Visitor Flow through the Museum

Visitor Flow

I recently came to the revelation that while I might consider myself an Information professional, the concept of information is not something that I have considering fully. What is information? How do my clients, museum-goers, use the information that museums offer?
Upon entering the museum, visitors are faced with numerous choices.

Selection
Evaluate the choices of galleries
• What goes into visitor’s choices? For some, it is interest. They go up to the information desk, asking to find Impressionism. For others, browsers for example, this evaluation phase might be so infinitesimal. It might just be the thoughts, “Turn left? Okay.”
• Often the map plays into this. Some institutions offer visualizations on their maps: picture of key artworks for example. Others give very descriptive gallery titles: American Landscape Painting after 1860. Visitors might go into a gallery based on some interpretation on a map.
• Visitors that take a tour might turn this element over to the museum docent/staff.

Choose Gallery (ies)
• What goes into visitor’s choices? For some, it is interest. Those are the people who had gone up to the information desk, asking to find Impressionism. For the browsers, again this choice might be done visually. They stop at places that look interesting.
• Visitors that take a tour might turn this element over to the museum docent/staff. Though once led there by a docent, if uninterested, a visitor my peel off of the tour.

Select Artwork(s)
• This is an act of judging a book by its cover. Art is often all about cover, or in this case surface. People are often attracted to what they see. They walk up to it to see it better, or to read the label.
• Pre-knowledge plays a part in choosing an artwork. A visitor might go up to a Picasso based on the fact that it “looks” like a Picasso.
• Visitors that take a tour might turn this element over to the museum docent/staff. Though once led there by a docent, if uninterested, a visitor my peel off of the tour.

Access and Retrieval
Retrieve information
• Once they get to the gallery, many people start by reading the label, even before they look at the artwork.
• The other artworks or objects in the space can add context. If the room is filled with paintings of landscapes, you might start to focus on the differences or similarities.
• Information retrieval can involve human intercessors. Docents and staff can share information in front of an artwork. Conversations with friends or even with strangers can be a means of gaining information. Audio guides involved a human voice, but have a digital delivery.
• Museum staff can add content to the space, such as panels that offer context. There could be magnifying glasses or samples of materials.
• But, in this digital era, there are also other means of accessing information. There could be in gallery digital devices. Museum apps can share content. And, of course, there is always Wikipedia, accessible from any smart phone.

Use
Reinterpret to Make Meaning
• In a formal tour, visitors might be prompted by the staff or docents to do this in a collaborative, discussion based manner.
• In reading the label, visitors would likely try to make sense what they read. “So, if it was made in 1917, what was happening at that time,” for example.
• Some interactives (both technological and analog) might invite reinterpretation. Visitors might be asked to include tags or content about art.

Create Based on This Information
• In a class, visitors might be invited to draw.
• But, there are other forms of creation. Visitors might take a selfie with a work. Visitors might tweet about it. (These would also be forms of sharing.)

Collection and Diffusion
Collect this Information
• Visitors might jot down the name of the work on the map.
• They might collect it in the phone camera roll.
• They might just remember the work of art, keeping it in their memory.

Share This Information
• Sharing can be word of mouth. Passing on their reinterpretation to others. This could be in virtual or non-virtual conversations. This could be text or images or a combination of the two.

Social Media Tips for Interns

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We were talking in the office about interns and social media.  Here are some of the thoughts I brought to that conversation.  Social media can be a powerful tool for connecting, potentially scaffolding for future job acquisition and fulfillment.  It can also be a means for future challenges with job acquisition.  So, a little guidance from mentors might be helpful. 

Given how few jobs are available in the field, with the competition as it is, and the fact that most managers are tech savvy enough to give a little Google search of applicants a try, it would be bad management not to mentor your students.  You should offer mentorship for students in the best ways to comport themselves in the virtual environment.  If you don’t, it’s a little like knowing teens are having sex but not telling them how to put on a condom. 

As managers, it is useful to start this conversation in a positive proactive way.  Share what has worked for you.  For me:

  • As a museum professional, I love the chance that social media gives to interact with the global environment.  I like when people tweet me back.  I love when institutions communicate back.  I love a repin.  I love a comment/ like on an Instagram account.  And, well, don’t let me start about Vine. I would encourage interns to be interactive, and tweet people back.  Favorite items that you have read/ seen. 
  • Being in social media is a way to indicate to the museum world that you are an active participant. 
  • Twitter is a real-time conversation.  So, you do need to tend it.  Check in periodically.  This makes the tool feel immediate. 
  • Hash tags are a great way to connect to surprising people.  For Vine, I find that my hashtags bring me to surprising people. 
  • In Twitter, include questions, when you have them.  People will answer them.  It is a tool to do real work, and people can help point you to new research. 
  • I use Twitter and Pinterest as ways to track ideas that I want to keep track of.  (though hashtags help in both tools.)

 

As a manager, tell people when you might have screwed up.  And, share challenges that might come up.

  • There are real challenges about having a “work” account.  You will need to decide how much personal info is appropriate.  And, different social media services can brook different amount of personal sharing.  On Pinterest, you can have work and personal boards.  Your work colleagues can choose not to participate in your obsessions with Japanese furnishings; crafty banners; or juice cleanses. (I only have two of those by the way.) But, on Twitter, you might choose to have separate accounts for really personal stuff, or do that on Facebook. 
  • Some museums are really serious about confidentiality.  Often all meetings notes, checklists, packing crates, etc. are confidential.  Photography rules are often very strict in galleries.  You need to conform to that.
  • Pictures are often the thing that can get you in trouble.  You might be shooting a selfie, thinking about your image instead of the background.  But, in the background, you might have a work that has yet to be released to the public.  So, if in doubt, ask.
  • Finally, remember social media is at its essence social.  It is a two way street.  When you say something, people can hear it.  This is not unlike being in a museum and saying something personal in the galleries.  The public can hear you. 

 

Your social media presence should be an extension of yourself and the personal brand that you hope to project.  If you are a little irreverent, you account can show that.  If you are very studious, that too is fine.  If you are like many of us, and you are both studious and irreverent, well, then we should connect. 

 

Thinking about Numbers: Playing with the IMLS Data Set

IMLS timed their release of the data on the numbers of museums well. It came just as thousands of museum professionals were playing hooky from their day jobs in sunny Seattle. The numbers sparks a few interesting cocktail conversations, certainly. And, for the number nerds, it was fun to play with on the long planes back home.

They are doing a webinar June 11 about the dataset. But, I thought I would toss out some of my initial stabs at exploring the numbers. First, I was trying to figure out what the map looked like in terms of sheer numbers of museums. Which states have the most museums?

Number of Museums in the State

And, if you are more of a numbers person, this grid sorts the states by number of museums.

States sorted by number of museums

But, I don’t think this really shows a picture of the haves and have nots in terms of museums. How does this break down per capita? I used the census numbers to start thinking about that.

First, I calculated the number of museums per million people and sorted this per state.

States sorted by museums per capita

I was also playing around with thinking of the collective mass of museums and how they are distributed across the country. This graphic shows each state as a percentage of the total population, and each state’s percentage of total museums.

Percentage of all museums and percentage of total US population by State

Finally, perhaps because I began thinking about these numbers when I was enjoying the hospitality of the American Alliance of Museums, I wanted to see how this compares to accredited museums. As of Jan 14, there are 779 accredited museums, according to AAM’s site. AAM reports their categories by field slightly differently than IMLS. For example, AAM broke out Zoos and Aquariums separately, where as IMLS had them in a combined field. So, I went with IMLS’s categories. Here is how they compare:

accredited and all museums by field

Has anyone else started playing around with the data set? What have you found? What other graphics are you thinking about generating?

Vine Interface–An Orientation

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Vine offers a clean interface, but that might mean you need a little extra orientation to get started.

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My vines can be found here.

I have written a series of short posts about Vine. Enjoy:
Vine Video for Museums: Post 1
How can Museum Educators use Vine?
The Right Audience for Vine
Fostering Participation in Vines
Vine to Share the Museum Experience
Narrative in Vine
Looking at Art through Vine
Vine on Your Own
Vine Interface—An Orientation
Vine Basics
Vine and Audio
Stop Motion Tips

I produced these posts as notes in preparation for co-writing this paper for Museums and the Web 2014, with Alli Burness, @Alli_Burnie; Patty Edmonson, @Retrograde_D; and Chad Weinard, @caw_

Our presentation Vine feed is here.

Our workshop in April, 2014 sparked some good conversation, see the Storify.

Many of our participants made some wonderful Vines, check these out.

Stop Motion Tips

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I love anthropomorphizing things. Dancing bananas, singing teapots, talking shoes… So, this lifelong love is my excuse for loving the stop motion culture of Vines. I love the idea of potatoes up and becoming stamps without any human intervention. Or the fact that magic helped you make a silkscreen with drawing fluid.

Stop motion needs most of the frame to remain constant while aspects of the frame change incrementally. The illusion is better when many small increments of change are done in many shots. But, this requires patience and time. I can’t say I have either, but I have still been able to get some satisfying stop motion videos.

Here are a few tips to help you get started with stop motion:

You need something that keeps your phone still and in the same place. A tripod is best, but you can improvise, say with a book and tape.

Lighting can be a tell. Because stop motion takes a lot longer than 6 seconds, you might find yourself shooting frames over the span of hours. With strong light, say from a window, changes in the light will indicate long elapses of time. Artificial light remains constant, and creates a more seamless effect.

Framing devices help you with stop motion. If you are doing a craft video, a cutting board can serve not only as a constant and a framing device for the craft supplies above it.

Ghost, ghost, ghost. Patty E. has some good videos showing the ghost function. Essentially, it shows a faint image of the previous frame to serve as a guide for your current frame. Without it, you are creating stop motion blind to the previous frame.

Save time for your final shot. You are often so excited that you got everything in, and you tap just once for that final shot. But, in reality for a satisfying video, you really need to give that final shot at least double the time of any of your earlier increments. This of it as your final scene rather than just a shot. Let your viewers see your satisfaction rather than your exhaustion.

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My vines can be found here.

I have written a series of short posts about Vine. Enjoy:
Vine Video for Museums: Post 1
How can Museum Educators use Vine?
The Right Audience for Vine
Fostering Participation in Vines
Vine to Share the Museum Experience
Narrative in Vine
Looking at Art through Vine
Vine on Your Own
Vine Interface—An Orientation
Vine Basics
Vine and Audio
Stop Motion Tips

I produced these posts as notes in preparation for co-writing this paper for Museums and the Web 2014, with Alli Burness, @Alli_Burnie; Patty Edmonson, @Retrograde_D; and Chad Weinard, @caw_

Our presentation Vine feed is here.

Our workshop in April, 2014 sparked some good conversation, see the Storify.

Many of our participants made some wonderful Vines, check these out.

Vine and Audio

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In my mind, Vine is primarily visual. But, how can text, audio, and sound be included?

Sound and Audio:
You might be like me, and just accept ambient audio. In some instances, there is nothing you can do. Often, talking just becomes noise, particularly in stop motion compromised of many shots.

Sound, such as waves on the beach, can add ambiance to your video. If you want to embrace sound, consider using longer frames.

But, if you want to add sound to a narrative, touch the screen before the sound starts and wait until after the sound ends to let go. This might seem obvious, but I find myself always having to do this consciously.

If you aren’t the audio provider, make sure to provide your talent clear expectations and cues. And, accept that you might need to make many videos that you will throw away.

Text:
Text is challenging. People read at different speeds. Often 6 seconds is shorter than the time it takes to make sense of text. I haven’t found a good way to include huge volumes of text. One short word can be easy to start or end a frame. Even then, it is often useful to pair this with audio.

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My vines can be found here.

I have written a series of short posts about Vine. Enjoy:
Vine Video for Museums: Post 1
How can Museum Educators use Vine?
The Right Audience for Vine
Fostering Participation in Vines
Vine to Share the Museum Experience
Narrative in Vine
Looking at Art through Vine
Vine on Your Own
Vine Interface—An Orientation
Vine Basics
Vine and Audio
Stop Motion Tips

I produced these posts as notes in preparation for co-writing this paper for Museums and the Web 2014, with Alli Burness, @Alli_Burnie; Patty Edmonson, @Retrograde_D; and Chad Weinard, @caw_

Our presentation Vine feed is here.

Our workshop in April, 2014 sparked some good conversation, see the Storify.

Many of our participants made some wonderful Vines, check these out.

How can Museum Educators use Vine?

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Interpretation is about sharing but also listening. Museum interpreters are information chefs. They take raw content, say scholarship, and then make something palatable out of it. After serving their delicacies, they listen for the feedback of the consumers. Using this feedback, they might refine their recipes. Social media allows visitors to make the interpretation about museum collections into a potluck.

Vine is a particularly useful tool to do this. First, Vine is a consumer product. Anyone with a smart phone can use it, and many of your visitors will have it on their devices. This makes it incredibly useful as a tool to use with visitors. Visitors and museum professionals have equal access to this tool. It can be a point of commonality.
Often museum educators seek to impart some information to a constituency. Content that might seem daunting, like making art with young children, can be shown in a non-threatening, playful manner. Process videos that are dead dreary in the length of YouTube are distilled into the essential steps. While you could certainly use a myriad of tools to describe the iconography of painting for AP art history students, in 6 seconds you can point out all the key points. Vine offers informality, speed of production, and ease of consumption. You are transmitting the content in a form that your end-user already consumers.

Vine is also very easy to use with visitors. Many of the Vines out there are not very good. The bar for content production is low, making the chances of doing better than average high. This is adds the accessibility of the media. Even young children can touch the screen. The investment in each video is low, so discarding videos doesn’t feel too painful. (Additionally, Vine has a useful editing feature that allows you to discard sections.) With children, Vine is an easy way to teach kids simple narrative. You can help them learn to pace and transition. This takes a little bit of workshopping, but once done, your youngest visitors have a tool to share their ideas alongside adults.

That said, many people with Vine on their devices are content consumers, not producers. You will need to help most visitors make Vines.

How can staff help visitors produce content?
1. Create prompts to jumpstart users creativity—like make a Vine of your favorite color
2. Set up Vine experiences. Have props ready to foster playfulness. Include backdrops and other materials that make this feel like a set.
3. During these experiences, or even at events, set up times to show visitors how to use Vine on their devices. This is something that interns can be quite good at doing.
4. Or, have your interns or staff make the vines, so that visitors can focus on their creative expression.

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My vines can be found here.

I have written a series of short posts about Vine. Enjoy:
Vine Video for Museums: Post 1
How can Museum Educators use Vine?
The Right Audience for Vine
Fostering Participation in Vines
Vine to Share the Museum Experience
Narrative in Vine
Looking at Art through Vine
Vine on Your Own
Vine Interface—An Orientation
Vine Basics
Vine and Audio
Stop Motion Tips

I produced these posts as notes in preparation for co-writing this paper for Museums and the Web 2014, with Alli Burness, @Alli_Burnie; Patty Edmonson, @Retrograde_D; and Chad Weinard, @caw_

Our presentation Vine feed is here.

Our workshop in April, 2014 sparked some good conversation, see the Storify.

Many of our participants made some wonderful Vines, check these out.

Fostering Participation in Vines

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Vine, being used through the phone, is a non-threatening way to create videos of visitors and participants.  Most people are used to being in cell phone photographs, so it doesn’t bring out the nerves that a traditional camera might.  But, even with that familiarity, including others still takes a little work.

First, talk through the video with your participants.  Visitors might be comfortable with the tool, but not necessarily with you.  So, begin by sharing about why you are making this video, and a little bit about the Vine app.

Imagine that you want to create a video biography of someone.  Ask them the questions.  Find out the answers.  Then, prototype the video.  Create one with them.  It inevitably will be cut off by the 6 sec format.  Then show your video to your participant.  Explain how you can counteract this—say suggest that they don’t speak in full sentences.

Take cues from traditional filmmaking—or rather use cues.  Tell people how you will cue them.  Be as transparent about how you are creating this video, and then do exactly what you say you will do.  So, for the biography example, you might say, alright, “So I am going to ask you those questions again, but this time, please don’t use full sentence.  I will say one-two-three and then start.”

Use the text field when posting to add content about your video.  Write what the project is and the questions you asked.  Tag the video if you want people to find it.

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My vines can be found here.

I have written a series of short posts about Vine. Enjoy:
Vine Video for Museums: Post 1
How can Museum Educators use Vine?
The Right Audience for Vine
Fostering Participation in Vines
Vine to Share the Museum Experience
Narrative in Vine
Looking at Art through Vine
Vine on Your Own
Vine Interface—An Orientation
Vine Basics
Vine and Audio
Stop Motion Tips

I produced these posts as notes in preparation for co-writing this paper for Museums and the Web 2014, with Alli Burness, @Alli_Burnie; Patty Edmonson, @Retrograde_D; and Chad Weinard, @caw_

Our presentation Vine feed is here.

Our workshop in April, 2014 sparked some good conversation, see the Storify.

Many of our participants made some wonderful Vines, check these out.

Vine Basics

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What does Vine do? I am amazed by the multiplicity of answers to this question–in the form of videos posted by Vine users every day. Most importantly, Vine is a visual medium. It needs to reflect your aesthetic, or at the least, you should feel it looks good. While it uses sound, the sound is often less compelling than the visual.

Good vines exploit the visual nature of the medium. This can take so many forms, from visual explorations of space, to humorous juxtapositions, to surprising stop-motion.

In order to create vines are visually appealing, consider a number of factors:

Lighting—if it looks dark in your phone, your vine will not be wonderful. Natural light can work, but if you are doing stop-motion, the changes throughout the period you are working in, will make your stop-motion less successful.

Tripod—a tripod holds your phone still so that your vine doesn’t feel like the Blair Witch Process.

Ghost—The ghost feature allows you to line up frames so you can create seamless stop-motion.

Save—At the bottom navigation, the far right icon, allows you save your video for later.

More shots—particularly if you are doing something complicated, or that involves sound, consider making a number of “shots.” Each time you tap the screen you create a discrete unit of video. These units in themselves can’t be edited, but each unit can be moved or deleted.

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My vines can be found here.

I have written a series of short posts about Vine.  Enjoy:
Vine Video for Museums: Post 1
How can Museum Educators use Vine?
The Right Audience for Vine
Fostering Participation in Vines
Vine to Share the Museum Experience
Narrative in Vine
Looking at Art through Vine
Vine on Your Own
Vine Interface—An Orientation
Vine Basics
Vine and Audio
Stop Motion Tips

I produced these posts as notes in preparation for co-writing this paper for Museums and the Web 2014, with Alli Burness, @Alli_Burnie; Patty Edmonson, @Retrograde_D; and Chad Weinard, @caw_

Our presentation Vine feed is here. 

Our workshop in April, 2014 sparked some good conversation, see the Storify.

Many of our participants made some wonderful Vines, check these out.

The Continuum of Craft and Creative Expressions

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I need to get a number of confessions out.  I love crafting.  I self-classify as a crafter.  I even have a blog about crafting with kids, Art Play Space. And, I don’t think functional art, often classified as craft, is neither fine nor art. 

All that said, there is a class of things that museum professionals and art teachers teach in the studio that I would say are craft. Use this set of prescribed materials to get this product that looks very similar to the sample the teacher made.  Your gauge of success will be how similar it is to the sample—and how good it looks.  Your chance to innovate will be within some specific, carefully gauged parameters.

This type of activity is in opposition to something that is more focused on creativity.  In an idealized world, this would be something where you have many types of materials available for students.  The choice of materials would be up to the students.  The resulting project would also come from their creativity. 

Consider these illustrations. On the open-ended side, imagine a printmaking class, where 2-3 different processes are described and demonstrated and then students are invited to create.  On the prescribed end of the spectrum, imagine a dragon puppet where the eyes, horns, mouth, teeth, nostrils, ears where everything was pre-cut for students to assemble. 

The projects that are taught in the museum classroom are on the continuum of prescribed projects and completely open ones.  I have come to see the value of both types of projects. 

Reasons for Using Crafts in Museums Studio Classrooms:

  • Following the directions: This is a world where in some instances following the directions is essential to success.  Going on vacation is a set of situations in which you had to follow directions.  Miss a step and you won’t be getting on the plane.
  • Fine motor skills: Using scissors and an exacto to precisely replicate a given form is hard.  Craft is a way that the student will be able to see their deficiencies.  If your project is ovoid rather than expected square, you will be able to see where you have cut incorrectly.
  • Satisfaction: Finishing a project that looks as it can feel good.  Making art can feel good.  But, if you are scared of creativity, crafting can be a gateway drug.
  • Frameworks for Innovations: A blank sheet of paper can be scary to some people.  But, give them a little structure, and they will be safe enough to be creative. 
  • Pretty:  Any art historian knows that art doesn’t have to be pretty.  That said, for millennia humans have surrounded themselves with items whose function is beauty.  Creating works that are prized for being aesthetically pleasing fulfills a primal need. 

On the more creative end of the spectrum:

  • Rules are meant to be broken: Innovation is hard to teach but easier to foster.  Teaching students how to be creative without rules can have effects throughout their lives.
  • Techniques: Focusing of the techniques, say bookmaking, you are allowing students to immerse themselves in process. 
  • Ugly: Art can be an expression. Creating something that is totally about process give you an insight onto many museum collections.  Creating an impasto painting that speaks to you is one way to gain new insight into Joan Mitchell. 

The issue is how your proposed project lands on this spectrum, and this is related to your students.  For very young students, process based works, devoid of specific results, can be ideal.  Painting is wonderful to preschoolers, who by nature are predisposed to immersing themselves in process. 

The real litmus test isn’t age but instead interest about ability.  If your proposed group of students is scared of art, or unfamiliar with making stuff, then the project should have a visually pleasurable result.  But, if this same group doesn’t have good fine motor skills, then you might still prick something with multiple visually appealing outcomes.  For elementary, you might do splatter painting.  You might think of it this way: 

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