I don’t think we have cracked museum mobile yet. I think there is a lot of mobile in museums, and there’s lots of cool apps from museums (such as MOMA’s impressionist one which is still an all time favourite for the ipad: http://www.moma.org/explore/mobile/abexnyapp)- but I’m not sure how successful the marriage of mobile with exhibitions is yet. I try and download apps and take mobile tours as much as possible and I have yet to find one I think has worked. Most just are complicated and then take my attention away from the exhibit I’m here to see and ask me to do things that I feel I don’t know how to do or have anything to say about at that moment. I get annoyed at apps which keep insisting I “dig deeper”. Museum exhibitions are already deep- they’re so full of content I’ve rarely been to an exhibition and felt like I’ve read or watched or heard everything. If I wanted to dig deeper than that I wouldn’t be here right now, with my grumbling family, trying to enjoy this exhibition which has the right level of depth for the hour that I have. I want apps that will enhance my experience right here, right now- not take me away from it.
Mobile App from Louvre Lens for a smartphone (http://www.culturemobile.net/louvrelens-orange/louvre-lens-appli-pour-smartphone)
The most successful mobile experience I have actually had was such a basic audio tour at the Cite de la Musique in Paris. When you saw the instruments on display you could activate the sound of the instrument playing. It was simple and beautiful and took my experience at that museum to another level. That’s what I’m talking about.
Most of us museum visitors have smartphones now. V&A’s survey in March showed that 60% of visitors are using their smartphones already to enhance their experience in the galleries. (Read more on this http://www.vam.ac.uk/b/blog/digital-media/museum-visitors-using-mobile). I’d guess probably to take photos and post to others. Or maybe just to tell the time… At any rate- I would say most of how people do use their phones in galleries has little to do with how the museum folk intend for them to use their phones in galleries.
Louvre Mobile App for iPhone (http://macdailynews.com/2009/11/06/louvre_museum_
So here’s my list of what I want from a museum mobile experience (for pleasure not for professional research).
• Free wifi with a good connection (please, please please).
• Something that works at the first try without making me feel like a techno-idiot.
• Some way that I can get the tween/teen slightly interested while showing that I am still in charge and know more than they do.
• Good lighting and staging so the photos I take look deep and interesting- including the selfies.
• Some way of bookmarking content I can use later (OK- that might be my professional self talking…)- especially text. I am desperate to cut and paste exhibition text… or photos and videos.
• What other people also liked and why so I can just go there and not have to struggle through forming my own opinion.
• Something magical-that I never expected I would hear or see and I can share which will also make my friends ooh and aah and be impressed by me and it.
How was it done? Through the efforts of artists in a 12-year campaign to tax billboards for art. I had the opportunity to meet with Devon Ostrom this week. Devon is the co-founder of BeautifulCity.ca – the alliance of over sixty organizations that advocated for the tax on billboards to fund art in excess of 10 million dollars annually. This led to Toronto City Council passing a commitment to allot 17.5 million dollars in additional annual arts spending. The first batch of funding has been recently released by the Toronto Arts Council. Visit www.beautifulcity.ca for the entire story and check out a video at: http://vimeo.com/65066164.
This initiative shows how creative thinking can result in positive impacts in the arts. In fact, Devon is really good at coming up with other community-driven, urban, art-based projects such as also co-founding Arrivals Canada http://www.arrivals.ca and Manifesto Festival – themanifesto.ca. His current project is to develop the Pan Am Path – the project that aims to create a multi-use cycling and pedestrian path with arts hotspots all along the way from Brampton to Pickering in time for the 2015 Pan Am / Parapan Am Games in Toronto. Visit www.PanAmPath.org for details on this project and inspiring video on the concept.
(What) are the stories of landscapes? It was something I was thinking about during a trip to the fabulous Eden Project close to Cornwall, UK last week.
In the 7-hour bus ride from London (albeit with stops) to the Eden project, the hours passed by with the slowness only truly felt on a long drive in a country that measures distance in miles instead of kilometers. There was plenty of time to look out the window.
This was my first experience of the English countryside- the rolling hills, the sheep, the historic farms, the springtime. It seems incredible I had not seen it before, so vivid were the memories the landscape provoked- of ruddy English children in patched clothing, feeding pigs and milking cows, running in the fields, exclaiming at the poetry of daffodils and reading by candle light.
It is no surprise that I, a child of New Zealander and South African parents growing up in Canada had the stories of the motherland indelibly imprinted in my memory. England’s enduring legacy in the colonies is found in the images of her stories; her landscapes brought to life in rhymes and fairytales and school texts.
But what about my traveling companions? Between the American and Taiwanese architects from the New York office of our hosts- Grimshaw Architects -the designers of the Eden Project, and our clients- a group of developers, engineers and property managers from Beijing China- we must have taken hundreds of photos. What did these English sheep and hills mean to each of us?
We passed Stonehenge sitting so innocuously in the field. We all snapped away in awe. For me, the sight conjured up images of a teenage me, collapsing with my friends into gales of laughter as we watched This is Spinal Tap.
The Eden Project is about ‘the living theatre of people and plants’ explains founder Tim Smit to us when we finally get there.”We use plant collections as a canvas on which we tell stories of what the future will be like”. In this re-created landscape of 2 indoor biomes (Mediterranean and Tropical) and the real landscape of the outdoor biome, the plants and flowers become alternatively the setting, the protagonist and the plot in a magical story that is as much about the visitor as it is about nature.
Nor is it all giant bugs and wonder- the stories Eden points to are also nuanced socio-political stories.
Throughout, ‘culture’, whether through story-telling, performance, music, exhibition and more- is a major vehicle to create connections between visitors and landscape.
Back in France. On Sunday, we did our customary Easter egg hunt. Every year the Easter Bunny hides chocolate eggs in some place she wants the now much-too-old-for-this children/teens to remember. This year, it was in the St. Germain Forest close to where we live. Among the roots of trees and in the bramble, the children search for bright pink, turquoise and yellow eggs.
We discover bunkers inhabited by Germans in the 2nd World War- covered in moss and leaves.
It’s hard to find a story that will capture all of this- a French spring, a pagan ritual, Jesus’ sacrifice, a Belgian chocolate bestowing bunny, Germans hiding and planning in France divided by war, a forest landscape… and us. But I will. It will be our first-Easter-in-France story- captured in photos and made memorable by the unique smell of this moss, the crunch of these leaves and the particular rustle of the forest.
What is the definition of “having an eye”? Personally, I believe having an eye is a question of having an understanding for what is happening, in a work of art and in the world.
When I attended a recent exhibition of photographs by Dominique Nahr, a Canadian photographer whom Gail and I had discovered several years ago, I stayed for his slide lecture documenting his experiences as a war photographer in Africa and elsewhere. During his slide show I noticed a powerful photograph that was not in the exhibition. It showed a dead Sudanese soldier fallen in the foreground, before the oil field technology that he was defending. My eye responded to the composition, but my awareness of what is happening in the world told me that this is an image that “tells the whole story” of what is going on in the world and in art at present.
When I mentioned it to the gallery manager, she said that the gallery had thought it was “too strong” for their gallery-going public. Dominique agreed with me that it was his strongest image and said that he had also wanted it to be included in the exhibition. Gail arrived the next day and agreed that it was the image we should acquire, so I asked the gallery to print it for us.
Recently the same image was selected by Time magazine as one of the ten most important photographs of 2012. It’s gratifying to find that other people who are much more intensely involved both in the realities of oil, war and politics, and in the photographic imagery that told the world’s stories in 2012, should have picked this same image.
I just got back from our New York office. I rode the bike there this morning. Traffic was pure chaos, cars literally bumper to bumper all the way from Sunset Park in south Brooklyn where we live all the way to Manhattan Bridge in downtown Brooklyn.
New York after the storm “Sandy”
As soon as I crossed over to Manhattan, traffic disappeared and the city was eerily empty. All power is out from the 20s streets to the southern tip of Manhattan, so none of the traffic lights were working. There were cops posted everywhere directing what little traffic there was. The areas by the bridge and the East River that I could see from the bridge were being cleaned up and cleared of debris by sanitation and construction crews and they were pumping massive amounts of water out of the garages underneath the skyscrapers in the financial district.
Aftermath of the storm
SOHO was completely empty, only a few tourists and cops walking about and a few locals trying to get signals on their mobile phones (I could not get a signal while I was in Manhattan). Again debris and turned over trash cans everywhere, but not as bad as by the river.
The office itself is completely unscathed. No broken windows, no damage to the building or anything like that. Everything is as I left it on Sunday before the storm, but there was no power, the phones were not working and again no mobile signal. I emptied the fridge to avoid rotten food attracting rats and other unwanted creatures, watered the plants (water was running fine) and made sure nothing was missing. Then I locked up and rode my bike down the middle of an empty Broadway (except for a few tourists and occasional bus/cop car) with no traffic lights to Brooklyn Bridge back to Brooklyn.
New York Governor Cuomo announced that parts of the Subway will start running again tomorrow, but on a very limited basis. I tried to find out from a traffic cop about when electricity might return, but he didn’t know. I didn’t see any ConEdison trucks in SOHO although I saw some by City Hall downtown, so I don’t know when the power will return. I will try to call ConEdison, but I have a feeling they are swamped with calls right now.
Flooded Brooklyn-Battery tunnel entrance in lower Manhattan after the storm
My sense is that once the power is back up, the office should be up and running pretty quickly, I would need to coordinate with our IT service company to make sure our server and IT is up to speed, the same goes for our phone system, so it might be smart for me to go into the office a day before or a half day before everyone else to make sure the infrastructure is back up and working and avoid everyone to go into the city for nothing.
Yesterday I began reading The Evolution of Library and Museum Partnerships: Historical Antecedents, Contemporary Manifestations, and Future Directions (Dilevko, Juris and Lisa Gottlieb. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited, 2012). In Chapter 2 (“Museums, Libraries and Postobject Roles”) the authors say that libraries and museums are transforming themselves into “edutainment” venues in an effort to attract people and revenue. “To be sure, libraries have a long tradition of both adult and children’s programming, but in the postobject world, library activities are selected with an eye toward showcasing an institution’s “entertainment value.” In the long run, there is a good chance that the notion of entertainment value will, quite simply, become the library’s raison d’être.” (p.26 of ELMP)
Is this true? Are libraries desperately offering entertainment in order to bring in the bodies and the money? Or are they providing new and enjoyable ways of learning and creating?
I’ve been part of the library world for more than 10 years and have been researching trends in public libraries for the past six months or so. From the evidence I’ve seen, I do not think that public libraries are becoming edutainment centers. Yes, libraries are transforming themselves, but their aim, as always, is to serve their clients’ and their communities’ knowledge needs. Those needs have changed and expanded with the burgeoning of new technologies and collaborative/participatory media, and the disintermediation of cultural production. Public libraries are providing access to information via more platforms (paper, ebook, web), and they are redesigning their spaces and programmes to make it easier for their patrons to access multiple types of information, collaborate with others and create new knowledge. None of this strikes me as “edutainment.” Especially exciting are the initiatives that engage children and youth in exploring the creative arts and the sciences. I’ve provided a few examples below – judge for yourselves and let us know what you think!
Chicago Public Library: YOUmedia
“YOUmedia is an innovative, 21st century teen learning space housed at the Chicago Public Library’s downtown Harold Washington Library Center. YOUmedia was created to connect young adults, books, media, mentors, and institutions throughout the city of Chicago in one dynamic space designed to inspire collaboration and creativity.”
This 5500 sq. ft. space in the downtown branch of the Chicago Public Library provides teens with access to laptops, video games, wii, a recording studio, a performance space, and the ability to borrow digital equipment for personal use [information from TEDxRainier talk cited below]. As Chrystie Hill, director of community services for the OCLC’s WebJunction, a learning community for public library staff, says in her moving TEDxRainier talk, “in this library, the skills required to participate in a digital age as a worker, or as a citizen – things like generating content and critiquing it, not just consuming it – are not only valued, they’re actually instilled.” [“Libraries Present and Future,” TEDxRanier 2010, http://tedxrainier.com/2/speaker_hill.asp]
Skipton Public Library (England): Library Songwriters – Skipton Rewind Club
“‘Library Songwriters: Skipton Rewind Club’, offers teenagers the chance to meet with library staff and a youth worker to develop their song writing skills, using the library as a cultural centre. However, with hard work and dedication from all of those involved, it has done much more than that. The project has encouraged continued engagement with the public library, curbing the decline that usually occurs when children enter secondary education. But song writing and library use is only part of the story. Skipton Rewind Club provides youngsters with a safe space to build their confidence and friendships and through developing and delivering their own events, the teenagers learn vital transferable skills that will help them in an increasingly competitive jobs market.” [from “Libraries hit a high note”, CILIP (Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals),
Chartered Institute of Library and Information
Professionals Chartered Institute of
Library and Information,
Professionals, 26/06/2012 http://www.cilip.org.uk/news-media/pages/news120626.aspx.
Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh: The Labs
“The Labs is Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh's digital media lab - a free space for teenagers to geek out at the Library! If you've ever wanted to make a movie, learn photography or create your own music, this is your chance. You can do all that and more at your local learning lab!” … “A Digital Media Lab is a place full of computers and other technology where people are encouraged to learn and create. The Labs is a free space and available to our teen library users. You can drop by to learn from one of our Labs mentors - experts in various forms of digital media and expression, or just mess around with the equipment and learn on your own terms.”http://www.carnegielibrary.org/teens/events/programs/thelabs/ [see also “The Labs @ Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh: QuickFLIX Workshops and Contest,” an article describing The Labs’ most recent program, at the wonderful The Library as Incubator Project blog http://www.libraryasincubatorproject.org/?p=5975]
Queen’s Borough Public Library (New York City): Children’s Library Discovery Center
“The Children’s Library Discovery Center which is now open includes hands-on interactive exhibits and learning labs to enable children ages 3-12 to find information and to inspire interest in books, reading, and learning while discovering the joy of scientific exploration.”
Image copyright, Queens Borough Public Library
This 14,000 sq. ft. center provides a colourful, interesting mix of books, exhibits, and activities aimed at engaging children in learning about math, science, engineering, and technology. “In addition, it is a multi-lingual learning environment with resources for school work, pleasure reading and lifelong learning. Children can learn about the geography, history, and culture of the places from which they come.” http://www.queenslibraryfoundation.org/site/PageServer?pagename=qlfbrand_cldc
A little over five years ago, while in Grad School, I became aware of Lord Cultural Resources through my mother. Through her job as head of the Danish Visitor Service at the European Parliament in Brussels she was a member of the task force working with Lordculture’s planning efforts for the new visitor center that the European Parliament was planning. She was very enthusiastic about her experience working with Lord Consultants and suggested that I check out their website. This inspired me to apply for the intern position in the New York office and was the first step in my career at Lord. I recently spoke with my mother to follow up on the Parlamentarium, as the new visitor center is named, which opened in October 2011. Below is some background information on the project and her impressions of the new center.
Lord Cultural Resources & Lord Culture should be particularly proud of its groundbreaking work in relation to the Parlamentarium – the European Parliaments Visitors’ Centre – in Brussels (Belgium). Lord was commissioned to develop the conceptual framework for a centre that would make the European Union and the activities of its democratic heart, the European Parliament (EP), come to life in the mind of the EU citizens and thus promote active citizenship. The final report that Lord presented to the EP Bureau in June 2006 aimed at putting the visitors in the focus. The visitor was given an active role, animated by the exhibition to ask questions and start to interact in order to realize unanimous EU values – responsibility and democracy – using key words such as play and create, answer questions, debate, explain personal views, listen to stories of other EU citizens and leave traces of their visit.
Set up in 4 movements: 1 – United in Diversity; 2 – Visiting Europe; 3 -Working for Europe; and 4 – Daily life in Europe, the visitor is equipped with an audio-guide allowing for a free choice between the 23 official EU languages guiding the way through the more than 5 000 m2 exhibition area. The exhibition includes a 360 degree copy of the EP plenary room allowing the visitor to participate virtually in the debate and votes of the MEPs. In another 360 degree setup the visitor is invited to take a seat and interact virtually with both elected members and ordinary citizens and thus get acquainted – on an individual basis and according to own interest – with the life of other EU citizens. Everywhere the visitor also finds spots presenting famous Europeans and in the centre of the exhibition the visitor can physically move around between the EU countries and cities navigating by an interactive movable counter lightening up with explanations when pushed over particular cities and areas. The visitors are finally invited to test their knowledge and give their opinion on current issues thereby delivering valuable input to the European Parliaments work. Groups of students in high school can also book a session in the role play section especially developed to give young people just under the voting age a hands-on experience in democratic decision making.
With more than 700 visitors daily since its opening on October 14, 2011 the Parlamentarium has already set its mark on the tourist map of Brussels. Don’t hesitate to spend an hour there if you have the opportunity – its great fun!