In previous posts, I’ve not been shy in expressing my respect, admiration or jealousy for other institutions. So, it’s surprising it took me this long to mention the Tate Modern. Earlier this spring, I e-mailed Jane Burton, Creative Director at Tate Modern, to introduce myself and express my sincere appreciation for the work they produce – especially video – and you know how much video The Nugget Factory produces. This e-mail turned into an invitation to a conference on handheld technology at the Tate Modern organized by Jane and Nancy Proctor of the Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM’s doing some pretty innovative things too. This post hopes to share some the experiences in the conference: From Audiotours to iPhones Workshop.
Rewind a few years. Does anyone remember the American Gallery handheld project – ArtXplore – that the IMA piloted in 2005? It was a short-lived project that helped (indirectly)shape much of the current technology strategies at IMA. It was a difficult project, with some victories, lessons learned and a big part of the technology, evolutionary process at our museum. Since 2005, we have re-focused our efforts to create digital content that visitors in any location can access. Although we do offer audio tours at the Lilly House, a cell phone tour for the Gardens and Grounds – our primary strategy has to increase the reputation of IMA globally, and share our stories about art with a much larger online audience. It’s an approach I support, but with the opening of the Art and Nature Park next year, should we try another attempt with some sort of handheld device? Perhaps.
Information on From Audiotours to iPhones Workshop, case studies, speaker bios, flickr images, you name it, can be found HERE. It is an amazing basket of information, applicable to anyone interested in the ways museums operate. The conference represented some of the most innovation and brightest minds working in museums today – excluding myself of course.
The workshop featured tales of success, failure and the in between. It highlighted the brilliant tours created with Antenna Audio/Discovery Communications at Tate Modern and SFMoMA. It showcased the many devices possible – custom devices, iPod’s, iPhones, PSP’s, Nintendo DS and more. It delved into the ways information is sent to a device – GPS, infrared, WAP, RFID and OTHER options. It showed what the biggest and smallest museums are capable of creating, innovating and overcoming. And it brought out the personalities of these museums – a paleontologist experimenting with different approaches to the visitor experience, a one-person department from the San Jose Museum of Art, and many of the up and coming museums that will soon be influencing and leading the arena of museum technology.
I was honored to be at the Tate Modern, sit on one of the panel discussions, rub elbows with insightful and brilliant colleagues, but most importantly, eager and motivated to create something new at the IMA.
You’ll have to wait and see.