Posts Tagged ‘sjma’

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.

Musings

Road Trip Screen Shot

Road Trip Screen Shot

It’s very exciting to announce that the video we created for our Road Trip Exhibition won the Gold award in the category of Public Relations and Development at this years MUSE awards. The MUSE awards are given out by the Media and Technology committee, part of the American Association of Museums, for excellence in the area of museums and technology. The jury that voted in our category, led by Dana Allen-Greil, Project Manager for New Media, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, said this about our video:

This quirky video was produced in-house by San Jose Museum of Art staff armed with only a sense of humor, a video camera, and some crazy Japanese high-heels. The short clip depicts a journey to the fabulous Giant Artichoke restaurant, where a postcard is purchased and sent to the museum for inclusion in the “Road Trip” exhibition. Viewers are then prompted to send their own iconic, unusual, and hilarious postcards to supplement the museum’s “Road Trip” exhibition.” The judges were impressed with the innovative, low-cost, and appropriate use of technology to reach a large audience and engage people with the exhibition beyond the walls of the museum. Both the idea and the execution are fun, creative, and playful and show that the museum is both scrappy and savvy about engaging with visitors and successfully integrating experiences between online and offline presences.

When we created the video we knew that we were making something that was fun and special. It was definitely a new direction for us and it felt good to be pushed and challenged by our Director of Marketing.

Road Trip Heels Screenshot

Road Trip Heels Screenshot

As with most projects this was not a solo effort. I want to thank my partner in crime at SJMA Lucy Larson, Manager of Interpretation, for being a great and fun person to work with and an outstanding springboard for ideas (we can volley ideas back and forth with great ease). Additional thanks go out to Nicole Mcbeth, Director of Marketing, for her advice and up front criticisms which helped to fine tune the video in the editing process and also to Kristen Evangelista, Associate Curator, for creating an inspiring exhibition to work from.

Also, I want to thank AAM’s Media and Technology Committee and the jury that selected our piece.  It’s great to be recognized for our efforts and to be in the company of so many great organizations!

SJMA Wins Gold @ MUSE Awards from Chris Alexander on Vimeo.

iPod Touch Tour Full Screen Mode

iPhone Top Detail

I recently implemented a feature on our tour at the San Jose Museum of Art which I have been wanting to do for quite a while. We are currently only offering a small tour at the museum so I figured it would be a great time to try it out. If you read this site regularly you are familiar with the WiFi driven iPhone/iPod Touch tour that we have been offering since May of 2008. If not, please read the previous link!

The feature I added was full screen mode which has been sporadically mentioned on the web and is not a well known feature. It’s basic purpose is to make a web based application act more like an installed app. It does this by removing the URL and navigation bars from the top and bottom of the Safari Mobile Web Browser window – virtually locking a user to your site. It does come with some quirks which I wish to document here. First here is a demonstration of how it works:


SJMA iPod Touch Tour Full Screen Mode from Chris Alexander on Vimeo.

Apple has documentation of full screen mode (free developer’s account required) available on their developers website. To implement this feature you need the following bit of code in the header of your tour or app:

<meta name="viewport" content="width=320; initial-scale=1.0; maximum-scale=1.0; user-scalable=0;"/>
<meta name="apple-mobile-web-app-capable" content="yes" />
<meta name="apple-mobile-web-app-status-bar-style" content="black" />

Web Clip Icon

Web Clip Icon

So, here are the quirky things about this. In order for it to work the viewer of the site must add a “web clip” icon to their home screen. If the museum is offering iPod Touches for check out or has them tethered to the wall or shelf this can easily be done in-house. Patrons using their own device might like the full screen feature or might not. It’s up to them to add the icon themselves if they would like full screen mode.

Additionally, if there are any links that lead the visitor away from the root URL the full screen mode will revert back to regular mode. This will bring back the URL bar at the top and the navigation bar at the bottom. I have not found any way to eliminate this problem yet.

SJMA iPod Touch Tour full screen mode

SJMA iPod Touch Tour full screen mode

The obvious benefit of full screen mode is that it basically keeps the visitor on your tour and prevents them from surfing the web using a museum device. While a tech savvy visitor could still figure out a way to get into the apps and settings, it puts us one step closer to a type of Notes-Only mode (pdf download from Apple) for the iPod Touch that is only available for the non-touch screen iPods. Also known as “Museum-mode,” Notes-only helps to lock users out of all the settings of the iPod. We are using full screen mode paired with special cases that we had made by Coutour which help prevent access to the Home Button thus preventing users access to other applications on the device or access to the settings. The set-up works extremely well and we have had few incidents of visitors tinkering with settings.

Full screen mode has been implemented for a few weeks now and has been successful and trouble free.

Museums and Twitter: A PC Idea

Every once in a while a great idea comes out of merging unique items – peanut butter and jelly, chocolate and peanut butter, salt water and taffy all come to mind. I recently had a revelation when I crossed Nina Simon’s and Koven Smith’s write ups about institutions using Twitter with a few sites I recently came across.

twitter_logo

A few weeks ago I found myself on a site called F*** You 2008. The site aggregates Twitter messages with the term “f***you2008” by searching for the phrase in recent tweets using what appears to be some fancy Ruby scripting. For the most part these messages include expressive comments about money lost, jobs lost, or any other unfortunate event associated with 2008. While I don’t totally agree with the language used on the site, though it is pretty funny, I was intrigued by how it was able to display comments directed at a specific subject.

Another site I came across recently almost does the same thing! www.dearie6.com asks it’s visitors to follow on Twitter the user profile of DearIE6. Once you are following that profile you can send direct messages to it which in turn will be displayed on the site www.dearie6.com. This site is a place where people can comment on their frustrations with the bug-ridden V.6 Internet Explorer browser.

I came across both sites after I had read the recent Twitter related posts on the Museum 2.0 blog and at www.kovenjsmith.com. Both articles address the institutional voice and how it should be leveraged in an online social space such as Twitter. Nina talks about creating a unique experience in your institution around Twitter by posting funny things overheard, behind the scenes info, or interesting facts about the building. This got me thinking…

Since I have a budget of nill-to-none at the museum I’m always trying to think of ways to use the internet to benefit our programs and collection at a low price point. I’ve recently been thinking about ways of commenting on works of art in the permanent collection and how this could be achieved in an engaging and interactive way.

Enter F***you2008 and DearIE6.

Hung Liu - Chinese Profile (Collection of SJMA)

Hung Liu - Chinese Profile (Collection of SJMA)

Let’s say that I wanted to have a page devoted to Hung Liu’s Chinese Profile in our permanent collection. The museum would sign up for a Twitter account with the username @ChineseProfile or @SJMA_ChineseProfile. Visitors, both onsite and online, could then send comments or thoughts via the direct message feature on Twitter which would show up on the @ChineseProfile user page. This would have to happen after the visitor signed up for the service and then started to follow @ChineseProfile. A museum could create a Twitter page specific to an artwork in the collection where people could actively engage with others around the artwork. The work could even engage them back through a curator, registrar, preparator, or all three!

Example Wireframe

Example Wireframe

I like the idea of taking things a step further by utilizing the APIs or widgets offered by many of these web services to bring the experience to our your own website as well. You could create a page on your institutions site and pull the dialogue to it through some scripting with the Twitter APIs. Additionally on the page you could have a large image of the work, maybe a Wikipedia entry describing the work, etc. To illustrate, I have drawn up a wireframe example which you can view in-full by clicking on the thumbnail.

Obviously one of the biggest challenges with utilizing Twitter is the generational gap and trying to gain the art perspective of the older technology-challenged museum visitor. While they might have heard about Twitter by watching CNN or reading about it in this thing called a newspaper, they might never have signed up for any services on the Internet. Then to try and explain the concept of an “@” message sounds even more difficult.

I’m not sure if this is a truly unique idea. Are any museums doing it or something similar? I’d really like to know. I share this information with the larger museum community with the hopes that someone might attempt it and report back. Unfortunately, in my new limited capacity (half-time due to budget issues) I don’t think I will have the opportunity to attempt it! Let me/us know if it works out!

You can follow me on Twitter at www.twitter.com/cmalexander

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: