• On museums and culture inclusion/ exclusion

    In the the “Cultural inclusion, exclusion and the formative roles of museums”, Kevin Coffee highlights different forms of and reasons for social inclusion/ exclusion within museums. Coffee’s argues that these issues cannot be properly addressed without “foregrounding [these] actions against loci of social power and hierarchy”. I thought Coffee’s analyses help bring into sharper relief how many museums are more in conversation with their visitor demographics than the demographics of their local environment and greater surroundings.

    One key factor Coffee addresses is how museum use is a “cultural practice.. shaped by the social relationships of the users, as well as those of the museum, and defined by whole it includes and excludes.” The neoliberalization of museums has demarcated them — within North America and Europe— as points of leisure and entertainment, and thus intended for individuals in a higher economic strata. This then informs not just who belongs in museums, but what ideas and perspectives belong as well. These institutions are not simply siloed vaults that house symbols, but rather performative assemblages that are part of the construction of ideology. To me, Coffee’s arguments bring to mind Antonio Gramsci’s idea of “cultural hegemony” whereby the ruling class maintains power by controlling culture rather than solely through over power. I think these forms of power are now further compounded by the large amounts of corperations currently supporting now mnany museums.

    Coffee also discusses the pressure and criticism museums face based on the narratives they craft and works that they exhibit. One example was how a director at the Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Center was criminally prosecuted for supporting a Robert Mapplethorpe retrospective. I personally feel that one major shift since this article was written is how the kinds of influence on museums has changed. Instead of primarily top-down pressure, more organized and collaborative (potentially fueled by social media) forms of bottom-up power have greatly impacted modern museums. One popular tactic, that confronts and highlights the neolibieralization of museums Coffee mentions, is through divestment, partly by targeting powerful funders. I also think. in this moment, there’s more pressure for museums to practice internal inclusivity. As many museums have strived towards hiring more people of color in lower and mid level positions, many believe this is not enough— To truly strive towards a more inclusive/ diverse culture and ideology, marginalized and under-represented populations need to be in positions of power.

  • Museums and the Other Commentary

    Coffee explains that museums were originally created by and for a small, elite group within a larger society. Museums were originally located in places where their surrounding communities would almost entirely be made up of people from this group. However, population migrations and demographic changes have meant museums are now visited by much more diverse groups of people. This change exposed a lot of issues with representation in museums.

    I certainly wouldn’t say these issues have been completely solved in the time since the article was written but the progress that has already started in 2008 has continued. Coffee praises the National Museum of the American Indian, one of the Smithsonian Institution’s museums which had opened in 2004. American Indians are a group who have historically been misrepresented in museums in a number of ways. Exhibits about American Indians lacked voices from that community, depicted American Indian cultures as being strictly a part of history rather than something that still existed, and may have included racist or otherwise inaccurate information. The opening of the National Museum of the American Indian made huge steps to correct these issues. Coffee explains that while the museum was being developed, “NMAI enlisted advisors from two-dozen Native communities to help the museum develop its inaugural exhibitions” and on its launch, “more than 20,000 Native People converged on Washington to celebrate the museum. The Washington Post (22 September 2004) quoted one attendee declaring that the museum represented ‘the greatest thing to happen to Indian people in 500 years’.”

    At the time this article was published, the National Museum of African American History and Culture, another Smithsonian Institution museum, was already in the process of being created but it wouldn’t actually open for another 8 years. Since this article was published, the museum has gone on to open and received a similar reception to the National Museum of the American Indian. Like the NMAI, the National Museum of African American History and Culture seeks to include and better represent a group of people that have historically been excluded from and/or misrepresented in museums.

  • Cultural inclusion, exclusion and the formative roles of museums - Antonella

    In this article, Kein Coffee makes an interesting point about how “culture practices are fundamentally social processes and not simply collections of things.” Even though this article was written in 2008, I believe that this is still true to this day. Most likely, this is still done in this way because of how people currently think about museums. There is this general perception that, for instance, art museums have paintings as their main focus, and that most of the artists come from Europe. It is also important to highlight that a good number of museums have their roots in elite personal collections, which could be one of the factors that explains this general perception. This is definitely not a positive aspect about museums since it hinders inclusivity and growth. It might be true that throughout these past few years museums have started working on this, trying to reduce their biases and offer a more multicultural collection of objects but I honestly think it is still not enough. However, for museums to continue in this search for a less biased exhibition, the general public must change their stereotypes about exhibits. At the end of the day, museums are interested in maximizing their number of visitors so if they see that a more multicultural collection throws visitors off, they will revert to their original roots.

    In his article, Coffee also discusses why people go to museums. He starts by only mentioning leisure, but then adds that throughout the years, people have started going to museums for informal and formal learning, aesthetic pleasure and contemplation, as ritual instruments for promoting political identity, and to reinforce social strata and class distinctions. I believe that this continues to be true in 2021. Even up to this day, there is clearly a specific sector of the population who visits museums more often than others. This is typically someone who is of Euro-American ancestry and/or who belongs to the upper or middle social class. Minorities do not seem to visit museums with frequency. Again, the ratio between these sectors have gradually become more balanced but there is definitely room for improvement for museums to attract a more diverse public. Efforts have been made though, such as the use of technology to offer a more interactive experience. Something interesting to note is how the rise of social media and the desire of posting aesthetically pleasant pictures from mostly young people has increased their frequency to visit museums “just for the gram” ( ). This might not seem like a positive thing right away but I believe that just by getting exposed to what museums offer, even if you are initially just going to take a picture, can change your perception of them and genuinly start liking them for what they offer and not only because of how pretty they look.

  • Cultural Inclusion Comments

    In his article on cultural inclusion, Kevin Coffee makes some points that are still relevant today. Coffee discusses the role museums take in building public perception of cultures and social distinctions. Something interesting Coffee brings up is the exclusion of social practices that distinguish divisions between cultures, particularly with the example of French paintings showing up in ‘art’ museums and Mangbetu sculptures placed in ‘ethnographic’ museums. The distinction between two objects that share the same traits of artistic expression yet are classified under different contexts of display brings up the nuanced way in which museums can create divisions between cultures.

    I think something surprising from the reading was the contention that sometimes arises from authority outside of the museum. Coffee gives examples of exhibitions that faced retaliation from the government when presenting narratives that did not align with the “social and global status quo.” The idea of restriction for the museum director was a surprise to me as I always considered they had full reign of their exhibitions. I hadn’t considered the relationship between the museum and the government — I understand that some are owned by the government and others funded by the government, and some are private institutions. To consider progressions of inclusivity in museums, I wonder which type of museum can more easily change for inclusion. A government-owned museum likely has the funding and resources to alter and establish new exhibitions and perform outreach to the public, but would have to get approval in order to do so. A private museum would have more free reins but would they have less resources to do so?

    In terms of change since 2008 — Coffee calls for museums to display “the ingenuities that continually arise in the shadows or as subversions of the established narratives.” I do think that this is still an issue, but is gradually being improved upon since the time the article was released. I visited the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology at Harvard last spring for an anthropology class, and one of the topics we discussed was the rights of ownership and narrative. One of the changes the museum saw over the years (it might have occurred before 2008, but was a change regardless) was commissioning individuals to write about the objects from their tribes, and replace the placards that were originally written by an outside ethnographer. Having someone who has interacted personally with something like a war bonnet creates a narrative that expresses the background of its origin rather than the narrative constructed by an outside view.

    I think that one other thing Coffee mentions as an issue has been improved upon from 2008 to today, which is the inclusivity of visiting museums and their role in the public. Coffee writes that “practitioners should work to better understand the specificity of social diversity by investigating the potential for museum use alongside the broader range of practice patterns and cultural distinctions lived by the individual groups in the encompassing society.” Coffee discusses the way that leisure constraints differ between social groups, and that museums as a leisure activity are exclusive institutions for middle and upper classes. I think that since then, the role of museums has improved with the development of outreach and the rise of museums as more than just a collection of displayed objects. Lots of museums now remove the barrier of admission for younger groups and also hold events for education and engagement.

  • Commentary on Cultural Inclusion

    Coffee talks a lot about the different uses of museums, and elaborates on different ways in which museum study has relied on stereotypes and culture types. When mentioning the various museums are perceived by users, he mentioned that those who rarely or never visited museums mentioned Indians and Indian History. Though this wasn’t really the focus of the article at all, I just found it interesting in the context of multicultural inclusion. Particularly because of the controversy over museum ownership of Native American items. In comparison with what other people mentioned like ancient artifacts and skeletons, this simply example shows us how museums alter our perceptions of the present, easily erasing and historizing communities that are still alive.

    I also find it interesting that during times of domestic struggle rich white men turned to the arts to “inject hope, purpose, and beauty into a troubled society.” Which is an interesting take coming from some of the most financially free and independent men. Using art to heal “troubled society” is like using paintings as band aids for racism and civil unrest. I think recognizing the roots of America’s expansion and growth within art museums is key to understanding the appeal people felt with “National Culture.” The example of Slavery attracting a larger audience than Alexander Hamilton: The Man Who Made Modern America say a lot about how visitors view museums as spaces that may or may not align with their values.

    Coffee concludes and I think these sentences capture his end thoughts very well “Museums are not socio-cultural isolates, they are important actors within the cultural matrices described throughout this discussion.” Considerations of what is leisure time, how museums construct hierarchies, and ways in which they need to deepen their connections with the communities they serve are all very relevant, given that this was written in 2008. I feel like these arguments are still very valid but ultimately there is still a lot of changes to make. Last year the MFA had an exhibit called Ancient Nubia Now that had gave free admission tickets for students to return with their families. They also worked with many members of the community for interviews and insight. I think these are all great changes in the right direction but there is always more to be done.

  • Smart Heritage: AI and the Museum Commentary

    In “How are museums using artificial intelligence, and is AI the future of museums?” the author, Lauren Styx, describes several existing examples of AI being used by museums and speculates about future uses. Styx first focuses on very visible uses including several robots that serve different roles in a few high profile museums. While the article doesn’t go into much depth about the robots’ functionality, it sounds like their use of AI is somewhat shallow and the novelty they offer visitors is usually their main appeal. Styx then describes two AI tools that interacted with a set of museum works to form connections. In one case, this was finding similar looking pairs of paintings in the set of museum works. In the other, users took pictures of themselves and were matched with a visually similar painting. I think this type of tool forms a separate category from the robots described in the first section. The robots were meant to replace functions of curators or guides while these image matching tools provided an entirely new offering to museum visitors. Finally, Styx touches on the least flashy but very likely the most common use of AI by museums, behind the scenes operational tools. The article quotes Chris Michaels, digital director of the National Gallery in London who claims, “The major applications of AI will come under the hood of museum operations” and “[Artificial intelligence] should allow the realisation of cost savings in the management of our buildings. Those are often the biggest single source of operating cost in museums, and efficiencies driven by AI could transform under strain business models.” While the article does end by speculating about several incredibly ambitious, immersive tools that could one day be made possible by AI, I think Styx is in agreement with Michaels that most of the benefit from AI will happen without visitors even realizing it.

    “The Shape of Art History in the Eyes of the Machine” described research into how machine learning algorithms categorize art from different styles. The article was fairly jargon heavy so a lot of the specifics of their results went over my head. However the main point of their research was to determine how well AI classifications matched up to classifications used by art historians. This was done not for the purpose of developing a tool that could help sort artwork but to determine if there was an empirical basis for the classifications art historians had organically developed over time. The results seem to solidly support this and also provided some insight into what specifically makes the different styles of art distinct.

  • How are museums using AI - Commentary

    I felt that this article did a good job of representing the variety of ways that AI can be useful for museums and improving the visitor experience. One thing that sticks out in particular is the use of chat bots and other forms of AI to engage with visitors and answer questions. I think this then raises the question of how AI is used to replace work that would otherwise be done by humans and if it serves as an appropriate replacement. If it can be used to answer basic questions, that allows the museum to reach more people than they might otherwise and can free up time and energy for humans to focus on other aspects of the visitor experience. So in this sense, it’s a positive change for museums. On the other hand, there may be circumstances in which the use of AI replaces interactions with other people in a way that creates less valuable engagement with visitors and is not accompanied by any other significant difference in the visitor experience. So I think it’s important to think not only about where AI can be used in museum spaces, but also what other changes follow to make sure that the change actually creates a better experience.

  • Commentary 4/27 - Georgia

    How are museums using artificial intelligence, and is AI the future of museums? It was interesting to see all the uses of AI. Some were more utilitarian (predicting visitor turn out), and some were more for visitor engagement (Pepper, for example). There were a few projects mentioned that I didn’t fully understand the end goal. One was the first project mentioned: Berenson. Perhaps this robot informs the museum staff of the visitor reactions, so they have a sense of how their exhibits were received. But then why does it need to be a robot that rolls around the museum floor? Why not a series of cameras throughout the space? A second that I didn’t see the larger picture was Google’s Art Selfie. This seemed to mostly be an exercise in facial recognition (and maybe data collection) than something that would help people engage with art deeper.

    If these projects are steps to a larger impact, that makes sense. I just hope that museums don’t stop here, and they use the learnings from these projects to continue integrating AI into their experiences.

    The Shape of Art History in the Eyes of the Machine I’m curious how the authors were able to “label” the axes. Perhaps I haven’t seen enough papers like this, but I was under the impression that there was no way to know why an AI algorithm performed the way it does. Yet, the artists say one axis, for example, “seems to correlate with figurative art” or “correlates with the linear versus painterly.” This meant art historians assessed the results to give these labels, right? How does that impact the results?

    I can see a lot of uses for this algorithm. In particular, I wonder how this network can be used to categorize art that is missing its context (date, artist, region). Early on in the semester, someone noted that one museum is revisiting a number of the works and finding that they were painted by women, and maybe sold as her brother’s work. If a women and man collaborated on a collection, could this algorithm help sort out which paintings are hers and which are his?

  • AI Future of Museum Comment

    AI, as mentioned in the article, is both risk and opportunity. AI has or will have the ability to assist people in many different ways. I think the presence of AI in museum may face similar questions like how to make the incorporation of AI feel not intrusive to the museum experience. Personally I may feel hesitated to interact with near-human robots like Berenson, but the analytics tools like websites and chatbots seem to me more preferable approaches. It would be interesting to see how AI boosts the museum experience instead of taking over the experience. I agree that the major applications of AI will come under the hood of museum operations. Especially with the immensity of museum collections that came online, AI can help to provide optimal management of these collections. Currently, museums are hoping to learn more about their visitors, what they are interested in and what their behaviors reflect. AI could be helpful in terms of gathering and analyzing data collected from visitors, which can further help museums to learn about their audiences.

  • Is AI the future of museums?

    There’s always the question of data privacy and consent when it comes to using people’s faces for training AI, so I’m curious as to whether that’s taken into account for Berenson the robotic art critic. If a museum involves a robot that roams around analyzing people’s faces, is there (and should there be) some sort of consent form that visitors must sign upon entry? It’s also interesting how as a humanoid robot, Pepper gets a lot of visitor interaction. I presume that to some extent, Pepper receives more love than the average museum staff or docent, as people don’t tend to be eager to take selfies with museum staff. Since Pepper isn’t human, there’s less of a barrier to interaction for people who aren’t extremely outgoing. Simultaneously, the kind of ‘love’ and interactions people can have with Pepper are limited, as Pepper can’t have the same extensive discussions about artwork that people can have. Although natural language processing technology is headed towards that direction (GPT-3’s conversation ability is very impressive), there will always be a certain disconnect and lack of humanity in conversations one has with a chatbot versus a real human.

    I like the idea that when used as a museum tool, the AI itself becomes kind of a museum exhibit. I’ve done a personal project of training a language model on scraped pairs of artwork and artwork descriptions to build what’s basically an AI art critic: the model generates text ‘describing’ input artwork. The results were nowhere near art critic quality, but they were kind of funny (ex. “this cropping is religious. Metaphysical secrets may guide the vivid color”). Art Selfie seems like a great tool for people to see themselves represented in museum pieces. Museums still connote status and exclusivity as only a subset of all artwork can ever be displayed in one, so it’s important for people to see figures who look like them portrayed in such an exclusive space. Art Selfie lends itself nicely to conversation about this topic of who is/isn’t represented in museums and who gets to decide that. However, I wonder if Art Selfie has made any attempt at filtering out pictures of caricatures and otherwise discriminatory artwork. I would feel offended if it pulled up a Yellow Peril cartoon.

    I think it’s important to stress that we’re “still in the phase of ‘training the toddler’” when it comes to AI. Teaching an AI “common sense” is a very, very difficult unsolved problem, and most AI have to (and in my opinion should) make decisions in tandem with humans. While the article mentions using automated sentiment analysis on feedback, the MFA doesn’t think it adequately captures the nuance of people’s feedback and evaluates them by hand. While AI decisions already have disproportionately hurt and perpetuated the oppression of certain groups of people, I don’t see an full on AI apocalypse happening anytime soon, at least definitely not within my lifetime.

  • "Is AI the Future of Museums?" Commentary

    Lauren Styx’s article on the implementation of AI in museums writes about the use of artificial intelligence for the museum-goer and for the internal use of museums. Reading about the various examples, I feel that artificial intelligence is more useful for the behind-the-scenes types of applications more than the visitor experience. Styx writes that AI is already being used in administrative applications, such as to optimize ticket availability based on the amount of advanced ticket holders that don’t show up. In the meanwhile, there are less widespread applications of AI in the user experience. I wonder if this is due to the lack of exploration being put into AI in the museum experience or if it’s related to the properties of museums themselves. AI is used for a tailored experience in digital applications such as streaming services and shopping sites, but the museum itself still exists in a physical space. To try to digitalize the space can take away from the experience by altering the environment. I also wonder how helpful the AI bots are mentioned in the article — I remember speaking with Pepper when I visited the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington DC, but I can’t remember if I actually asked the robot questions about art or if I was more interested in interacting with it as something that used AI. I feel like it would just take a lot of testing and surveys to get an implementation of AI in a museum that would enrich user experience, mostly because it’s hard to gauge how the tool actually impacts visitors. It could be seeing a lot of use for the novelty of the item, but that doesn’t indicate visitors are using the tool to engage more or learn more about museum objects.

  • AI and the Museum Commentary

    I like Styx’s comparison of very outward and visible applications of AI like Berenson the robotic art critic and Pepper, a helpful resource for viewers with questions, in comparison to more discreet uses of AI such as websites and chat boxes. Additionally, the examples like Recognition and the Google Arts and Culture Art Selfie show ways in which we can use AI to integrate present day happenings of other people, or us, and connect ourselves in artwork in a streamlined way. Styx also brings up a point that I’ve never really had to think about, how money can be saved as a result of operational data to effectively manage resources. I think that there are many ways that museums benefit from AI. I do question what kinds of ethical questions the use of AI raises, as commented on by Chris Michaels, and the kinds of biases it may instill or continue to perpetuate?

  • For class today I read “Augmented Reality is Transforming Museums” by Miranda Katz. I think this article brings up kind of an interesting point about the consent of the institution when it comes to AR and the possibility of regulating the way AR technology can be used. The fact that AR can exist anywhere and can be used to contribute to a space without needing official approval to me is what makes the technology feel empowering and exciting. I hadn’t really considered before how dependent this is on the cooperation of those spaces and how the current potential of AR, and what it can be used for now, could easily be limited if different institutions decide that it needs to be regulated. As AR depends on an individual’s ability to access and use the technology required to view it, this could be as simple as banning phone use in particular spaces, which is already common practice in many museums. This also brings to mind for the question of what other forms of interaction we’ve missed out on because current rules and norms of behavior in museum spaces haven’t allowed them to take shape.

  • VR commentary - Georgia

    I read about Apple’s AR art walks through Central Park and Jeff Koons’ VR Phryne. Both have a physical component that draws a viewer into the AR/VR experience. Apple Stores offering this art walk all showcase a piece by one of the artists. Jeff Koons VR ballerina is inspired by his inflated Seated Ballerina.

    We’ve heard from Tamiko Thiel that getting museum visitors to download an app is one of the hardest parts about working with AR or VR. Having a physical introduction to what could be is an interesting way to show this possibility. In terms of showing ARticulate in a physical way, I can imagine a single piece of art that has projections of visitors’ annotations. A tablet to the side could cycle through the text comments that visitors left. This piece would only need to be on one piece at the front of the museum, and instructions for how to download and use ARticulate would accompany it.

  • Museums are the best place to find innovation in AR - Commentary

    In this article, Brendan Ciecko describes an app his company developed with a museum partner and his thoughts on the role of augmented reality in museums in general. The app is intended to replace text descriptions or audio guides by giving visitors a way to access additional information about a painting by looking at it through their phone camera. Rather than just adding another layer on top of traditional sources of information, Ciecko believes augmented reality may be the “assailant in the death of the traditional guided tour, audio guide, or wall label.” This is a more optimistic view of augmented reality than many people have, myself included, but it’s an interesting perspective.

    However, in terms of how augmented reality should interact with museum content, Ciecko and I are much more in line. He poses the question, “How can we leverage existing content, which is both more abundant and scalable, rather than rely on the creation of new content?” The app described in this article and ARticulate both aim to build value on top of existing museums works and exhibits rather than being the basis for a new exhibit or new type of content.

  • Marina Abramović’s Rising

    In Marina Abramović’s VR experience “Rising”, the artist grapples with the tangible effects of the climate change crisis. Abramović created the work not solely as conceptual/ performance art, but an overt call to action for the public and policy makers. I think immersive technologies greatly expand the audience that can experience performance and installation art, which has traditionally been accessible within the confines of galleries and museums. However, Abramović suggests that immersive mediums could create more empathy around these issues. Supposing this is true, this brings up various questions about the limitations of more traditinoal information formats: journalism, data visualization, documentary, etc.. As platforms like VR evolve, is it possible for journalism (for instance) to still foster empathy, or does it need to expand to immersive mediums to maintain relevance, substance, and impact?

  • Apple Transforms Central Park Commentary

    I find it fascinating how companies use AR as a means of publicity. Of course, the AR gallery must have been a fascinating one. Walking through the streets of New York with these incredible pieces popping up depending on your location must have been unbelievable but again, there is always the publicity aspect. I don’t think it is wrong, I just find it actually really interesting how, as technology continues developing, companies have to keep thinking of new ways to reach their customers. I actually think that this was a brilliant idea. I mean, the walk starts right at an Apple store and anyone who wanted to see the gallery had to use an iPhone.

    With regard to the actual gallery, I think that it was a fantastic idea to include interactive elements. I strongly believe that interactive galleries can have a much stronger impact on the users, especially if there is a visual aspect embedded in them. I would really like to explore more the AR world. Bringing the actual place where one is physically present by just using a phone is a fascinating thing to me.

  • "Outside the Collection Box: Connecting community with collections via AR" commentary

    I chose to read “Outside the Collection Box: Connecting community with collections via augmented reality” from Brendan Ciecko’s list. The article describes some ways in which AR can benefit museums, with a focus on natural history museums. Something new that came to me as I was reading the article was how the standard state of an object differs between types of museums. The author of this article, M. Anne Basham, describes how many natural history specimens must be pressed or dried to be displayed, specifically in the context of botanicals. The object must be altered in order to be presented. It differs from something like art, where the original object is intended to be preserved as-is. It makes me wonder which would be more significant when using AR — something like Trevor’s original project proposal, where AR makes up for where preservation failed, or in a natural history museum, where AR makes up for where preservation succeeded but altered the object? I think both would be helpful for showing a different facet of a static object, but it’s interesting how they achieve the same goal by supplementing the opposite. It made me think about what supplementary information actually helps the visitors of museums. When is extra context worth pulling out your phone for? For natural history museums, I feel like their educational undercurrents make any extra information beneficial. But I wonder when it’s helpful for something like an art museum — I feel like there’s a harder balance to find in regards to didactic and emotional information, and also personal response.

  • Commentary on Christie's and Marina Abramović

    I found this article about Christie’s sale of Marina Abramović’s mixed reality work really interesting because just recently Christie’s is planning on auctioning some really pricey NFT’s. Watching an auction house try and get in on what the future of art could be makes this article written in 2019 seem kind of mellow in comparision. While Abramović’s 19 minute long piece received opposing reviews, the center of contention for the article was more about how the experience itself was being sold. The buyer would receive the recording and the wearable spacial computing devices. Maybe it’s the stretch of progress AR and VR have made in the past couple years that didn’t make me think that the actual sale and consumption was the most confusing part of this transaction. I initially just assumed that there was more controversy over what digital art can be deemed worthy of. I also just question the audience and the appeal, the video is of Abramović wearing a red dress pacing around the viewer. How much value is there in something that can be played over and over again? Is the idea of mixed reality, still being able to see the outside world, more fascinating because you are essentially watching worlds collide?

  • Augmented Reality Is Transforming Museums Comment

    This article posts interesting questions about the legitimacy of AR at public spaces, which is something that I didn’t think very much about before. In our class discussions before, we took perspectives of younger audiences who want the museum experience to be very adaptive and innovative. When I first thought about project ideas, I was thinking about using AR/VR to create virtual exhibitions outside of museum space, which corresponds to Shayna’s Snapchat lens related idea, but from the perspective of museums, it is not an easy decision to make. The concept of incorporating these technologies into museum experiences seems to be somewhat universal, but in general museums don’t seem to be enthusiastic about carrying out specific projects. When our project group had discussion with Chris, it seems that the past approaches made by the museum was still somewhat conservative, and that they just started to learn more about visitors, what their preferences are and how they want to engage with the museum. So a lot of the questions we had concerning visitors cannot be answered. Sometimes even when visitors respond positively to AR components in the museum, like “hacking the heist”, the museum didn’t seem very happy about it. Is it because there is still a fundamental difference between the museum and its audiences’ perception of what the purposes of museums are?

  • A Future World Commentary

    In their article “Marina Abramović on using VR and empathy to help save the world”, Ashleigh Kane introduces Abramovic’s Rising, a VR experience that situates the user in the middle of the Arctic sea surrounded by melting ice caps, simultaneously watching a virtual Abramovic drown in a glass box filled with water. While Rising involves a looming dystopian reality, I think that virtual reality can also be a tool for us to imagine more optimistic versions of the future and how we can get there. About Rising, Abramovic says “I think this emotional experience can actually turn into action on their side.” I agree that emotion spurs action, but what exactly should that action be? Solving the world’s most complex and pressing issues like climate change may require technology (and ideas in general) that currently don’t exist. Virtual reality would give us the space to visualize and experience those ideas, the first step to transforming them into actions/tools that can be implemented in our physical reality.

  • Second Story commentary - Georgia

    I noticed three overacting themes in the Second Story article: Digital Storytelling in Museums.

    1. The vision and the goals of an exhibit come first. Technology is just one of many ways to achieve that vision, so do not introduce it unnecessarily.
    2. There are three parts to a full experience: the visitor, the space, and the content, and all three need equal attention to achieve success.
    3. Simplify, simplify. This tends to be a mantra for any designer, and museum designers are no exception!

    There were a few suggestions that somewhat contradicted these themes:

    1. “Have and vision” and “Break out of the traditional model of exhibit design.” The authors explain that the traditional model is a top-down approach, where designers focus on the big picture and then add technology as an afterthought. They suggested that instead, designers think about the smaller elements first, and then go from there, informing the design. To me, this seems to contradict “have a vision.” I completely agree that the vision should be flexible when new things are learned at the detail stage, but I can’t picture a successful design process when the smaller elements are the first focus.
    2. “Remove barriers to content and experience” and “Use multiple layers to present a story.” Perhaps I am interpreting these two too literally. In their description of “remove barriers,” the authors say to skip unnecessary introductions or instructions. Visitors want to experience the real content right away. They suggest removing the hierarchy of information to achieve this. I’m not sure then how one would use multiple layers if only the most important content is presented at the top of the hierarchy.
  • Generous Interfaces - Georgia

    I see how all five of these examples allow for a new way to interact with the Digital connections and serendipitously discover new items. There is a clear need for this as 21% of museum website viewers want to engage in this way. I have found myself wanting to do that on museum website, and I became frustrated that wasn’t so easy.

    In all of these examples, I wonder, “What next?” I see that Discover the Queenslander has a “your favorites” tab, so visitors can save pieces. In others, I’m not sure what the interfaces can do afford continued use. Throughout reading this, I found myself comparing to Pinterest a lot. I personally spend a lot of time scrolling through Pinterest, and a number of the pins they show me are artworks. Even though I rarely save pins, they are great at knowing what to show me next to keep me engaged. Can these interfaces use any of those algorithms? (And then, there is the debate about how much data they might want to collect on their visitors in this way…)

    There is also the practical problem that these interfaces are inherently limited by the metadata of the museum. It looks like two of the three tested collections had fairly good metadata, but this would be a huge undertaking for a museum that does not have this yet.

  • Generous Interfaces for Digital Cultural Collections - Antonella's comment

    I never actually gave much thought to how museums, libraries or galleries brought information to users through their websites. I honestly thought that just using keywords to match what the user wanted to what was available was a pretty good option but after reading only the first paragraph of this article, I realize how wrong I was. In addition, I also never considered that there are indeed a large group of people who visit these websites without a specific goal. They just want to stumble upon something they like.

    I was recently introduced to this website: . It is a bit hard to navigate but I think that is the beauty of it. You are immersed in a big sea of information and the user is actually not sure of what they will encounter.

    I think it is hard to just escape from the typical search box. Humans do not really like change and a negative thing that could come with changing the interphase website used to deliver information is to lose some old visitors. But overall I honestly think that this is a change that museums and libraries need to make. Maybe it is not the same solution for every website. Maybe the changes in search will depend on what the museum or gallery has to offer. But I do indeed see the need of making this process more natural and intuitive for the user.

  • Generous Interfaces Commentary

    Many of the examples of generous interfaces given here rely on filters to break larger collections into a limited number of categories that can be more easily sorted through. While many of these interfaces provide more than one type of categorization so users can browse objects in more than one way, the main isssue I see with any potential interface which sorts work into categories is that these categories are only as good as they 1. match a user’s understanding of what they mean and 2. identify & help users find useful information about an object. For example, if I am trying to browse audio projects and the filter for audio doesn’t include projects that feature music or spoken words, I may be missing a lot of what I am interested in exploring because the category doesn’t match my understanding of it. On the other side of things, it may be the case that the person who designed the interface has a different understanding of what aspects of a work are important than I do, and if I am unable to find a category that fits what I’m interested in searching for, I may conclude that it does not exist.

    On the positive side of things, I think this article and the approach to generous interfaces does highlight the importance of browsing as an experience not necessarily directed at a specific goal. Creating an interface which prioritizes this over search is important for researchers, sure, but also for more casual users who do not come to a collection with a particular goal in mind. It can make the works more accessible visually and in how it allows for greater interaction with pieces that might otherwise go overlooked if they had to be directly sought out.

  • Generous Interfaces comment

    I think creating a functional model in which “distraction, engagement, flow experience, and pleasure-driven are not goal-oriented, but motivated by the process” is a very interesting concept. It constructs an online version of what people usually do when they go to a museum, and it is theoretically easier to access and browse. It can also be considered as “cultural artifacts” because of its resemblance to how museums present information. I feel that in this process, users are less active in finding what they want. They become more like receivers of selected information. In a way this is a great approach for people to explore something new that is not necessarily specific because, at first, people are more likely to browse things that they are more familiar with. And by accommodating people’s interests, this interface creates a wider map for them to discover. This idea of browsing makes me think about TikTok and how it uses algorithms to continue feeding users things they might be interested in. Apparently this model requires solid understanding of data and users because of the complexity of digital cultural collections. It also has the problem that some items become outcasters that are very hard to be discovered in any way, while the popular ones become even more popular. Also, given the large quantity of digical collections, I wonder if how the items are presented may affect the frequency of viewing because people may not spend a lot of time browsing the same category.

  • Generous interfaces and sad search

    In “Generous Interfaces for Digital Cultural Collections” Mitchell Whitelaw, highlights many of the shortcomings of traditional collection searching/ browsing. This has given rise to more humanistic ways of engaging with online collections that also encourage exploration. I think a crucial benefit of “generous interfaces” outlined in the paper is their ability to reveal patterns and relationships within a collection, and also how they can interface with outside archives. They also open the opportunity to create new metadata that connects works in the collection (for example, the Queenslander front-page color analysis). However, generous interfaces tend to take a heavy-handed approach to visualizing a collection and rely heavily on rich metadata to surface some works more than others. Because of this, works with less metadata could fall through the cracks in these interfaces, and the lack of information about them could be mistaken for lack of significance.

    I think Marian Dörk frames these emerging interfaces in an interesting way, that they aren’t just technical solutions but “cultural artifacts”. In this way, these interfaces can be seen as an extension of the institution rather just just a supplemental tool. Dörk’s notion of an “information flaneur” is also compelling, particularly in how it highlights how generous interfaces can invite visitors who are both seeking information and “wandering”. Johanna Drucker, sharing similar beliefs, argues that tradiation visualization methods (bar charts, maps, etc.) have created an epistemic crisis within the digital humanites, and that the field needs to reimagine interface design in ways that are “suited to its critical principles”.

    This reading brought to mind some artists and scholars who are working in similar domains and engaging some of the issues that “generous interfaces” address. One project is “On Broadway” by Lev Manovich that explores Broadway street in Manhattan through various visual, open datasets. Another is Jonathan Harris’s “The Whale Hunt” (RIP Flash), where Harris documents his experience living with Inupiat Eskimos in Barrow, Alaska over the course of week through various qualitative and quantitive datasets. However, in both projects the creators curated the collections themselves in order to explore “generous interfaces” as a medium.

    In Digital Storytelling in Museums, the authors assert that museums have transitioned well from a traditionally didactic voice to more generative and dialogic approaches. However, it’s essential for museums to engage with visitor’s outside of their walls to maintain interest, relevance, and authority. A key question the authors raise is “not whether or not people are interested in stories.. [but] how can a museum best frame content to make it desirable?” Adding interactivity to collections and spaces can add new context and meaning to original works. However, if the technologies that facilitate this become too prominent, it can actually nullify the point of the experience and detract attention from the work. Quite a bit of the strategic advice they give for successful digital storytelling really resonate with my own perspectives: technology should be an invisible, connective tissue for interactive experiences. The user journey, the goal of the experience, and the new context/ meaning being introduced is the key focus—Technology is used to facilitate that goal. They also emphasize an iterative, rapid prototyping process which reminded me of the aquarium paper we read earlier in the semester.

  • Generous Interfaces and Digital Storytelling in Museums Commentary

    Mitchell Whitelaw makes a compelling case for the use of “generous interfaces.” However, they’re a lot more feasible in some cases than others. Whitelaw uses the websites for the Rijksmuseum and the Walker Art Centre as examples of what is possible with generous interfaces. Both of these are excellent use cases where the interface adds a lot to the utility or enjoyment of the visitor and where the works being displayed naturally lent themselves to this style of interface. Whitelaw even provides an example of a similar institution which is not using a generous interface, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, to illustrate the difference. I agree that in cases like this, institutions such as the Met should follow in the footsteps of the Rijksmuseum and the Walker Art Centre. But the collections of these museums can be organized into visual collections much more easily than some other sets of works. In the first case study using the Manly Images collection, Whitelaw describes how a good amount of work was needed to display the collection in a new visual format. Also, while this format is definitely an improvement over the simple text search that Manly offers, it still isn’t as useful of an exploration tool as what the Rijksmuseum and the Walker Art Centre offer. The amount of unique work required for any generous interface that doesn’t follow a fairly specific format could be a large obstacle to widespread adoption.

    The main argument made in Digital Storytelling in Museums is that while museums are changing in many ways, their core offerings remain the same. These offerings are an experience or story built on top of the information possessed by the museum and a source of authority on this information. The authors make the case that the main changes museums need to make are in how they structure these experiences and how they reach visitors. The authors suggest that museums reach modern visitors by taking a proactive approach to being part of cultural discourse and encourage them to “go where these conversations are taking place rather than waiting for them to come to the museum.” The solution to modernizing the museum experience is more complex but some of the most important principles the authors lay out are taking chances with designs, embracing multiple viewpoints, designing exhibits with multidisciplinary teams, and only using technology when it truly adds value and fits in with the content.

  • “Generous Interfaces” Comments

    I hadn’t considered comparing physical to digital collections before this reading, but Whitelaw’s analogy of an attendant wheeling a trolley of ten paintings struck me in how different representations currently are. It’s interesting to consider how a digital collection can be much larger than a physical collection due to the amount of space that can be allocated to store information on objects, but how little space there is for anyone to observe these digital collections (being limited to a screen of information at a time). Current conventional forms try to present enough information through a long list or set of thumbnails, but the argument for “Generous Interfaces” is to instead present “rich scenes, full of potential objects of interest, that the eye can take at once.” Through the examples provided, I can see how generous interfaces improve the browsing experience. Visuals such as relating image size to collection size give context to the nature of the collection and help organize the collection for a more targeted browsing experience. To deal with the restriction of screen space, these collections are presented in layers, where interactions with the pieces will reveal more information (such as the Decade Summary, where a series of clicks moves from showing the whole collection, to an array of cropped thumbnails, and finally details of individual works). While generous interfaces present organized information and provide engaging ways of browsing through graphical representations of the metadata, they do have some downfalls with this organization. Generous interfaces organize data and compress it for consumption, but cause it to rely heavily on collections with basic tags. More unique collections are often shuffled into an ‘other’ category and are overshadowed by the larger categories. I also wonder how the serendipity of browsing is affected by generous interfaces, where the compression requires users to pick a branch of the collection before delving deeper into individual works.

  • Commentary on Generous Interfaces

    In comparing Works and Networks interface to the Decade Browser, it is evident that the idea of creating structures within collections is a feat that can’t be accomplished by an interface like the Decade Browser. For the interface to work to its best ability, it has to have a target goal, and it can miss out on other opportunities to enhance browsing at the same time. This is why I found it interesting that the Australian Prints and Printmaking Collection had three separate interfaces created. My first thought was why couldn’t these different aspects of the collection be connected together? What are kinds of connections are we missing out on because they are separated? I think one of the best pros of generous interfaces is the ability to directly make comparisons between works. A lot of my own personal experiences in searching for new suggestions have come up with little to show. Often searching for resources in art history or contemporary art only really give results if you have the right words or phrases so search, and from there the suggested options are a jumping off point.

  • Generous Interfaces Commentary

    Mitchell Whitelaw argues that for digital collections, queries by themselves are insufficient because it requires the user to already know what they are searching for, preventing the organic, less structured browsing that happens organically in a physical museum. Several “generous interfaces” that encourage user exploration of the collection have attempted to address this issue.

    I think overall, these interfaces all succeed in giving the viewer a broad overview of the collection and encourage deeper exploration at least to some extent. One of the limitations to these interfaces that Whitelaw has brought up is that many of these overviews are highly constructed themselves, which biases which pieces in the collection get viewed more and consequently pushes other pieces into relative obscurity. For example, Manly Images chooses a preview image as the ‘face’ of each cluster. (Through the lens of the “Lost Art” project group, the curators become the only ones at fault here for the ‘lost’, less visited pieces.) A potential solution to the specific case of Manly Images would be to rotate the pieces that get featured. Google queries are not deterministic, so I think a similar concept can be applied to these overview interfaces. Perhaps the ‘face’ of each cluster can be a relatively obscure piece, and it gets rotated out once that piece no longer becomes obscure.

  • Multisensory Museum Experiences

    I remember visiting the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford when I was in elementary school. There was an indoors museum full of old vases, paintings and other artifacts (I don’t really remember the specifics) “enshrined” in glass boxes. There were likely also what Anna Baccaglini calls “tombstone” labels next to each exhibit, but I highly doubt my elementary school aged self cared to read them. Or even if I did read them, I definitely did not “link[…] personal narratives to objects’ narratives” as Baccaglini argues that exhibits should encourage people to do. What sticks out much more in my otherwise hazy memory of the Cantor Arts Center is the outdoor Rodin Sculpture Garden, a cluster of bronze human figure statues by Auguste Rodin. The ability to get my face close to these statues and run my fingers across the sculpted made the difference between apathy and ‘engagement’ for me. I cared enough about who Rodin was and whether the statues were original (they weren’t) that I remember searching this up after returning home.

    From a child’s perspective, Baccaglini’s argument that being able to physically touch museum exhibits has validity to it. Of course, it’s much harder to translate vases/paintings into a touchable exhibit, but I feel like younger children are a demographic that tends to be overlooked by museums. Tombstone labels use academic language that would fly completely over a child’s head. As Baccaglini argues, museums have transitioned into placing more weight on its social/educational goals, but I don’t think museums have evolved significantly to engage younger children. Shayna mentioned during class today an exhibit/museum that showcased children’s interpretation of art — I absolutely loved that concept and think it can be scaled into something bigger that could change museums’ engagement with younger children.

    (sorry this is late!! I admittedly forgot that there was homework due today.)

  • Multi-Sensory Museums Experiences Commentary

    It’s strange now to think that simple text labels next to museum objects were once considered to be a cutting edge form of visitor engagement. I had never heard the term “tombstone labels” before but I think that’s a great description of how those labels come across to visitors today. I certainly wouldn’t say that these labels no longer have a place in museums but they’re inadequate as the main interaction visitors have with an object. Anna Baccaglini argues that the next stage in visitor engagement is to let visitors have more physical contact with objects whenever possible. I think this is an interesting idea and I can immediately see the potential benefits with certain objects but I’m a little skeptical that it’s inherently useful. It makes perfect sense that handling crafted goods or tools would give visitors a better sense of their construction and use. However the value of being able to walk up and put your hand on a painting is much more abstract.

    The third chapter of Multi-Sensory Museum Experiences gave several examples of museums that had taken steps to make their collections more hands-on. The two that stood out to me were the idea of a “material book” and the use of replicas alongside original pieces. I’ve experienced the latter of these firsthand at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum. They have a large display of casts of dinosaur fossils which aren’t fully hands-on but are able to be experienced fairly close-up. There’s also a functional laboratory attached to the exhibit where real fossils are analyzed and worked on. Visitors can look in through large windows and even though there’s much more of a barrier there, the authenticity of it adds a lot to the replicas outside.

  • Multi Sensory Museum Experiences ch 1 Commentary

    The article references two main types of approaches to engagement between visitors and museum objects: discursive and immersive. Discursive engagement usually focuses on providing written explanations of a piece or its context to inform the visitor of the object’s meaning and relevance within the greater exhibition. A major pitfall of this approach is that it focuses on communication only in one direction - from the object and the museum to the visitor, but does not provide a mechanism for communication in the other direciton. As such, the museum-goer may understand the object and the narrative provided to the museum, without any sort of connection to their personal narrative. This can be exacerbated if not enough information is provided for visitors to make any connection between the art and their personal experiences.

    Museums are often arranged to create physical distance between visitors and objects, with an emphasis on looking at objects rather than touching them, which limits the directness of the engagement that visitors can have with what is on display. Additionally, spaces are often designed to encourage a certain type of movement through museums which can discourage pausing to look at a piece and reflect deeply on its meaning or connection to ones own life.

    Reading this chapter made me think a lot more about the constraints of the space and what that means for the depth of engagement a visitor can have with any one piece of artwork. It can take a lot of resources to create an engaging experience with any one object, and in doing so selectively can create a hierarchy of importance for different objects in the same space. While the author here highlights having objects that visitors can touch as a mode of connection between object and individual, there’s a clear trade-off there between interaction and preservation, which is also pointed to in this piece as a major function of museums. I’m not sure I totally agree with the emphasis this author placed on visitors being able to touch objects. I think that the importance of connection between the visitor and the artwork itself is less important than the connection between the visitor and the maker of the art, where the object acts a point of mediation. To me it seems it would be more beneficial to instead have visitors engage in the practices that go into creating the work, to understand the process and connect on a more intimate level with the choices that go into the piece.

  • Multi-sensory commentary - Georgia

    I found the comparison between a museum’s collection and a body’s blood interesting. Baccaglini writes, “Barker stresses that collections are the point of departure for all the museum’s actions, much like the heart pumps blood through the body to sustain life.” I would go one step further and say that while the body needs blood pumping through it, that does not mean that the body’s purpose is to just be alive. There is something more, and the pumping blood is a means to another end. Baccaglini makes this argument, and Barker (with an opposing viewpoint) gives an example that directly makes Baccaglini’s point.

    What is the purpose of museum research if not to advance knowledge AND to share it? As an engineering researcher, one of our primary goals is to share new knowledge. It is not very useful for us to create knowledge and then keep it to ourselves. The audience we typically share with is other researchers, but I believe we have a duty to the general public as well. It seems that many museums have similar takes, but this thesis makes it seem like museum researchers do not fully buy into that mission. How do museum leaders portray this importance to their staff? How do museum researchers who do take this mission to heart convince their colleagues?

    I had a similar experience to Baccaglini’s replica Rosetta Stone experience. The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences has dinosaur bones that anyone can touch. As a kid, I thought this was the coolest thing. It wasn’t until high school or college that I realized that made no sense, and this must be a replica. I looked around for more information, and they had pictures of the real skull. It was covered with some sort of fungus or mineral that was slowly degrading it. It’s only accessible to researchers, and I appreciate what the museum does to preserve these bones. While I loved the magic of touching a “real” dinosaur bone as a kid, but it wasn’t entirely honest. I’m sure someone told me it was a replica, but my enthusiastic little self disregarded that. Is there a better way to tell visitors about this?

    I also made connections to an article that was linked from the one Nim shared this morning on Slack: Louvre puts personal time with Mona Lisa up for auction to paint over financial cracks. In this, the Louvre is auctioning off experiences to make up for income lost over the past year. In one, a lucky winner will get to be in the room when researchers examine the Mona Lisa. They will get a close up view of the painting without a glass barrier. They are hoping to raise “between 10,000 and 30,000 euros (£9,000-£27,000) for the Mona Lisa experience.” I love that they are making this accessible, but how can they increase this experience? Even more, another experience is expected to go for even more money: “A walk along the rooftop of the 800-year-old Louvre palace with French street artist JR is another item for the auction, which Christie’s hopes will raise more than one million euros (£900,000).” It’s great that this experience (a more personal one) is valued more than the Mona Lisa one.

  • Commentary on Multi-Sensory Museums

    In their thesis, Anna Baccaglini highlights some important issues with how museums present their collections to visitors. A key concern is that museums predominantly focus on visual engagement, and often through basic labels in a sterile “white cube”. Baccaglini argues that museums should take a discursive and immersive approach, creating narratives and context that is dialogic and multi-sensorial. The author also mentions how many museum experiences encourage a “cattle-like shuffle past painting after painting” since the works aren’t in conversation with the visitors. I agree that often technological interventions add more context but in the end simply reinforce this behavior.

    Baccaglini proposes allowing tactical engagement to bridge the chasm between visitors and artifacts, creating new forms of understanding and pedagogy. One of the main hurdles here is balancing human contact and preservation. I agree that this solution can create novel forms of understanding. However, as someone who is incredibly clumsy, this idea terrifies me. In Chapter 3, Baccaglini highlights how “educational collections” (artifacts of lesser value) and replicas can help facilitate tactile engagement. I remember holding models of ancient Greek door locks at a museum and was guided to look at different parts to better understand the design process and craftsmanship. Because of this combination of taciticlity and discussion, the accuracy of the replicate didn’t cross my mind. This also brought to mind the Lauscaux museum discussed earlier in the semester where they created highly detailed facsimiles of the caves. I think using advanced manufacturing processes to create incredibly realistic facsimiles is a promising approach.

    While reading this thesis, I was also, somehow, reminded of a comedic short documentary called “The Lickers” by James Powderly and Korean artist Eun-Jung Son.

  • "Museums’ Use of Collections and Visitors’ Learning Experiences" Commentary

    In the chapter “Museums’ Use of Collections and Visitors’ Learning Experiences”, Anna Baccaglini often mentions the isolation of vision as the primary means of transferring information in museums. To study engagement approaches that have failed, I think it’s interesting how museums still lack user engagement even after attempting to incorporate a more diverse range of senses to experience the objects. Baccaglini notes that “rather than a conversational situation between visitors and objects, it appears most of these devices create the same one-way flow of information from museums to visitors and may even distract visitors from engaging with objects.” I think incorporating different sensory information still fails to engage the audience when they are still presented in a one-way manner similar to the one-way flow of an object’s plate text.

    Baccaglini also mentions various precedents engrained in museums that may contribute to the failure of new engagement approaches. Baccaglini references Hampton Stevens’ quote that people in museums “cattle-like shuffle past painting after painting.” Baccaglini points these actions towards the lack of simulation in museum audiences, but I believe that this could also be a precedent that is hard to shake out of a museum-goer’s behavior. Even when I feel particularly drawn to a museum object, I linger for a moment and then move on to absorb the rest of the exhibition’s narrative. I perceive museum exhibitions as the collection of pieces and not as individual parts that can be engaged with. It makes me wonder if there’s a balance that can be created between the pieces as their own entity as well as the exhibition as a whole.

    Baccaglini’s comment on the elevation of museum objects to a sacred level particularly stood out to me, as someone who personally perceives museum objects like so without realizing it. The way I perceive a piece of art, or even a doodle or text from a friend is very different from the way I perceive an object in a museum, even though both were created by people who had feelings and thoughts as they created them. I wonder if I would connect better to museum objects if I perceived them as products of a person rather than just the object itself?

  • Multi sensory museum experiences Comment

    I think most people would agree that, apart from fulfilling the role of protecting and preserving the collections, museums should also constantly search for change and social involvement. The trend of museums getting more and more social and participatory is clear to both the museum and public, but “how to” remains an important and difficult question to answer. From the various attempts of different museums, it appears that for a lot of time what the museum staff and specialists think might not be what the public really wants. There usually are misfits between the expectations of the two groups. The museums are able to realize problems at a more theoretical level, but they might not be able to come up with good ways to solve them. For example, visitors enjoy narratives through not only visual/audial texts but also through multi-sensory inputs. Museums like the Met had an audacious attempt of letting the visitors handle artworks, but it inevitably compromised them. Technologies like AR/VR and AI are promising in making museums more interactive, but they still need to be more advanced in order to merge with the museum system. However, the involvement of technology alone cannot make visitors feel more engaged, it’s more of a problem of how to best utilize certain technologies, making them a great fit for visitor participation. Technology itself is better to seem to be invisible serving as better medium for valuable content.

  • Multi-Sensory Museum Experiences

    This reading brought up a couple concepts that were already mentioned before. Generally, the sense of sight is what continues to be essential to visitor experiences, and the white washed visuals of galleries and exhibitions seem to be off putting. Most technologically integrated ideas have still failed to provide users with a satistfying reply. The ASK Brooklyn Museum app sounds interesting, but how does it tackle the obstacle of a only a small percentage of users wanting to download the app? Is this app just a stand in for a docent? Is it trying to replicated a genuinely human interaction? I question is how the idea of having two way flows of information can be better incorporated to new ideas of multi-sensory interactions. Hands on environments and relatable narratives are all valid attempts at enhancing the experience, but should visitors have more of an impact on what is exhibited and curated as a whole?

  • Museum Making Commentary

    This reading reminded me a lot of Museums in Motion. Both of them present the current trend of museums or other institutions turning to more participatory models as a return to their original form rather than something entirely new. The timeline differs a lot between these two readings with Museums in Motion viewing this as a several thousand year cycle and Museum Making viewing it as only a several hundred year cycle. However I think both interpretations are accurate due to the different ways they choose to frame the change. I also thought the connection made to the hacker ethic was really interesting. I read Steven Levy’s Hackers last year and was surprised by how little I had known about the origins of hacker and maker culture and how significant those origins were.

  • Random thought about the “cold start” problem

    You might have discussed this before I joined the class, but This paragraph from “Playful engineering: Designing and building art discovery systems” that reads “Collaborative filtering also suffers from the “cold start” problem (Schein et al., 2002): a system doesn’t know how to evaluate items that no user has rated yet. It thus requires a strong user base at the outset in order to be effective—no recommender system uses collaborative filtering exclusively—and only gets better with more and more users. While this approach works for Netflix or Amazon, we opted against implementing collaborative filtering at an early stage for the reasons outlined above”.

    Reminded me about the “Never Been Seen” project by the Science Museum Group that has digitised hundreds of thousands of objects from its remarkable collection as they are moved to a new, purpose-built store in Wiltshire. Each of these objects were added to the collection website, and you could be the first person to see it published online though a web page which displays objects with a total lifetime page view count of zero. (

  • Playful Engineering Commentary

    The Artbot project was an interesting read on creating ways for users to find cultural objects, exhibitions, and events. I liked the way that the app maintained two methods of providing information, with an algorithmically gathered selection and a serendipitously generated selection. Whenever I see an external application like this, it makes me wonder if there are issues with implementation and actually getting people to use it. On the converse side, I also wonder if applications like Artbot now exist in major platforms such as Google but are drowned out by the company’s plethora of extensions and resources. I wonder if there’s ever a good place to be when it comes to having people utilize your work — publicize it as its own thing through various platforms? Attach it to a more known platform (such as affiliating it with the MFA or some other major museum)? Thinking about reaching audiences makes me wonder if there is ever a ‘right way’ to approach publicizing and deploying resources, or if to some extent it is just up to the people themselves and how they interact with it over time.

  • Path with Choice Commentary

    What really stood out to me in this article was the approach that the team took in developing this project. The choice to develop technology for visually impaired museum goers highlighted for me the understanding of how the museum experience may need to be adapted to be accessible for other audiences who may not feel welcome in the space, or come to mind immediately as a group interested in the experience. It was useful to understand how they went from question to end product with limited knowledge initially about what their target users needed and the technology required to best support them. I’ve seen the iterative approach to development used a lot in game design, where prototypes are regularly playtested to make sure they meet the goals of the project and mechanics are intuitive for players, and it was helpful to see how it was adapted for this context. Many of the things brought up by users are things that I would not have considered if I were to develop something like this on my own. As we start to create our own projects in class, I’ll probably keep a lot of these things in mind and try to apply them to my own work.

  • Museum Making: Creating with Emerging Technologies

    This paper introduces the rise of participatory maker culture in museum spaces in the context of the inextricable connections between maker culture, hacker culture, and art culture. I found this analysis to be very interesting, as all three are integral to my dorm East Campus’s culture as well as the broader MIT culture. The paper argues that while hacker and art cultures are subversive and countercultural, maker culture is more aligned with the mainstream rhetoric on “STEM education” and “technological innovation.” I’ve always associated museums with the mainstream, as museums get to decide what art is worthy of being showcased and what is not. But I guess this qualification is evolving to include more provocative pieces and voices. This push and pull between the mainstream and the countercultural in a museum setting could foster a similar push and pull between the visitor and exhibit, encouraging the combination of “divergent” and “convergent” thinking that John Maeda champions as the recipe for innovation.

  • Commentary - "Playful engineering: Designing and building art discovery systems”

    I read “Playful engineering: Designing and building art discovery systems” which presents the creation of Artbot, an app that allows users to find new art events in the Boston area by scraping local museums’ websites. What I liked most about Artbot was how it valued serendipitous and playful discovery. The designers were trying to find the right balance of choice: not too much to overwhelm or paralyze a user, but enough to keep them engaged. The creators took inspiration from other platforms, but I would be curious to learn how they knew they found the right balance.

    The article ended before Artbot entered the beta-testing process. What research questions were they asking during this? How did that change their design? I wasn’t able to find any followup paper to this one, so if that’s available, please share!

    I am also wondering how Artbot could grow to a larger platform. I find that with a number of research projects, it can be tough to fit the final project into a sustainable business model. The article says Artbot could grow to include more museums and more cities. If this were the case, it would need continued support by software developers, even though much automation was designed into the platform. How do the researchers envision Artbot supporting a team of developers?

  • Artbot commentary

    I thought Artbot was a very interesting way of addressing the shortcomings of existing recommendation systems. Instead of recommending art (events) in the Boston area based solely on personal tastes, the concept engineers serendipity by incorporating events that might fall outside the realm of a user’s interests. I found the idea of generating connections between events a compelling way to expand this boundary, as it doesn’t feel completely random.

    This project made me think about the different ways Spotify approaches music curation. The most prominent (and historic) technique is curating artists or songs similar to a musician a user listens to. While this method is helpful, it does create what Eli Pariser refers to as a “filter bubble” (as referenced in the reading), siloing a user to genres and musicians they already tend to listen to. To me, a more compelling approach Spotify has implemented is curating playlists based on mood or context (e.g. sleep, breakups, dinner, etc.). This exposes a user to genre’s they might not normally listen to in a way that’s both serendipitous and contextually relevant.

  • A path with choice Commentary

    Even though we are talking about how to incorporate technology in museums, sometimes technological devices at the museum don’t feel very comfortable to use, or not a lot of people choose to interact with art using the devices. To the users, even groups that rely more heavily on technology, devices can be intrusive to the museum experience sometimes. Desi Gonzalez mentioned the importance of providing a self-directed and social experience. The visually impaired visitors, just like other visitors, would like to participate the way they like instead of being led the entire time. Adding to the fact that they usually go to the museum with companions, technology can be a very helpful tool, but seems to be better for the devices to be available when needed. This also makes me think about the presence of technology in museums. Even for more tech-dependent visitors, they hope to have “things that [they] can do with one hand”. In other words, visitors don’t want the thought of “I’m using technology” to stand out during the experience because inconvenience caused by technology is disruptive of the experience as a whole. I feel that this is something important to keep in mind when designing technology directing toward museum experience.

  • Commentary on Ímesh

    I found Ímesh (To Walk): The “App”Lication Of Indigenous Art And Landscapes At Simon Fraser University very interesting because of the way it was targeted at non-indigenous people while still being functional and meaningful for indigenous people as well. The idea of reclaiming languages, histories, and knowledge through the lens of a university that was not responsive to an art tour in the first place made me question how effective a mobile app could really be.

    I am intrigued by the way they have made an experience that is so fitting towards the situation users walk into, and also the different types of information they are confronted with. I think the idea of having quotes and video clips form artists alongside guiding users to each location can provide a much deeper backstory to the land they currently inhabit. Especially when prompted with how indigenous works often lack description and recognition of past histories, I question where the boundary between artwork and cultural knowledge lies. I also wonder about if decolonization has to occur, on two different levels, physical and historical. If FSU is able to decolonize the western names of their artwork and consider past cultural traditions and techniques, while still being on stolen land, is disrupting the settler mindset every once in a while, enough?

  • The Experience Economy Response

    The Experience Economy proposes the idea that in order to be engaging, an experience should “alter a guest’s sense of reality.” When I think of an immersive experience where a guest is transported to a completely new world, I think of teamLab’s sprawling digital art environments and virtual reality. I agree that immersion/altering reality makes for an engaging learning environment, especially if you can get students to “walk a mile in someone else’s shoes” when learning about social sciences. But many/most museums, classrooms, or educational spaces don’t have the resources to physically change people’s realities in the same way that teamLab does so. In that case, I feel like more weight is put on how the information can be presented such that key takeaways are memorable for students. The Experience Economy seems to focus on entertainment driven experiences such as live performance, restaurants, etc, but can these same principles be applied to experiences that aren’t as traditionally entertaining, like teaching algebra?

  • Experience Economy & First-time and Repeat Visitors

    I have worked as staff on two classes in the MechE Department for a few years now, and I see much of my role there as designing an experience for the students. The professor very much sees himself as an entertainer as well as an educator. We’ve incorporated a lot of these principles into our 2.009 and 2.00b experiences. One of the biggest ones we focus on, and the text focuses on, is theme. I was wondering how museums are themed, and I couldn’t quite decide if they follow a theme or more of an identity.

    I could sense the theme in Lascaux IV with the strong angled lines everywhere a visitor turns. But what is the theme in the ICA or the MFA? They are nice buildings, especially from the outside. But inside, they seem more like blank canvases to hold the artwork, letting the pieces speak for themselves. However, that does not help build a theme that visitors will remember. Could museums do more to theme the experience, making for a more memorable and engaging experience?

    I wonder how generalizable the results of the first-time and repeat visitor studies are. They noted that these results may differ for museums that aren’t small Canadian heritage museums, but I would go further. Even a similar museum in a neighboring town could have very different tactics to attract visitors, so their profiles of first-time and repeat visitors could be vastly different. What I find most useful about this study is their methods that could be repeated at other museums. I’ve seen many satisfaction surveys given at museums (and after almost any interaction with a company these days!). Are those always designed to answer the questions that this study answered? And are the results analyzed in a similar fashion to provide useful guidance for the museum staff?

  • Commentary: The Experience Economy

    I have always valued experiences over material objects and as a matter of fact many other people do. As Pine and Gilmore mention, nowadays more and more companies are using experiences as part of their publicity since it is in these situations where the public gets more involved, maybe even more attached to the brand because of the time spent interacting with it.

    A peculiar thing about experiences is that they are different for everyone. “No two people can have the same experience”. This is very true and it is also an aspect that sometimes goes by unacknowledged by creators. It is not only about entertaining customers either, but about engaging them which, in most cases, it is not an easy thing to do. There are many different components to consider when trying to create an experience: environment, the public, interaction between the public, information, general atmosphere, etc.

    Relating this to museums, I believe that they have been trying for the past years to include in them experiences for their public. Science museums have done a specifically good job at this. They use games to involve children, movable objects, films and even immersive technologies to achieve this. However, I wonder if there are more ways to improve it. Are museums missing a key component when creating their exhibits? I would like to dive more deeply into these questions in this class since I think that there is so much still left to explore in this area.

  • The experience economy x What makes a satisfying museums experience?

    Considering that the first edition of The Experience Economy was written in 1999, it’s interesting how prescient the author’s idea were. Based on past observations, I feel there’s been an emerging “sixth” principle for creating experiences which is making them sharable on social media. This has become particularly important for physical experiences that are difficult to access and/ or ephemeral. The methods that Pine and Gilmore present seem to be heavily curated compared to Simon’s ides in the “Participatory Museum”, in which the experience partly emerges from community engagement.

    This reading also brought to mind how, for me, an experience can sometimes be degraded when the bottom-line becomes visible or felt, usually when a corporation or institution tries to sell a product or service at the very end. One example is when museums make you “exit through the gift shop”— If the transition is too abrupt I feel more like a consumer than a visitor.

    I thought What Makes a Satisfying Museum Experience? addressed some key questions I had while reading The Experience Economy, particularly what metrics are used to measure the satisfaction of an experience and how the visitor’s experience changes after multiple visits. It found it interesting that repeat visitors tended to rate the “entertainment”, “fun”, and “excitement” aspects of the museum higher than first-time visitors. One question that I had after finishing both readings was how do you design an experience that rewards the curiosity (and support) of repeat visitors.

  • The Experience Economy and What Makes a Museum Experience Satisfying? Commentary

    The idea of an experience, as described in The Experience Economy, matches a lot of what has been said in other readings about museums. Primarily, that the value comes from a combination of tangible and intangible elements. I thought the Geek Squad example was especially interesting where it was only the outfit worn and the way the employees referred to themselves that elevated their business from being strictly a service to an experience.

    Amusement parks are one of the most obvious examples of selling an experience as a business model and I was surprised that they were only briefly mentioned here. One aspect that stands out about amusement parks is the way that some really run with the idea of eliminating negative cues. Disney has shown particular dedication to this principle. They often have staff remain in character even when conducting monetary transactions or doing administrative work and even build certain sections of their parks set into the ground to carefully control what guests are able to see around them. All of this is meant to preserve the feeling of immersion in the theme or setting of the park area. As The Experience Economy suggests, this seems to strongly contribute to their guests enjoyment.

    Overall, the broad demographic data in What Makes a Satisfying Museum Experience? was unsurprising. In fact, in the introduction to the paper the authors acknowledged that there is “a widespread assumption” that museum visitors were typically “well-educated, high-income, older women” which is more or less what their own data ended up showing. However, among the more detailed results there were some interesting observations. The data showed that repeat visitors only reported enjoying the museum slightly more than first time visitors but that first time visitors and repeat visitors tended to prefer different aspects of the museum experience. I would love to see this sort of study applied on a larger scale and to a combination of locally focused and more internationally focused museums.

  • Commentary on The Experience Economy

    The point made about how “experiences are inherently personal” and that “no two people can have the same experiences” made me think about my experience in teamLab. After hearing Audrey talk about the museum’s online presence, it made me think a lot about my visit there. My visit to teamLab didn’t feel like a traditional museum at all, I felt fully apart of the actual artwork. In terms of active participation, a lot of the projected lights actually move if you put your hands up on them. One of the areas that mimics an ocean actually allows you to draw your own fish on paper and then scan it in to get projected up into the “ocean.” In one of their really iconic installations, there are a bunch of hanging lights in a room and as you enter, the lights turn on if it senses someone near it. As a viewer, you are absorbing the other people viewing the installation with you while also being immersed in the lights changing around you. The explanation of theming as “scripting a story in which guests participate in a narrative that would seem incomplete were they not there” connects really well with the En Tea house where your cup of tea makes a flower come alive projected over your cup.

    I bring these points up because I think a huge part of teamLab’s success is that they hit a lot of the points mentioned in this reading. The inside is completely dark for the projected lights to be easier to see, and it creates an altered sense of reality. Though they don’t sell merchandise, the tea house is a say to stimulate the senses. It does make me wonder how unique my experience at teamLab really was though. I was able to go with two friends and I question how differently we experienced certain installations. Additionally, when an experience becomes a franchise, they don’t always feel as authentic. teamLab has done two newer exhibitions in Shanghai, and I was able to go to the first one. It seems that the second one had a broader range of installations, but the one I went to felt less immersive. It had to do with the general number of artworks itself but I also question how transportable these experiences is are, and how much we lose in the process of moving them?

  • "The Experience Economy" Commentary

    “The Experience Economy” presents the principles of effectively creating an experience for consumers. I think it’s interesting how Pine and Gilmore define a spectrum of participation in experiences, which ranges from passive to active. Pine and Gilmore argue that even in a passive experience such as a ski race, spectators still actively participate through their contribution to the visual and aural environment simply by being there. The mere presence of a person can change the environment of an experience. These remarks also highlight the uniqueness of an experience, as one trip to a museum, for example, can differ from another just from the people that were there (particularly so if one visit was crowded and another empty). The uniqueness of experiences is also interesting in regards to themes. It stood out to me that Pine and Gilmore point out only ten main themes in staged experiences, and yet elaborated that the manifestations of these themes create endless possibilities depending on their settings and contexts.

    It’s interesting to think that what seems to be a complex or niche experience could still be stripped down to reveal a simple (and common) theme. For example, the company Meow Wolf has an interactive art exhibition in Santa Fe, with hidden a hidden storyline revealed through finding audio recordings and diaries, interacting with performance artists throughout the venue, and traveling through the exhibition (such as going through a washing machine). Although it houses absurd elements, to pare it down one could define the theme of Meow Wolf as “modernism and progress” and “representing the unrepresentable”, as the exhibition’s message is to present the way that sounds are changing in public perception and represents this change. I must admit that I’ve only heard about and haven’t been to this exhibition, however, so these may not be the correct themes. At the same time, not being able to fully pinpoint down how Meow Wolf relates to one of the ten themes makes me consider that perhaps the complexity still exists in an experience’s backbones, where the themes of experiences are perhaps a hybrid of Gottdiener’s ten defined themes. This uncertainty also ties to Pine and Gilmore’s statement that themes “needn’t be publicly articulated.” Although the creators of an experience have a theme they present in their experience, it doesn’t necessarily have to be the theme that the audience perceives.

  • The Experience Economy Commentary

    It seems to me that the experiences companies are trying to sell are both universal and individual. They design an experience that appeals to all audiences in a different way. It allows the audiences to enter another reality by manipulating their sensory perceptions. This is probably one of the reasons why, under the covid situation, a lot of museums made virtual tours that attempted to make audiences feel more engaged, to mimic an actual museum experience. I feel that among time, space, and matter, space is the most important factor because, for example, physically stepping into a museum and perceiving the dimensions and arrangement of artworks are simply enough for the audience to feel that they’ve entered another world.

    I visited two online artist book fairs during the pandemic. Even though this allowed me to “go to” fairs in Tokyo and New York City, which I might not be able to participate in if they were not online, they still feel very distanced to me. I would still prefer to go to a book fair in person so I can go to different tables, turn the pages of books, and have conversations with my friends and artists. Although both online and in-person modes are very self-directed, the level of engagement is still different. Even though memorable experiences are created by engagin audiences in a personal way, the presence of others seems to enhance experience on an individual level. A collective dream is much more real than an individual one, but here we are trapped in our own spaces and try to connect with each other by putting our heads together in adjoining rectangles.

  • Enhanced Digital Curation Commentary

    I think that the digitalizing of humanities changes people’s focus on the question of “what can we see” to “how can we see”, and inevitably the role of curators change as well. Their job is more focused on how to organize, choose, and present information creatively and to give “the exhibition” particular meanings that allow viewers to think and reflect on. The idea of creating a narrative out of the exhibits makes the museum more than a massive collection of individual objects. Together, they showcase something more powerful and attractive, something that viewers are more likely to pay attention to in the sea of information.

  • Enhanced Critical Curation

    This short piece contains some interesting thoughts on collection-building and curation, and comments on the extent in which digital curation has had an impact on it. I find it quite striking the fact that in a way technology has not exactly facilitated the curation and conservation process but instead it might have actually made it more complicated. It used to be that manual copy was a form of conservation. It took time, effort, and a lot of skill. Nowadays, it could not be easier to copy something in the digital world. This could be potentially regarded as a positive aspect but I believe that, in a way, this ease to copy, save, manipulate and share digital archives has damaged the ancient art of collection-building and curation. A backlog of multimedia document collections is mentioned towards the end of this short piece. There is an information overload because the practice of critical curation becomes increasingly more difficult as technology continues developing and granting people access to more information and resources.

  • Enhanced Critical Curation - Response

    I thought “Enhanced Critical Curation” helped highlight how curatorial methodologies have evolved to confront the massive collections of artifacts and data accumulating in the “post-print” era. The description of catalogs as “an art of memory that is also an art of data compression and of performance” made me think about the contemporary challenges within critical curation to form effective narratives from unwieldy collections of data. It seems that critical curation involves straddling the line between reductively and nuance, trying to craft a bifocal representation that retains important context. The reading also made me curious about contemporary approaches to curating massive, non-textual archives (e.g. images, audio). How does one attempt to organize and make meaning from massive collections of media that are difficult to search semantically? When exploring theses archives, what does qualitative analysis look like at scale?

  • Enhanced Critical Curation Comments

    This reading reminds me of a situation I hear about a lot in software development where the workflow for analytics is often to collect as much data as possible first and then decide what to do with it later (if at all). For now, collecting and storing digital data is easy and fairly autonomous for museums. But, if the current trend continues, this collection of useless information may begin to take up more and more resources. It could then get to the point where it starts to impede museums efforts to work with useful data.

  • Enhanced Critical Curation - commentary

    For many people, it is so easy to store something digital (as opposed to something physical) that the so many more content creators thrive. On YouTube, anyone can be a filmmaker. On WordPress, anyone can be a writer. And they will have an audience. We aren’t limited to the select number of artists who find their way into famous museums, theaters, libraries. Anyone with an internet connection can access these artists anywhere. Of course, there are costs to storing this much content. Energy is powering and cooling servers that store these data. When we store this much content, the treasures can get lost. How do we continue to curate when the storage space is seemingly endless?

    A slight tangent from the humanities, but still somewhat relevant to the general topic: Slack got its name from “Searchable Log of All Conversation and Knowledge.” My thoughts: while Slack may have all digital conversation data (if a group uses only Slack for communication), it certainly doesn’t have “all knowledge” because people don’t to write down everything they know and send it to others in a message. Even on the communication side, Slack can’t catalog all the face-to-face or zoom-to-zoom conversations that happen.

  • Enhanced Critical Curation: A Brief Commentary

    The reading “Enhanced Critical Curation” posed the importance of curation in a digital environment. Where traditionally scholars would have to sift through a literary database or search through a research library, in the modern age Google Books can provide all of that and more. The issue of knowledge before was that there was not enough available to a person at a time: in a way, it was like someone searching for food and immediately gobbling up the morsels they could find. Now, there’s too much food to eat and the question lies not about getting the food itself but picking the right food to eat. The thought of ‘picking’ makes me wonder if you can ever avoid curation in the digital collections we have today. I would argue that it’s not possible — when there is a surplus of knowledge, no matter what methodology is used to slim those sources down, the act of curation is still taking place.

  • Comments on Enhanced Critical Curation

    This piece mentions that prior to the rise of printing and new systems of memory, information was preserved without critical thought about their value or ability to fit into a cohesive structure of beliefs, and that this changed as new tools for creating and storing information were created. Though this is a short piece and it isn’t central to the point made here, I wish there had been more of an effort to explain why this would have been the case beyond just data scarcity. I know that there are some theories about the diferences in consciousness and relationship to information in oral and literate cultures, such as those developed by Walter Ong, so my first thought here was that there may be an underlying reason to accept the value of any information written down. Choosing what is necessary to preserve and continue to pass on in a written form, rather than through spoken stories or other oral traditions, could be its own form of curation and judgement about the value of a work. It is difficult to know from the way the information is presented here.

  • "Enhanced Critical Curation" Commentary

    In the short piece “Enhanced Critical Curation”, there is a suggested dichotomy of collection-building and curating. Where collection-building seems to be the process of archiving and accumulating, a special importance is given to the craft of curating by scholars carefully drawing out a narrative from the noise. When early data was scarce, manual copying (bringing to mind enlighted manuscripts made in monastaries) were understood to be conservation. Now, a mere duplicate made easier with computing tools. On the other hand, I think what has survived from the past is a form of curation itself. When investigating archival silences, it’s hard to ignore that someone with views decided that a certain piece was worth collecting not indiscriminantly.

    The piece closes on commentary about the “enormous backlog” of information now available. According to the 7th edition report of Data Never Sleeps, “2.5 quintillion bytes (2.5 e+9 GB) of the data is created every day, and this number is in increasing order. Interestingly, it is said that over 90% of these data are collected within just the past 5 years.” Now that there is the technology to discriminate less on what can be collected with less restraint of physical media. You could fill up a terrabyte hard drive with the contents of a small library. Copies and redundancies are to be expected. And so the role of the curator is even more important in this sea of information.

  • Commentary on "Enhanced Critical Curation"

    “Enhanced Critical Curation” made me think of museum collections as compartmentalized groups, all stuffed with tons to tell a story. Seeing how Google Books has scanned “over 500 times the entire corpus of knowledge seemingly available in the ancient world” but also acknowledging the ways our memories are incapable of ever comprehending that much material makes curating and paring down what information is worth looking at essential to choosing what is worth spending time on. Expanding our scope has really taken on the viewpoint that curation exists in all senses of organization and creating a cultural record, that extends way beyond just artifacts and historical knowledge. In a way I wonder where the concept of curation really ends. How do we quantify what is impactful to the record of humankind? And finally, how it can be used for harm? If our biases are evident and affect the ways items are curated, would that collection act as that the most accurate depiction of humankind in that time period?

  • What a Museum - Comments on Collections

    Some of the questions raised at the end of the chapter stuck with me the most: what is a museum without a collection, and how might we define a museum without it? I think there is some value that a museum’s collection adds to the experience, but it’s difficult for me to fully explain what the impact of its absence would be. For example, there is a difference in the experience of seeing a piece of art online as compared to is seeing ‘the real thing’ in ‘real life,’ but what does this mean when thinking about pieces that are created and exist digitally first? Is the idea of collecting these things, and limiting where and when they can be shown, even a good thing?

    I think if museums were to move away from having collections, there would still be value in collecting and preserving things - if not for museums, then for some other institution. A shift towards media and artifacts that cannot be collected, though, could lead museums to emphasize the interpretation and design choices that come with curation rather than trying to make them appear objective or nonexistent. If everyone has access to the same thing, creative presentation becomes even more important. One thing that this chapter highlighted for me was that the way we define museums is a way of setting priorities about what museums should do. It could be that there’s a very good reason to continue prioritizing collections and I think that’s worth considering. But it could also be the case that moving away from collections opens up new ideas about what a museum is and how it should operate that better fit our current needs.

  • "What is a Museum?" Comments

    The chapter starts with a quote of definition “A hospital is a hospital. A library is a library. A rose is a rose.” and goes on to state that a museums is braoder encompassing. But from here I wonder, when is a library a museum? Or say, a section of MIT? In my hometown, the public library has on display artifacts from the history of technology developed at Bell Labs, such as a vintage phone booth and display cases of a phonograph. Just down the street is the old Nokia offices where I had a college interview that has the second-ever laser built in a display case in the lobby surrounded by other signals-related artifacts. A part of MIT has a small collection of naval models, often behind gates after hours.

    Are museums about removal from the source? The chapter also dicusses ancient Greece and Rome having temples and libraries of objects used in daily life that we now put to display in museums and store in archival warehouses. It also struck me about the aspects of privilege and vanity in museum curations. Discussion of private collection as a “hoard” and the earnest accumulation to collect by the museums feels almost predatory. In the past, the people who would have these collections and contribute were the privilieged who could afford to have that space and pursue naturalist or collector endeavors. I took a short look into the Harvard Herbaria and related libraries for another class and it’s notable how many samples from before modern times came from Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard because that’s where the rich people went on vacation. Another discussed example is Benjamin Ives Gilman, secretary of the MFA, wanting interpreters for art museums rather than to leave it up to the patron. In some ways, this feels patronizing that the common public wouldn’t be able to enjoy a collection as it was “intended”. Understandable are the concerns for preservation for public consumption, but a central question to ask about museums is “who is this really for?”

    (And maybe, would it really be so bad if museums were more attended than sporting events?)

  • “What is a Museum?” Commentary

    The chapter “What is a Museum?” in E. Alexander’s Museums in Motion highlights the fluidity of museums. I found it interesting how Arthur Parker describes unchanging museums as “dead institutions” to him, as it emphasizes that museums do not only tend to transform with their audience but are expected to do so. It connects to Adele Silver’s words, that “Innocent irreverence reminds us that museums are inventions of men, not inevitable, eternal, ideal nor divine”. Silver’s words stood out to me in the reading, as they point out how museums are nothing more than objects and experiences that are given meaning through their presentation, curation, and explanation. Her words describe how a museum could amount to everything or nothing to an individual and the general public based on their perception of the museum. They lack objectivity. Considering the fluidity of museums, it makes me wonder if there are museums that particularly thrive on the subjectivity of their nature, ones that perhaps rapidly change and transform in accordance with their audience.

    Another element of the reading that stood out to me was the transformation of museums from private to public collections. Alexander notes the dissonance between collectors and visitors, where collectors felt ingratitude despite allowing access to their treasures, and visitors left upset by not understanding the collection. Alexander describes the shift away from these emotions as museum directors began to change the way they present their work, but it makes me wonder where current collectors stand now in their balance of collecting and showcasing. The subsection ‘Museum Functions’ details the ‘raging collecting fever’, where a museum authority admits that the services and exhibitions of museums are simply fronts for collecting. Is there a balance when it comes to collections? Are they necessary to drive the passion for maintaining and developing a museum? Stephen Williams argues that “A museum without a collection is not a museum,” but could a museum simply exist through its services alone? What about a museum that only had digital collections?

  • What Is a Museum? Commentary

    The evolution of museums presented in Museums in Motion wasn’t what I expected. While I was aware of the early Greek and Roman institutions referred to here as “prototype museums,” I hadn’t previously thought of them as being direct ancestors to modern museums. This lineage is used to suggest the idea that the current trend of museums becoming more accessible and interactive is actually a return to their original purpose. Before this reading, I would have put the origins of museums in the Middle Ages with the purpose of collecting objects and educating a small elite. Under that model, I viewed the current, shifting idea of museums as a departure from their original role; albeit a welcome one.

    Another small point that really stood out to me was the description of the origins of admissions fees for museums. I grew up in the Washington, DC area and as a result, my early ideas of museums were heavily shaped by the Smithsonian Institution. The Smithsonian museums have a staggering number of exhibits and artifacts from a number of different fields and are all available to the public free of charge. I’m sympathetic to the fact that the staff of many museums that charge an admission fee would probably rather offer free admission if it were financially viable. But, I still have always had a slight bias against paid admission museums. It was interesting to learn that the first museums to charge admissions fees were formerly closed museums that were now opening to the public for the first time rather than new institutions which opened with that as their initial business model.

  • What is a museum / Before Museusm

    A theme that struck me in Alexander’s essay was how empire and power have historically been present in the formation and ownership of museums. Since the start, the political and religious elite were the main owners and patrons (“members”) of museums. Alexander highlights how the paintings and sculptures in Roman museums were typically acquired throughout their conquests, and mentions Napoleon’s attempts to make museums “an instrument of national glory”.

    I’m more used to thinking about how museums shape popular culture than how political economies and cultures shape museums, so this discussion has raised a lot of questions for me, especially regarding the need to question the role of philanthropy in cultural and nation-building institutions. Alexander’s reference to museums spending “fortunes for paintings or objects while neglecting needs from salaries to operating expenses” also made consider the immense value for a museums to have their identity becoming inextricably linked with the work in their collection. It’s impossible for me to see a picture of the Mona Lisa without thinking of the Louvre.

    This reading also brought to mind the transdisciplinary evolution of museums. To me, Benjamin Ives Gilman’s attempt to (conceptually) distance art museums from education centers and the sciences— “a museum of science… in essence a school; a museum of art in essence a temple.”— stands in stark contrast to how much the arts, sciences and humanities are now deeply intertwined. For example, different scientific techniques are increasingly being used in the arts to better understand artistic methods and historical context in which artworks were created. Here, I’m reminded of how infrared photography was recently used to help solve the decades-old mystery of who inscribed “Could only have been painted by a madman” on Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” painting– It was Edvard Munch.

    I think this transdisciplinary approach is also present in the curation of curiosity cabinets as described by Bowery. In the examples she provides, much of our understanding of these objects comes from how they “actively perform the entangled nature of objects through their selection and categorisation of material.” and confront the “limits of representation”.

  • What is a Museum? and Before Museums: The Curiosity Cabinet as Metamorphe

    When one asks, “What is a museum?”, a natural next question is, “What isn’t a museum?” This chapter started with a quote from Richard Grove to highlight how varied museums can be: “A hospital is a hospital. A library is a library. A rose is a rose. But a museum is Colonial Williamsburg, Mrs. Wilkerson’s Figure Bottle Museum,…” The chapter finished with a direct contradiction to that by Elaine Heumann Gurian: “The distinct edges of different function among libraries, memorials, social service centers, schools, shopping malls, zoos, …, and museums will (and in many cases have already begun to) blur.”

    I lean more towards Guian’s interpretation. In my post last week, I mentioned how libraries and schools are in the process of reinventing themselves just as museums are. So are hospitals shopping malls, and all the institutions that Guian mentions. Why can’t they share functions? Should they be combined into the same institutions in some cases?

    This reminds me of a relatively new venture for Apple stores. Apple stores might be the last place one things of when comparing to museums, but take their location at Carnegie Library in DC for example. They have resorted this historic building to yes, sell phones and computers, but also to do more for the local community. When I was an intern at Apple in 2017, the Senior VP of Retial gave a talk to the interns. She said their goal was for Apples store to become community gathering spaces. They would host workshops where people could learn photography. The intention wasn’t to learn how to use an iPhone, but rather to learn how to compose and light photographs. They wanted people to “just meet up” at their retail locations. They wanted to provide what a cafe or museum might provide to some people. (Yes, of course, Apple projected this would lead to increased sales of their products, so it differs from a museum in that way). This example reminds me of the participatory museum from last week. If there are so many overlaps between a museum and a retail store, where do we draw the line?

    I work with a class in the mechanical engineering department called Toy Product Design. In the first lecture, we introduce what “toy product design” is, and there is one line that stands out to me. A toy is in the eye of the user while a toy product is in the eye of a designer. For example, a cardboard refrigerator box can be a toy if a child creates a house out of it, but it isn’t a toy product becuase the designer of the cardboard box didn’t design it to be played with. A Nerf gun is a toy product because it was designed for someone to play with. I thought there must be a similar analogy for museums. I came up with, “The museum experience is in the eye of the guest while the museum is in the eye of the curator.” Can someone have a “museum experience” if they walk into a grocery store and study the shoppers? Or can they have have the museum experience by visiting a National Park? Similarly, can someone walk through a curated collection aimlessly and not really have the museum experience that the curator intended? If so, it takes two invested stakeholders (the designers and the guests) to have a successful museum + experience.

    This symbiotic relationship was very strong in Simon’s video and text from last week. Her museum couldn’t work without the participation of the guests. The curiosity cabinets in Stephanie Bowry’s article show a different perspective. In a lot of cases, it seems that the cabinets were curated for the curator. Maybe he showed it to friends, but there was a lot of personal satisfaction from revisiting the objects and their connections. Certainly the curation goals change for a privately-viewed collection versus a publicly-owned one.

  • Commentary for What is a Museum?

    I was fascinated by E. & A. Alexander’s discussion of human’s instinctive fascination with collections and collecting. In second and third grade, my friends and I spent our recesses scouring through the playground tanbark for “interesting” objects like a rubber band, a plastic bead, half a candy wrapper, etc. Sometimes we’d try to assemble something aesthetically pleasing with the knick knacks, other times we’d line up our findings on a stone bench. We literally called ourselves “The Collection Club.” I’ve never thought of it this way (well I haven’t thought back to The Collection Club in a long while), but our act of collecting was inseparable from the act of curating. The things we collected were usually things considered as trash to be thrown away, but to us it had enough value to be curated in an intentional way. At the end of the day, objects in museums are just physical objects. It’s the curator who these objects value and meaning.

    Anthropologist Michael Ames argues that by “‘museumify[ing]’ other cultures and our own past,” museums “limit their audiences’ abilities to make sense of collections and place them in broader social context” (12). I feel like the term “museumifying” carries negative connotations of sanitization and suppression. Is this inherent to all museums? To be honest, I’m not sure — I think that no matter what, the curator decides what stories the objects/exhibits at a museum tell. It’s possible that the curator tells a single story and ends it there, and that would align with the idea of museumifying. But what if these stories are told in such a way that encourage the museumgoers to contribute their own stories, as described by Nina Simon? What about “other forms of expression such as stories, song, and speech” as brought up by Elaine Heumann Gurian? The curator still gets to decide which of these forms of expression to present and the way they are presented, but I think that having literal voices is different from curated voice for nonsentient objects. Maybe what it means to “museumify” something will evolve with museums themselves to place more emphasis on public participation rather than preservation/sanitization.

  • Before Museums: The Curiosity Cabinet as Metamorphe Commentary

    The curiosity cabinets described in Before Museums are simultaneously dated and ahead of their time. To some collectors, the cabinets represented goals as lofty as attempting to “not only contain, but to order all known things” and to assert “symbolic power” over the world. This description seems to match the section in What Is a Museum? which describes “cabinets” and other collections from the 16th and 17th centuries. In that text, these collections are presented as hoards of valuable or culturally significant objects kept in private collections as “playthings of princes, popes, and plutocrats.”

    However, the curiosity cabinets Bowry describes also had an interactive and dynamic nature that their description in What Is a Museum? fails to recognize and that many public collections which followed them failed to recapture until much later. Bowry explains that the cabinets sought not just to catalogue objects but to “actively perform the entangled nature of objects” and “experiment with the limits of representation.” This idea of a collection of objects dedicated to creating novel representations and exploring new kinds of connections sounds more like Nina Simon’s “participatory museum” than a 400 year old treasure hoard.

  • What is a museum? Commentary

    One thing that I’ve been wondering about museums is what should be the optimal distance between museum and myself, or the public in general. When I went to museums like MFA and MoMA and looked at those artworks, I felt heavy as if the exhibits exerted a repulsive force on me, especially those that are hard to understand upon first glance. Alexander talks about how museums evolved from private collections to public museums that we have today. Museums in the past were very exclusive to the ones with power, money, leisure, or knowledge, both on individual and national level. The access to museums seemed to indicate divisions of social hierarchy, which explains the chaotic situation when museums first became public. The collectors and visitors, both with very different expectations, were all disappointed with each other. I feel that this sense of disappointment changed and evolved and still left a sense of misfit today, which is usually expressed partly as the incomprehensibility and elitism of museums.

    Also, it is interesting to think about the perspective and standpoint of a museum. I totally agree that museums, as inventions of men, are naturally biased even though they seem to or try to be unbiased. I really like what Michael Ames said, that “museums are implicitly compared with and subordinnated to contemporary established values and social reality”. Museums are not only collections of the past, but they are immersed in various social contexts. Probably one of the reasons that visitors feel alienated when they are inside museums is that there’s not enough context given. People lost themselves in time and space, but I don’t think this is a bad thing. On the contrary, this is part of the unique nature of museums that makes them more than just collections.

  • Museums in Motion: Commentary

    The exact definition of what a museum is has always been a puzzle to me. There are so many different types of them: general, natural history, science and technology, art – just to name a few and without even mentioning virtual or Instagram museums. However, something that I had not considered before was that how much you like museums would also influence one’s definition. As Alexander mentions in the book Museums in Motion, it is also important to highlight how much museums, or at least the concept of them, has evolved throughout the years.

    The Greeks were the founders of museums. For them, these were places of study as well as repositories of collections and more often than not, open to the general public. However, during the Middle Ages in western Europe, museums started becoming private, accessible only by princes, popes and plutocrats. As museums became more widespread and the United States started embracing these new cultural institutions, museums became more available to the general public. However, I believe that even today there is still room for improvement regarding this issue.

    I find it contradicting that even today numerous museums are still quite expensive, especially if you are not carrying with you a student ID. If museums are meant to be centers of education and public enlightenment, how come they are not accessible to the people who need them the most? People who are currently not enrolled in college, people who might not have the resources to afford a good quality education. I understand that it is expensive to maintain said cultural institutions, but I would really like to see more efforts into at least reducing the entrance fee.

    In regards to museums trying to adapt to the modern world, Arthur Parkes commentary really resonated with me: “museums that are not changing are in essence dead institutions”. It is imperative for museums to always try to understand their public, what they are looking for… Or even better: offer them what they didn’t know they needed. In particular, I find it inspiring and valuable when museums honestly try to encourage dialogue between members of their public since this not only promotes active learning (one of the best ways to retain information), but also allows people to further their awareness and empathy for others. I truly believe that we would live in a better world if discussions between strangers were encouraged instead of feared.

  • Commentary on What Is a Museum?

    Taking into account the start of the museum evolution will always bring to mind how those in power will always control the publicization of valuable items. It isn’t surprising that in the 16th century “collections were rarely open to the public and remained the playthings of princes, popes, and plutocrats” (5). But in the same way today, it is still the wealthy who can skew the art market, inflate prices, and define what is considered worthy of being viewed. In the same way that art is shared, who controls the way the audience interacts with it? When the 3D scans of the bust of Nefertiti were shared online, who was really in control of the artefact?

    Another point I take interest in is the way Michael Ames writes about how history and pieces of society and nature, “by virtue of their location…are implicitly compared with and subordinated to contemporary established values and definitions of social reality…limit[ing] their audiences’ abilities to make sense of collections and place them in broader social contexts” (12). In a video that I watched of a Native American musician at the Field Museum in Chicago, he explains that walking through the halls dedicated to Native American history, full of seemingly historical artifacts and clothing items, made him feel as if his present was being erased. The mere fact that those items are protected and coveted make it seem like his past is worth more than his present. In the same way that images of historical black figures are often reproduced in black in white to make the days of segregation feel farther away than they actually are, our perceptions of what we see inside museums make it hard for us to picture those same occurrences outside of museums. Additionally, while museums can shape how we see the world, how do our internal biases increase their effects?

  • Week 1 commentary

    Nina Simon presented many examples of how the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History have invited their guests to participate in art. The first question I asked was, “How do they save everything that visitors create?” This raises a larger question about what content is worth saving because is everything is important, nothing ends up being important. The bathroom stall example she presented was interesting as I was thinking about this question because the “better” one used post-it notes, a very temporary medium, while the “worse” one used Sharpies on metal, a much more permanent solution. Why did people react in a ruder way when they were given this permanent solution? What did the museum end up doing with all the mason jars that their visitors created? The museum can’t possibly respond to all the suggestions that their guests leave, so how do they still make people feel included?

    I read the Lascaux cave article right after Simon’s, and the contrast was stark. At first, I was glad to see that many people were still happy to visit the replicas. After all, Simon had stressed how it is the connection between participants that matters the most, not having the original content. But then, the Lascaux IV design team went to such great lengths to decide on the slope of the floor. To me, this was a debate about accessibility versus authenticity. Ultimately, there was compromise, but I can only imagine how many person hours went into this decision! I imagine if Simon’s team were deciding this, they would take even more liberties to make the caves more accessible and approachable. Still, it is quite impressive the operation they run at Lascaux IV with nearly half a million visitors each year in tight spaces.

    “Museums at 2040” started with a line that struck me. “Museums are now libraries, libraries are now schools, and teachers are now museum administrators.” These three different institutions—libraries, schools, and museums—are all reinventing themselves. At a high level, they have similar missions, yet they are competing for patrons’ attentions. Who is the right institution to tackle our new challenges.

  • The Participatory Museum

    Nina Simon paints a conflicted picture on the current state of museums. She explains that while there is more public interest in cultural engagement and using culture as a social tool than ever before; museums are largely failing to capitalize on that interest. Simon describes several causes for the public’s loss of interest in museums. The most significant of these are that museums in their current forms can be perceived as static, authoritarian, and disconnected from their communities. In her talk, Simon offers specific and practical examples of how her museum has approached these issues and provides the data to prove the effectiveness of their strategies. Importantly, the new forms of engagement implemented by the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History are all built on top of existing museum exhibits and programming rather than needing to replace them.

    Overall Simon makes a very compelling case for a more participatory approach to museums. My one concern is whether the initial success of the changes made by the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History are able to hold up over a longer timeframe. At the time of Simon’s talk, there was only data available from one year of running participatory programs. There’s certainly a risk that there’s a novelty factor with these activities now that will drop off. However I, like Simon, think it’s more likely that this does represent the start of a paradigm shift, even if there are some setbacks.

  • The Participatory Museum Commentary

    In both her preface and TED Talk, Nina Simon makes several remarks on ways to change the nature of museums from that of a static showcase to a dynamic exhibition where visitors contribute meaningful content. Simon brings up the idea of design being an integral part of eliciting meaningful contributions from visitors, and I think that it’s interesting how her statement correlates with the goals of curating a traditional museum exhibition. Both rely on designing a contextual environment to evoke depth and purpose in understanding (conventional) or expression (participatory). The close connection makes me wonder what level of ease museums have in adopting a participatory element for their exhibitions. Simon brings up the social barriers museum directors put up, particularly the disdain some art museum directors have against ‘Sunday painters.’ The mentality and perhaps prejudices of experienced curators of exhibitions evokes the question then of who exactly can create these participatory spaces. Is it a question of changing current curators’ mentality of what museums are and who they are intended for, or finding different individuals who can curate this new kind of experience?

    Simon also emphasizes the importance of creating personal, meaningful content in a participatory museum, but she talks less about its consumption. Are participatory museums designed just for meaningful contributions, or for meaningful consumption as well? With a participatory museum, there is an issue of content density to consider. Simon’s example of memory jars was an exhibition already with 300 contributed — an average visitor would not stay to read all of the others after creating their own. Is curation of contributions necessary as well in participatory exhibitions? Or does the charm come from the serendipity of the contributions one chooses to examine?

  • Museum at 2040 comments

    Rozan provides a seemingly optimistic argument about the future of museums. The concept of “museum” continues to thrive but the meaning of it changes from a “single-purpose organization” to a “hybrid institution” that serves important communal purposes and takes more social responsibilities. I think his theory is reasonable since museums are facing the problem of declining visitors, which indicates that the the importance of their original purpose of solely collecting and presenting is decreasing overtime. Museum does need to find new purposes in order to survive.

    I feel somewhat skeptical about the idea of museum becoming a huge compound of civic institutions. But to what extent can we alter the essence of the concept “museum” before it actually changes into something else? It reminds me of some bookstores in the shopping center at my hometown that, in order to survive, they gradually replaced books sections with clothings, housewares, and coffee shop, to an extent that I questioned myself whether it can still be called a bookstore. And for visitors like me who is only attracted to the store because of its book, it seems to fail its original purpose.

    Another interesting point that he mentioned was that museums will change from national and international to local and regional in terms of focus. I think smaller and more specific museums may transition quicker to serve more community based purposes, but I wonder how huge museums would react to this because it doesn’t make a lot of sense for them to shift focus to solely the community because their collections are still extremely valuable as world treasures.

    One thing that intrigues me is that he mentioned the change of job for the current museum guards. I think it is a very interesting job because of their long time exposure to art and even some disrupting experimental art. This is off-topic but I wonder how these art influence them as individuals.

  • Lascaux International Centre for Cave Art Commmentary

    While reading the article I was really struck by Snøhetta’s visitor-centric design process that focused on contemplative continuity. Almost every design decision they made both created an authentic experience and also solved problems— innability to hear guides, being rushed through, not being close enough to the art— that occur when touring the original cave. I thought the use of light-based projections directly onto the cave facsimiles was brilliant. It didn’t interfere with/ interrupt the experience and directly added a time-based component/ context to the art. For me, this careful dedication to visitor contemplation was also highlighted by their simple (yet effective) decision to only allow “digital visitor companion” devices to operate in specific locations in order to prevent the technology from interrupting or co-opting the experience.

  • Commentary: The Participatory Museum

    Nina Simon is a talented and passionate activist who is trying to transform museums so that they are not only places that you visit but where you go to actively participate and connect with each other. In both her preface and TED Talk, she stresses the need to change the way people view museums. Simon wants to encourage people to stop thinking about museums as preppy institutions and instead start thinking of them as places to connect, discuss and develop a community. In her TED talk, Simon points out that we live in an incredibly creative fertile time where people go to bars to knit together or gather in a room to perform science experiments. Not very far from Boston we can clearly see similar examples, such as the Artisan’s Asylum in Sommerville, MA: a non-profit makerspace devoted to the teaching, learning and practice of fabrication. However, the road to open museums and make them more accessible will not be easy.

    In her preface, Simon asks herself what would be the best way for museums to reconnect with the public and demonstrate their value and relevance in today’s world. Her answer is to do as much as possible to encourage interaction between the exhibit and the public, but also between members of the public. It might take some time for people to get used to participatory learning but if museums give them the tools to communicate and make the public feel that what they say matters, people will not be afraid of speaking up and share this learning experience with one another. Cultural institutions need to think carefully on how they present information. Just offering something more personalized, such as a blue hexagonal piece of paper instead of a normal square white one to write on comments can have a big impact on the effort people will put into it. When a person feels appreciated, they will always do more than what is expected.

    As Simons reiterates, this cultural transformation is vastly needed. However, contrary to popular belief this is not only to educate more people but also to create a welcoming community. In these times where everything seems so ephemeral and fast paced, cultural institutions could become a sanctuary for reflection and connection. A safe space to share ideas and where it is okay to sit down for a little while to discuss racial inequity with a complete stranger.

  • Commentary on The Participatory Museum

    In The Participatory Museum and in her TED Talk, Nina Simon addresses several shortcomings of museums that were brought up during our class discussion in pretty creative/effective (in my opinion) ways. The traditional art museum tends to convey a dominant narrative through the pieces and corresponding explanation it displays, insinuating that the average museumgoer has to be “cultured” in a certain way to “understand” the piece’s intent. I remember visiting a local contemporary gallery and seeing a solid black canvas on display. What could this possibly mean: nighttime serenity? Earth collapsing into an inevitable heat death? Nah it was actually supposed to be a critique of the American Dream of home ownership. I’m not trying to devalue abstract contemporary art, but more so criticize how the interaction between myself and the artwork felt so one-sided.

    Simon’s idea of the participatory museum changes the game completely — by encouraging the museumgoer to contribute to the exhibit, the museum encourages a two way exchange not only between the museumgoer and the exhibit, but also between the museumgoer and other museumgoers. Simon has shown that encouraging this participation isn’t always straightforward. However it might’ve been cool if the black canvas exhibit somehow validated my ideas of nighttime serenity/heat death not to replace the original artist’s intent, but perhaps as something in conjunction to it. I loved Simon’s idea of transforming the traditional museum into a community space, which makes me wonder about how adapting a more community centered model might benefit the classroom and education in general.

  • Attending and Participating in the Museum

    When reading Nina Simon’s introduction to “The Participatory Museum” and the included TED Talk, I was stuck intiially by the dichotomy of merely “attending” vs “participating” in the museum, as aligned with the comment on audiences getting older and whiter. In many ways what we traditionally think of museums are institutions of elitism, preserving and shining up artifacts and curated expositions with “please don’t touch” signs. Sure, often it’s for the good of the collection pieces, but do the glass cases between us and the exhibit prevent engagement? Simon says sometimes, yes. In this way the museums aren’t alive as much as an archive.

    I think of my senior year of high school, where I was a part of a space ambassador program and took part in more galas than the averge high school kid. I was absolutely thrilled to be in museums after hours, surrounded by artifacts from aviation and spacelfight history as I got to speak with the astronauts themseleves. But looking around, a majority of the paying attendees largely older white people with time on their hands and money to buy a ticket, largely ignoring the venue but to be there as a point of prestige and status.

    It’s noticeable how voices are shut out in this bastion of elitism. Things like art criticism and the fine art world are deliberate gatekeeping, framing art as something specified rather than something they experience in their lives. It’s in things like challenging graffiti as art - why is Banksy framed but your average street tagger a nuisance? Simon cites in her TED Talk testimony from a teenage visitor saying that they’ve seen masterpieces around the world, but this designed interactive museum was the first time they wanted to do art from a museum.

    At the some time, there are experiences that are nothing but participatory, like the Museum of Ice Cream. This “exhibit” has been well-criticized for being essentially a photo op where the visitor gives value to the space than the reverse. in Simon’s TED Talk, towards the end the idea she gives value to framing and giving people design tools to transform what they do in the context. People want to leave their mark, but it’s to a point of self-absorption. Engaging with a less curated or directed piece is sometimes stepping outside of yourself, not something the vast majority of people are comfortable or interested in. Approaching a museum as a business has the dangers of sliding into the most common denominator. But what if that’s the point? To design for vulnerability, the role to curate rather than just to preserve.

  • At the Foot of the Hill Commentary

    The Lascaux IV was designed with a remarkable dedication to authenticity. Even though Lascaux IV was created specifically to be more accessible than its predecessors, no change was to the presentation or physical structure of the cave without careful deliberation of the trade off being made. Two examples of this really stood out to me. The slope of the cave was granted special permission to be steeper than would normally be legal in order to preserve the angle at which the artwork would be seen. It was also decided to have almost no physical labels or descriptions anywhere in the facsimile. I think this challenge, and the way the designer approached it, is fascinating.

  • The Participatory Museum Commentary

    I think the participatory model Simone proposes enriches our analysis and understanding of cultural artifacts, as these objects are being explored through unforeseen and diverse lenses (e.g. race, gender). Her call to transform museums into “audience-centered” community centers in which “visitors can create, share, and connect with each other around content” ensures these institutions are actually in conversation with their surrounding environment and create reciprocity. I think this is a crucial step towards more inclusive and equitable museums, and opens up new possibilities for the kinds of archives that they collect, curate, and exhibit.

    Her proposals made me consider the immense responsibility (and control) museums have in curating the dominant narrative of history, and what artifacts deserve recognition. Marxist theorist Antonio Gramsci highlighted this in what he coined “cultural hegemony”, in which the ruling class maintains dominance by controlling culture and belief rather than overt forms of power. Museums, then, maintain immense political power in how they present history and who is included and excluded.

    Simone’s ideas of participatory cultural institutions don’t involve dismantling or reconfiguring museums, but rather helping to distribute power among the community. I agree that this transformation from didactic to dialogic spaces allows for community perspectives to be included in archives and curatiorial practice instead of solely institution leaders. However, I’m curious if this is enough for certain communities who experience some/ all of the five forms of dissatisfaction she outlines, especially those who express: “The authoritative voice of the institution doesn’t include my view or give me context for understanding what’s presented”. Are there existing/ new models of museums that are community-built from the ground up and democratically run? Is it possible for a museum to be completely devoid of an “authoritative voice”?

  • Museums at 2040 Commentary

    In his projections of what museums would look like in the future, Adam Rozan focuses on how a new form of museum would result from changes in human need and makes the explicit choice to focus on this as a driving force rather than changes in technology. He writes, > It’s easy to fixate on technology, but too often, when we do so, we miss the important underlying forces driving change - what people want and need, how they interact with one another.

    And later, > Technology provided us with new ways to realize our dreams, yet it was the public, through how they chose to spend their time, attention, and money, that had the biggest impact on our organizations.

    Reading these passages I was reminded of Marshall McLuhan’s idea that “the medium is the message” and that it is the medium itself which shapes human association and interaction. Using this framework, couldn’t technology be the driving force, in the way that it shapes the way we interact and opens up new ideas of what we want and need? There are pieces within the text that also seem to illustrate this - the “Digital Push” leading to an expanded view of what spaces could function as museums, museums becoming community spaces as the workweek and levels of employment shrink - so why make this distinction in the first place?

    The thought I came to is that overall, the point of the text is to move away from the idea of museums as holders as artifacts and instead as places that serve the community. Pointing to technology as the cause of these changes would be missing the point that moving towards this idea of the museum of 2040 means actively focusing on what peoples needs are, and adapting to meet them. If we see it as an inevitability that this is what museums will become, we won’t get there.

  • Comments on The Participatory Museum

    After watching Nina Simon’s Ted talk and reading the preface to The Participatory Museum, I started questioning if I have ever been able to actively participate and create change in the many museums I have stepped foot in. I have encountered exhibitions that asked visitors to leave notes but I haven’t felt super compelled to actually leave any messages. Simon’s point in her talk where she shows the differences in the messages left behind on rectangular white sheets as compared to blue hexagonal sheets made me think back to other situations where I have decided to engage. For example, at the Muji on Newbury, they had a holiday event where you could write down your wishes and hang them up on an installation. There was a plethora of colorful crayons and markers and you would write your responses on a little plank of wood hung off of a silky red ribbon. Aside from just the aesthetics, the way in which my contributions were framed and shown made me feel like my thoughts, even though they were just arbitrary wishes, feel valued. Simon really proves that when steps are taken to increase engagement, they need to serve the said communities, while making them feel like the time the take feels worthwhile.

  • Example Commentary

    Here’s an insightful response to the assigned readings from Week 1 - etc., etc. If you edit this post in Prose and click the Meta Data button, you’ll see it’s been given the Week 1 tag. Readings for other weeks will show up as available tags too, as we get further along.

    (By the way, here’s the url for downloading the open access edition of the book Digital_Humanities (PDF). It’s a very useful introduction to Digital Humanities: Open Access Version of “Digital_Humanities”)