What’s the point? Two case studies of introducing digital in-gallery experiences

Margaret Collerd Sternbergh, The Phillips Collection, USA, Silvia Filippini Fantoni, North Carolina Museum of Art, USA, Vivian Djen, The Phillips Collection, USA

Published paper: What’s the point? Two case studies of introducing digital in-gallery experiences

Staff members from the Indianapolis Museum of Art (IMA) and the Phillips Collection address the challenges, successes, surprises, and triumphs of digital in-gallery experiences by sharing the implementation of the same digital self-portrait app for two Neo-Impressionism exhibitions.

The authors seek to provide approaches to the challenge of introducing technology in art museum galleries. The discussion furnishes real-world examples of how a museum, regardless of size or available resources, can experiment with engaging its visitors through emerging and well-explored technologies.

The progressive integration of technology in the galleries at the IMA is the result of the implementation of a new visitor-centered exhibition-development model that has been in place for over a year with the support of the upper management (top-down model). At the core of this new approach, whose objective is to increase visitors’ engagement with art, is the key role that interpretation specialists and evaluators play in the exhibition-development process. The integration of these staff into a team-based method for development has resulted in a more consistent and strategic use of technology-based interpretive tools, demonstrated most recently in an in-gallery app, Pointillize Yourself.

The Phillips Collection, lacking resources and experience with large-scale projects, implemented a grassroots, bottom-up model. First, the Phillips tested small, one-off, in-gallery activities at public programs to gauge audience interest and staff capacity. Then, building on successes and learning from experiences, they implemented larger and longer-term projects. Throughout the process, informal evaluation and user testing provided important feedback for development. Meanwhile, internal shifts in mission and goals refined interdepartmental working groups. These experiments with technology culminated in the implementation of the #NeoImpressed app, a modified version of IMA’s Pointillize Yourself.

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