Tag Archives: Technology

ARCHES Project

ARCHES is a European project involving people with differences and difficulties associated with perception, memory, cognition and communication. Funded by the H2020 program, it aims to improve access to Museums and other Cultural Heritage Sites. ARCHES stands for Accessible Resources for Cultural Heritage EcoSystems. The Consoritum consists of museums, technology companies, universities and experts in making culture more accessible to everybody. Together, these partners will develop online resources, software applications and multisensory technologies.

The Open University and Bath University are leading the research for ARCHES. In the first year the participatory research groups will be exploring the museum and coming up with ideas for new technologies and activities. Each week there will be different activities within the museum. Together with the participants, the researchers will find the best ways to identify, capture and record their experiences and views. They will use cameras, sound recorders, video cameras, interviews, questionnaires, note taking, drawings, smart phones, tablets and different types of software.

In the second year the technological partners will be testing and redeveloping those technologies. In the third year, the consortium will be checking the new technologies are ready to use for other museums.

More details at the ARCHES Website, Facebook and Twitter.

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ARCHES has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement Nº 693229.

 

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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

Repost of an article by Mark Piesing from publishingperspectives.com

How UK Museums Use Mobile Tech to Enhance Visitor Experience

UK museums are adapting publishing technology to their needs and using mobile apps to re-invigorate the way visitors explore their spaces.

LONDON: When I stepped through the doors of the Natural History Museum in London I seemed to have travelled almost as far back in time as the exhibits.

In this land that technology had forgotten there didn’t seem to be any public Wi-Fi  and instead I had to rely on 3G to open a website only whose homepage was optimized for mobile. When I wanted to know more about the exhibits it was easier to check Wikipedia about T-Rex than fight through the crowds to see the displays or struggle with a site which seemed more interested in telling me how to get to the museum rather than about the monsters I was seeing when I was there.

When I eventually found the museum’s café there I didn’t see a single tablet or laptop as its public Wi-Fi seemed to be a closely guarded secret. In fact the Wi-Fi was actually leaking from the Treasures gallery above and I was finally able to use an app designed by the museum to start argument with my young son about whether dinosaurs had actually turned into birds.

For mobile evangelist Mathew Petrie, this is an all-too-common mobile experience for visitors to museums in the UK – museums that have perhaps in the past been more worried about the Starbucks effect of “having people with laptops filling up their cafés” if they installed free Wi-Fi, rather than interested in what their visitor’s expect. Petrie is president and founder of Fusion Research and Analytics, which has for the last year being conducting research for some of the country’s best-known museums including the Natural History Museum into how their visitors use mobile.

“Lots of people in the museum community would now like to do a lot of things, but they need to cover basics first,” he says. “Museums have to understand audience needs before starting to build systems.”

According to Petrie, the Natural History Museum has already commissioned research to understand visitor mobile device ownership, usage expectations and current behaviors. “The Museum has also used this research as a platform to assess the potential for new mobile application development for content engagement and other on-site activities.”

Petrie’s research for the UK museum sector suggests that three quarters of UK museum visitors now come equipped with mobile and tablets, “but very few museums engage with them.” Only about 13% of museums have Wi-Fi, and of those that do, “most don’t even promote it.”

The Natural History Museum's Pompeii app adds depth to the exhibition.

Mobile, though, is more than just QR codes that “few people use” or providing free Wi-Fi (although that is a good place to begin). It is more than just publishing a couple of apps that soon languish forgotten and un-updated in the app stores or the “souvenir app” for big exhibitions.

Getting Visitors to Explore the Museum in New Ways

Getting mobile is about understanding what visitors want before they visit, whether they are there from close to home or far away. It is about how what they want may differ between smartphone and tablet users and Apple and Android, as well as between young and old. It is about getting visitors to explore the museums in new ways and even to play games where security guards used to shout “No running.”

“People want to search, to effortlessly get more information more quickly, but 50% of visitors are from outside of the UK and they turn off data roaming to save money,” Petrie says. Tablet users tend to want a deeper experience of their visit but not necessarily in front of the exhibit.

Museum Explorer

“Like anything to do with technology, museums are quick to want to follow it, but adapting it to the museum space is another thing.”

For Dianne Greig these “well-documented” problems are evidence of a lack of robust visitor data to inform strategies – specifically demographic, experiential and behavioral research. Greig is associate director (digital) of Scottish digital development group Culture Sparks.

Too often, she thinks, “responsibility for ‘mobile’ can often sit across teams – marketing, technical development, digital – making collective decision-making a challenge and impacting on the museum’s responsiveness.”

Then research can easily be siloed so that “the intelligence that does exist, in large institutions can often become ‘stuck’ within departments.”

The result of this is a lack of understanding of the whole customer journey, with mobile becoming a “one size fits all” approach and a “fixation with apps” based on little more than “the fact that other museums and galleries are creating them.” When in fact, Greig argues, a website optimized for mobile would be much more cost-effective to produce.

Yet Petrie cautions that “museums are probably doing what they should be doing, being cautious and protecting their brand to avoid alienating people.”

Mid-size museums “may have a few people with the skills and the dreams but not necessarily the authority to go do it.” So better research can provide “more ammunition” for these people to get “more resources. If you have the skills you can have big impact.”

The Huntzz app allows museum-goers to

The Huntzz app allows museum-goers to create their own treasure hunts and tours.

Mobile to Play a Big Part in Future

Mathew Cock, head of Web for the British Museum, agrees with Petrie and Greig that “an increasing proportion of visitors to the museum do want to look at the museums on mobiles.” The museum will soon be publishing its digital strategy, in which “mobile is expected to play a big part.”

“We do have a very high proportion of visitors from abroad – and they have to rely on 3G as we have don’t have public Wi-Fi.” As with many Victorian museums, Wi-Fi is difficult “due to the old and huge buildings and the many galleries.” It is “something that will hopefully happen in the next three to four years.”

Within their website they are starting to do more things aimed at mobile, but beyond the home page most of the site is not designed for the mobile visitor. “In the future there are a couple of gallery projects that we might make apps for or have content designed for visitors and which might have Wi-Fi.”

At the moment the Pompei app is “still our main project,” designed by an outside agency owing to a tight timescale. The app is tied in with the museum’s 2013 blockbuster exhibition “Life and death in Pompeii and Herculaneum” and its Pompei Live film that was broadcast live to 250 cinemas in the UK in June almost like a “private view” and shown round the world in a recorded form.

“Apps are very difficult to keep relevant and maintain sales, so you need a presence for them outside the app story. So there are spikes in downloads when it is broadcast.”

“We have learned a lot from it as a trial for future exhibitions.” The tablet version was much more popular than the phone version – despite the phone app being cheaper. The tablet app is content-rich and the phone more useful than educational.

“It’s not a yes or no answer,” says Hugh Wallace, head of digital media, National Museums Scotland, to the question as to whether UK museums have been slow to adapt to digital.

“I saw some of the early inventive apps, and museums were actually quite ahead of the game compared to some of the big brands. However, while there are now a lot of inventive conversations happening, organizations themselves are not necessarily at the forefront of innovation.”

As in other sectors, “there has been a tendency for shiny things rather than things that add value to visitors’ experience,” he admits. “However, there is an openness, honesty and reality-checking that you probably wouldn’t find elsewhere.”

Funds are partially an issue: “Bigger players have opportunities to test and learn more than smaller institutions who may depend on one make-or-break project a year. They also have more funding from commercial organizations who are happy to get good PR.”

Wallace believes that a “better Web presence” is the best option for many museums as “apps can be an expensive one-off” and “relatively few apps have performed at the superstar level to make it a viable proposition.”

Experimenting with Gamification

The National Museum of Scotland has three different apps, including a treasure hunt-type challenge, the highlights of the National Museum of Scotland, and Capture the Museum, which is being developed. The website is also being re-engineered for mobile.

“Capture the Castle has prototype funding. It is a fast and furious team game with each team trying to capture flags to capture different territories in the museum.”

In the future Wallace believes mobile for museums will be about “location technology, gesture-based interfaces and 3D interfaces.”

“For the first time I am seeing nice bits and pieces of affordable tech that could change my world: some augmented reality that doesn’t for once look like a PR stunt.”

Ultimately, despite the temptations, he believes that that “the museum community has to be led from the experience perspective and not because the technology is there. Museums are good at overloading due to the way interfaces have been designed.”

For Mathew Cock only a handful of national museums that have a development team will be able to do this in-house. “The app space is fast-moving so there is a risk taking it on by yourself.” Virtual technology is likely to be the future but, again, “the cost could be high.”

Third party apps like Huntzz now allow museums and visitors to create their own treasure hunts and tours.

Diane Greig argues that “More data analysts are needed in the sector to turn raw data into actionable intelligence.”

So perhaps Mathew Petrie’s dreams aren’t too far-fetched: “If in a few years’ time you could say that one in four of visitors are using Wi-Fi then that would be huge.”

This entry was posted as http://publishingperspectives.com/2013/12/how-uk-museums-use-mobile-tech-to-enhance-visitor-experience/ on December 10, 2013

Report on Technology Use in Cultural Heritage

eCultValue has published a Summary Report of Interviews with Cultural Heritage stakeholders and technology providers in Europe

 The main aim of the eCultValue project is to encourage the use of new technologies that have the potential to revolutionise the way we are dealing with and accessing Cultural Heritage (CH) in Europe. For doing this, it is important to capture the points of view and the needs of the stakeholders working in Cultural Heritage institutions, in relation to the use of ICT. In the context of the “Interview Summary Report”, the eCultValue partners have, therefore, performed a number of interviews with CH stakeholders and technology providers from several European countries. Some of the main outcomes of this activity are presented in this report.