Session Proposal: Building iPad apps for galleries

Museums have been using touch screens for years, but the iPad gives us all a common and familiar platform for app design.  Let’s spend a couple hours comparing notes on iPad app authoring tools and possibly even build a basic ourselves.  Programming experience would be nice, but no previous experience with iOS development should be necessary for this discussion.


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Documenting TCMNY

There’s sure to be a lot of great conversations this weekend – so of course we want to document them – both for with those who can’t attend and our own future reference. In the spirit of the unconference, the sessions are unlikely to have slides or handouts to share, so we’re looking to you, the campers, to help create the THATCamp Museums NYC bibliography.

There’s four ways that you can contribute to the TCMNY bibliography:

One is by taking notes on the sessions you attend, and sharing them in the THATCamp Museums NYC 2012 Collection in Google Docs. To better streamline the process, we have the following guidelines and requests for note-taking:

The second way to share is to tag your pictures, tweets, blog posts, etc. with “thatcamp” and “TCMNY”.

Third, if you have documentation to share that does not fall into the above categories, please send it to . It will then be added to the THATCamp Bibliography.

Finally, your thoughts about THATCamp sessions are valued! Please post your reflections on each session attended on this blog. Be sure and tag your post with “Session Notes”.

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Session Proposal: What API Ecosystem Do Museums Need?

The really successful apps and services we see today do one of three things: provide something fundamentally useful to other apps, collect together the already existing data and functions of other apps, or provide a central place for gathering all your interactions with other apps and services. Think Foursquare, Instagram, and Facebook. Foursquare provides location data and check-in for many apps; Instagram uses Foursquare to map your photos as well as Twitter, Facebook, and Flickr to share them; all your check-ins, instagrams and anything else can be on your Facebook wall. The “ecosystem” (mostly APIs provided by all these services) allows these parts to sum into a greater whole.

Most museums apps feel like dead ends to me because they don’t really do anything. They don’t share very well (if at all) and they don’t interact with anything else, not even the institution’s own website. I think what we lack is a sense of the proper “ecosystem” for Museum apps and web services. Some parts of a potential ecosystem exist, such as Foursquare, but what are the missing elements? What could a museum provide that would make a check-in at a museum more than or different from a check-in elsewhere (or how could we use check-ins more to our benefit)? Easier membership? If we could get over cameras in the gallery, what could we add to Instagram? A way to attach object information to the photo? Foursquare can find all the pizzarias near you, but if object information could be attached to a photo that was that attached to a check-in, couldn’t Foursquare then find all the nearby Van Goghs?

What kinds of interactions are going to truly benefit museums and museum visitors, how do identify the missing pieces and then… how do we build them?

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Session Proposal: Museum GPS for Kids

Back in February, an advisory group of 5th graders from Queens proposed several ideas for museum trips of the future at the National Art Education Association Museum Education Division Preconference. As expected, some of their ideas were wonky, not quite possible or necessary for broader student audiences (You can read about their presentation on the Queens Muse).

The students mostly critiqued the restrictiveness of museum field trips. Most students had been to museums with their families and preferred the freedom to wander and explore. However, students were sensitive to safety issues and  believed they should be restricted to certain areas in the museum. Their proposal combined a few ideas – using GPS to find objects, being tracked by teachers, being restricted to certain areas, signaling alarms when help is needed and playing scavenger hunts electronically.

Can we combine object tagging, student tracking, and gaming possibilities on devices for use by school-age children in museums?


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Session Proposal: Disruption in the Field

What are museums, libraries, and archives hired to do? Does this matter, and how does it differ from what they offer? I’ve recently been learning about Clayton Christensen’s work on disruption theory and it’s provoked some interesting questions about what job(s) people hire institutions to do. Here’s a link to a piece on the blog looking at technological disruption and change in the early telecommunications industry.

The theory comes out of the world of business methods, so why should we pay any attention to it at all? I think we should because of the broader implications that arise from it. The technology industry has been seeing an increase in disruption recently, and it looks like the effects are spilling over into other areas alongside the penetration of technology. I would like to take the time to think about what job museums, libraries, and archives are hired to do by their patrons and visitors, and if they face disruption by good-enough alternatives that might or might not be in the same business space (Wikipedia, Amazon, etc).

I’m by no means an expert on this, but I did attend a conference in Amsterdam on the topic as it relates to mobile computing. I’m interesting in seeing what people are worried about when it comes to possible replacements, or even if it is considered a problem.

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Session Proposal: Geotagging Museum Objects

Projects like historypin that geotag historic photographs have gained a lot of traction over the past few years. But what about geotagging other types of museum content, specifically 3D objects? Museum of London has geotagged a portion of its collection by borough (My London). Minnesota Historical Society just launched a geographic collections search (in beta). I managed to load roughly twenty 19th-century objects from lower Manhattan into historypin before their content manager told me to stop (they’re still up on the site if you want to check them out–zoom in to the area around Broadway and Park Row).

I’d love to talk with fellow campers about the possibilities of geotagged objects. Do you know of other museums that are currently doing this work? What would it take to geotag objects on a broad scale (across many museums)? What new information can we learn about our collections when we can see that they used to live side by side or down the block from each other?


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Session proposal – On Representing Material Culture / ObjectVRs

I have a couple of different ideas which might be different sessions, might meld into other people’s session proposals, or might all belong in one session – you tell me!

Basically, I have an ongoing concern that current representations of material culture online are not sufficient. I worry that we’re already stuck in a model that makes more sense for documents and for 2D art than for three dimensional artifacts.

1. Thinking outside the box:

How can we reimagine websites for digital collections of artifacts in ways that transcend current models? We all know the current standard: you search, you end up with a list or a grid of thumbnails, you go to a page for a single item, you have one decent image of that item and some summary / tombstone-type text. Should we just be adding to this? More images, more information, more conversation? I’ve previously written about this as a need for “multiplicity.”

OR should we be considering new, completely different models? What would they look like? It’s hard to even imagine – but I bet as a group we could brainstorm some interesting ideas. Maybe some of you can share sites that are already transcending standard models.

What are the pros and cons here? There’s definitely something to be said for keeping a familiar interface so users are comfortable navigating through the information we have to offer. But how can we balance this with a need to better express the materiality of the objects?

then, another related issue-

2. Are ObjectVRs worth the effort?

I hope the answer is yes, because over the last couple years I have put quite a bit of effort into an objectVR project. Here’s a recent example from my project:

When I look at this object, I can rotate it to whatever side (and zoom in on whichever detail)  is most interesting to me. It would take hundreds of close-up images to view the same detail in a strictly 2D format, and would be confusing to understand where on the garment each detail fell. As I view the object turning, I have a better sense of its spatial presence. So, yes, worth it – maybe? My undergraduate students are lucky to have access to these real objects in our collection, but rarely is such access available on demand – and I realize that students at other institutions don’t have the same kind of access to such artifacts. I’m hoping that these digital surrogates can allow a student to engage in close looking not unlike how they might examine the object in person.

In my time working on this project I have come to the conclusion that the most “expensive” moment of the process (in terms of time and labor) is in the preparation – mounting the objects and setting up the lights. However, the same time and effort would have been required for a single front view photograph! If you’re going to spend all that time and energy to photograph an object, why not stick it on a turntable and photograph it from all sides, taking just a few more minutes?

Well, in the process of developing this ObjectVR project, I’ve found a couple of answers to the “why not?” but I honestly don’t think they’re very good ones. It has taken us quite some time to develop a workflow for processing the raw images into objectVR animations, and to publish them online. However, I’m hopeful that future stages of this project will move more efficiently now that we’ve worked out the kinks.

So, what do you think? Is it worth it? I’m happy to share details of my process and show more examples, including our custom settings in the commercial Object2VR software we’re now using (including the settings that hopefully make these work on mobile devices).

Categories: General, Museums, Proceedings of THATCamp, Session Proposals, Teaching, Visualization | 4 Comments

Session Proposal: Cameras in the Gallery

THATCamp notes taken during this Session can be found at

Session Proposal
Yielding to the omnipresent camera phone, most museums have had to change their no-photography policy (although still enforced in special exhibitions). Museums even encourage taking photos, featuring them on their websites and social media pages.

I would like to explore how photo taking and photo sharing practices have changed the gallery experience and the experience of art online. Do these candid snapshots reveal something that official collection photographs don’t? What do we need to know about fair use and copyright infringement? How do we manage all these images?

Here are some links to spark conversation:

At Louvre, Many Stop to Snap but Few Stay to Focus

At Galleries, Cameras Find a Mixed Welcome

Google Art Project and Google Goggles

Also –
Check out any museum’s social media pages including Official Flickr Group Pool and Facebook;

And see results of online image search for any artist:
( Picasso? – About 75,600,000 results in 0.12 seconds; Gauguin? “only” about 3,510,000 results; Beuys? 1,350,000……)

Categories: Archives, General, Museums, Proceedings of THATCamp, Session Proposals, Social Media | 2 Comments

Session Proposal: Permanence and Digital Media Proposal Valerie Clark

Archives and special collections used to hold documents and books. Then archives expanded to maintain photographs, film, video and sound. These additional materials are less permanent than documents.

After the 1990s or thereabouts, digital media enter the archive. If the great novel of 2001 was written on WordPerfect the software that runs Word Perfect is no longer produced. Today’s Stan Brakhage uses an IPhone. When the next generation of IPhones comes along, can we still watch those movies? What will happen to the digital “rough cuts” of Hollywood movies that aren’t blockbusters? We still have Leonardo’s sketchbooks, but the aging monitors used by Nam June Paik are endangered, even though they are only forty years old.

The preservation of digital media requires emulation and migration. Almost any medium can be preserved on a hard drive but the physical parts of hard drives wear out, and hard drives themselves may become obsolete. The answer may lie in cloud computing, but even then, the motorized parts of servers will wear out. Perhaps there are computer hardware experts here who can help.

Let’s examine the history of knowledge containers, because that’s what servers are. If we use today’s language to describe them, wax and clay tablets are knowledge containers. So are scrolls, palm leaf manuscripts, codices, and folios. They are old technology that was advanced when they were new. In our culture, the book was the preeminent knowledge container.As in the tablet, the scroll, and the codex, function, available means, and serendipity all played a part in the development and adoption of the book. In what ways have function, available means, and serendipity influenced digital media?

Categories: General, Proceedings of THATCamp, Session Proposals | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments