Who’s Afraid of Modern Art?

"Who's afraid of modern art?“ – with this question, students begin their guided journey through the Städel Museum`s new online course. The oldest museum foundation in Germany is celebrating their 200th birthday by redefining their communication strategy to fit the digital age. Part of this change is the implementation of an online art history course and more recently a virtual reality tour of the museum in the 19th century. This course is an addition to the museum new offerings, like a digitorial, a digital catalogue that informs you about the current exhibition or an online audio tour.

AMT Lab contributor Seggen Mikael sat down with Chantal Eschenfelder, Head oft he Educational Department, and Axel Braun, Head of PR and Online Communication, to discuss the online course`s implementation and success, as well as the Städel Museum’s other offerings in their digital revolution.

Artful.ly Unchained: Have Nano-Nonprofits Found the CRM of Their Dreams?

On October 21st, 2013, Fractured Atlas officially ended the beta phase of their cloud-based CRM solution, Arful.ly. Over 1,400 organizations participated in this five-year process, characterized by what the Fractured Atlas team called “community-driven design.” Harnessing the collective wisdom of organizations and arts professionals, they took suggestions both online and through a number of sessions, soliciting ideas for features to include in the finished version. 

The Cloud

Moving your organization's data to a cloud server might be a good idea at this time.  There are several advantages to working off of a cloud server and a few drawbacks. Some advantages to going to cloud computing:

Accessibility is generally improved through cloud storage.  You can access data from anywhere that you have internet access.

Security on cloud storage services is up to the standard of where ever you have your cloud.  Google and Amazon have some of the best experts on digital security in the world for instance and using a cloud operated by them gives you a greater degree of safety for your data.

The Capacity of cloud storage is very flexible and is expandable with comparative ease.  The fact that cloud storage servers will never need to be upgraded or replaced does save you capital expenses as well as man hours.

The downside:

You don't own it and you have to play by someone else's rules.  If you are using a smaller company, please, make sure to check out their backup plans, security measures, and records regarding downtime and maintenance schedules.

It may be hard to use cloud servers with certain types of databases or other programs and as such may present an integration issue (ticketing systems, development programs, etc).  Make sure you have a plan to get the information from point A to point B if necessary.

In event that you don't have access to the internet you are completely cut off unless you back up to a physical source onsite.  It can be distressing for obvious reasons if your internet service goes sideways and you end up with multiple idle employees until it is restored.


The Best of Both Worlds: QRpedia.

While scanning a quick response (QR) code on the back of a cereal box only to find it directs you to the cereal’s web site is, how can I put this politely, fun (that’s my attempt at sarcasm), it neither reflects the appropriate usage nor does it maximize the potential of those nifty little black and white squares. There's the cereal box QR code, and then there's QRpedia. QRpedia is a program announced by the Wikimedia Foundation in September 2011. It is currently competing in Barcelona at the Mobile World Congress for the title of the United Kingdom’s “most innovative mobile company.” Today, on February 29th, the winner of the award will be announced. The reward? The United Kingdom Trade and Investment’s (UKTI) support to expand the company internationally.

But enough about the competition. What exactly is QRpedia and how does it work in the museum setting? It functions just as an ordinary QR code does, except for its whole language-detecting brilliance. A Polish speaking viewer walks up to, let’s say, Claude Lorrain’s Seaport at Sunset (1639) hanging in the Louvre in Paris. In front of the text panel, the visitor whips out his/her smartphone and snaps a photo of the QRpedia code. The QRpedia code instantly detects the phone’s language and the browser opens to a Wikipedia article on the painting or related topic in that written language. If an article on Claude Lorrain’s Seaport at Sunset isn’t available in Polish, the QRpedia code will direct the user to the next most closely related topic available in that language, perhaps an article on the French, 17th-century landscape painter, Nicolas Poussin.

QRpedia’s language-detecting technology makes it truly unique. For foreign visitors, this eliminates the expense of an audio guide from museum visits (if there is a guide even available in their preferred language) and replaces it with the ease of snapping a photo, the interactivity of a QR code and the straight-forward, mobile-formatted information of a Wikipedia article.

[embed]http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=aXCUOpBytxA [/embed]

Terence Eden, the lead developer of QRpedia, says

QRpedia is the perfect way to get access to massive amounts of cultural information. A typical museum display has less than a paragraph of text, often just in one language – QRpedia can give encyclopedic information in hundreds of languages. Recently, in Derby Museum, a painting by Joseph Wright was taken away for cleaning. The Museum staff have put a QRpedia code in its place so that visitors can still see a high quality image of the painting, and read information about the painting and its creator.

The program was created at the Derby Museum and Gallery in England. Today it is available online for any and every museum, gallery, library, public park, archive, historic landmark and so on. QRpedia has been implemented at numerous prestigious museums and galleries worldwide, including the United Kingdom’s National Archives and Spain’s Fundació Joan Miró. How about the United States, you ask? Why yes! It has been implemented at the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. But why stop there? Its usage is not limited to arts and cultural institutions. Fun fact- the Occupy movement uses QRpedia codes on its posters and publications to disperse information to a wide and diverse audience.

What’s in it for the museum? A lot, actually.

1) You can create your own, online, as often and as many as you want.

2) For museums with multilingual audiences, a text panel can become cluttered and overwhelming with various translations. Additionally, the space allotted to provide relevant information becomes increasingly limited with numerous translations, causing you to cut-back even further on relevant information.

3) Because Wikipedia is editable, a curator, exhibition director, museum official or artist can translate articles to various languages and create articles if there is a void. That being said, so can anyone else. But be brave. Be bold. Be confident in the power of the public intellectual collective.

4) According to Roger Bamkin, the co-creator of QRpedia and the chair of Wikimedia UK, “We see e-volunteers giving thousands of hours to support museums... Hundreds of new articles have been created in dozens of different languages.” Beyond printing the codes, I’d say the work is done almost entirely for you.

5) QRpedia codes are not limited to paintings and items in your collection. Incorporate them in museum signage, directionals, cafe menus, etc.

6) QRpedia also records usage analytics. Museums, galleries, whoever, can track the number of QRpedia users, the paintings with the most QR code action, the most common languages, etc. In my humble opinion, it offers a rather innovative way to get to know your audience.

Accessible, innovative, interactive (for those inside the museum and those elsewhere translating Wikipedia articles without any intent to ever visit the museum…), and FREE. For museums and cultural institutions looking to expand into the QR code realm, this is the place to start. The Wikipedia articles are already written, online, and translated. Why not offer your visitors a more complete museum experience in their preferred language?

A Look at Typography: Google Web Fonts and More!

This terrific, typographic Thursday, let’s take a flourishing swoop through the world of serifs, ligatures, and stems. If your knowledge of type is limited to Times New Roman, Arial, and the omnipresent Helevetica, its time you enlarged your typographical horizon. For no amount of bolding, italicizing, and underlining can emphasize the importance of using appropriate and engaging typefaces.

Recently, the Metropolitan Museum of Art won the “Best in Class” award from Interactivity Media for its new website. While the Met had a lot of help from Cogapp, a company specializing in digital media technologies, there are number of cost-effective ways to improve the visual appeal of your own site; typography being one of the oldest and most aesthetically attuned.

A little over a century ago, the glistening era of the Parisian Belle Époque was beautifully, and textually illustrated in the posters by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. During World War I, Dadaists employed unconventional typography in their manifestos to signal an era of violence that could no longer conform to the bourgeoisie proprieties of the past. Even our love for vintage posters from the earlier half of the twentieth century has a lot to do with the brilliant use of typography!

But somewhere along the line, we became rather stiff in our typographical efforts. Concerns with readability lead to an irrational fear of the serif, and the world forgot that it had come this far, using typefaces besides Arial or Helvetica. While it is true that some of the older typefaces lose their readability when viewed online, there are many, many typefaces that have been created since the advent of the web. These newer font families are easy on the eyes, in both readability and visual flamboyance. Forget Comic Sans, it’s time for Fonts Sans Boredom.

One of the best places to start searching for the perfect typeface is in the neat world of Google Web Fonts. "Google Web Fonts makes web fonts quick and easy to use for everyone, including professional designers and developers. We believe that there should not be any barriers to making great websites. Our goals are to create a directory of core web fonts for the world and to provide an API service so that anyone can bring quality typography to their webpages."

The fonts provided by Google are open source, which means they are free and can be used sans fear! Each font is accompanied by a short paragraph describing its origins and the best uses (titles, sub -headings, paragraph text) for that particular style. You may be interested in an article in Mashable that gives you step by step instructions on How to Implement Google Font API On Your Website.

 Another great resource for the art of the alphabet is the website I Love Typography. The site features lots of informative articles by John Boardley, the publisher of Codex, the journal for typography. If you happen to desire a more typographical world, the website is great way to learn about different typefaces and their appropriate usage. As Boardley writes, “It’s just about impossible to imagine a world without type, but at the same time type’s ubiquity has most of us taking it for granted. So take a closer look.”

If you do take a closer and more critical look, you will soon notice how some sites employ typefaces to their advantage. I Love Typography is, of course, an undoubtedly great example! Others include The New Yorker, which uses beautiful text and plenty of white space to lessen the clutter and increase its visual appeal. Typographica and The New York Moon (showcased above) are other great examples of websites that transform text into graphic design! An entire list of sites showcasing the marvels of typography can be found in an article by the Design Cubicle.

So let terrific typography embolden you! Let's use it to eliminate textual overload and alphabetical lackluster.

Mobile Fundraising Applications: The Apple policy over one year later

Apple banned fundraising apps for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod over a year ago (to much controversy) just as the first fundraising app hit the market through eBay/MissionFish.  The field of software for fundraising as a result of the ban is anemic. Until this policy is removed it seems unlikely that major fundraising will take place via mobile applications.  As the iPhone is the number one smart phone on the market developers have much less incentive to build software for fundraising purposes.  It can be extrapolated that once the ban is lifted the fund-raising/development world will be playing catch-up for years.

Here are two notable successes/efforts to do fundraising through mobile apps over the last year:

eBay and Missionfish are on the verge of offering donation capabilities through eBay's mobile application for Android (it was originally intended for the iPhone).  These donations should be relatively easy to put through and involves the user downloading the mobile eBay application and then searching for your cause.  On the organization's end the donation item has to be set up as well as the account which will interface with paypal.

In the UK a group called Marie Curie Cancer Care managed to get around the ban by setting up an app that allows users to request donations from friends through text messaging.  The application itself doesn't collect the funds but is party to gathering them.

If you want to take action, you can sign the current petition to overturn the ban here.


Performing Arts Legacies Online

Recently the Merce Cunningham Dance Company shut down following the death of Merce Cunningham.  The action taken by the founder are somewhat unique in the world of the arts and there have been observations of what this means.  Meanwhile the content of the Merce Cunningham Company, at least in part can still be found online through various video projects and the archive left by the company through the Living Legacy Plan and maintained by the Merce Cunningham Trust.  The continued availability of this content is carrying on the legacy in the true spirit of its founder who frequently wrote of the transitory nature of his performance and was a student of Buddhist philosophy.

Further performances have resided online for years through projects like On The Boards TV which is currently celebrating its two year anniversary with a sale of online content.  The content can be accessed through one time rental, purchase, and through subscription and is high quality, having been shot on 4-5 hi-definition cameras.  Through content providers like On The Boards TV  and do it yourself online venues such as YouTube and Vimeo the amount of online performing arts content has grown significantly.  Artists are gradually recognizing that real content online is critical for accessing new audiences and maximizing market penetration.

Innovation in the field of dance and theater can go deeper than this.   Critics have noticed a trend at fringe festivals of micro-performances and intimate theater.    While artists seem to be taking advantage of physical spaces for the time being, the possibilities for using digital spaces are increasing everyday.  The idea of doing live performances online has certainly received attention.  The growth of services such as Skype make interfacing virtually and therefore using these same services as a performance venue more likely every year.


Pinterest, Instagram, and Percolate: The Latest in Social Media

Today’s social media networks are engaging in covert retrospection. Even as the world preoccupies itself with its future, social media platforms are becoming uncannily reminiscent of the past. Twitter is the modern day telegram, Facebook the diary that is no longer hidden, and recently, there has been a flurry of activity on Pinterest and Instagram, both of which are equally retro savvy.

A board where you can pin up your favorite ideas and images. A lens that lets you transport your photos back to 1977. Yes, Pinterest and Instagram are definitely retrograde in their outlook, and more importantly, incredibly popular. In fact, so many have taken an interest in Pinterest that last year it was “one of the top ten most visited social networks.” Hence, a host of organizations have begun to use these networks to visually engage with their readers, customers, or audiences.

Pinterest is a virtual pin board where you can “organize and share all the beautiful things you find on the web.” Users can categorize their interests into boards and subsequently build on that interest through pinning up images that inspire or appeal to them. Moreover, each pin can be re-pinned, liked, and commented on, leading to the creation of a social dialogue.

Recently, there was an informative article in Outspoken Media about how to effectively use Pinterest.  In her article, the author mentioned that while it is against the Pinterest’s etiquette to use the site for self-promotion, brands could nevertheless use it to narrate their own story, rather than the story of what they sell.

“Pinterest works best when brands show customers what’s going on below the surface. When they allow consumers to see the spirit of their brand by showing them not what they do, but why they do it – what inspires them, what moves them, what the company culture is based on. They do that all through topic-specific boards.”

Given the entirely visual motivations of Pinterest, it’s striking that not many arts organizations are on the site. There is even a whole category of pins under Art! If your organization’s mission, vision, passions, and inspirations can be conveyed visually, then you may want to check whether Pinterest is hiding behind more significant pins (Facebook, Twitter) on your social media brown board.

While Pinterest is teeming with inspiring and beautiful pictures, the social media app Instagram, may just be the source of those pictures. Instagram is an app that lets you filter your images in a variety of styles, which can then be uploaded to the Instagram site and shared with other users. The filters, which are remarkably, aesthetically attuned, have probably redeemed many a picture from the depths of Dante’s photographic inferno, (if one were to exist).

And for an app that is used, even by the President of America, for politically strategic if not aesthetic reasons, Instagram has certainly gained a lot of momentum. Arts organizations can use the app for sprucing up images they’d like to share and publish them on a wide variety of sites, including Instagram itself. The app can also work as a marketing tool and was recently employed by Tiffany & Co in their ad campaign titled What Makes Love True.

Finally, if the muse of social media content generation has marooned you on the island of blankness, Percolate is here to help. Percolate helps brands generate content through the process of online curation.  As stated on their website, “Percolate bubbles up interesting content from around the web and presents it back to a brand editor to add a comment and publish back out to social channels and websites.” As of now, the site is invite only, but brands can get in touch and learn more about the dissipation of social media content on their website.

So before you despair at the idea of building yet another social media platform, wait a while. Let the possibilities that these sites open up... percolate.