This past April, several AMT Lab staff members attended the Museums and the Web Conference in Cleveland, OH. The four-day event highlighted the work of individuals and organizations in the field in regards to the implementation of new and innovative technologies aimed to enhance user experience or bolster a museums data collection methods. The event also featured numerous panels dedicated to the discussion and critique of current methods. While there were dozens of thoughtful topics covered over the four days, AMT Lab has chosen to present five of the most thought provoking topics and the organizations behind them.
Graphic Interfaces & Accessibility
The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), inspired by the previous efforts of the Canadian Museum of Human Rights, set out to bring inclusivity and accessibility to its new Painting and Sculpture Interpretive Gallery. With outside help and consultation, the SFMOMA created a large touchscreen graphical interface for the vision-impaired. This "Touch Wall" is adaptable to each patron, and can switch user modes through a simple button press. The aim of this device was to provide detailed verbal descriptions of over 100 artworks on display. The full documentation of the gallery is provided here.
Inclusive Audio Guides/Location Aware Storytelling
Another featured accessibility initiative was presented by members of The Andy Warhol Museum, who gave insights from and explained the process of developing their inclusive audio guide "Out Loud". After an eight month user design process, The Warhol debuted an iOS based audio guide that utilizes Bluetooth beacons to push content to users based on their location within the museum. Throughout the design process, the Warhol staff encountered and answered many design questions about app structure, language, and consistency. Creating guides that are location-aware allows for a user centered experience, providing patrons with only the information they want or need given their personal journey through the museum space. The Andy Warhol Museum's work serves to outline the intensive research design, and content development process and stands as a blueprint for other organizations interested in access and inclusivity initiatives. Further insight in the The Andy Warhol Museum's design process are included here.
Location-Based Understanding/User Activity Tracking
In recent years, large and small-scale museums have started designing apps aimed at enhancing the user experience by serving as a companion to existing exhibitions or as an aid in museum navigation. The National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) created its "Skin and Bones" app to enhance its antiquated Bone Hall exhibit. Through further engineering of the app and the use of Google Mobile Analytics, NMNH gleaned insights about how users navigate the space, how much time they invest in the exhibit, and the types of devices they use, among other points of interest. Countless data points can be derived from an organizations app with the proper amount of knowledge and engineering. Similar organizations have begun to utilize users Bluetooth devices to monitor their movements through a given space, enhancing the layout of their museums. Insights such as these help museums better understand the ways in which patrons experience exhibitions, allowing them to adjust their offerings accordingly. Further information on the Skin and Bones app can be found here.
E-Commerce Experience/Website Design
In October of last year, the Corning Museum of Glass (CMoG) hosted a summit on E-Commerce in the Cultural sector, led by experts in the field. This event set out to determine a more strategic approach to E-Commerce, influenced by data-driven insights. The findings of this summit were then presented at Museums and the Web 2017 as a continuation of the conversation. Five themes were derived  Mission-centric strategy,  Holistic approaches to retail,  Mobile first focus,  Data driven decision making, and  Resource allocation. Read the complete paper on these findings here.
VR & AR in Transformative Storytelling
The newest forms of technology, Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality, serve to connect patrons to the oldest form of human interactive experience, storytelling. The Canadian Museum of Human Rights leveraged these two technologies to present patrons with two exhibits aimed at transporting the user to new environments, placing them at the epicenter of real life stories of human strife. Organizations who utilize this technology have discovered that it serves to create dialogue from visitors as they relate their own lives to exhibition experiences. Using VR, AR, and other cross-media techniques serves to deepen the relationship between a museum and its patrons. Click here for the full paper.
Did you attend the Museums and the Web Conference this year? If so, what were your favorite panels or sessions?