncomfortable
in a traditional museum sense. The awkward, unknown feeling that this project
worked through, has allowed the field to grow used to the idea and see the benefits
of visitor contributed image content and sharing. Though the partnership struggled
to understand each other’s goals, it was still a significant event that sparked a new

Wikipedia Loves Art is a type of month-long wiki scavenger hunt and free content

photography contest conducted in collaboration with partner museums and cultural institutions,
where participants compete to take photographs aimed at best illustrating Wikipedia articles.

Museums that allow photogr aphy

There are usually some restrictions, and it would be worthy of note to indicate when there are
none. Almost universal restrictions are no tripods, no flash.

[edit] Allowed

[edit] Eur ope

Louvre – allowed except at two galleries.

Vatican – allowed except Sixtine Chapel

Neue Pinakothek, Munich

Deutsches Museum, Munich

[edit] USA

Smithsonian Museums (most of them), Washington DC

National Gallery of Art, Washington DC

[Metropolitan Museum of Art], New York

[Museum of Modern Art | MoMA], New York

Museum of Arts & Design, New York

[Rubin Museum of Art], New York

New Museum (only the current Free exhibition), New York

Since then many projects have encouraged visitors to take pictures of objects or
places they find important and share them with the world via Flickr, Facebook,
Myspace, exc. The National Historic Trust asks supporters to take pictures of
themselves in front of landmarks they think are important in the project This Place

Participants are asked to mark a historic place with a picture using Geotagging
photo apps. http://www.histor

As many museums embrace open photography policies, they worked to curate
the visitors experience with the camera. They have taken measures to avoid
distractions, inappropriate photographs, security issues, damage or intellectual
property issues. Some museums allow no flash photography of objects in their
collection, that have no copyright restrictions. Visitors are given a guide that
shows the items they are allowed to photograph. In some instances the visitor
needs to sign and agree to a written photography policy before being permitted
to photograph in the gallery. Museums have become more conscientious
about posting their policies, so that visitors understand why they cannot take a
photograph of a copyrighted or light sensitive object. They now know that this
transparency can help to avoid frustrated outbursts on blogging sites.

Two of the great museums that set standards for museum practice have also
embraced open photography policies. The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the
National American History Museum, have not only released many photo restrictions
but encourage visitors to take pictures and share their experiences on sites like

MET and NAHM Policies Posted on their Flickr Commons page:

About The Metr opolitan Museum of Ar t

The Metropolitan Museum invites all visitors to share photographs of their special moments spent
with friends and family at the Met’s Main Building and The Cloisters Museum and Gardens.

Photography Policy:
You may take photographs in the Museum’s permanent collection
galleries as long as the photographs are for private, noncommercial use. Photography is not
permitted in special exhibitions or other areas designated “No Photography.” The use of flash
photography or video cameras is not permitted inside the Museum. Works of art on loan from
private collections or other institutions may not be photographed. See Visitor Tips for the
Museum’s complete photography policy.

Photos from this Flickr group may be published
on relevant areas of, based on tags provided by you. Please tag all
photos “metropolitan_museum”. See our Guide for Getting Started with Flickr for additional
information on tagging your photos properly. .com/gr oups/metmuseum/

Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History (a group admin) says:

19 Jun 08 – Add your photos of the museum–photos of the exhibitions and of your family and
friends enjoying the museum are all welcome. We’d love to see how you explore NMNH!

Photos posted in this group may appear in thumbnail form on our Facebook Fan Page using
the “Flickr Badge” application. All thumbnails will link back to your original photo here on flickr.

To get the conversation started, here is a quick refresher on the Smithsonian’s policy on

Still and video photography is permitted for noncommercial use only. Unless otherwise posted,
generally, photography is permitted in the permanent collection, but is prohibited in most special,
temporary exhibitions. Tripods are not permitted inside the museum building unless permission
is granted by the museum’s Public Affairs Office. Exceptions may occur in any exhibition or
buildings; please inquire at the museum’s information desk.

After reading these photo policies it is clear that they are influenced by the idea
that “When people share pictures with each other, either directly via email or in
a more distributed fashion via social networks, it’s a way to express themselves,
their affinity for certain institutions or objects and simply to say, “I was here.”” Nina
Simon. By embracing the photographic policies museums have started seeing the
benefits of visitors sharing their experiences through photography. This sharing
acts like a visitor created viral marketing system. The patron shows their friends
pictures of them having fun, or their favorite piece of artwork and the friend is
inspired to visit. The bonus for the institution is that everything posted on the
museums photo-sharing forum like (Flickr) can be reused by the museum. They
are encouraging the visitors to take the pictures, with the intent that they will share

them with others. This viral marketing, highlights the collection, shows people
having fun, encourages creative photography and spreads the museum and its
collections around the world.

In conclusion, I agree that photograph policies should be as open as possible.
They need to enhance the visitor experience, take into consideration intellectual
property concerns and protect the collection from light damage. The policies could
include no flash photography, respecting other visitors’ experiences, no lewd or
disrespectful reflection on the site or it’s collection, and no commercial use. There
should be a clear delineation between what items can be photographed and which
items have restrictions. Restrictions and policies should be clearly posted. Each
institution should have policies that catered to their needs and best serve their
visitor’s experience.

Melanie O’Donnell: Midterm

Big Ideas, Small Museums

Museums face a new set of challenges in the changing world. They face a

new set of expectations. In the past, museums served as beacons of knowledge and

warehouses of collections; where people went to viewed collections, and the goal was

for the museum to impart knowledge upon them. But times have changed. Museums can

no longer rely on public funds to keep their doors open, they must turn to private funds,

through private endowments and increased visitation. To do this, museums need to

innovate, to stand out from the crowd both for grant money and to attract visitors whose

attention is increasingly held by new forms of entertainment.

The internet has changed the way that they consume, share and learn. They

tweet their followers, update their statuses on facebook, check in of foursquare, post

their vacation albums on flickr, and then comment on the their friends’ tweets, statuses,

locations and pictures. But it’s not all so superficial as that. They find read news, find

jobs and spouses online. Facebook even brought down Egypt. The actions online have

direct results in the real world. Their opinions matter. In a world where an individual’s

opinions are increasingly valued, why should visitors expect any less from their

They don’t. In The Participatory Museum Nina Simon suggests, “visitors expect

access to a broad spectrum of information sources and cultural perspectives. They expect

the ability to respond and be taken seriously. They expect the ability to discuss, share,

and remix what they consume.”1 This is how museums will survive in the new economy.

Nina Simon, The Participatory Museum, Preface, (accessed
19 Oct. 2011).

Museums need to learn how people are consuming information to encourage and invite

their visitors to participate with their museums as they would on the internet. “By

actively soliciting and responding to visitors’ ideas, stories, and creative work, cultural

institutions can help audiences become personally invested in both the content and the

health of the organization.”2 The theory being that when a person feels a part of the

museum, not simply a guest, they are more invested in its health and welfare.

The participatory activities that Simon describes takes staff and money, and in

this economic climate, few museums have the resources to experiment. They are

understaffed, underfunded, and usually underappreciated. But it is for these very reasons

that museums should consider visitor participation. “Participatory projects can change an

institution’s image in the eyes of local communities, increase involvement in fundraising,

and make new partnership opportunities possible. Particularly for institutions that are

perceived as irrelevant to community or civic life, actively soliciting engagement and

contributions from citizens can make a significant impact on the health and vitality of the

organization.”3 There are small things that a small museum can do to start participatory

projects, while still preserving their budgets, that don’t over burden their staffs. These

fall into two categories, physical changes that can affect visitor experience while at the

museum, and increased online presence, to interact with visitors where they live.

Within the physical museum, there are small ways to encourage dialogue

between museum collections and museum visitors. Simon suggests looking for objects

that already draw interest. “Take a brief mental tour of your cultural institution. Is there

Nina Simon, The Participatory Museum, Preface, (accessed
19 Oct. 2011).
3 Nina Simon, The Participatory Museum, Chapter 4,
(accessed 19 Oct. 2011).

an object or experience that consistently draws a talkative crowd? Is there a place where

people snap photos of each other, or crowd around pointing and talking? Whether it’s a

steam engine in action or an enormous whale jaw, a liquid nitrogen demonstration or a

sculpture made of chocolate, these are your social objects.”4 Visitors are already

interacting with these social objects, and you just need to join the conversation.

Of course, joining a conversation is often easier said than done.

questions along side object labels is the easiest way to start a conversation with and/or

between visitors. Simon defines three basic goals for exhibition question:


1. To encourage visitors to engage deeply and personally with a

2. To motivate interpersonal dialogue among visitors around a

particular object or idea

3. To provide feedback or useful information to staff about the object

You do not need to reach all three goals at once. In fact, all three in a space at one time

may create unwanted clutter and confuse visitors with too many things to respond to.

Instead, focus on the one that best achieves the goals of your exhibition and the mission

of your museum. If you want to hear from your visitors, place comment books within the

exhibition, not at the end, so that they can immediately respond to the objects. Encourage

conversations in these books by providing lots of space and different color pens for

Nina Simon, The Participatory Museum, Chapter 4,
(accessed 19 Oct. 2011).
5 Nina Simon, The Participatory Museum, Chapter 4,
(accessed 19 Oct. 2011).

people to build off each other’s ideas.6

However, the quality of the question defines the quality of the conversation. If

the question is superficial or easily answered, the conversation will be over before it

began. Simon describes successful questions as either personal, which help visitors

connect their own experience to the objects on display, and speculative, which ask

visitors to imagine scenarios involving objects or ideas foreign to their experiences.7

These types of questions evoke complex answers, rather than route responses. If you

don’t have a meaningful question to ask, don’t ask it; no visitor wants to be asked

Another way that you can shape participation in exhibitions is to combine artifacts

in a way provokes conversation. Simon uses the Fred Wilson’s Mining the Museum,

presented in 1992 at the Maryland Historical Society as an example of how placing

objects that usually don’t go together can be provocative:

Wilson selected artifacts from the Historical Society’s collection—

objects that were overlooked or might have been perceived to have little

evocative power—and used them as the basis for highly provocative,

active, relational exhibits. He placed a fancy silver tea set alongside a

pair of slave shackles, paired busts of white male statesmen with empty

nameplates for African-American heroes, and contrasted a Ku Klux Klan

robe with a baby carriage.8

Nina Simon, The Participatory Museum, Chapter 4,
(accessed 19 Oct. 2011).
7 Nina Simon, The Participatory Museum, Chapter 4,
(accessed 19 Oct. 2011).
8 Nina Simon, The Participatory Museum, Chapter 4,
(accessed 19 Oct. 2011).

By combining objects in an unexpected way, the Wilson implicitly asked the viewer

to create a reason for the combination. He in a sense is asked a question. Looking for

new ways to display your collections can be a way to present something new and fresh

without needing to actually bring in something new.

The internet is also an important means of reaching your community and

engaging them in conversation. Increasingly, people are socializing and communicating

online; more than viewing information, they are interacting with it. Don’t reinvent the

wheel when starting online. You don’t need to create the platform, instead, use those

already available to you. Use an ‘official’ twitter to update about events or exhibitions,

and create an online presence in your community. Upload pictures of a local historic

building to flickr and encourage people to hunt down the modern addresses, or even

contribute their own pictures of the building.

online presence. If people are reminded that you are there, and you become a part of

their life, they are more likely to feel a part of your community.

Consistency is the key to a successful

The New York Public Library has dozens of blogs created by their employees,

and is creating apps to explore collections, and using crowdsourcing projects to digitize

historic menus and plot historic land marks on GPS-enabled digital maps.9 While NYPL

may have resources that a small museum will not, there are ideas that can be used by

institutions of any size. Encourage your staff, no matter what the size, to create blogs

about their experience at the museum, or twitter accounts to update what they are doing,

or use flickr to upload pictures of objects they are working with. They may even already

Alexis Madrigal,“What Big Media Can Learn From the New York Public Library,” The Atlantic 20 June
york-public-library/240565/2/?single_page=true (accessed 17 Oct. 2011).

want to start a participatory project, but are looking for encouragement and support.

While these online activities may draw already busy museum staff away from their

work, it is important to remember that this is also museum work. Sharing about the

museum with people on the internet can do nothing but create interest in the museum, and

contribute to nearly every museum’s mission to teach about collections.

The last way to encourage participation on the internet begins within the walls

of the museum. With cameras in phones, people are taking pictures everywhere they

go, and sharing their photos online. When museums restrict photography, they send

the message that visitors can’t express themselves using their own tools.10 Encourage

photography within your galleries, so visitors can take their experience home with

them. By choosing what to post, visitors are expressing themselves and interacting

with the collections, and by sharing with their online community, more people see your

collections and learn about your museum.

The ultimate goal of participatory activities is to make visitors feel a part of your

museum. By creating experiences where visitors interact with collections and staff,

a museum can create a stronger connection with their community. This is especially

important for small museums, who are loosing funding and need to find new ways to

support themselves. Through making small changes to exhibitions and using already

available online platforms, small museums can invite visitors to participate without

Nina Simon, The Participatory Museum, Chapter 4,
(accessed 19 Oct. 2011).

Sara Hadlis: Midterm

Prezi: Comparing Museum Websites 

Hey guys! Below is a link to my midterm project, created on I’m attaching an editable link- all you have to do to add on is create a free account at If you haven’t used Prezi before, be warned that there’s lots of zooming involved, and motion sickness can be an issue. To view the Prezi, click through using the arrows below the Prezi, or mouse over the ‘More’ button to find the auto-play feature. Please feel free to edit away! This could be a neat forum for a collection of museum websites.

Lealana Loiodice: Midterm

Museum and Technology

Midterm: Crafternoon Revisited

Lealana Loiodice

In the last chapter of Nina Simons book The Participatory Museum she discussed issues of managing and sustaining participation. One of the case studies she explores is a program at the New York Public Library called Handmade Crafternoons. This program was spear headed and is still coordinated by Jessica Pigza. After having attended a Crafternoon session, of how to crochet lace I sat down with Jessica to ask some questions about her programs, how she got started and how the program is currently running.

Jessica started as a general librarian who always had an interest of crafts and public engagement. One of her main responsibilities was teaching and leading programs for the general public at the library. Then in 2007, as discussed in Nina’s book the Director of Digital Strategy Josh Greenberg encouraged Jessica to blog about her passion of crafts and rare books on the New York Public Library’s website. This blog then led to public programs combining her passion and ideas.

The program has been running for 3 years and has donned such celebrities as Martha Stewart and now co host Maura Madden. Maura Madden is the author of the book called Crafternoon. The initial start up took 8 months of planning and coordination. Starting it from scratch, being given total control and responsibility Jessica had a lot to do. She had to navigate through everything. Learning not just how to draft up embroidery punch cards but also she had to learn how to book the program room, finding who helps set up the chairs and who is the person that changes those light bulbs?

One of the keys to having gotten the program up and running and remaining so success full is communication. Jessica had been with the library for a year and developed trust and good working relationships with other staff members. They knew she was reliable and responsible. So when she started to finalize the ideas of Handmade it was a little easier to work with other departments in the library. This also made it easier to manage the Crafternoon sessions and the format she created.

The format usually highlights a guest speaker who practices a particular craft. That speaker will demonstrate and provide general instruction. There is also a small selection of books relating to the topic that Jessica pulls from the library’s collection. While there is a range of materials they are often older and more historic. I asked if this created any tension or apprehensions about the program from other colleges. Jessica responded “I follow the same guidelines as the library. All the books that I use are accessible to the average person upon request. There is also no food or drink in the rooms and we also don’t to crafts that use liquids. And no glitter, I am still finding glitter from several years ago.”

When I attended the lace making program there where 75 people in the room, this led me to wonder about logistics and crowd control. Seventy five happy knitters don’t necessarily pose a threat but it was still question I had to ask. Upon further research I learned that the program started with only about thirty people every once and a while. Then it grew. “Once I came to open the door and there where women lined up down the hall. One woman even traveled from Connecticut and was waiting a half hour! I didn’t want to be restrictive but there had to be some type of organization.”

They started exploring program software and speaking with the department of event planning. Nothing seemed right, it was all “to restrictive”. And so as Occam’s razor would have it Jessica kept it basic. She started requesting preregistration through email. She also started opening the doors a half hour earlier.

This allowed for better organization and in a way better access without being controlling. People are able to wander through the room, pick a table and a spot, and set up their materials. Also there are materials provided if people are not able to bring equipment. This extra time also enabled people to look at the books that Jessica pulls from the collection. The program I attended highlighted books from the 1920’s through current, as recent as 2010. That extra time creates and greater calm and ease about the space, both for the visitor and the staff.

All hard work and success does not come without challenges or frustrations. There is always an aspect that is either unintended or unexpected. This is especially the case when trying to sustain a participatory program at an institution. Overall things have gone well for Jessica. However one disappointment is the lack of time she has to commit to the blog. The blog was the very entity that started the whole program. “It is very much a double edge sword”. Now having been promoted to a curator position, she helps to organize and facilitate more programs and exhibits like Handmade:Crafternoon’s, she is left with less time to blog. “I had to sit down with myself and have a serious conversation about what was important, the program and making it happen or blogging”. Ultimately she decided keeping the program itself and not the blog is more important. And with her new position and added responsibilities she is again coming to the crossroads. “Do I keep the program going on my free time so I am able to fulfill my new role and the expectation of my boss? Perhaps there may be another person who can pick up the program. And at the same time I don’t want to give up what I have created. It s been and still is a labor of love”

While the couple of months have given Jessica some tough decisions and need for self reflection she always brings it back to why she started. Reminding herself what and why she is doing it and what it has taught her. “I have developed an even stronger passion for libraries. I have acquired new skills and have been given a chance to contribute to a great institution. It has also connected me to other libraries, museums and crafters. I have also enabled the public to connect to the library and particularly this library in a new way. ”

Creating a space for people to join together who have a shared interest is very powerful. It is even more powerful when large, established institutions are willing to accept change and realize there are very vast, complex communities that can be reached. Some of the success of this program other than Jessica’s hard work is the aura of the New York Public Library. Particularly the location of this library which is on 42nd St and 5th Ave. One of the most rewarding moments was when a person stated that they didn’t think they could do this here at the Library. Now they have an invitation to access what is theirs. Having people feeling encouraged, accepted and appreciated is vital to serving a mission in any institution.

For anyone looking to execute such a program and make it successful and sustainable Jessica suggests the a few things. Just try it out. Figure out how to make it work and create a template. Create a pilot, “one of the jokes about my program is that it’s still in the pilot phase”. It is also key to have good relations with your different departments or college. You need to know who is going to change that light bulb. Equally who can help you change that light bulb? If other people feel like they have impute and are able to assist the more they are able to help you and the program become successful. Communication is very important.

You also might want to start out conservative. Perhaps use slides or images of items instead of putting them out. Keeping in mind your intent, mission or that of the organization and be respectful. Entertainment and wow factor don’t always equal success. Starting small, doing test runs, making samples and general trouble shooting beforehand will help. Always be prepared!

Quality publicity is also important. Flashy words and controversial statements may not always win over the audience. The write up for the Handmade sessions are on the blog but also in a publication put out by the library called Now. Jessica explained to me that when the write ups are created it may go through 50 different people before publication. While some institutions are not so lucky to have an extensive staff the important thing to keep in mind is quality control. You want to ensure that your programs are represented well along with the organization. As we have discussed before, content in context.

While Jessica is progressing professionally and personally through her participatory programs she has not lost sight of what is important. The whole reason for doing this from the start was to connect people to other people. There was a “great audience of adults who enjoy hands on crafts”. As well as she wanted to “serve the goals of the library to increase accessibility and to become more inviting”.

The Handmade Crafternoons at the NYPL are held in the Margaet Liebamn Berger forum of Stephen A. Schwarzman Building. There are two semesters with 4 courses in the spring and 4 courses in the fall. For further information you can write to for check out the blog at

Erin Bradford: Midterm

I went to MoMA the other day and saw Talk to Me: Design and the Communication between People and Objects. The exhibit was great, it had a lot of interactives and examples of technology today, and illustrated how we interact with technology. If you’re interested in technology at all I would definitely suggest going, it’s a great exhibit! It will be up until November 7th.

This is the link:

Opening text label, really sums up what the exhibit is about:

“Whether openly and actively or in subtle, subliminal ways, things talk to us. Tangible and intangible, and at all scales—from the spoon to the city, the government, and the Web, and from buildings to communities, social networks, systems, and artificial worlds—things communicate. They do not all speak up: some use text, diagrams, visual interfaces, or even scent and temperature: others just keep us company in eloquent silence.

The purpose of design began to shift in the late 20th century from utility toward a more holistic combination of purpose and meaning. Thus far, 21st-century culture is centered on interaction: “I communicate, therefore I am” is the defining affirmation of contemporary existence, and objects and systems that were once charged only with formal elegance and functional soundness are now also expected to have personalities. Contemporary designers do not just provide function, form, and meaning, but also must draft the scripts that allow people and things to develop and improvise a dialogue.

New branches of design practice have emerged in the past decades that combine design’s old-fashioned preoccupations—with form, function, and meaning—with a focus on the exchange of information and even emotion. Communication design deals with the delivery of messages, encompassing graphic design, wayfinding, and communicative objects of all kinds, from printed materials to three-dimensional and digital projects. Interface and interaction design delineate the behavior of products and systems as well as the experiences that people will have with them. Information and visualization design deal with the maps, diagrams, and tools that filter and make sense of information. In critical design, conceptual scenarios are built around hypothetical objects to comment on the social, political, and cultural consequences of new technologies and behaviors.

Talk to Me explores this new terrain, featuring a variety of designs that enhance communicative possibilities and embody a new balance between technology and people, bringing technological breakthroughs up or down to a comfortable, understandable human scale. Designers are using the whole world to communicate, transforming it into a live stage for an information parkour and enriching our lives with emotion, motion, direction, depth, and freedom.”

Entrance to the exhibit:


There was a screen with an animation when you walked into the exhibit space. When I first came in people noticed it was there and it asked you to talk to me but no one tried to interact with it. Then when I was leaving there was a large crowd watching the girl in the picture to the right play with the screen. The smaller screen to the right controlled him and the animation reacted to your finger movements on the screen.


There were a lot of great videos playing the hallway to the entrance of the main exhibit space. Here are a couple that I liked:

Hungry Hungry Eat Head-

“Hungry Hungry Eat Head (HHEH) is an installation meant to engender interactive play in a public place. Participants are given large cardboard QR codes that are transformed by video-tracking technology into three-dimensional animations broadcast on a large LED screen.”


Hi, A Real Human Interface:

I liked this wall text MoMA put up for visitors:

If you can’t read it: “Digital Technology can enhance your experience of the exhibition. Please access free MoMA Wi-Fi for a high-speed internet connection. Select “MoMA Wi-Fi” in your wireless settings and follow on-screen directions to begin. Post your comments about the objects on Twitter using the hashtags on each label. Your tweets will also be posted on the exhibition website, at Scan the QR code on each label with a QR-code reader on your smartphone to access more information about the objects.”

Some objects I liked:

Hello World!


“Profiling technology based on biometric data, in which a camera equipped with sensors detects changes in mood and emotion through thermal images of the face”.

N Building Facade:

Homeless City Guide:

From Mouth to Mouth:

The entire text of Leviticus put into capsules. “This project is a literal interpretation of a passage in the Old Testament. In Ezekiel 3, God instructs Ezekiel to eat a scroll of lamentations so he can speak His words to the people of Israel.”


“The SMSlingshot marries the traditional weapon with digital technology, splattering information onto facades and other surfaces that then serve as public screens.”

People interacting in the exhibit:


Here’s an interesting article on the exhibit I found:

The exhibit hit upon so many things we’ve been talking about in class, if anyone gets the chance to go let me know what you think, there were so many things I wish I could add to this post but the exhibit had so much to look at and read.

–I forgot to mention earlier that this is for my midterm–

Kelsey Parman: Midterm

Amy Topf: Midterm

Amy Topf

Mid-Atlantic Association of Museums Annual meeting workshop entitled “Pictures, Pictures, Pictures”

I got so many good ideas from this workshop. Professionals in a small museum (Jewish Museum of Maryland, JMM) and a large museum (National Museum of American History, NMAH) were there to talk about how they use pictures in the workplace.

In class we talked about how important it is to have interesting, easy to use website that is balanced. They mentioned that photos on a website make it seem fresh and current. The Jewish Museum of Maryland connects things they think will be of interest to visitors on their website, and has a blog in two places on their homepage.

Also, when you use pictures on the institution’s Twitter and Facebook posts, more people are likely to pay attention. They referenced a study that had concluded social media posts with pictures get 50 percent more comments and likes than posts with just words. They went through examples of social media posts using pictures, such as famous visitors or a ‘Guess which one is the artist?’ photo with two people standing with their back turned. The JMM and National Museum of American History have a designated person to send their photos and posts for Facebook and Twitter before they are posted. That staff person manages the posts but they can come from anyone in the museum. I like this because the posts should not just come from the one intern that knows how to use the technology, like we talked about in class. The posts are more interesting when they involve different departments and have collection specific people take their own photos. Both museums also have a written social media policy which is great so staff have a reference on how to handle photos and posts and what is appropriate according to their institutional mission.

Dana Allen-Greil from NMAH was interesting to hear from because her museum is a part of the Smithsonian and I think that what her museum does is widely accepted because of the scale of the museum and their reputation. It was nice to get her point of view on the ideas and the enthusiasm of the employees of JMM. I have never heard of her job title before, ‘Chief of Digital Outreach and Engagement.’ She likes to get people involved in the museum through pictures. She referenced the movement called ‘This Place Matters’ by the National Trust for Historical Preservation. It makes me want to get involved in my hometown and have an impact to preserve historical buildings, you just take a picture holding the sign “This Place Matters” of site that you think should be preserved and upload it to the website.

She also suggested that museums can use social media to do curatorial work quickly. At NMAH, they had only 24 hours to determine a huge amount of fish species. The Facebook community helped with the overwhelming project and it was completed in time by professors and scholars. She also told us about NMAH’s group pool of pictures taken by visitors of their museum experience on Flickr. The museum now has use of the thousands of pictures taken of them and can also monitor what is out there. She says that it can be useful to have access to these pictures if you need a picture of something specific. They used a visitor generated photo from Flickr as a background for their website because it had the best lighting, better than a professional photographer’s photo. She suggested for museums that are not ready for everyday picture taking at their museum (which is sadly very common especially for art museums) to start with giving the visitors a chance to take pictures, like a one day photo opportunity that could be monitored. It would bring a lot of visitors in and perhaps calm the people trying to sneak pictures or use the flash. In many exhibits now the designers create a photo opportunity if they do not want the visitor to photograph the rest of the exhibit. It is more clear where you can take pictures with an assigned place and may discourage any damage to artwork. It is important for your visitors to feel welcome and like they can share their experience with others. I think an opportunity for downloads of images, videos, or audio tours on their website would be a great additional way give visitors opportunities when they can share.

For museum staff, what should you take pictures of? Their answer was anything and everything: programs, exhibits including the process of installation and people interacting with the exhibit, collections, surprisingly including collections storage spaces, the staff and interns.

Pictures taken of school groups and programs put a face, color and light to what the institution does. The supporters of a museum need to see the workings of a museum so that they can reaffirm their donations. The JMM uses these types of pictures in their annual reports, newsletters to donors, and on Flickr for a program where school groups can post their pictures taken at the museum. We asked some questions about how to obtain permission to post pictures and what to not show publicly. Apparently, JMM tells all groups upfront and also posts on their website that they will take pictures and they will use them. For children, they don’t include last names or personally identifiable information. I think it is good to tell people up front about possible published photos so that people do not get angry if they suddenly see their picture published and it is also helps that the institution will have a lot of photos to choose from when they need graphics for publications.

They mentioned taking pictures of the whole installation process: the work crews installing the artifacts and text panels and then taking pictures of both the exhibit without people, and people interacting with the exhibits. The group of historical photos can be added to the institutional archive. Jennifer Vess from JMM told us about her experience updating and making sense of the JMM’s poorly catalogued and disorganized institutional archive. I learned it is important to have a plan to organize staff photos and records just as it is for the museum’s other collections. Photos can be great to have to document the history of an institution. JMM uses pictures of staff and interns and collections storage areas in their blog, which gives an inside look at what a museum really does and goes a step farther in the direction of institutional transparency. Their blogs and any opinion based social media are written with the staff author’s name or initials so that the content is not seen as the institutional view. I had not thought about getting that personal with social media at an institution, I just thought their posts are cohesive as the one opinion of the institution but this breaks the museum up into the people that work there. Ascribing a name solves the problem of people disagreeing with someone’s post and blaming the institution. It also makes the content more real because the staff author claims it as theirs.

Pictures and social media create a face and a presence by the museum that can be shared with so many people it is worth the effort of getting the museum on board with it. There are many levels of involvement I can see. Some museums like JMM embrace pictures and social media wholeheartedly while others have guards monitoring so they can stop any attempt at photos. I would like to work in an art museum and pictures are a touchy subject. Artists can come with copyright issues and distribution issues. At the workshop, the presenters were from a natural history museum and a religious institutional museum there was no one to give the art museum’s opinion. I could see some holes in using photography in the same ways as a natural history museum. Many people who work in art museums are very protective and are totally against any photography in museums it is hard to change their mind. I think this presents a big challenge to them to have a successful social media presence without pictures. However, I think with the ideas presented at this workshop the art museum can start to take some pictures. For example, the art museum can even just start with a community produced exhibit of photographs of the city buildings which could utilize Flickr. Another safe start can be taking some pictures for the institutional archive to have a record for the history of the museum. I think social media and pictures are so important to museums today. I was glad I went to this workshop. I liked that the presenters were so excited about using this technology in their museums. I got a lot of ideas for my future career.

Three of the four presenters were from the Jewish Museum of Maryland which uses pictures and social media I think very well. Their website, is informative, fun, and user friendly.

The PowerPoint and credits are here:

Cori Linville: Midterm


Museum Technology

Midterm Project

The Brooklyn Museum is a large museum in the heart of Brooklyn. It has to compete with the museums in New York City that are known throughout the world such as the Guggenheim, the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. One way of them doing this is through technology. The museum does not use technology very well, especially in its long-term installations but it looking closely at the newer exhibitions it seems that technology is becoming more important.

When I went to the museum the current exhibition that seems to be most popular is Timothy Greenfield Sanders: The Latino List. You can see the exhibition when you walk into the museum to get your ticket because the pictures of the people are very large, so it is intriguing. I walked into it wondering what it was about. When you go into the room it basically just looks like it is a room full of blown up pictures of twenty-five different famous Latino people. It said their profession and maybe a little quote by them. It was nice but did not seem like anything too exciting. There was a video on one wall playing something but it was nothing that I wanted to sit and watch. I really did not think that it was too technologically advanced. Obviously I was not paying very close attention. But I will come back to that, because I want to talk about the rest of the museum’s skill set as well.

Throughout the rest of the museum there really was not much to do in the way of touch screens or anything of that sort. The one thing that they did have was at a few spots you could call in to a number with your cell phone and there was an automated voice who told you about what you were looking at. I called in to one of the mummies but honestly the voice just kind of annoyed me and it was a little hard to hear. They also had random QR codes, though they were very far and few between, that you could do with your phone that went with whatever you were looking at. It was nice because some of them gave you poems that went with the painting and one was a song.

One installation that had nothing participatory in it at all was the Dinner Table. It is all about feminists and women. It was great. It was my favorite thing in the whole museum but there was nothing that is interactive about it at all. All you can do is walk around it and read about it. It has dinner spots for famous women in history, be they real or in stories. I was walking behind a man and a woman and I heard the man say, “I cannot believe they wasted this much space on this.” I literally wanted to slap him. Or at least tap him on the shoulder and ask him why he did not like this exhibit, because I personally loved it. I wondered if maybe it would have helped if there was something he could have played with if it would have made a different because go in the next room and there is a story line of all of the women and the things they have done but still, nothing really interactive about it. Because when you think about it The Dinner Table is kind of like the Latino List because they are both about a certain group of people but both instillations are set up at different times and in very different ways. The Latino List is in the new age with technology, which I did not realize until looking deeper into the Brooklyn Museum’s items.

Like I said before, it was HBO’s documentary that got me to realize that the Latino List was much more than just photographs and a video. Everyone should watch the documentary, it is really great, all of the people are really passionate about what they believe in and their Latino background and really important to them. So this got me to go back to the website. I had been the Brooklyn Museum website before but never really explored it like I did when I went searching for interactive things through the website. I was realizing, it is interesting that I’m looking for these things after I have already visited the museum and not before. When looking at the website I realized that the video that was playing was probably the one where people can talk about their heritage with the help of the iphone app, but since none of us were that interested in it and there was not anything saying what it was when you walked into the room none of us really paid any attention to it, or did it, even though I do have an iphone. We did not really see people recording any when we were there either with the kiosks. They also have talks and a blog. It’s set up really well.

I feel like with the Brooklyn Museum it would definitely be beneficial to look and go through the website before going to the museum to see the different ways there are to interact with the museum in a participatory manner. Even if there are not that many I feel like it is good to know that there are a few that you would be able to find and what you would be looking for and the website helps with that. The website is getting showing what is interactive in the museum even though the website is not really very interactive at all. Hopefully the Brooklyn Museum keeps keeping up with the times.

So it was not to say that they were not participatory, but after reading Simon’s book, and visiting other museums who had shown more, they did not add up, until I looked deeper. Which started with the HBO special on the Latino List. It was an hour special and they talked to each of the people on the list about something in their lives that made them special ethnicity wise. This is when I realized that I had probably missed something when I had breezed past the room when I had gone to the museum on Free Museum Day.

The Latino List exhibition picture I took

Stephanie Daugherty: Midterm

Abby Whipker: Midterm

This project was created to enhance a visitor’s museum experience with music. Some museums may find it difficult to increase the use of technology and participation in their daily function. My project would work well for ‘old school’ museums that typically leave interaction up to the guest, or may use audio tours, docents etc. iPods would be available for check-out, each filled with several playlists. Every gallery would have a corresponding playlist and each piece several track numbers. The soundtrack for each item/artifact/piece would be selected by the curator or artist to evoke more in depth thoughts and moods about the piece.  It would allow for guests to become more engaged with the art/artifact without disturbing the quiet nature of the museum. The video I created is a sample of what the experience would be like.

Katie Keckeisen: Midterm

Katie Keckeisen

Museum Technologies

20 October, 2011

The Glasgow Open Museum:

Participation Gone Too Far?

The Glasgow Open Museum is one of the most radical and most unique museums in the world: it functions by loaning out its registered objects to various individuals or groups so that they may curate their own exhibits in their own spaces. In other words, you don’t visit the objects, “the objects visit you” (Open Museum, 1991). The Open Museum does not loan out certain objects while keeping the rest at a permanent institution; here, every object is, quiet literally, up for grabs and able to go out on loan. But while the Museum touts its multiple benefits, the main question the Museum raises is might a museum that lends every object out to anyone and everyone who requests a loan be taking participation and community involvement a bit too far? Or is this a new, innovative way to invite the public to be a part of the museum experience and for a museum to be truly audience-centeric?

The Open Museum opened began in 1989 and was inspired by the “previous failures to reach people who do not go to museums” (Dodd, 7). This includes senior citizens, prison inmates, the mentally handicapped, and other marginalized groups (Simon, 175). Therefore, the Open Museum’s mission was to reach out to these different under-represented groups, have them choose objects and to put together an exhibit around them that dealt with issues they wanted the public and their community to know and learn about. Some examples of these include an exhibit about breast vs. bottle-feeding infants, food poverty, and women’s issues. With these exhibits, the Museum would help to facilitate the partnerships and provide the objects from which to pick, but the community members or individuals involved would have to take the reins, as it were, “as projects were not to be curator-led” (Dodd, 7).

Other museums may have similar programs, where educational trunks or kits are sent out into the community, these usually are “a handling collection of disposable objects” (Dodd, 9), because a regular museum would not want the objects it has promised to keep and care for out of its control. The Open Museum is the other side of the coin, where objects are always out of the administrative control of those who work for the museum. The Museum is not lending out objects from an education collection — objects that they can afford to loose — they are lending out the real deal.

According to Simon, in its first ten years, the Open Museum’s “community partners created 884 exhibitions that were visited by hundreds of thousands of people” (176) and the Museum is currently expanding its programming to include seminars on how to properly handle and conserve the objects while out on loan. And while the Museum has only lost three objects in the last eleven years (Dodd, 10), the idea of letting just anyone handle and be responsible for these objects (some of which are fragile and rare) would give a heart attack to most trained museum professionals.

So, is this “going too far”? Is the Open Museum putting its objects in unnecessary peril for the sake of community outreach? Maybe. Upon first glance, the situation at the Open Museum might seem like community outreach and museum participation gone wild. But, while the situation at the Open Museum may be the extreme, there are some good ideas that can be gleaned and put into practice from all of this.

The Open Museum is currently reaching out to communities and groups that wouldn’t normally set foot in a museum, either because they physically can’t or they feel they would be out of place. The museum is letting these communities have their own voice, or, as Julian Spalding put it, “the intention was to deliver what people wanted rather than what the museum thought they wanted or what the museum thought they ought to want” (Dodd, 7). This idea of letting the audience have a say in what they see might be easier to put into practice at a “normal” museum rather than just open up their collection storage doors. What it really comes down to is sharing; the museum should allow itself to share “its objects with visitors so that visitors can share them with each other” (Simon 176).

While most museums might not feel comfortable letting the objects in their collections go beyond their doors, there might still be ways for the museum to allow for community involvement. At the Kansas City Museum at Union Station in Kansas City, MO, a new program is being implemented called “Community Curator”, where a historian or history educator can pick an item from the collection to talk about. While there is still a lot of authoritative control in the program (not just anyone can sign up to be a community curator), other museums might use this as a jumping off point. Perhaps other museums might implement similar programs but, make a small, temporary exhibit out of it but inviting several individuals or groups to select the objects, research them and then help to install the exhibit. The museum staff would be there to offer guidance on research and facilitate the technical aspects, but the body and voice of the soul would be the community curators.

And, perhaps, the museum professionals who are fainting at the thought of allowing the public to touch, to handle and to control historical or art objects aren’t giving the public much credit. It can be inferred that any group or individual that is partnering with the Open Museum knows that these objects must be treated with care. They are not using the art or the objects to decorate their apartments and offices; they are bringing these objects together to make their own exhibit, to learn more about the objects and the work that goes into displaying them. Of course, accidents will happen, but it does seem as if the Open Museum is taking precautions by insuring that the objects are all registered and cataloged and that there is a paper trail when the objects are loaned out into the community.

While the practices of the Open Museum aren’t likely to be adopted by the rest of the museum community anytime soon (if at all), they are setting an example for what a museum could accomplish in terms of being audience-centric. Next to the objects, the audience is the entire reason a museum exists and, as the world becomes more and more diverse, the modern museum is going to have to find ways to reach those different communities. The situation of the Open Museum also turns a harsh light onto museum workers’ fears and our control issues. More and more, museum professionals are starting to look like Gollum from Lord of the Rings: keeping their precious objects back in the dark where no one else can see them or touch them. Perhaps curators and registrars just need to take a “chill pill” and remember that they are keeping these objects for the public trust and, in the end, the pieces in these collections belong not to those working for the museum, but to the community at large.


Dodd, Jocelyn et al., A Catalyst for Change: The Social Impact of the Open Museum. London: Research Center for Museums and Galleries, 2002.

Open Museum, “Interim Report”. Glasgow: OM, 1991.

Simon, Nina. The Participatory Museum. Santa Cruz, CA: Museum 2.0, 2010.