Posts Tagged ‘museum’

Stanford Bound

Photo of the Cantor Art Center at Stanford

Photo by Thomas Hawk (

As I get older, and I see my life progressing, the years literally seem to go by in a blink of the eye. One year ago, almost exactly, I posted about a new job I was starting at a company called zetcom. What a difference a year makes. The position there, while satisfying from an knowledge gaining perspective, always left me wanting more. The reason for this? – I have always longed to be back at a museum – especially an art museum.

In San Jose, where I live, there are NOT a lot of options for art museum work. In fact it’s only the San Jose Museum of Art (SJMA) where I used to work years ago. San Francisco is relatively close (50 miles away) and there have been many great possibilities in “the city”, but the commute has made it difficult to apply for any jobs there. People in big cities outside of California, with great transit systems, don’t understand that a commute to SF would easily be 3-4 hours daily roundtrip. Maybe that is normal for some, but I want to see my family every now and then, if I can.

For years I have been watching another relatively close art museum (21 miles in Palo Alto) for the right position to be posted, and recently it finally was… and, I was hired for it. Today I am pleased to announce that I will be returning to museum life at the Cantor Art Center, located at Stanford University, in the role of Digital Media Manager. The position closely resembles the one which I had at the San Jose Museum of Art which I loved so much, with one exception – this job has Stanford University and all the incredible resources  it provides. I am thrilled to be working with the staff there, along with the students, instructors, departments, etc.

Initially, my big focus will be on a redesign of their website with close integration of their permanent collection archive. I’ll also be overseeing their social media channels along with cross department and interdisciplinary digital projects. There will also be some opportunities with in-gallery interactives.

Years ago after I had conceived of my position at SJMA and presented it to the director, I felt a tremendous amount of satisfaction that I had found my career in life, or my life’s “calling”. I worked hard at that job and did a lot of work to raise awareness of the museum among it’s peers. My time there was cut too short, however, due to the economic crash of 2008 and a new director that had to make some quick decisions.  My sense of purpose and meaning was very strong in my role as Manager of Interactive Technology at SJMA and it made life great. I know there will be some big differences at Stanford, but I’m hoping I can regain some of this “purpose and meaning” again. I am extremely thankful for the opportunities my job at SJMA provided over the years – most notably my time with the amazing people at Toura (now defunct).

There will be a lot of adjustments I have to make with this new position versus my last two. For instance, I’ll be commuting for the first time in years. In fact, I’ll be commuting by train which I have never done before, but I admit – I’m kind of looking forward to. I’ll also be away from home where I have worked for the last 5 years – so no more being home for the boys when they arrive home, no more easy pickups (sorry Jen), and not as much cooking, which I love to do. Additionally, while working at home has its benefits, not having direct contact with humans can start taking it’s toll. I’m definitely looking forward to being in a room with people for meetings.

Over the coming weeks I’m sure I’ll be directing a lot of questions toward the museum community. I hope you’ll take the time to get back to me on what your museum does or anecdotes you have from your work with museums. I’m looking forward to everything that lies ahead!

Ch, ch, changes…

Alright – if you haven’t already heard  – I recently ended my 9 1/2 year tenure at the San Jose Museum of Art as the Manager of Interactive Technology. It was a bittersweet event because at one point I felt that it was the greatest job I ever had. It was very fulfilling, creative, art related – it was perfect! I had struggled all my life trying to find a so-called “career” and felt that I had finally found it. Unfortunately, my hours were cut December of 2008 to half-time. This pretty much took the wind out of my sails. 20 hours a week was not enough to do the technology related projects that I wanted to do.

Over the course of the last year, however, a great opportunity presented itself which I couldn’t pass up. During this period of working part-time I started consulting for a mobile start-up called Toura that is changing the way museums create mobile tours (more info forthcoming). After 5 months of fulfilling and exciting work with Toura they offered me a full-time position as Program Director.  The company’s ideas and philosophies align very well with my thoughts on mobile technology and museums so it was a perfect fit.

Since my website is so centered on the work that I did at the San Jose Museum of Art I thought it would be nice to go through and sum up what I feel are some highlights of my time there.

Road Trip Heels Screenshot

First off, I’m extremely proud of winning two MUSE awards. One was for our Artist of the Week podcast that we did in 2006. We were so green at that point it came as a great surprise, but my colleague Lucy and I felt that we were producing a quality product and winning the award validated our efforts. The second MUSE Award, Gold in the category of PR/Development, came recently in 2009 for our Road Trip/Giant Artichoke video that we produced for the exhibition Road Trip at SJMA.  It was the most fun we had on a project. It was a big departure for us from the artist centric audio and video content we had been creating.  The narrative nature of the video required us to storyboard, film on location and really tighten up on our editing.  The results were very rewarding.

Over the years I’ve worked with a variety of mobile delivery methods for audio and video content. Cell phones, Video iPods in Notes-Only Mode, and lastly iPod Touch/iPhone.  The iPod Touch tour we launched in 2008 was one of the first of its kind. While I realized at the time it was an important accomplishment, I didn’t realize how many doors and exciting opportunities it would open.

In London for the Tate Conference

In London for the Tate Conference

Because of the launch or this iPod Touch tour, in September of 2008 I found myself at the Tate Modern in London presenting about SJMA’s mobile experiences to an audience of international museums.  It was one of the most rewarding professional experiences I think that I have had to date.  At the conference I met and befriended the most incredible and creative group of people.  All have helped to shape my knowledge on the subject.

Finally, I think my videography and editing skills hit a high point on one of my last big project for SJMA. For our Ansel Adams exhibition we solicited the general public to submit Ansel Adams inspired photographs to a special Flickr group.  The images collected in that group were displayed in the Adams exhibition on an interactive kiosk.  The main vehicle for this exhibition was a video that I shot in Yosemite. Shot in black and white the video features footage of classic Adams imagery cut with footage of visitors taking photos.  At the end the question, “Are you the next great photographer?” is posed with instructions for submittal.  The video has a sombre feeling and to me is reminiscent of the black and white footage in Woody Allen’s Manhattan (wishful thinking maybe).

Toura Logo

So now I enter the world of museum vendors. I have had nothing but a positive experience with Toura.  It’s rewarding and exciting working with multiple museums to help them get their message and content out to their visitors. Toura is about enabling museums so that they can efficiently create mobile tours in a cost effective way – something that is important these days.  While some vendors have a bad rap, there are some that are conscious of the financial burdens and internal struggles that museums face on a daily basis.  My part at Toura has been and will continue to be the voice of the museum.

Digital Technologies and the Museum Experience: Handheld Guides and Other Media

I recently started reading a book that was edited by handheld guide expert Loïc Tallon and fellow Londoner Kevin Walker.  The book is a collection of essays by prominent technologists in the museum space writing about mobile guides in museums.  The range of information is extensive ranging from best practices to research in the field.  The book is highly recommended to those with an interest in this area of digital museum interpretation.

Purchase the book here: Digital Technologies and the Museum Experience: Handheld Guides and Other Media



Nancy Proctor, from the Smithsonian, is one of the worlds experts in mobile technology.  I was privileged enough to be invited by her and Jane Burton to speak at the handheld conference that they put on at the Tate Modern.  This is definitely a site to bookmark!

Cultural Connections – Road Trip Video

On December 2, 2008 I was fortunate enough to speak to a large Cultural Connections group at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. The topic of the night was visitor participation in the museum experience and included myself along with Stephanie Pau, Manager of Interpretation at SFMoMA; Kathleen McLean of Independent Exhibitions; and Catharine King, Vice President of Exhibitions and Programs from the International Museum of Women. We were all asked to speak by Mandy Smith of Cultural Connections who put together an outstanding program that was attended by about 70 people from Bay Area organizations, institutions, and companies. The group was engaged and had a lot of great questions which made for fun and lively discussion.

The topic I spoke on was a recent video that we made for our exhibition Road Trip at the San Jose Museum of Art. The video acted as both a marketing tool to promote the exhibition and a vehicle for gathering postcards for an interpretive component in it.

Thanks to all that attended and to Mandy Smith for asking me to speak! Here are the slides from the talk: