Hacking the Museum

Recently I attended a conference titled “Hacking the Museum: Innovation, Agility and Collaboration.” My friend Tim Svenonius of SFMOMA and I spoke to a group of museum technologists about mobile content, and how we create conversations about art that are portable and invite sharing.

In the last couple years, like a lot of museums, LACMA has been pretty busy in this regard. We’re about to launch version 2 of our mobile website (mobile.lacma.org), and we’re rolling out other exhibition-specific apps like the one we just debuted for the California Design show. We’ve just partnered with the Annenberg Innovation Lab at USC to explore emerging technologies, thanks to the generous support of LACMA trustee David Bohnett and the David Bohnett Foundation. The collaboration came about after a series of conversations with Professor Anne Balsamo, who writes about the sociology of technology and its impact on culture, and her students.

The museum has also gotten involved in open source development, rebuilding our website in Drupal with the help of our partners at Urban Insight. Working in Drupal, we can adapt, customize and contribute code to a shared community (including other museums) interested in new web technologies.

Just recently, we received a generous grant from the Getty Foundation as participants in an online scholarly publishing initiative. The idea is to go beyond the usual approach to presenting information about our collection online, creating a deeper experience that reflects and informs ongoing scholarship, which is a big part of what the museum is about. We’re developing our open source approach in collaboration with IMA Labs at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. We’re also enhancing our core Collections Online presentation, with the help of artist Jody Zellen, to create a more inviting, interactive way for you to experience the wealth of our collections beyond what’s on view in the galleries on any given day.

As someone said at the conference, these days everything is in beta, and that means we welcome your feedback and we need your input to fuel the iterative process. If you’re interested in what museums are doing online and want to help, please consider becoming an e-volunteer. We’re looking for a small dedicated crew of digerati with a little time to give online. We’re offering free memberships to our core e-volunteers who contribute 40 hours or more. Email for more information.

Amy Heibel

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