A lot of museum workshops with young people are focused on art practices or the role of art and museums in society. Those events and apps for young audiences are mostly led by museum staff who bring in their target audience at given stages of the project to get feedback, but can sometimes be co-created by students who work hand in hand with the museum staff all through the project to design solutions that will really appeal to millennials.

Recently, the Louvre-Lens had an opportunity to work with students during the new edition of the WELL event in April, when it scheduled a whole weekend dedicated to students from local schools creating artistic performances, dancing and playing music for the audiences, as well as engaging them in workshops. For the museum’s team, it was a perfect way to see what means “museum mediation” for the young generation, what are their main interests and artistic expressions they decided to showcase.

It is also what happened at the Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris: At the beginning of the student year, a class from a Masters in Applied Arts and Multimedia Narration asked them if they could develop on innovative projects that would be tailored to their needs.

The museum had a say, but students – and their teachers – were project leaders, reporting regularly to the museum teams and adjusting their projects. Actually, the Fondation Vuitton defined the needs the student would work on: helping visitors find their way in Frank Gehry’s maze, creating content for an already planned app – Lucky Vibes, creating an app to engage teens throughout their visit…

It makes sense to have students work for your institution. Who can grasp the needs of digital natives better than digital natives themselves? Who would be better to design mobile-first apps and websites? By designing for young people, they of course strongly empathize with the target group – as they belong to it. Working with students helps finding way to attract and build loyalty within young audiences that will later on become regular museum visitors.

The Fondation got free consulting from future professionals, but it still required the staff to dedicate time to the students to make the most of their projects and obtain more insights on visitors’ behavior than through focus groups and data analysis.
Indeed, the time dedicated to the projects by the staff also is a way to better understand the digital needs and habits of their audiences – as well as to understand what is at stake when designing a digital project. If students learned a lot from working for a real institution, the Fondation Vuitton definitely learned about project management, UX design, and mobile-first experiences by having young people work with them.

From new experiential projects to creative spaces, museums act more and more like creative hubs and labs. In December 2016, the Science Museum Group launched their Digital Lab which aim is to analyze how museums dive into the digital age. With the earlier opening of the London Science Museum kids’ paradise “Wonderlab” and “Mathematics, a new display designed by Zaha Hadid Architects, the Science Museum Group is turning into a real futuristic experience-focused space for all types of audiences.  The Digital Lab is slated to become a great source of information on the evolution of museums and their role facing the technological developments supported by Samsung who fully sponsors the project. We interviewed John Stack, Digital Director and Dave Patten, Head of New Media at the Science Museum Group to better understand how the lab was born and where it is headed.

Work in progress — Lab 1: Virtual Reality Experience for Samsung Gear VR

We Are Museums: How did the project start? did the idea come from top deciders, practitioners or from an external actor? How is the project included in the Science Museum Group’ strategy? 

John Stack and Dave Patten: The Digital Lab is a core component of the Science Museum Group’s digital strategy.
The four museums in the Science Museum Group (Science Museum, London; National Media Museum, Bradford, Museum of Science and Industry, Manchester; and National Railway Museum, York) are all undertaking major projects to redisplay the collection. Digital technologies will, of course, be a fundamental component of these new displays and refreshed visitor experience.

However, digital technologies are evolving rapidly as is audience behaviour. Alongside, these large-scale projects which have a lifetime measured in decades, we could see all manner of exciting opportunities that can flourish without the constraint of long-term sustainability and which could also be pathfinder projects for future digital initiatives.

Indeed, the Science Museum already had undertaken a number of lab-like projects notably the point cloud scan of the Shipping Galleries and Web Lab and we are keen to see more of this activity.

The Digital Lab operates at the intersection of content, design, user experience and technology. Among the many areas which we are interested in exploring are:

• What kinds of immersive and augmented technologies can most effectively bring collection objects to life?
• How can new forms of digitisation and digital presentation of objects provide new forms of access?
• How can we best use digital to layer information for different museum audiences?
• How might location-aware mobile technologies enable audience to experience collection objects in the places where those objects have a significance?
• How might we build on the collection catalogue to create user interfaces that encourage new forms of exploration and discovery?
• What might the next generation on gallery digital content delivery be like?
• What new kinds of games might engage new audiences with the museums and their collection?

Work in progress — Lab 2: Enhanced digitisation for Mathematics: The Winton Gallery

We Are Museums: The Science Museum is getting much attention lately with WonderLab and the crowdfunding campaign for Eric, the UK’s first robot. What are the links between the Lab’s project and the other Science Museum’s innovation and digital projects?

John Stack and Dave Patten: The Digital Lab’s launch is aligned with the opening of Mathematics: The Winton Gallery, a stunning new display designed by Zaha Hadid Architects.

The three first Digital Lab projects are all related to or inspired by the Mathematics gallery:
• enhanced digitisation of objects in the displays,
• a VR experience around the Handley Page aircraft which is the centrepiece of the gallery,
• a series of hackdays using open data sets from the museum.
We Are Museums: Samsung is the founding partner of the Lab. What is their involvement in the project except besides the funding aspect?

John Stack and Dave Patten: Samsung are the founding partner of the Digital Lab and have supported the projects by sharing their expertise as we developed the VR experience. They will also play a part in the hackdays that we will announce in early 2017.

Work in progress — Lab 2: Enhanced digitisation for Mathematics: The Winton Gallery

We Are Museums: Did you get any help from someone to help implement new ways of thinking within the Science Museum Group? Did yourself or the team receive a special training to run the Lab? 

John Stack and Dave Patten: The Digital Lab will explore the tension between the relatively short life span of some digital technologies and the lifespan of a permanent museum gallery which can be upwards of twenty years. The Digital Lab is embedded in the the inhouse team and we’re looking to work with the best external partners we can who have expertise in specialised areas. For the Handley Page VR experience we’ve worked with the digital agency Preloaded, for the enhanced digitisation we worked with Drew Gardner and Tom Flynn from MuseumInABox, and for the hack days we’re working with Mar Dixon and Don Undeen.

We Are Museums: How is the project deployed in the 4 museums? How do you keep a sense of strategy and unity across museums? How are the teams organised?

John Stack and Dave Patten: At present the projects are all located at the Science Museum in London, but we absolutely intend to extend this to the other museums in the group.  In the New Year we will start to work closely with the other museums in the group to identify Digital Lab projects that respond to the key challenges they face.

We Are Museums: How will the results from the 3 projects be shared with the public? Does this project signal a wider collaboration with other science museums? 

John Stack and Dave Patten: The results from the projects will all be made public beginning in 2017. The VR experience will be available in the Mathematics gallery at certain times, the enhanced digitisation will be incorporated into online narrative stories around the collection and the hackdays will hopefully coincide with evening openings where participants will be able to present their work.

The Digital Lab will be regularly blogging about the work it is doing. Code and assets developed by the Lab will be made available for reuse via GitHub.

The Digital team at the museum has always been in regular contact with museum’s across the world but our hope is that the Digital Lab should make project based collaboration with other museums easier.

Not so long ago, we were in Latvia to help launch the first edition of Museum Tomorrow, Latvia’s new network for museum professionals who want to exchange and collaborate with a focus on innovation. We helped with the idea but this has been the work of the Latvian National Museum of Art and the Latvian Association of Museums. Museum Tomorrow is for all museum professionals and aspiring professionals who want to be in the know of what is going on in Latvia right now, share their ideas, challenges, questions.

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We very much hope it will continue and blossom post We Are Museums Riga in June 2017. The first edition took place last 5 October 2016 at the LNMM and we were very happy to meet with about 50 professionals as most of our work is to source knowledge for our primary audience next June. This was a really enriching afternoon, which featured 3 case studies :

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The Latvian National Museum of Art on rebranding after its very recent and successful reopening, creating new tools like their mobile app, communication supports and embracing their new audiences seeking unique and aesthetic experiences within the museum.  Have a look here for more.

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The Literature and Music Museums on travelling across Latvia to select songs for its permanent exhibition. The museums was conceived as a memory box  and a learning experience. The experiment gathered so much enthusiasm that some serious curation had to be applied to the selected songs supposed to embody the spirit of Latvia.

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The Raina Tadenava Museum of Childhood all the way from Dunavas pagasts. This is one of the four museums dedicated to the national poet and has a specific focus on children. To engage them, it has relied on eco and wooden objects to develop intelligence and emotions.

We then followed up with a short workshop that helped trigger the conversation. Below are 3 real good takeaways from it.

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1. It is ALWAYS well-advised to make a workshop

You think everyone does it? You see it coming from miles away? No matter what you think, when you want to have an audience really talk to you and share what they know about themselves (disclaimer, they always know better), put some drawing, everyday life and group work in the mix.

Workshops are engaging, they are good for not taking yourself seriously, for brainstorming and for de-stressing after work when there is no direct stake. They are little moments of truth. Ours was fairly simple: portray the Latvian museum professionals and the Latvian visitors with 3 questions concerning their daily habits: what do they do first when they enter a museum? What does their workspace look like? The contributions we had were spot on, funny, witty. It’s not just about stating facts. As event organiser, you learn as much with the little jokes and the footnotes.

2. Latvian Museum Professionals are quite the hipsters

Granted, the room was quite filled with professionals on the younger side. Our typical Latvian professional ended up being very fond of their bike, a little ill-favoured when it comes to money, so looking for good deals food and culture-wise across town and spending all their free time outside of the workplace in search of free wifi. And, of course, they were glued to their smartphone from the first to the last hour of the day.

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And that’s good. In all fairness, who would not want to have a room full of young professionals?

One of the biggest, if not the biggest challenge coming for museums is to be able to retain talented, creative individuals while competing with creative economy, startups and other coworking-space related jobs. So, people, how do we make museums cool and open enough?

3. Museum professionals (may) know better than their boss how they work best

Perhaps the most striking sentence of the night was: “My boss thinks he needs to see me for me to work well. I could do the same job, if not better if I was away from my desk.” This is essentially the definition of a full-blown digital native. This should resonate with all museum managers and Directors. Staff does not have to be at their desk to be good staff. The same way freelancers increasingly move into museums for temporary missions, young and aspiring museums workers will increasingly expect to work in a more agile way, making space, and physicality all the more relative and highlighting the sense of individual performance and motivation instead.  Food for thought? We certainly think so!

Over the course of 2016, MoMA held three innovations labs, that are akin to one-day workshops to explore issues like online collections, fundraising and events for the museum. The goal is to build prototypes than can be integrated into the daily life of the museum. In a Medium post, Jackie Thomas, manager of the digital media department of MoMA, tells about everything you should think about to organize an innovation lab to foster innovation in your museum. We broke some of it down for you:
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Mix people from inside and outside your institution

Innovation in your museum should be everyone’s preoccupation. Choose a cross-departmental group that is not too big – Jackie Thomas advises you to have no more than 12 people in a room. It is always easier to find Aside from your museum staff, choose outside facilitators that can run the innovation lab, bring new ideas, help your staff to go into their ideas in depth.
Also make them meet new people: startupers, consultants, people who foster innovation in other museums who will fuel your participants’ debates.
To help you review the prototypes, ask some senior staff to come by: curators, of course, and audience experts that may be the most knowledgeable in what your visitors may actually use.

Choose the right time span… and give enough time afterwards

How long do you want your innovation lab to be? How do you want to organize the time?
Whatever your answers to these two questions are, here are some things you have to keep in mind.
Always start by letting people get to know each other. Most of your participants may be already working together but some if you bring people from outside your organization, starting with something really informal is a must. And even if you do your lab with people who seem to know each other, don’t forget they may have never met outside of a formal work setting and still need some ice-breaking.
Give people time to share their ideas. When people feel comfortable with each other, arrange time for them to share their craziest ideas.
Don’t forget that the innovation lab isn’t part of people’s everyday job. During the workshops, arrange time to check their emails and other work-related matter. When people go back to their everyday preoccupation, give them advice to find time to work on their prototypes if you want them to (or schedule time so people have a fixed time slot to advance their projects).
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Not too far, not too close: find the appropriate space

Find a space that is both friendly to have ideas in and to confront and organize ideas in. Yes, those are two different things. On the one hand, you’ll want a venue that is informal enough to get people out of their everyday habits, do they feel comfortable having and discussing the most crazy ideas. To foster that, choose that has natural light that will help your participants get inspired and also avoid headaches.
When everybody has shared their ideas, a wall on which you can stick post-its will be your best friend when it comes to displaying, rating and discussing ideas. That wall needs to be in a room that is big enough to accommodate all the participants of you workshop session. Finally, if you want to get people to start creating prototypes, use a space that can easily be (or already is) divided: if different groups work on different projects, they’ll need their own space.
Okay, I know now what kind of space I am looking for, but where do I find it, you may ask. Well, get your folks out of the office, either by finding a venue in your city that will allow participants to go home at the end of each day, or pick a place out of town that will create your teams’ brand new environment for a few days.

In her post, Jackie Thomas also explains what she has learned and what she would have done differently after those three sessions. Read it and use her advice and the lessons she has learnt to be more innovative in your own museum!

The Museum of New Zealand Te Papa worked with a Kiwi company to create a 3D digital map of Gallipoli that they included in the exhibition currently celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli campaign, which was the first kiwi campaign of World War I. The impact the map had on the visitors made the museum staff understand how working with private companies can help creating an emotion.
Te Papa then decided to explore a bit further how they could work concretely with local companies. To do so, they decided to invest 1 million NZ$ (700,000 US$) to launch Mahuki, their in-house innovation lab. The museum is holding a call for projects to develop the next big thing in digital storytelling and connect inhabitants with the collections in an innovative way.

The lab will provide more than the museum’s content for the startups to use. Indeed, each company will receive 20,000 NZ$ in exchange of a 6% equity, allowing the museum to purchase the innovations that they actually want to use, but also benefit from all the innovations created at Mahuki. Most importantly, taking equity in companies creates a strong bond with them, fostering the idea of an innovative ecosystem built around Te Papa and supporting innovative Kiwi companies.
Among the goals and challenges quoted by Mahuki general manager Tui Te Hau, one can find ways to provide experiences for an aging population or opening up collections to make them more available.
The first results of the Mahuki residency should be available at the end of 2016, with 40 companies being selected to develop their ideas – and market-test them with Te Papa millions of visitors – from August on, hoping to help New Zealand become a leader in digital experience for the cultural sector.

You’ve heard about counterfeit paintings, you’ve heard about digital art and you probably have some idea about how experts authenticate paintings. What if a computer could learn everything a Rembrandt expert knows – and much more – but would not use it to identify the author of newly discovered paintings? Instead, imagine that data gathered by the machine could be used to create a painting that both looks like a Rembrandt and… does not look like any existing Rembrandt?
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In a project called The Next Rembrandt, an extensive database of Rembrandt paintings, made of high definition pictures and 3D scans, was poured into a computer so it could analyse it and use colours, shapes and brushstrokes to create an artwork that would have all the characteristics an original Rembrandt has.
As a second step, it was decided that only data from portraits of middle-aged Caucasian males in dark clothing with a white collar, wearing a hat and facing to the right would be kept. Of course, this choice was not made randomly, but it representative of what Rembrandt painted the most is terms of gender, head direction, age and clothing.

Thanks to statistical analysis and algorithms, the tech teams then extracted “the features that make Rembrandt Rembrandt”, by comparing eyes, mouths, ears, face proportions from all the paintings to figure out what would make a fake Rembrandt come as close as possible to the real deal.
Finally, texture what added through a height map to recreate brushstrokes and surface of a Rembrandt painting.
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And that is how, thanks to a lot of data, an amazing team and a sophisticated 3D printer, The Next Rembrandt Painting was created 347 years after the master’s death.
It is believable? Definitely. Would it fool an expert? At least for a second. Would Rembrandt have loved it? Probably, considering that the project is all about understanding him and his work and trying to create something new out of it.
And it isn’t just a new painting, it also is a new use of data, a further step into the understanding of a body of work by going beyond the appreciation of pattern to actually reproduce them.

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Museums are undoubtedly a place to reflect. Reflect on the past, the future, our place in the present and our relationship to art, society and our environment.
Dubai is well-known for the Burj Khalifa (the world’s tallest building), the Dubai Mall (the world’s largest mall) and the artificial Palm Islands. As an ultramodern and fast-developing city, it only make sense that Dubai would be home to the Museum of the Future, a place to both showcase the world’s greatest innovations and develop ideas for our future.
Due to open in late 2018 in its final building, the Museum allows visitors interacting with state-of-the-art technology that could enhance in fields such as transportation, health and education. What if tech could tell us the mood people around are in or make us run at superhuman speed? Would you like it or would it worry you? Tech and AI make our lives easier every day, but how far are you willing to let go and give tech the power to smoothe tiny hurdles?

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The museum’s goal isn’t only to have the audience reflect on who we will be in 20 years and what world we’ll live in. It also is to actually make the future happen. With very little natural resources compared to other countries of the area, Dubai feels the need to become a center of innovation and the museum is part of this idea: On the one hand, it will inspire young generations to become innovators themselves: on the other hand, it will include an innovation lab that will nurture projects for the city of tomorrow and should attract major companies like Google or GE, probably just in time to present prototypes at the World Expo 2020 that will take place in Dubai. It is not about predicting the future, it is about creating it and using the Museum of the Future as a place to experiment it.

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For now, you can get a first glimpse of the Museum of The Future at the Madinat Jumeirah, where it addresses three big themes: how robots are artificial intelligence can improve the human mind and physical capabilities, if relations between humans and robots can become similar to inter-human relations and how will AI affect decision making… or even make decisions on its own.

Visiting the futuristic museum and interacting and playing with the devices is probably as close as a visitor can get to exploring the possibilities of a brand new world, leaving the museum with one question: “Do I think I can handle this?”

What if an exhibition could both predict the future and interrogate the way we use technology? It is pretty much what the Guggenheim’s very first online exhibition does by implementing the principles of stock market to news. Åzone Futures Market lets visitors invest in technologies of the future based on articles (or “Hot Tips”).

With Åzone Futures Market, the Guggenheim allows visitors to interact with an exhibition and actually make it change and evolve through time. Moreover, what Troy Therrien, Curator of architecture and digital initiatives at the Guggenheim, has created is an online exhibition that finds continuation in a physical space located in Lower Manhattan, not an exhibition that would be mainly physical with a digital extension.

In lieu of rooms, the exhibition is divided into key future themes visitors can invest in: Bloodless war, fresh water democratisation, robotic medicine… Starting with 10,000Å, each user buys or sells a given theme based on the articles attached to it or on new link. Each transaction influences the value of a theme, which can be considered as the interest shown for it and therefore how much it might be discussed in the future. azone1The idea of predicting the future and the idea of getting rich (Monopoly-rich, but still) to be able to invest and explore more gets users hooked, with some of them having made more than 2,000 trades or being worth more that one million Å.

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Now that you know how Åzone Futures Market works, you may wonder what all those algorithms have to do with an art museum. Well, first of all, one of museums’ roles is to give people a way to interrogate both their past and their future, and Åzone Futures Market is focused on the future in a very unique way.

 

Then, several artists – such as Douglas Coupland and Jenna Sutela, architects, theorists and strategists (also called “Contributors”) have been asked to create tools, incentives and hacks to enhance the experience and make its architecture evolve to follow the visitors’ needs and still keep it interesting. A fully collaborative way to involve both users and contributors in what the future might be and how it is defined and to keep the digital exhibition relevant through time, way longer than an physical exhibition would have lasted.
This digital exhibition shows how museums can find a new place in a hyperconnected world, as a platform for citizens to reflect on social and economic issues. By offering the opportunity to bet on the future, the Guggenheim opens a new era is the perception of cultural institutions, that are no longer content providers, but real catalysts for thought and content. In a nutshell, with ‘Åzone’, the very concept of ‘exhibition’ is shaken to the core and we are given a glimpse at how museums will look to primarily engage visitors as online users and to keep their content and data relevant through the next decades.

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Yet another example of how great the marriage between art and startups can be! In September 2014, the New Museum announced the opening of the first museum incubator, inviting young art and tech-oriented startups to share a space inside the walls of the institution. The selected entrepreneurs are to benefit from professional counseling, financial support, as well as powerful network of investors and museum specialists.

At first glance, it might seem strange for a museum to open up such a space when so many incubators already exist in the city – after all, cultural institutions aren’t usually seen as places for tech revolutions. However, this scene is quite hostile to art startups, even with a tech side. Those entrepreneurs usually have a hard time finding the right investors, support, or even encouragement – as New Museum staff points out, they’re often too artsy for tech investors and too tech-oriented for support from traditional art institutions.

New Inc allows young entrepreneurs to mix art, tech, and design, and encourages them to blend disciplines together. Few places offer such creative freedom and financial support, allowing its members to go beyond their usual scope of action, explore new horizons and create bridges between disciplines without the pressure of rentability and investors.

So far, a handful of start-ups have been selected to be part of the incubator for the next 12 months. The projects are all very different, but they all have the same purpose – mixing disciplines and opening new perspectives for digital culture and museums as a whole.

Some of the projects focus on visitor experience and the new frontiers of digital mediation. The dance company Hammerstep has joined the incubator hoping to develop a new and immersive way to interact with their audience for their play Indigo Grey, a special installation allowing visitors to control a cloud of fog with their body movements. Also focusing on visitor interaction, Studio Studio and The Principals have come together at NewInc to create REIFY, a startup that creates music-inspired 3D sculptures which can recreate the audio and visual atmosphere of the original piece when scanned on a smartphone..
Some other projects focus on more material aspects of culture: Yami Ichi is a Japanese group that sets up flea markets where digital concepts are translated into physical objects and sold on the stalls (think accepting a cookie or buying profile pictures – IRL).

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For the New Museum, opening up such a space means having a grip on the latest developments in arts and technology. It also means having a pool of young and creative talents ready to work with them and develop common projects in order to make the change they want to see happen for themselves. All of these projects could be developed in the museum, get tested on the public, and help change visitor experience –  exchanging views with the entrepreneurs on a daily basis is a great way for the museum teams to challenge their perception of the institution and find new ideas.
Moreover, artists and entrepreneurs actually have way more in common that what we think – artist Mario Ybarra recently gave a speech pointing out the similarities between launching a startup and crafting a work of art. Artists and entrepreneurs go through the same creative process, passing through phases of intent, doubt, testing, and distribution and documentation.

When you think about it, cultural institutions themselves are entrepreneurs: for every new season, they have to bet on a new project, convince their public, and re-invent their product constantly. Museums are about inviting visitors to take risks and leave their comfort zones, but they’re also about documenting trials, mistakes, and successes.

NewInc isn’t just one more incubator – it’s also one more proof that museums can foster change and be on the front lines of innovation.

 

Have you heard of The Pen? That’s a silly question, of course you have. Launched earlier this year, the project  is all over Twitter, magazines, and blogs. Most importantly, it’s also in the hands of all those who visit the Cooper Hewitt.

Shaped like a real pen, the device allows visitors to explore, sketch, and save all the objects they see.  Associated with touchscreen and responsive walls, the pens help visitors browse through the museum’s artworks and build their own collection. They can access that collection back home, enlarge it anytime they visit, and share it on social media.

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More than just a fun tool, the Pen breaches some very interesting questions: how to smoothly connect the physical and the digital, how to fully immerse visitors without distancing them from the artworks, and how to use the data generated by the tool, for instance.

We wanted to know a bit more about the device, so we asked Micah Walter from the Cooper Hewitt Lab to answer a few of our questions. Once a photojournalist, Micah is now a developer and webmaster in the museum’s Digital and Emerging Media department.

We Are Museums: Of all the choices available, why choose something as simple as a pen and name it that way? Do you think it helps people feel more at ease with the object?

 Micah Walter: One of the things we love about the idea of it being a “pen” is that a pen is sort of the basic design tool. Nearly every designer uses a pen or a pencil as a core part of their design process. As a design museum, we thought that this would help put our visitors in the right frame of mind. Also, the pen doesn’t have a screen. It’s not an app on your phone, and so it encourages visitors to look and do vs. consume content on their phones. Of course we spent a lot of time considering what we would call “the pen.” We had lots of ideas for catchy names, but at the end of the day, we thought it would be better to just call it what it is.

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WAM: What kind of data can you collect from the pen? What has it taught you about the way visitors interact with the artworks? Have you changed anything in the exhibitions and permanent collections based on knowledge you got from the pen?
MW: The pen allows a visitor to collect any of the works that are currently on view as well as thousands of additional works that are browsable through our interactive tables. It’s all about recall, and trying to make the act of remembering things your noticed while visiting the museum much easier. One of the things that I love about the pen is that it gives our visitors permission to interact with objects in a way that they previously thought was not allowed. The simple gesture of collecting something with your pen and then having it saved to your own personal webpage creates a new relationship between visitor and object which we feel is incredibly permissive and engaging.

It’s probably too early to glean any meaningful insights into our exhibition design based on the data we’ve collected, but we are really excited about this possibility. We are also very aware of the privacy implications around the data we are collecting, which will certainly have an impact on how we make decisions about things like exhibition design and our collection in the months to come.

The Pen in use on the interactive tables and the "digital river" of collection objects. Concetp, design, and production by Local Projects LLC. Initial Pen concept by Local Projects with Diller Scofidio + Renfro

The Pen in use on the interactive tables and the “digital river” of collection objects. Concetp, design, and production by Local Projects LLC. Initial Pen concept by Local Projects with Diller Scofidio + Renfro

WAM: The pen isn’t a traditional guide in the way that audio or video apps can be. What about the pen is more compelling than an audio or video app sometimes handed out by museums? Why not stick with something more « educational »? What do you think visitors learn from it?

MW: Well first I’d argue that the pen is extremely educational. It’s an incredibly simple device that when placed in someone’s hand gives them the permission to engage with the museum almost immediately. It may be more of a “learn by doing” kind of educational device, but it certainly works well in that context. We have many types of visitors on any given day, each looking for a different kind of experience. Some prefer a more handheld, tour style approach and for them we offer a variety of public and private tour options. For many visitors however, the educational experience needs to be a lighter touch. Offering a device like the pen, and the apps on our interactive tables allows them to build their experience in any way they like. Some visitors will spend their entire time browsing the interactive tables, and some will hunt through the museum trying to collect every object they can find. Everyone has a different approach and we hope the pen lets them learn about design through a multitude of avenues.

WAM: What’s the next step for the pen? Do you think it could be associated with 3D printing technologies?

MW: Personally, I believe the next steps will be revealed through analysis of the data we are collecting, both actual data collected by the pen and through visitor interviews and observation. The pen, and all of our interactive installations are meant to be long lasting, and used as a framework to build upon. Now that we have this underlying infrastructure, our technology stack as we like to call it, we are only limited by our own imaginations.

In terms of 3D printing technologies, of course there are connections to be made. 3D printing was integral in the design and development of the pen itself, and so I am sure there will be projects that tie this aspect of design together with our interactive experience in the years to come.

WAM: Do you see any commercial use to it?

MW: Ha! Of course. At the end of the day, the pen is just a button, it’s just another bookmarking tool, it’s another connected device. It itself doesn’t have a real obvious use outside of our gallery walls, but there are a lot of obvious connections one could make to commercial applications. For example, I’ve always wanted a giant red button in my living room that when pressed would just order me a large pizza. The pen could probably do that!

 Thank you Micah for taking the time to answer our questions!
If you want to know more about the pen and the strategy behind it, come meet Micah at We Are Museums in June and follow him on Twitter.