In Museums and the Digital Age, Bautista states that as museums strive to remain relevant in an increasingly digital world they must take “four major constructs” into consideration; place, community, culture, and technology.

Visitor Experience

In attempting to understand the use of “place” there can be a lot of debate. We discussed the different types of places that patrons could visit in order to experience a museum, the most obvious and non-traditional being a museum’s website. Web space gives users an experience of a museum that might be their only experience of a museum. It provides a second space for the museum to exist. Exactly like what we had discussed last week of having two versions of ourselves, digital and reality. A museum’s website provides a selective peek in. How does the museum chose to be perceived. I love thinking about that. I love studying how museums chose to show themselves off. It’s also eye opening when you finally get to visit a space and have your perceptions actualized or shattered.

One of my favorite examples of online museum perception is the Tate.


A lively, well organized, and eye catching display of a handful of the museums collections and exhibits. I love being able to visit their website to see what’s happening when I’m thousands of miles from being able to attend. It gives a very clear picture of what you can expect from a visit to the museum, an excellent translation of physical space/place to digital.

I think branding is key in thinking about place. Whether it’s an app, a website, a pamphlet, a book of collected works, or social media presence museums need to be thinking about audience perception and remembering that not everyone that experiences the museum will be able to walk through its doors. First impressions truly do make a difference.

Visitor experience can also be separated into three parts; pre-experience (as discussed via websites, ads, word of mouth, photos, etc.), experience, and post-experience. In discussing the ways that we can analyze or collect data from all parts of user experience we talked about the “pen” at Cooper Hewitt as an example of one thing that both records a visitors experience within the museum and gives them a way to interact with the museum after they visit. It also provides valuable data for the museum about how patrons interact with the museum, which exhibits they prefer, and how much time they spend within the museum.

The Pen has become an integral part of the museums structure. Every person who enters is shown how to use the Pen, and I think there’s even a 40% return on patrons who choose to visit their URL after they leave the museum.

I did find it interesting that the Pen is not discussed on the museums front page. If I had not known about the Pen I would not have known that it was even a part of the museum experience until I arrived. Maybe that is intentional?


Building Community & Culture

Bautista states, “museums are no longer working for their community, but with their community.”

In a digital sense, that translates to creating infrastructure that visitors will actually use. Understanding the needs and desires of your audience to serve them better, not forcing them to use or adopt ideas/technology/devices that they aren’t already using.

On a broader spectrum it got me thinking about a conversation I had had with Caroline Woolard, a NY based artist who focuses in many mediums and who had visited Grand Rapids last Spring to discuss the Community Land Trust among other crowd sourcing and community funded ways of claiming space and resisting gentrification.

We talked about Cooper Square, and the ways that the community members fought against rising rents and being removed from the area that they had built from almost nothing. Their story is uncommon, but I think that there is a way that museums could foster this conversation and encourage change (it’s all coming back to soft power!!) and make it more common for artists/business owners/residents to have a solid voice.

Artists move into less expensive areas. They create work, infrastructure, and interest through events and community building. (ideally in a way that incorporates the community that currently resides there) Maybe they even create museums or heritage organizations, art centers or class rooms. More people move in. Demand increases. Rent goes up. Artists are displaced. The spaces they have created are taken from them or adopted by larger organizations and they are left where they had started. How can we work to change that narrative? How can museums continue to create and foster communities through this growth? Where do we fit in a solidarity economy?


Image credit: Ethan Miller, Community Economies Collective

Digital Strategies

I really enjoyed this quote from Ivan Karp, “the best way to think about the changing relations between museums and communities is to think about how the audience, a passive entity, becomes the community, an active agent.” (1992, Museums and Communities)

It seems counter intuitive that a quote dating from 1992 could so well describe museums philosophies on digital technology, but I think it truly is the best way to think about how each museum should choose to adopt technologies.

The Brooklyn Museum’s ASK app really grabbed my attention. I love the idea of providing a space where a question can be asked into the void, and an answer provided by a real human spawning conversation and discovery. It has the perfect balance of human interaction and fancy technology that a lot of people desire. It adds a level of humanity and interest that google can’t offer, and it’s designed for a museum in a large city where a lot of people use smart phones.

I’d be curious to see the kind of information that was gathered that prompted its creation, and to see how often it’s used within the museum.

Digital strategies are going to differ based on location, type, and audience of a museum. The main question that the use of these technologies hope to answer; how do we get patrons to interact? (and I’m not talking about flipping a board over to read more about an exhibit 😉 )