Collaboration, Iteration, and Exchange: Academic Museums as Digital Laboratories

This professional forum will explore different types of academic museums as potential models for collaboration, iteration and public exchange. Digital roles in academic museums are highly collaborative while serving the needs of stakeholders from across their institutions. Participants from other types of museums can learn from how they operate as digital roles leverage their unique position in a broader organization. Academic museums are platforms for public interchange with a wide variety of disciplines, and they operate as “laboratories” of a sort in which digital roles are well suited to the “start small and scale up” models of development. The discussion applies to the conference theme as it focuses on digital roles in academic museums that are at the center of public interchange with a variety of disciplines. Digital roles in academic museums are uniquely positioned to collaborate with a variety of internal and external communities.


Max Evjen 00:00
Thank you for everybody for coming. I'm Max Elgin. This is Chad 100 Mega real and David Nunez. We're here talking about how academic museums are sites of collaboration, iteration and exchange, and how they're kind of uniquely yours are uniquely positioned to be that. Some of you, how many of you actually work for around or in academic museums? Wow, awesome. Whoo, yay. Okay. So full disclosure, I no longer work for an academic museum. I still work for Michigan State University. But I moved out of the museum into digital humanities recently. But I'm going to be talking about examples from my recent appointment at the Michigan State University Museum. And yep, Doug. So we'll get to like what we're actually doing here today. We're doing basically just like a half an hour thing, we have an hour in here, we're going to do a talk a little bit about the examples of how the organization's where we've been working, has showed the this this collaboration, this iterations exchange, and what that looks like, and then sort of have a little bit of discussion amongst ourselves about some of the themes that come out of this. But then we want to open it up, and we have some prompts for you. So the clearly because like, there's a lot of people, academic museums here, so you probably have a lot of thoughts about this too. Right? And which was what I had hoped for. And so I'm very happy to see so many people in academic museums, here at the session. And yeah, hopefully, we can come to some concrete takeaways about like, how maybe other museums can collaborate with them, or what collaboration looks like that can benefit more people broadly. So we'll just start here with what collaboration has been looking like. So exhibitions at the embassy museum are many of them are co created with faculty, the way that the exhibitions are built is that anybody actually any any city student, staff or faculty at the university can propose an exhibition. And so often we get the faculty who have different research areas or interests that will either do something of their own work, or will bring some other person's work into into their, this one example that I have here was an exhibition called on the drop of an Apple made that Darcy green, a professor in journalism brought about her research on individuals and the nature of work in between. And you don't see it here. But there were a number of actual technological things in this exhibition, there was an app that was called post owl, where people can email pictures of the exhibition to other people that they found compelling. There was some audio of a Barker, who was working here had had a big, loud speaker, talking about the nature of his work and trying to get more work in the area. And there was a 360 degree video on a screen that was a marketplace in between that was in that area. I know another one that I want to talk about really quickly is is the increase in the embassy museum co creating with community. The Embassy museum recently developed an exhibition with the army of survivors, who are survivors of the sexual assault of Nasser and had some very, like we're very mistrusting of MSU as an institution because they had been betrayed by the institution after all this, these these other horrible things. So it was a a difficult and challenging thing to do. But they ended up creating this exhibition with the army of survivors. And no, no decision that was made in that exhibition was made without the express permission of the army of survivors who are working on the project. And just give you a sort of sense of scale of this. This woman, I believe her name is Amanda Thomas show is standing next to all these these plates that they have on the wall. And some of them are pictures of people who are in the army of survivors. But all of them represent individuals who came forward, even if they weren't identified. And that's a tiny section of this large wall. The scale of it is incredible. And they recently won an award from the Michigan museums Association about community engagement and workflow like the best community engagement of a project. So we'll move on to Williams College

Unknown Speaker 05:00
Hi. Welcome. My name is Chad whiner and once again, and my voice is a little bit low. So I ask that you bear with me, karaoke may have something to do with it.

Max Evjen 05:17
But Oh, excellent NPR voice isn't?

Unknown Speaker 05:19
That's right. That's right. We'll dial it in. Well, we're coming from sunny San Diego. Welcome. I'm Manager, melon manager of Digital Initiatives at the Williams College Museum of Art. And I'm thrilled to be able to talk through some of these these concepts in collaboration is something that we hold very dear. At the Williams College Museum of Art. The picture you see here, is taken in a gallery we call object lab. And it is a space that is given over to faculty members. We work with faculty members from across campus. Each of those faculty members chooses a selection of works of art from our collection that they that they teach with. And we really encourage teachers from outside art, the art department and the art history department to make use of our collection. And so you'll see in this gallery collections from a neuroscience class and a physics class, perhaps a math class each semester, the selection is different. But it's always fascinating. This is an action photo, you'll see a geosciences teacher in the middle there with with his class. What you can't see on the other sides of these walls is that it is an active teaching space. So the wall he's pointing to has a projected image from above, the wall behind him has a little ledge for a laptop, and an HDMI cable, all of which remain in the space to signal that it's an active, usable learning space. And so this is a place where collaboration is is is front and center for us. This is an exhibition called Pink art. That is also an example of curricular collaboration. For us. This was an exhibition that was up about two years ago, as I just started my project at the Williams College Museum of Art. It was a collaboration with a computer science class, five of those students in the computer science class were tasked with scanning through all of our collection images, and sorting and ranking our collection by its pinkness. This was the task that was given to them. And each of those five students use very different approaches to writing their algorithms. And defining which works of art might be pink. In the end, it was when it started, I should say it was we were most interested in bringing the viewpoints and skills of computer science to bear on our images, and, and a cultural heritage collection. At the end, though, we were illuminating, coding as a creative writing process. And we were having great discussions about how a museum collection and museum collection data can help a computer science student find out about bias in data, find out about personal point of view, and historical artifacts in data. This is right at the time where larger community and culture more broadly was was critiquing Facebook, and Twitter for just such things. And so it was a great example of of bringing not only digital to the to the humanities, but but humanities to the digital side as well.

Unknown Speaker 09:17
All right, I'm bad girl. And I'm from the Museum of Texas Tech. So that's going to take this a slightly different angle. We've done a number of things that are collaborations with academic staff members on campus and faculty in the museum creating exhibits. But digital is actually something that's really sort of new for us. So I wanted to focus on the Lubbock Lake landmark and that's one of our satellite facilities at the Museum of Texas Tech. It's a nature preserve, as well as an archaeological site. We have 12,000 years of continuous human occupation and trails in an interpretive center. And over the last three years we've added in digital programs that are for the first time really building off of a collaboration of different staff interests in house and then we're laying the foundation Now for greater collaboration with students and faculty and creating exhibits. So that three years ago, we didn't have an official digital program. And we don't really have an official digital team, we have a group of us with different interests coming from different areas. So we had someone from archaeological field research, I came out of collections. And then somebody else coming out of administration, and then with the support of our administration started building these programs up using things like 3d photogrammetry, to scan our objects and make them more available to people 3d printing, and then eventually an app that we're using as a platform to build different interactives in the gallery, space. And so through that we've gone from basically static text exhibits over to having multi sensory exhibits, which is something that was really important to us. So that we have actually tactile 3d printed objects going in conjunction with an app we have developed now, or we can have audio tours that we put up quickly, and things like that. And then through this, recently, a staff member have started a digital heritage course there as well, if you're our museum science program, and we've been using that to encourage students to get involved and hopefully, over the coming years, we'll see more collaboration in that way where we start having more digital creations by students in the space. And so specifically, at least this semester, I know one student was asking for ideas of things they could do for their final project that might actually get to be incorporated. So we're definitely at an earlier phase and using digital for our exhibits at the landmark. But I'm hoping this is the way we're going to take collaboration into the future, and have some really cool created exhibits with students and faculty.

Unknown Speaker 11:33
Good morning. So the MIT Museum is very much a museum of the university, we have about one and a half million objects on our collection that are all related to people research, culture of campus, including Kismet Kismet is a artifact that that was made by Cynthia Brazil, she founded the field of social robotics. So this is how robots and human beings learn from each other. And we have this object on display right now. The problem though, is that this is a robot and robots are intended to move around. So what we've got in our space is this robot that's just static, it just sits there. And so you don't really doesn't even have a conversation with this thing. It's just there in this perpetual, perpetual grimace. So that we acquired this kind of in the in the 80s. And at the time, there really wasn't a great collaboration with how we are acquiring these kinds of kinds of objects. So this particular robot is in conversation with another artifact in this this exhibition called the motion. And this is research from the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory called mo scope. Next, please. And this is a video I'll try to talk through it. The idea of this research is that they are able to take to D videos of people moving around, and using machine learning and computer vision, try to understand and infer what the 3d model of that image might be. So this ballerina, you only see her in a 2d video, but maybe you can try to figure out what's going on with her hands behind her back. And when she turns and try to get the full model of that, of that, that's a character. I'm just gonna let this play out through until we get to show you one of those 3d renderings because you can see the backside of this in a way that you wouldn't be able to see you don't have the information from the video itself. There it is. Okay. Next, please. So we wanted to show this research in our this exhibition. And so what we started this conversation with a researcher who started with this could be he was using this as his major example, this runner, 2d version of a runner moving, they were able to interpolate the back part of that that image, and the way that they were showing out this work was by printing out a 3d representation of this, this model. And that's, that's awesome. And that's great. We're actually showing that artifact also in the in the in the exhibition. But the problem is that this is intended to be a animation. Okay, that's fine. So it's that three, that 3d model that we just have there, but it's static, it's actually not an animation. So you're not, it's not proving the point of the research. Just skip to the next one after. So we collaborated with this researcher to try to help him tell the story in a different way. Now, unfortunately, that's out there. Okay. Yeah, that's good. Okay, well, the wild moment is not here. But we worked with an MIT spin off called Looking Glass. What they've invented is a volumetric displays. So it's a way to show to look at 3d graphics without having to wear goggles or anything, just a piece of glass. And because it was the most appropriate way to show this particular research, we decided that was the right technology to use. So actually, you could spin the sculpture around and have it be a new kind of sculpture. But this collaboration was from you know, not only with us and the researcher but also another sort of spin off of MIT and it was really a sort of an intense conversation about how we as a museum could be of service to the rest To be able to tell that story.

Max Evjen 15:02
Okay, so now we're gonna move on to how these are sites of iteration and what that looks like. So, most recently, a project that I was in charge of at the MSU museum was an augmented reality pilot project, or minimum viable product, whatever you want to call it. Although that's a pretty useful way to talk about it. That we, we are in an institution that is extremely cash strapped, we actually had some money that was going to be put for some particular thing that we decided not to do that thing. And then to put money instead into buying these devices and getting stuff from the Unity Asset Store. And we worked actually with a student who was hired as a student worker, to develop this program, just to see what that how it might necessarily work. And so we decided to launch this, this app in front of a mural in this hall of animal diversity, that anecdotally, nobody looks at, like people walk through there, they just walk right by it, at least, pretty similar. Pretty much all the staff will tell you that, but we never really did any specific timing and tracking to really confirm it. But we still decided to test it out there. And, you know, even just by like a two or three minute thing where animals popped up, and maybe a few questions and interpretations popped up. When people did a survey after that, over 60% of them said that they learned something about animal adaptation or behavior, which I've done a lot of evaluations of exhibitions, and pretty much we do evaluations right after the experience. Nobody ever says anything about the central goals of the of the exhibit, even when they're plastered all over everything in the exhibition, right. So like, that was a pretty successful thing. Like said, don't work the museum anymore, so I'm not sure what they're gonna do with that. And that will actually feed into some of the conversation we're going to have in a moment. But that's an example of what we have, we have some money, we can try something and and see like how this works not to be like, we didn't like publicize this as Hey, come use our augmented reality thing, it was really just, we're gonna use this and test it and see see what happens and how this works and why it might be something people want to get more into.

Unknown Speaker 17:27
Great iteration is such a great, I think, and key opportunity for academic museums, at the winds College Museum of Art. I was trying to think of of, of key examples for us, and I think data most broadly, is, is where that iterative process works for us. Early on, in my three year project, we released our collection data, as open access the primary audiences for that were faculty and students, it was just as easy to release it for the whole world. So we did that as well. Our, our Mo for the collection data is to get it into classrooms, get it into projects, get it into people's art, and design process as well. Each time it is used in that way, we are focused on keeping the conversation going. And so we find out how it was used, what the problems with it, that may have been found. We find out about the gaps in it. Many of which we know about many, many of which we don't. And we get new ideas for for adding to it when a class has a student that's interested in in comparing dimensions over time, for instance, that was something that came up early on, we were able to focus our attention as a dev team on that, pulling that dimension data out of TMS, which is not a small thing. But those kinds of cycles, releasing the data, tracking it, making sure we're in the loop in terms of how it's being used, and then hearing about ways to to improve it and make it more useful for the next group is is a great example of iterative processes for us. This is another one that I really like. This is a visualization of the whole collection of the wind College Museum of Art 15,000 objects. It's organized by classification. Those are the big chunks. The brighter blue items are those that have been used most within exhibitions are keenly interested in how the collection is being used. And even, even on staff will look at a visualization like this. And we'll take it as a challenge. We'll look at those spaces that are not blue, the lighter white squares, those are, those are items that haven't been circulating haven't been used. We'll pull those out, we might feature those in a curatorial meeting, brainstorm, potential linkages among curriculum areas, or professors, we know our students interests, and figured out ways to get those in inaction in use. Once those are in use, and this has happened a dozen times, we'll we'll pull out an object that hasn't been used, we'll figure out connections that might work will suggest those to a faculty member, they'll be used. And most the usually when those are used, they'll start circulating, they'll get used again. And again. The trick with a visualization like this is, is to fight against that confirmation is right, and to pull out those items that that haven't been used. And so I guess the key takeaway there is that it's a learning process. If we can inspire someone to use it, we can learn from that use and get it used some more.

Unknown Speaker 21:31
Right. So an iterative process has been really critical to us coming from building everything in house and really low to no budget at any given time. So we've been trying to play off of staff skills, we had someone doing the programming, someone doing the modeling, and someone doing 3d printing, and then trying to come up creatively, what resources we already have and what we can make, and then try new interactive quickly, and then rebuild them based on visitor feedback. And we've been using this to really build support for a program. And using that sort of evaluation to make sure we're really meeting visitor needs. And if it doesn't, we'll pull it quickly. So we've been treating this very strongly as a lab. And I think that's something that is challenging, and that we don't have the big budget, but it's actually been somewhat beneficial in that we're really forced to think critically about what and why we were doing different things. So on the Yes, okay. The second one. So on this slide, one of the very first things we did was we took somebody's just super basic scan of one of her sculptures outside, and then some previous basic content, we're looking at image recognition in a mural, and we took our summer camp classes, and we had them just play with different things in a really basic format to see how they work together, how they learned with the iPad, what actually had meaning for them. And we came up with some really interesting things, they actually all really wanted to work collaboratively, literally together to scan a mural to find content within it. But that alone wasn't enough for learning outcomes. So we took that, and we went with it sort of curiosity, and we pulled out from our exhibit themes. One of our main themes was which animals are extinct, which are extra created, and which are excellent in a certain environment. And we use that to pull out an interactive based on their feedback, where we, when they scan different animals would tell you what animals and facts about it, but it was color coded. So there was almost a challenge to that. But the first iteration of this, we tried using something a little fancier with AR and things like that, where we'd make different content pop up. And what we found was that actually, it made things too cluttered, it didn't have the same benefits. So it had that sort of wow factor. But it didn't have the educational goals that we wanted. So we found that out through feedback through surveys and through just sort of informal group testing with children and some of our primer user groups. And we were able to change really quickly to an interactive that did have meaning. So even low budget, we were able to focus on what we're doing and why through using this iterative process. And then another area we tried this on, I think it's one slide up. So yes, so we used because we had small resources, and we managed to get a grant to have iPads for the gallery. But we developed everything else at house, we create an audio player. And we use leftover exhibit content to test out audio extra audio content for the gallery so that we weren't just text based anymore. And we use that to get support. And now we're going forward with that to try and iterate and evolve visual descriptive tours for users that are visually impaired and things like that. And we'll use the same platform. But really, we've used things that we can get off the ground quickly at first, just to try and build support for why we need these sort of things in the gallery and then reuse the same resources.

Unknown Speaker 24:41
So the idea of iteration is baked into the DNA of the MIT campus quite significantly. The motto of the place is men dude, man whose lives it matters, man in mind. The idea that you sort of make things to learn about how to how those things work. So it's our job as a museum to provide facilities and resources for students and faculty them Make things as best as we can. So in if you're familiar with the MIT architecture, there's a sort of an iconic building that's got a dome on it. It's where the students like to play pranks and put police cars on top of them, that kind of stuff. Atop the dome itself is a library. But on the first floor is the studio incompetent gallery was literally in the heart of this central building at MIT. It's in the place where along the Infinite Corridor, which is, it's not really infinite, obviously, but it's a place where, where there's a lot of traffic, a lot of students kind of walk by through that space. And the idea, you might have a stereotype of MIT students, and I'm gonna say you're probably not wrong, in most cases. I can say that I'm an alum, but but the people that a lot of students probably more identify as scientists, as technologists, as engineers, not necessarily as science communicators, or designers even. So this space is is intended to be a fluid, place for iteration where we as museum staff can help them tell their story in a different kind of way that they might not be used to. And so what ends up happening here are little projects get made that then get put into a gallery space that's right there as well, called the content gallery. And through some iteration, some of those things evolve into projects that are stable inside and are able to be supported in the main museum. In the main museum, we do have this program called projects and prototypes. And this is very much about taking works in progress. Our expectation is that these these exhibits will last, you know, maybe a few weeks, maybe a few months, they'll break. But the they're intended to give students and researchers a way to have access to audiences to learn about how people are using these interfaces, or their or their, or their research. So it's sort of act as an act of data collection for them as well. It's a way for, you know, there's there's definitely dialogue between our audiences and our researchers, so that they're, you know, there's definitely this, this exchange that's happening in that space as well. And then finally, we have what's what feels like a makerspace to a visitor called the idea hub. So it's staffed by our team, and you can kind of drop into it on a weekend or whatever. And they'll say, hey, what do you want to make today. And there's all sorts of tools and resources to 3d printers, this or these sorts of things. So that happens. And sort of some of that is sort of loose programming. We do offer some kind of, you know, particular, you know, programs and some weekends and that kind of thing. But we also, this is also another place for us perfect researchers to come in and iterate on their own projects in a more sustained and deep way. So this is an example. This is the students here, and I'm sorry, I forget her name, but she has this project where she has DIY, I guess they're bioengineering kits. So if you want to learn how to like splice genes at home, she sort of invented kind of a take home kit for this. And she was prototyping it with, with real visitors, as she was developing this process. And she sort of spun out into a company called amino labs.

Max Evjen 28:04
Okay, now we're talking about how these sites are designed for public exchange at the MSC Museum, and that gives us this could apply to iteration as well. But we decided to do a thing that we call the museum access hack, where we enlisted people across campus for a couple of different events. These are the individuals who did the first one because it was myself and Denise player who's the second from the right, who's the Head of Education at the museum, and then other staff and faculty across campus to go into each of the galleries with a laptop and open up this Google Doc and just type everything that's on the walls. Because there's so much content in the museum that and we don't have the source, they don't have the source documents for it. Because it's been there since. I mean, some things have been there since the 60s, some things have been there since since like the 90s. And it's just like, they just didn't keep stuff. So and it's been a really interesting experience, because we've been like going it and then just typing these things out and realizing that doesn't happen anymore. That's not called that anymore. And so we're going through, but the reason to do it is that once we have that we can make adjustments, but we can also do things like translate. We can do things like make it more accessible in a variety of ways, why we're calling the axe attack, because that once we have all that material, then we can do a variety of things with it. So I know they're not there yet with all of it, but they're they're definitely making some progress on it.

Unknown Speaker 29:43
Right, this is an image from an immersive interactive installation that just went up in the last month or so at the Williams College Museum of Art. It's called all at once. It's a collaboration between my team and studio in New York City called su The other green aisle, I'm actually not going to talk too much about the installation itself. But I would love to focus on this idea of public exchange. For us and on our campus, the Art Museum is one of the few places where a faculty member or a staff member or student can access a public audience. A lot of the spaces on campus are meant exclusively for students exclusively for faculty members, the Art Museum is one place that is optimized for that exchange between campus and the rest of the world. And we, when we work with faculty members, we sometimes in subtle ways, sometimes not so subtle, emphasize this fact, too, that the museum can be a place where a computer science professors ideas can get out to the world, for instance, that is one of the things that that this installation did. It allowed our computer science faculty to think about machine learning and AI in a new way. And to get those ideas circulating. With the with the community and audiences more more broadly, it also allowed us as a museum and as a digital team, to think about collection interfaces in a broader way, with our public communities, and not just as a as an institution or as a team. So that idea of a museum being a public exchange place within a campus is key.

Unknown Speaker 31:46
So I took this a slightly different direction as well. But since we're building up a program, for the first time, we wanted to really look at with digital content, what will keep people from interacting with it. So we looked at that sort of inclusion and how we build accessible interactives. And having a variety of different content delivery, we also looked at our community. And so we made sure that anything we had was available on site for checkout, nobody had to bring their own device. And then we also looked at, we're trying to brainstorm different reasons people might not be able to interact with our research through digital and one we came up with was seniors who might be less comfortable. So as part of that we ran a 10 week digital course for seniors, where we started from basic turning the device on and off, and how you swipe and everything like that, and random all the way through. until by the end of the 10 weeks, we did a capstone where he focused on how you can go to museums and how you can ask for different devices for checkouts, how this can help with you want if you want to try different sorts of learning experiences, and they all got to try out our app, try out some things in AR, go practice learning photography skills around the landmark. And so that set us up we're hoping to set ourselves up as we're developing these digital programs. If we're going to try and exchange with community, how do we really do that and make sure that our whole community is actually benefiting? And then the other way we focused on exchange is how do we present our academic research on site. So we're an active archaeological research site. And every summer we run excavations, and there are public tours and things like that, you can go down and see the excavations, we have one large family day, every summer. So it's not just an interpretive space, it's active research is going on. But in general, that's closed through the winter. And sometimes objects are just too fragile for visitors to actually see on exhibit, or they're needed for research somewhere else. So we also thought about exchange in terms of how can we really share this creatively with visitors. And to do that we focused on using some 3d modeling and 3d printing, but contextualized with why we want to show this specific object so that they can come in and explore in different sort of sensory ways whether they want to see it in augmented reality and the gallery using the iPad, which is the two users on the far left where they're manipulating an ancient bison bone, or whether it's the 3d printed versions of shafts and other photos of that so that people can come and have that tactile experience.

Unknown Speaker 34:12
So our museum was about to go through a major transition to a new building on campus. And as part of that we're doing a thorough rebranding and really just a reiteration of a mission to make MIT's Research and Innovation accessible to the world. And part of that is very much leaning into this idea of having deep conversations with our constituents and audiences. You know, the stuff that's happening on that campus affects us on a daily basis in very profound ways. So we think that we can be a place where we can have real conversations with with our, with the public about, about research and innovation. So one example that we have an exhibition from last year called Big Bang data where this was actually a traveling exhibition that came through and it was a lot about you know what happens on a A world where there's so much data collected about us on a regular basis, because we take traveling exhibitions, but we always put the MIT spin on it, or at least get some kind of contribution to it. That's that's our point of view. So there's the work from joy, blue on white bulan. We need anybody can, Bill and Winnie. She is the founder. She's a researcher at MIT. She's the founder of something called the algorithmic algorithmic Justice League. And she's really looking at things like that data bias, and, you know, things like you facial recognition software has data has been trained on white faces. And so she was not being recognized by these things. So not only do we show some of her work in the gallery itself, but we also did a quite as extensive sequence of programming for lectures and sort of hands on workshops to kind of tackle these issues with our public. And then, around that same time, we also hosted this exhibition called the enemy, which is a collaboration by journalist artist, Korean bin Khalifa and MIT professor Fox Harrell, who runs the imagination, creativity, creativity and expression lab on campus. Sounds like a cool place to be. He's He's innovating on different torque storytelling techniques. So this was a VR experience in our gallery, we cleared out the entire first floor to host this thing was a separate ticket that we had to the people would buy, and we had to like hire up staff. And it was a it was a big deal. And it really audacious for us to try. But the idea is, so Kareem bin Khalifa went to a variety of conflict ridden spots around the globe. Israeli Palestine, Congolese war, war torn areas, there was a Colombian drug drug gang, drug warfare place that he was investigating. And he did, he interviewed combatants from opposite sides of those complex and used with Fox with the collaboration of Fox used 3d scanning as he was doing this to collect this stories from these people in a 3d model. Then the experiences you there's a visitor to the museum, you put on these VR goggles, and we've we've put motion capture in the ceiling. And like, literally, what you're seeing in the VR space is a white gallery. And when you reach out and touch the wall in the white gallery, you're going to feel the wall in the space. So but it's it was very it was this was a 45 minute exploration like you're in this this white gallery, for me, and it was intense, what would happen is you'd be in there for a little while you there's beauty of like, some sort of image on the wall, maybe some text, and suddenly you sort of see your periphery, this character come through, and it was one of these combatants that has been scanned. And the the there's one guy that goes on one side of the room and the opposite side of the carpet on the other side of the room, and then you go up and even kind of just hear them tell these really deep passionate stories. And they're just trauma, the trauma that that they experience on a regular basis. So you do this for like, it's tough, you're hearing about their families, and what's happening and you get to the end of this thing. And sort of the payoff is, unbeknownst to you, the system was kind of observing you as you were interacting or listening to these stories. And it would not make any value judgments. It would just say things like, Hey, you were listening to the Israeli person for a little bit longer than you were the Palestinian or you were making more eye contact with the this one versus the other one. What do you think that means? And that's it, it was just a provocation? What do you what does that mean? The this was using sort of artificial intelligence research alongside the art from the from the journalist, but really as a place to like, just go there, let's let's figure out, let's figure out what these things mean. And we can be as a university, we can play a place to have those conversations and exchange.

Max Evjen 38:46
Okay, so we were going to spend time talking about a little bit amongst ourselves, but we spent all of our time talking about the projects. So I was gonna, like, bring out some themes to discuss, but we'll just bring this opens up for everybody. And we have a microphone here that we can bring out for everyone to keep for accessibility purposes and for the recording. I mean, you know, we because we were talking a lot about these projects, before we had this this session, like what we're going to talk about, and one of the things we talked about is like, Okay, how do we get buy in for digital from administrators, right. And this, this might be something that like, I think anybody here could probably talk about in terms of any institution, but in particular, like in, in, in some academic museums, maybe less so in the MIT Museum, just because the nature of the use of the university, but like, as opposed to like the MSU museum where I previously worked, right, that that's the one of the 60 year old museum of natural, like science and culture, natural history stuff, you know, so it's going to be a little bit different. What, what what does anybody have any particular thoughts on, on how you've done that or what kind of challenges that's that's presented for you? in your context in academic museums, and we will have any identifier so, you know, it's not a chattel, Chatham House Rules session, but

Unknown Speaker 40:16
it may sound bizarre, but in order to have some successes with digital in the gallery, we had to have successes administratively with digital first. Yeah. So looking at business process analysis, find out where there's gaps, find out where there's opportunities for replication with inaccurate information, showing them successfully in small increments, how if they change practice or use different tools, they could improve or reduce those issues. And then once they become more competent and fluent using technology as a team in their administrative work, they begin to become more open to thinking about how they might use that technology in the galleries. But like, I've had very little success getting technology in the galleries, it's a very long game. So

Max Evjen 41:09
I will say that, actually, surprisingly, I, I had a pretty easy time just doing stuff in gallery, it as long as the exhibition team necessarily wanted it, then that was something that was going to happen, right. And there wasn't really a constraint on that. But and then that and a lot of that, that my time spent there was before we had a full time director than we got the full time director. This this particular individual is it doesn't have an aversion to digital stuff, but it just has a lot of ideas all the time. And so it's it's more like trying to sort of focus in on the thing to do. And the like when we did the AR thing that that was actually something that that the the exhibition manager, and I decided that we should press the trigger on and do, it wasn't something that he said we should do. Well, and that started before he came in, right. So. But it will be interesting to see if they do anything with that, because like I said, No work anymore. So I did that project, we have the results from that. I don't know what's going to happen after that. But I believe that like certain things have had like certain decisions about digital have been made very easily just because I could convince this person through like things that would interest them. That it would work.

Unknown Speaker 42:37
Context may vary. I'm at a, at a small liberal arts college. But if I can show that a faculty member is interested, and perhaps a group of students, and doesn't have to be a big group of students, and it can be one faculty member, I can go to my director and say, we have an opportunity. And sometimes that's enough, and has been enough for for several of our most formative projects.

Unknown Speaker 43:11
Can they react to the to the assertion that it's automatic that digital buy in to MIT? I think that there is absolutely the expectation that when somebody comes to the MIT Museum, they're going to see something digital in the galleries, or they're going to, and for better or worse, right? Because what that does is that introduces some pressure into our, our job, to just throw stuff in the gallery for the sake of throwing stuff in the gallery without really evaluating why we're doing it or what what how does that really advance the storytelling that we're trying to do? It's also and I realized everything I'm saying and about to say is extraordinarily privileged for you know, being at the university and the amount of resources that we have there. But things like, you know, we have these conversations all the time. Why would a student comes to the MIT Museum where we're, you know, we are scrambling for cash, just a long, long one setting the other department? Why would somebody come to the MIT Museum when they're doing so many cool things in their own dorm room? And why why it's really about how do we get these students to care enough about you know, old computers or you know, so it's sort of sort storytelling is a little bit different from that perspective. My you know, I also have this this fortunate situation that we are doing this building moves and there's a capital campaign and like there's a lot of energy right now around let's get to like amazing media wall and like, let's raise money for that. First let's let's get like a like, let's stabilize our ticket sale system with stable so these sorts of things which has an academic Museum, we've actually not had to really think too hard about this we can fly under the radar and the university is not going to let us go out of business really, though when we moved to this new spot, the Wyndham it's really centralized on on a subway stop and it is, you know, the spotlights going to be honest and a tremendously new way. And so like The kind of digital by and I'm trying to get as like, let's just make sure we can like we're gonna sustain their you know, that's that's, that's the harder thing because as, as an academic Museum, we're run by a director who's faculty who is a lot more interested in the I guess they have to say it is a lot more interested in the the content that may be the operations of the place.

Unknown Speaker 45:28
So I think you raised a really good point. And my question, just following up is maybe not necessarily how do we get buy in for digital form administrators? But how do we define what that buy in is, and ensure that we're all on the same page? And I don't know if anyone has an answer for that are some success stories?

Unknown Speaker 45:50
Well, it's not fully a success story. But just to your point into that question. I mean, we have to be our own biggest advocates. And what that means is being absolutely steeped within our field and immersed within it. And then using that knowledge and your experience to communicate with your staff. So what I asked for his small time to do presentations at all staff meetings, based on successful models that I see going on, in museums, whether that's in collections access, technology, and accessibility, digital strategy approaches. So it's sort of building knowledge and awareness for my staff, not my staff, but my colleagues, which is a real challenge. So at my museum, they recognize the value because my position exists, which is really more of a strategic digital manager position. But they don't understand what I'm supposed to be doing there. With that said, so, again, there's not one answer it is context. But we all have to be these incredible advocates for ourselves. And we need to share what's going on in the field, for that awareness to build capacity. So just another quick example is that our collections manager and our curator curator, they really they just know, software systems that serve as their very specific siloed needs, they have no sense or understanding of how to leverage that for really some incredible amazing things that are happening, that I think they'd be excited about, but they need to be exposed to those. Thank you.

Unknown Speaker 47:33
I think, to follow up on that, too, like what what is the buy in look at look like? Is it is a great question. For us, it feels like we're in a little bit of a difference. Base. We don't have a lot of technology. In the galleries, we don't have big screens in the galleries, sometimes we'll have an iPad, very subtle, very kind of, you know, next to the to the bench over there. But we do have a lot of technology in the galleries, the exhibitions I showed you where technology and digital driven. The pink art exhibition, for instance, was by all accounts, data visualization, in accordance with the opportunities and the ways that the Williams College Museum of Art Works. We did that data visualization with actual works of art in a physical space. I love that that can happen. That those digital ideas can be expressed in the way in Art Museum, best expresses itself in physical terms. So that the way digital can can work its way out in your museum doesn't have to be in gallery or internal or fancy or splashy. It can be systems. And it can also work in line with the way your museum is optimized.

Max Evjen 49:07
i We're running out of time a little bit from what we planned. So I just put all the rest of the sort of questions that I was gonna have for this discussion up here. Oh, yeah. Did you want to add some of that? It's

Unknown Speaker 49:17
the same question. But so I think for us, because we're getting started recently, we didn't have the digital before. We used even just informal evaluation throughout as much as possible to really show that need. And I think the way we viewed that we were having that sort of success and buy in is from being involved in the first exhibit planning meeting for an upcoming exhibit. And that that's a challenge. And you've had an incredibly supportive director who's been Yeah, amazing. Yeah.

Max Evjen 49:43
If you're lucky enough to be to be recognized that you're there from the first meeting, right in those situations. I think for digital people in general, in these museums, it's really important, because all too often, like the meetings happen, you're not there. When we were discussing what we're gonna talk about here, I mean, some just came to my mind, because we're talking about iteration so much, and how these are sites for iteration, all those, all these projects that you saw of what happens around. Okay, so we're doing all this iteration, and we're sites for this. Are we supposed to be the ones that are like scaling up? Are we the ones that like, you know, can we like, are we supposed to do that? Is that something, you know, and then I, as a test, I went yesterday to the MVP, move beyond MVP session just to see this and what they're talking about. And the big focus on agile, right? And, and I can see some of that as possibilities in some of these projects. But I know that like in terms of my museum, the AR project I showed you guys that took a year and a half to do. So it's iterative, but it's not fast. Right? So that like that, that couldn't necessarily be agile. But I mean, there's there's a possibility of I don't know, is there? Is there some need? Like, are we because what does iteration for? Is this iteration for something after that? Or is it iteration for the sake of iteration? I have so many questions.

Unknown Speaker 51:23
In my experience, again, I think it's context. So I'm at the low art museum at the University of Miami. And there's just a lot going on. In the university. There's a lot of innovation and creativity. And people are interested in experimentation. So right now I'm trying to leverage the iterative process to do proof of concept that would then clearly be useful for going after grants and donations. So a quick example is there's a class it's called the CO lab. It's part of an MFA in interactive media at UNM. And so each semester, their class chooses an organization to work with, and then create something that services there needs, the classes made up of web designers, coders, engineers, etc. So right now they're doing a digital visualization project, trying to build an API to connect to our collections management system. We're working closely the university with Magic Leap, which is a an AR, platform. So two groups are also creating a proof of concept to experiment with AR, none of these would be gallery ready for general visitors, they'll just sort of be again, this proof of concept, this iterative thing, where, but the museum is closely working with the University in this kind of research capacity. And to me, that's really exciting. And then so we as a community, if it's true, that there really is capacity that we are more iterative than the rest of the field, that's something we should really figure out, see if we can measure and talk more about it, because that alone is seems like we've achieved something to model for the rest of the field.

Max Evjen 53:09
Yeah, I agree. And that that's something that that actually, when I went that's actually a standardized. That doesn't really that's not really the identity of what I'm seeing from the one I was working in. And other ones that I've that I've talked to other people from other ones, organizations, I've talked to you. But yes, that point that while this is something that that that is, like somewhat unique to us, there are bigger organizations doing integration, yes. But this, as these are sites, like, specifically designed for that. That is some I feel like that's something actually special that we can take, put forward and promote as, like, that's, that's the the amazing thing about these spaces. Right, or one of them,

Unknown Speaker 53:53
right? Yeah, I think, just just to build on that, I think for us, we want to embrace the opportunities of being small. And think critically, and it's part of our DNA, then to to share those learnings that happened through iteration, and perhaps be a lab space for the museum sector more broadly. And I think that's an opportunity for academic art museums. For us, that also relieves us of the pressure to be big, and to have all the constraints that come with that. So we see it as opportunities.

Max Evjen 54:36
There's another sort of outcome you have in session, which was like, Okay, let's talk about how other non academic museums might like work with academic museums in some particular way. And that's how I was kind of envisioning that question of the scaling up, right. Like maybe it's something where there's a partnership to develop something I'm thinking in, specifically, the the line of Broad Art Museum at MSU is contemporary art. museum on campus and they just got funding well, not just it's about a year ago to get funding from the Knight Foundation to develop these labels. Brian Christian Steiner was here did a presentation about that here that are an even Brian says they're not, it's not really labels, right? It's beyond that, but they're but they're they're just like testing it to see what how it's gonna work, right. And that model is like I see that that like that that's that's entirely what Brian's talking about doing is we're not making a product, we're not making a deliverable. We are testing out this thing to see, like what we can do with it. Because once once you start proving what the capabilities are, then somebody else can actually take it right, and do something else with it. Right? Like, yeah, they can use it, that museum, but that's probably that's why meant to be in that museum. And beyond there, right? Do we see any other sorts of opportunities like that, where we're where people are developing stuff, and then that it's meant to be something that's going to be extended further? Or is this just something that we're like developing just for the museums themselves?

Unknown Speaker 56:01
I think our big advantage is that we have access to faculty maybe in ways that external museums might not have access to ensure they can form their direct relationship with me there's ways to be more formalized around I'm collaborations with these external folks that are, you know, I want to talk to that AI researcher at MIT that and but scope work through the museum to get to get at that. And that sort of builds up and helps out the entire field if we can start doing stuff like that.

Unknown Speaker 56:35
So just adding on to what you were describing about connections to a bigger world and using the museum space first, at our institution, we had partnered with an artist contemporary artists, Khalil Joseph to develop a project that he was working on and showcase it across campus that was then officially premiered at the Venice BenAli. Earlier this year. So that was an example of trying to, I mean, it wasn't going to come internally, it was like the splash and the appeal of connecting with the named artist. But what was interesting, and this was a thought or question I had that came up earlier was like, in the course of that project and hosting it. We ran into issues with the overall University IT security system. I'm at Stanford, and so they we don't even have like, on site, it or digital strategy people out the museum. So in this case, the artists wanted to have like a direct feed into pushing out his content into the museum into the dining hall, into one of the student gathering spaces. And it was really, really, really challenging to set that up, to not even have the capacity in house to start that conversation to provide competence or assurance of what we were doing to just logistics with an artist who's traveling all around the world. I mean, it was

Max Evjen 58:09
an I mean, maybe that might have been or like that could be an opportunity to express to other others in the university sort of needs. Right.

Unknown Speaker 58:18
And that goes back to what this gentleman was talking about, about that administrative by, like one thing to try to cultivate that within a very lean staff. And then to have kind of this realistic, but also like kind of, I don't know, concerns about security from the university it level, right. And then, like, the issue about, David, what you're mentioning, you know, like, why would people want to come here when they're doing really cool stuff in their dorm rooms? And they're getting funded? Like, immediately? Yeah. So switching audience and who we're trying to cater to are now more of a kind of looking at international tourists are coming to the campus as if it were like visiting, you know, in their mind their form of the Met. It's like part of the tour route through Silicon Valley visit Stanford visit. You know, we're places you can get through that. You can't get into lab, but you can get into a museum, right? Yeah. I don't know. I don't have any answers, but I'm just appreciative the things that are being stirred up from this group.

Max Evjen 59:24
Yeah, thank you. That's a great thing to add to this discussion, I think. And I think that actually is time for us to open up Memorial gallery.

Unknown Speaker 59:34
So not being from the museums, but from the IT side of things. Get your IT folks involved from the start. Instead of calling them when you really need them, I guess, because you'll get more buy in from them and more help. And more of the how can we make it work instead of you need to make it work now. So that is just a plug for the IT conversation? Right. I mean, I know most of you don't have an IT on staff. But you might be able to be friend or tried to get somebody from the university it to listen to you.

Max Evjen 1:00:09
Yeah, I don't think anybody this comprehensive adverse to having digital come first in the discussions, I would also add accessibility, that if we're thinking about those things first, before we get into anything than that, I can only help

Unknown Speaker 1:00:26
just start building it from the beginning.

Unknown Speaker 1:00:32
It's a great example. And I think they go so well together to get these, these these groups, because it as well, and I know this from personal experience, they love to be involved with a public facing art project in the campus Museum. That's, that's fantastic. And in the same way that you're saying, and I, I would love to add your point to what I said about getting faculty members and students involved that can sometimes push a project forward. In the same way if you're at an art museum, if you can get an artist involved, sometimes that that changes everything. And that's an that's a starting point. Yes,

Max Evjen 1:01:22
yeah. Proposal. Oh, yeah. Thank you, everybody. Really appreciate it. Have a great end of your day. Thank you for sticking it out to the end of MCN and come to this panel. Thank you very much. I have this great discussion.