Philly Museums and Technology MeetUp
Bluecadet hosted the inaugural Philadelphia Museums and Technology (#PhillyMuseTech) group get-together in our offices, along with co-organizer Aaron Miller. At first we were attempting to somehow meld Cinco de Mayo and Museums & Technology (since the meetup happened to take place on the 5th), but that idea easily melted away once the group got together. Despite the Dos Equis and tortilla chips, Museums were obviously on everyone’s mind.
It was a diverse group of people. Folk from museums (we did a show of hands and had them out themselves), coders, designers, volunteers, and museum-lovers alike huddled around our short-throw projector and descended into the rabbit hole of museum technology.
We started off with a discussion of a few different types of apps. The goal was to span from high-tech to low in one overarching swoop. We began with a run through the American Museum of Natural History’s multi-million dollar app, a good example of a well-done, standard museum mobile experience. At heart it's a basic tour and supplemental information guide, with good way finding abilities.
We also looked at the guerilla MoMA augmented reality app, which allows users to point their phones at MoMA interiors and view AR artwork displaying overtop reality. Finally, we discussed the low-tech (or, more like no-tech) “app” created by Nina Simon of Museumtwo.com. It involves her asking visitors at the Milwaukee Art Museum a simple question: "What do you like?" As people answered, she started creating a network of note cards, sort of a “if you like this, you’ll love that,” and hanging images of the people who liked the art next to the art itself.
These apps were a great springboard to start talking about Museum apps amongst ourselves.
We broke into groups, each group was assigned a Philadelphia museum, and we got to work. We had 15 minutes to brainstorm a brand new mobile app of for our assigned museum. The things we came up with surprised even me, there were so many great ideas.
Some App Ideas from the MeetUp
The Franklin Institute group dreamed up an app that users could download to track their movements within the museum, allowing curators to see the paths most traveled.
The Philadelphia Museum of Art people thought a recording booth in the lobby could draw viewers to talk about their experiences, tag a work, and send their video to the work itself, so other viewers could see what their peers think.
The Academy of Natural Sciences group thought visitors to the Butterflies! exhibit might like to have image recognition software identify rogue fliers as they land on their arm (a tip that came out during the discussion: a little banana on the hair makes the Butterflies! experience all the more whimsical). The live animals could also have a social media presences, answering questions on a live twitter feed projected on the wall. (“@Owl, why are your eyes so huge?” “@curiouschild, hoot, my brain is tiny and my eyes are big to let me see at night. I can swivel my head 200 degrees because my eyes do not move in their sockets. Hoot.”)
The Constitution Center band schemed up a large interactive display that allows visitors to sign their names to the Constitution in real time.
The Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania crowd wanted videos of artists explaining their pieces. These videos would be tagged to the pieces themselves, where viewers could see the explanations of the work on their mobile devices.
The conversation spanned much more than just these ideas; we drove by so many promising tangents in the conversation we had to end by promising more MeetUps, just to explore them later.
The Next MeetUp
The next meetup might be less structured but just as much fun. Co-organizer Aaron Miller, who works at the American Museum of Jewish History, has hinted he may be able to get our MeetUp group a free, private tour of the tech at his own museum. Stay tuned, and join our group here: http://www.meetup.com/Philly-Museums-and-Technology
Cecilia Razak @crazak