A BRAVE NEW Hyperlinked World: How Technology is Bridging the Gap Between Users and the Arts.
How can museums increase participatory engagement with their patrons and create a more user centered environment? With the technological advancements of the 21st century users can now experience these exhibits through means such as touch screen displays, smartphone applications and open-source tools. As a result, smart devices are no longer considered distractions hindering the museum experience, but learning tools. These interactive experiences propel the museum into the realm of hyperlinked environments.
The Cleveland Museum of Art (CMA) for example, engages its users via a 40-foot interactive MicroTile wall, known as the ArtLens Wall. The ArtLens Wall can “display in real time all works of art from the permanent collection currently on view in the galleries [ranging] between 4,200 and 4,500 artworks at any given time” (clevelandart.org). Through the ArtLens App (a free resource) their users have access to the museum’s resources both in house or from their own homes. The application allows them the ability to “create and share tours[globally], browse through all artworks on view, see the CMA’s highlights, and keep track of your favorite artworks” (clevelandart.org,).
In order to include all demographics of patrons, specifically the visually impaired, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago created an “open-source toolkit called Coyote for producing image descriptions” (Majumdar, 2016). This allows the visually impaired to fully experience what’s available on the museum’s site “with descriptions that are read aloud using a screen reader” (Zimmerman, 2016).
Libraries can use these museums as examples for ways to reach their own communities. The advantages of reaching a broader demographic can increase user participation, community outreach, and create a sense of belonging. This is not a call to fall into “techno-lust” but one of community analysis. Reminding us that the user is the center of our universe; our “SUN.”
The Cleveland Museum of Art. (n.d.a). ArtLens wall. https://www.clevelandart.org/artlens-gallery/artlens-wall
The Cleveland Museum of Art. (n.d.b). ArtLens app. https://www.clevelandart.org/artlens-gallery/artlens-app
Majumdar, S. (2016). Coyote, an a11y initiative. https://mcachicago.org/publications/blog/2016/07/reading-images
Zimmerman, E. (2016). Technology invites a deep dive into art. https://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/30/arts/design/technology-invites-a-deep-dive-into-art.html