Category Archives: Multisensory

Art Museum Hires Neuroscientist. Repost

This Art Museum Hired a Neuroscientist to Change the Way We Look at Art

  • Anila Quayyum Agha, All the Flowers Are for Me, 2017. Courtesy of Peabody Essex Museum.

From the late 16th to the early 20th century, the salon-style hang was the predominant display convention across Europe. But hanging paintings like this—crammed cheek to jowl in a gallery space—has since fallen out of favor, in part because it tends to prevent viewers from concentrating on a single work.

But why, exactly? The reason may have something to do with the circuitry of the human brain—which is why at least one museum is branching out and recruiting a neuroscientist to join its team.  “On a behavioral level, it can be distracting to walk into a room and have tons of things to look at,” said Dr. Tedi Asher, who earlier this year joined the Peabody Essex Museum, in Salem, Massachusetts, for a one-year appointment as Neuroscience Researcher. “At the level of neurological activation, each painting will be presented less strongly.”

I met with Asher at her office, where the walls are decorated with brain-themed cartoons and diagrams, including a jumbo-sized image of Purkinje cells in a mouse cerebellum. To corroborate her claim, Asher invoked the theory of sensory suppression, which holds that a barrage of sensory stimuli—such as the salon-style hang—deadens the optical-neurological apparatus of the viewer.

She illustrated the point by pointing to her smartphone and a plastic pen. “If you have multiple objects in the same view, you’re going to have some neurons that respond to the phone and other neurons that respond to the pen,” she said. “It’s been shown that the neurons that respond to one are going to actively suppress the neurons that respond to the other. The representation of the objects in the brain seems to be weakened by having multiple objects.”

The appointment of Asher is part of a broader campaign by Dan Monroe, the museum’s Rose-Marie and Eijk van Otterloo Director and CEO, to deploy neuroscience in the service of exhibition design.

Under his leadership, this mid-sized museum north of Boston, which is best known for its extensive holdings in Asian and maritime art, has already gained national attention for convention-busting exhibitions. At the entrance to “Asia in Amsterdam: The Culture of Luxury in the Golden Age,” visitors were greeted by cylinders of spices—cloves, cinnamon and peppercorns—that promoted more lasting memories by engaging multiple senses. For “Rodin: Transforming Sculpture,” a troupe of live dancers confounded viewer’s expectations of the white cube.

Hiring Asher in May was the next step in pushing forward the Peabody’s mission. Over the next year, she’ll meet regularly with an advisory panel of neuroscientists, and will ultimately produce a publication that crystallizes her findings.

“Anecdotally, we’re all familiar with the idea that a satisfying experience has this delicate balance of meeting and violating our expectations,” Asher said. “In the context of exhibition design, how can we surprise people in a way that won’t be jarring but will help viewers make sense of what they have seen? Something that is unexpected takes longer to detect—but it also makes a more lasting imprint.” At the Peabody Essex, Asher will apply the principles of neuroaesthetics—the synthesis of neuroscience and aesthetics—to a reinstallation of the museum’s permanent collection that will unfold over the next five years. Since arriving at the museum, she has been an advocate for the gallery-goer’s brain, making the case for display conventions that sidestep outmoded curatorial strategies (overloaded walls, indigestible wall text).

How the White Cube Came to Dominate the Art World

One idea that she is developing are rest areas, or “palate cleansers,” that will allow visitors a respite from sensory stimulation, much like the intermission in a play.

The implicit aim of the museum’s neuroscience initiative, made possible by a $130,000 grant from the Boston-based Barr Foundation, is to boost the institution’s relevance at a time of declining attendance across the museum landscape. A 2015 study by the National Endowment for the Arts presented a startling number: Only 21 percent of adults in the United States visited a museum or gallery in 2012, a drop of 5.5 percent from 2002. While the Peabody Essex Museum has defied this trend—over the same period, attendance at the museum has risen steadily—it is nonetheless attuned to the plight of the museum sector as a whole.

“The loss of attendance leaves one to ask, ‘What are the dynamics that are causing this?’” said Monroe. “The strategies and practices that we, as a field, continue to employ are not very effective and, in my view, never will be—they do not recognize the way that people’s brains works.

“That said, we have to all recognize that neuroscience is in its infancy. Nobody understands, for example, how consciousness is created or even what it is.…Ultimately, the deciding factor will be whether or not we’re able to demonstrate that, by better understanding some key elements of the way our brains work, we can create experiences that more people find meaningful and impactful.”

  • Bosoma Dance Company perform in “Rodin: Transforming Sculpture’ at the Peabody Essex Museum. Photo by Swong95765, via Flickr.

  • Bosoma Dance Company perform in “Rodin: Transforming Sculpture’ at the Peabody Essex Museum. Photo by Swong95765, via Flickr.

Asher arrived at the Peabody Essex Museum almost by happenstance, dashing off a cover letter to the museum when an advertisement for the position was circulated on an internal listserv. Raised in Washington, D.C., she remembers “falling over” after seeing Claude Monet’s haystacks at the Art Institute of Chicago but ultimately dedicated herself to the sciences, receiving a bachelor’s degree in biology from Swarthmore College and later a Ph.D. from Harvard Medical School’s Biological and Biomedical Sciences program, where she investigated the linkage between aggression in male mice and serotonin-producing neurons. Her role at the Peabody Essex Museum is that of a benign disruptor, evaluating the format of forthcoming exhibitions in the context of neural pathways. “People seem to appreciate that I’m a little bit of an outsider,” she said.

Having a scientist on staff might be a new development, but the machinery of vision—and the relationship between sensation and perception—has vexed art lovers for millennia. In Art and Illusion (1960), Ernst Gombrich tells of a Pythagorean sage who, upon considering the case of a cloud that resembles a centaur or stag antelope, surmised that perception is a creative act on the part of the beholder. Or, as Gombrich put it: “What we read into these accidental shapes depends on our capacity to recognize in them things or images we find stored in our minds.” Thus, an image is not an index of the material world but a function of the brain.

“The beholder’s share, as it’s known, is a classic problem in art history,” Eric Kandel told me. He’s a Nobel Prize-winning neuroscientist at Columbia University and author of Reductionism in Art and Brain Science: Bridging the Two Cultures (2016). “What’s going on in the beholder’s head when he looks at a work of art? This is an ongoing area of research. It’s still in its early stages but potentially quite interesting and, I think, quite important.”

In recent years, Kandel has emerged as an evangelist for interdisciplinary inquiry, taking it upon himself to mend the schism between art and science “by focusing on a common point at which the two cultures can meet and influence each other,” as he writes at the beginning of his book. Nevertheless, some art historians are skeptical of neuroaesthetics, which may at times slip into “a spurious reduction of art to the science of the brain,” as Jonathan Gilmore, currently an Assistant Professor at the CUNY Graduate Center and Baruch College, wrote in 2006.

  • Portrait of Tedi Asher. Courtesy of Peabody Essex Museum.

  • Anila Quayyum Agha, All the Flowers Are for Me, 2017. Courtesy of Peabody Essex Museum.

“Some art historians are enthusiastic [about neuroaesthetics], and others think it’s ridiculous,” said Kandel. “They say, ‘What does it have to offer? It demeans art to think that it has a biological explanation.’ But they should not worry: Neuroscience is not going to replace an art-historical approach to art; it’s going to supplement and enrich it.

“This is a very interesting experiment on the part of [the Peabody Essex Museum],” Kandel continued. “One of the things that strikes me with many current exhibitions is that they’re too damn large! It’s absolutely exhausting to go through them.”

For her part, Asher is sensitive to the fact that her appointment is a landmark event—but she’s also eager to focus on the business at hand. The challenge before her is to apply lessons from carefully designed experiments in a laboratory setting to the business of running an art museum with more than 300 personnel and an operating budget of $30 million. “The way [my colleagues here] talk about things feels much less structured than in the science world, where it is much more about connecting the dots,” she said. “I feel like there is more fluidity to how things are approached in a museum.”

After our interview, we entered the museum to see Anila Quayyum Agha’s All the Flowers Are for Me, an immersive installation in which the white cube has been converted into a light chamber, with a foliate pattern projected on the floor, walls, and ceiling. Encased in a lemon-colored aureole, Asher expounded on the neurological processes at work in our experience of the installation—and the sensation of being caressed by light.

“Your experience of this installation depends on what it reminds you of,” she said. “When you recall a memory, the regions of your cortex that process different senses become activated. So, if you’re looking at an image of a fur coat, you might feel as though you can touch the fur, and that’s because that part of your brain that would process the tactile experience is becoming activated by the memory.”

“But, of course,” she added, “it’s all in your mind.”

—Christopher Snow Hopkins

https://www.artsy.net/article/artsy-editorial-art-museum-hired-neuroscientist-change-way-art

Art for the Blind access tour at Rome’s Ara Pacis Museum

Bringing art to life for blind museum visitors

One of Rome’s most prestigious public museums is offering a pioneering experience for blind visitors that perfectly demonstrates the possibilities of combining the latest technology with the greatest art.

Co-created by Antenna International and partially sighted consultants from Italian tech specialists Tooteko, the Art for the Blind access tour at Rome’s Ara Pacis Museum allows blind and partially sighted visitors to interact with the museum’s 2,000-year-old Ara Pacis Augustae and other ancient treasures in truly innovative ways.

Positioning technology allows independent exploration, while multisensory content, such as evocative audio descriptions and tactile elements, bring exhibits to life like never before.

What technology does it use?

The Art for the Blind tour uses the latest in smart, wearable rings, portable technology, and 3-D printing. Software is also key: iPad minis feature an app specially designed for visually impaired users.

How does it work?

At the start of the tour, blind and partially sighted people receive three items:

  1. A high-tech, smart, wearable ring
  2. An A4, 3D thermoform map
  3. An iPad mini attached to headphones

As they explore the museum, users can touch the ring to tags on exhibits in six main areas of the museum. This wirelessly connects their iPad to sensors at the base of works, which then triggers a unique experience of the exhibit and artwork.

For instance, users have the opportunity to feel details of the famous floral frieze of the Ara Pacis. And at the busts of Augustus’s family, visitors can touch the heads and each sculpture ”speaks” to them in character.

 

 

How have we made sure it meets the needs of our audience?

The multisensory tour and audio guide descriptions were co-created with the help of two key consultants at Tooteko. Anna Spina is partially sighted and Deborah Tramentozzi is blind and an expert on issues affecting blind people. Their insights were fundamental in making the tour and the technology both user-friendly and immersive.

Fabio D’Agnano, CTO at Tooteko comments:

To us, it was important to combine touch and hearing and allow an independent and rich experience for the visually impaired. We wanted to add real innovation into museum accessibility, and the historic Museo dell’Ara Pacis was the perfect environment for it.

Paola Spataro, Head of Digital Media, Italy for Antenna International adds:

Technological advances, both big and small, are turning museum tours across the world into unforgettable experiences. The work we’ve done in Rome is a great example of what can be achieved. There are so many innovations out there which can enrich and enliven what museums are creating, and I’m excited to see where even the next twelve months will take the industry.

 

DISABILITY. DANCE. ARTISTRY. New York, July 8, 11am-6pm

Disability. Dance. Artistry. is a free, daylong series of convening focusing on a future for dance created and experienced with disabled New Yorkers. Commemorating the 25th anniversary year of the Americans with Disabilities Act, it builds on recent Dance NYC research, Discovering Disability: Data and NYC Dance and is part of a three-year Dance NYC initiative to increase inclusion and access to the art form. Join keynote speaker Simi Linton and leaders in the dance and disability communities to discuss the state of the art form. What are the opportunities for educating, developing, collaborating with and presenting disabled artists? How can disability advance innovation, excellence, and impact in dance?

Disability. Dance. Artistry Registration is Now Open

Register now to join the conversation. Don’t miss this opportunity to increase inclusion and access to the art form of dance.

When: Wednesday, July 8, 11am-6pm
Where: John Jay College of Criminal Justice, 860 11th Avenue, NYC
Register: FREE. Registration is required. Please reserve in advance. Accessible seating is available. Requests for reasonable accommodations should be made in advance by contacting Dance/NYC at 212.966.4452 (Voice only) specialevents@dancenyc.org. The event is in an open space around tables with chairs that are easy to remove. All seating will be accessible by default.

Call for papers on Inclusive Experiences in Exhibition Design. Deadline: April 13, 2015

The journal Exhibitionist invites proposals for its spring 2015 issue, Creating an Inclusive Experience: Exhibitions & Universal Design.
Proposals of 250 words maximum are due by April 13, 2015.

You can find the Call for Papers at: http://name-aam.org/about/news

Call for Papers Fall 2015 Exhibitionist

DATELINE: February 20, 2015

Download this document

Creating an Inclusive Experience: Exhibitions and Universal Design

Proposals due April 13, 2015

In 2015, we celebrate the 25th anniversary of the American With Disabilities Act (ADA). To mark this milestone,Exhibitionist takes on the topic of “Universal Design.” While Universal Design evolved from Accessible Design—and uses accessibility as a starting point—it goes further. It recognizes that human abilities are wide-ranging, and that all of us, if we live out a typical lifespan, will experience some sort of functional limitation. For those involved with exhibitions, this means creating environments that are usable by everyone with the least amount of adaptation. It calls for creative and imaginative ways to engage the widest possible group of users.

For this issue, we seek proposals that focus on exhibitions as a whole—or on elements within an exhibition (such as media, technology, multisensory elements, label-writing, etc.)—that incorporate the principles of Universal Design.* The exhibitions (or installations) can be of any size, and take place in any of a variety of spaces: museums of all disciplines, historical sites, institutions that collect and display living collections, or other environments.

Proposals can also focus on broader institutional strategies for including Universal Design in exhibition making, or on teaching Universal Design to those who create exhibitions. Proposals might come from designers, curators, developers, writers, architects, educators, collection managers, or others who create and contribute to exhibitions. As much as possible, if a case study, research project, or student experience is submitted, the article should not focus on a single project or institution without raising questions or throwing light on larger issues that are widely applicable.

Submissions from colleagues and students around the world are welcome and encouraged.

Deadlines

Proposal due: April 13, 2015. 250 words maximum. Briefly describe your article; how it relates to the issue theme; and your background/qualifications for writing the article. Proposals will be vetted by our editorial advisory board, and you will be notified of acceptance or non-acceptance.

First draft due: June 12, 2015. 2,000 words maximum (approximately four single-spaced pages) with four to five high-resolution images, captions, and credits. Your article will be returned to you with comments and edits by theExhibitionist editorial advisors and editor.

Final article due: August 11, 2015

Please send all submissions via email to:
Ellen Snyder-Grenier (esnydergrenier at yahoo.com)
Editor, Exhibitionist, the journal of the National Association for Museum Exhibition (NAME)

Stockholm 3D Printed

A 3D Printed Scale Model of the Entire City of StockholmArticle reposted from 3D Printing Newsletter, by Juho Vesanto On Tue, June 18, 2013.

Mitekgruppen, a Swedish scale-model company, created an almost exact replica of the city of Stockholm using Stratasys Dimension Series FDM 3D printers. Even though scaled down replicas of practically every major landmark — from the Golden Gate bridge to Big Ben — have been created with 3D printing tech before, bringing an entire city to life is quite a unique and remarkable feat: the created model of Stockholm is a full 157 square foot (scale 1:1000) in size. The Stockholm project used two Stratasys printers, running 24/7, seven days a week for six months before they finally fulfilled their remit and were given a vacation from their day & night job of creating the models.

Prior to the Stockholm project, originally commissioned in 2005 by the city, the company had been using only traditional means to create their models – paper, glue and wood combined with the blood, sweat and tears involved in manual, intricate labour. The fundamental reasons for tipping the scale to 3D printing’s side were the continuity and real-world reminiscent features of the commission – the model of the city was to be updated and revamped according to actual changes that take place in the infrastructure and city image every half a year. This meant that putting long hours into wood carving and other phases of the traditional process wasn’t an ideal or relevant approach to be used in this case.

Mitekgruppen 3D Printed Stockholm Coastal Detail Replica Stratasys

Jumping on the 3D printing train from the traditional methodologies wasn’t something that could be done overnight though – the physical, technical and mental factors, as well as changes in general attitude, approach and the operating model required a realistic transition phase. In Mitekgruppen’s case, that period lasted for a full nine months, during which time the project team took a crash course in CAD modelling, 3D printing tech, new SW and other required tools that would enable them to get the job done as efficiently and smoothly as humanly possible.

The effort the team put into learning the ropes of the 3D printing world didn’t go to waste even after finishing the base model of the city – the company currently starts every project with 3D printed models and prototypes, after which their current weapon of choice – a Stratasys Fortus 250mc – is also used to make some of the actual end-products in addition to other manufacturing techniques and technologies such as laser cutting and milling.

Mitekgruppen 3D Printed Stockholm Replica Stratasys

The model of Stockholm is currently not on display anywhere — but it is being prepared to be showcased in a yet undisclosed location (in Sweden of course).

Source: Stratasys blog

Multisensory Encounters in Brazilian Museums

Luis Marcelo Mendes, who I met at the MuseumNext Conference in Amsterdam last week, made me aware of Luiz Vergara and Jessica Gogan’s brilliant work at Núcleo Experimental de Educação e Arte in the Museum of Modern Art in Rio de Janeiro.

Multisensory Encounter

Under the category encontros-multissensoriais-2 you will find the documentation of the past Multisensory Encounters in the museum.

Great job!

Moritz

Tactile Photography

Have a look at the article From Stereoscopy to Tactile Photography, a new multisensory discipline, which is based on the principles of stereoscopy and the computer-aided conversion of digital images into reliefs. The tactile photographs can be produced as real objects – on 3D-Printers for example. This new discipline can be especially interesting for visually impaired artists, but is not limited to “disability arts”.

Tactile photography connects with a long-lasting interest in enhancing photography with the illusion of depth and physical space, which it shares with multi-photography, Andrew Davidhazy’s peripheral photography (developed in the 1960s), the Lumière
Brothers’ photostereo synthesis, and with photosculpture.

Download PDF of the article From Stereoscopy to Tactile Photography.

From Stereoscopy to Tactile Photography

Experiencing Art through Touch (Repost from Metropolitan Museum, New York)

Photographer Interview: Experiencing Art through Touch

Jennette Mullaney, Former Associate Email Marketing Manager, Department of Digital Media

Posted: Friday, February 8, 2013, on www.metmuseum.org

Matt Ducklo | Thutmose III, Dynasty 18, ca. 1504–1405 B.C. | 2006

Matt Ducklo (American, b. 1973). Thutmose III, Dynasty 18, ca. 1504–1405 B.C., Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2006. Chromogenic print; 50 x 40 in. Image courtesy of the artist. Learn more about this statue.

The Metropolitan Museum has a long history of making its collections accessible to blind and partially sighted visitors through touch and description. In the 1970s, the Museum established the Touch Collection, a group of small artworks from different curatorial departments, for the purpose of tactile exploration by blind and partially sighted visitors. Since 1998, these visitors have been invited to engage with a range of Museum objects through touch tours—guided or self-guided visits in which they can explore specific objects with their hands. For several years, photographer Matt Ducklo has captured participants on these tours at the Metropolitan and other museums, creating a body of work that explores how all people—both sighted and otherwise—experience art. I interviewed Matt about his work and how it has affected his own experience of looking at art.

Jennette Mullaney: What attracted you to this subject?

Matt Ducklo: I am interested in seeing and looking, particularly the way in which looking at art can feel like heightened looking. When I visit a gallery or museum, I occasionally have moments that produce some sort of emotional or intellectual response, but a lot of times I just register work with my eyes and move on. With the photographs of touch tours, I am representing the appearance of an interior experience.

Matt Ducklo | Statue of Herakles seated on a rock, Imperial, 1st or 2nd century A.D. Roman; adaptation of a Greek statue of the late 4th or early 3rd century B.C., Metropolitan Museum of Art | 2008

Matt Ducklo (American, b. 1973). Statue of Herakles seated on a rock, Imperial,1st or 2nd century A.D. Roman; adaptation of a Greek statue of the late 4th or early 3rd century B.C., Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2008. Chromogenic print; 50 x 40 in. Image courtesy of the artist. Learn more about this statue.

Jennette Mullaney: You photograph not only a work of art and a visitor’s interaction with that work of art, but the very act of experiencing art in a way that is foreign to most of us. How do you capture that experience?

Matt Ducklo: The thing is that I don’t know what the experience is like. I photograph what it looks like, but I guess that the impossibility of knowing is what’s interesting.

Matt Ducklo | Young Girl with Flowers in Her Hair, 1865–70, The Dixon Gallery and Gardens | 2008

Matt Ducklo (American, b. 1973). Young Girl with Flowers in Her Hair, 1865–70, The Dixon Gallery and Gardens, 2008. Chromogenic print; 50 x 40 in. Image courtesy of the artist

Jennette Mullaney: Have these projects affected how you observe art when visiting a museum?

Matt Ducklo: I suppose I sometimes pay more attention to the surface of a work now, but it’s not as if every time I look at a work of art I think about what it must feel like. I guess I think more about how I might be misunderstanding the work and probably spend a little more time with each piece.

Matt Ducklo | The Well (Variation on a Tsukubai), 1982, The Noguchi Museum | 2009

Matt Ducklo (American, b. 1973). The Well (Variation on a Tsukubai), 1982, The Noguchi Museum, 2009. Chromogenic print; 50 x 40 in. Image courtesy of the artist

Jennette Mullaney: Would you mind sharing some of the insights you’ve gained working with visually impaired visitors?

Matt Ducklo: Art is important, and many people with visual impairments want as much access to art as possible. Most of the people I have photographed find that experiencing art through touch is meaningful. I do believe that touching can function as something like seeing.

Related Link
Programs for Visitors Who Are Blind or Partially Sighted

Adapted astronomy: “The sky in your hands” – “O Céu nas tuas mãos” Astronomia adaptada

(Reblogged from Património Português Acessível)

Between 19 November 2012 and 19 January 2013, visitors to Lisbon’s Planetário Calouste Gulbenkian (Calouste Gulbenkian Planetarium) can participate in a multisensory plantearium exhibition, incorporating tactile elements. The exhibition, supported by the Portuguese visually impaired people’s association Associação dos Cegos e Amblíopes de Portugal (ACAPO) and national science and technology agency Ciência Viva, was first shown in Valencia, Spain, before moving to Espinho, Portugal. The aim is to bring astronomy to a wider audience, in particular allowing visually impaired people to find out about astronomy.

During sessions of the exhibitions, visitors can touch hemispheres with tactile representations of the constellations, while audio information is played. Visual images of  constellations are simulataneously projected onto the planetarium dome, allowing everyone to enjoy the experience.

Information in Portuguese / Informações em Português: 

Estão a decorrer no Planetário de Lisboa desde o dia 19 de Novembro, uma exposição tátil e uma sessão de planetário. Esta exposição conta com o apoio da “Ciência Viva” e da ACAPO .

A Sessão de Planetário “O Céu nas tuas mãos” está a decorrer entre 19 de Novembro e 19 de Janeiro de 2013, no Planetário Calouste Gulbenkian ou Planetário de Lisboa, como é mais conhecido. Este projeto foi iniciado em Valência, Espanha, já passou este ano no planetário de Espinho. Pretende chegar a um público mais alargado, neste caso, pessoas com baixa visão ou pessoas invisuais.

Em cada sessão serão disponibilizadas aos participantes semi-esferas, num total de 64 por sessão, que as formas das constelações, ao mesmo tempo que será passada o ma banda sonora. “Um equivalente visual será projetado na cúpula do planetário, tornando a experiência acessível a todos”.

5 Ways Museums Are Reaching Digital Audiences

digital museum

If the last time you were in a museum you were being shuffled in a single-file line by an aging docent, you may be surprised by the dynamic lives these institutions lead in the digital world.

New platforms are allowing museums to break free of the confines of the academic ivory tower and engage with their communities like never before.

Ian Padgham, former social media guru of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art says museums started flocking to social media in 2009. Museums initially used social media just to advertise events and exhibits, but quickly jumped into a world of interactive education and user generated content.

From interactive SCVNGR challenges to crowdsourcing information about works of art, more museums are becoming digital savvy destinations. Here’s a look at some innovative campaigns.

1. Opening the Dialogue

The traditional experience of perusing exhibits can now become a dialogue, thanks to real-time information networks. Museum Nerd, a blogger and social evangelist who shares musings on museum visits, arts advocacy and education, believes engagement is the most important reason for museums to use social media.

During one visit, for example, Museum Nerd asked @MuseumModernArt why there was so much dust in an exhibit. The museum’s communications team investigated and sent a Twitter reply.

“Social media has pushed museums toward being more responsive to the public,” writes Museum Nerd in an online chat interview. “It’s allowed a visitor to let the museum know what they like and what they don’t like about their experience in real time.”

When Padgham spearheaded the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art’s social media accounts (he now works for Twitter), he invited social media followers — the mainstream audience never before prioritized by the museum — to press previews. “It’s not just what The Chronicle says. We want [the local audience] to have a voice and spread the voice.”

Many museum marketers take the potential of their new voices seriously. Francesca Merlino, the Guggenheim Museum’s marketing manager, says her team responds to every inquiry received through the museum’s social accounts.

These social accounts offer a peek behind the scenes of the galleries to show visitors a side of museums never before accessible.

2. Breaking Down the Walls of Inaccessibility

Through social media, museums can tear down the illusion of inaccessibility. During the 2011 Super Bowl, for example, @NOMA1910 (the New Orleans Museum of Art) and @IMAmuseum (the Indianapolis Museum of Art) placed bets via Twitter, showing the public an unexpected collegiality between museum staffers.

SFMOMA

On a similarly sporting note, Padgham changed his museum’s Twitter avatar to the San Francisco Giants logo when they were in the Major League Baseball playoffs. Padgham tweeted that he “… knew the graphic design team would kill him, but Go Giants!” Both the Giants and MLB retweeted the San Francisco Museum of Art.

“The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is no longer a place you go to,” says Padgham.”Art can be a part of your hometown spirit. There’s a freedom to no longer be this very proper institution.”

The Guggenheim Museum’s social following reflects its largely international audience. Approximately 70% of its annual visitors aren’t from the U.S. “Social media is really an opportunity to connect with our global following,” Merlino says. The museum has been running user-generated campaigns such as a partnership with YouTube Play to create great online short videos. The competition culminated in a screening and livestreaming of the top 25 entries. To honor the museum’s 50th birthday, the Guggenheim’s followers uploaded images re-imagining its iconic rotunda. The museum also teamed up with Google SketchUp designers to create and place 3D shelters on Google Earth.

These user-generated content campaigns created the greatest periods of growth and active engagement with the museum, Merlino says.

mystery buildingCrowdsourcing is a great way to maximize a diverse following while also creating popular content. Each Thursday, the Museum of the City of New York posts a piece of artwork along with a mystery building on Facebook. Respondents are challenged to identify the unknown location and validate their responses with proof.

Twitter followers of the Tate Modern might even create art for the museum. The Tate is calling for volunteer artists to paint vignettes to be included in an upcoming exhibit.

3. Emerging Cultural Aggregators

For your average fan of the arts, the proliferation of online cultural hubs has created an overabundance of information. “I don’t have time to read 50,000 posts from different institutions,” says Padgham. “I want to find people curating a perfect synthesis. Those will be the next celebrities.”

Museum Nerd is one of those Internet celebrities. @MuseumNerd began tweeting in September 2008. Today, more than 67,000 people follow the flagship Twitter account. Museum Nerd’s social presence now includes a blog, Facebook page, Flickr stream, Foursquare account and Tumblr, as well as some external writing.

4. Mobilizing Visits

Smithsonian SCVNGR

Most museum-goers aren’t going to turn off their phones during a visit. Rather than fight the tide, many museums are integrating mobile into their exhibits. Museums are adopting apps like Sparkatour to guide visitors instead of relying on chunky audio guide devices. The app allows small to mid-sized museums to add audio to all of their video and visual content.

Museums are creating fun competitions out of their exhibits using SCVNGR, a social, location-based gaming platform. For example, the Smithsonian hosted a SCVNGR hunt through nine of its museum’s most popular exhibits between June 24 and July 26.

Foursquare rewards and badges are also a great way for museums to acknowledge their social followers. During the summer, the Penn Museum will give away free drinks to the first 10 visitors who check in after 5:00 p.m.

5. The Digital Museum

For patrons who are physically separated from the museums they’d like to visit, digital museums are popping up across the Internet. Here are five museums you can visit without leaving your computer.