Tuesday, February 17, 2009
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First, could you tell us a little about yourself (background, interests, hobbies) and what your role is at the IMA?
I enjoy riding my bicycle, playing/watching soccer, and cooking. I love my wife, robots, ducks, clouds, dinosaurs and traveling. Honestly, I could travel non-stop.
My undergrad degree is in anthropology where my interests were in cultural/visual anthropology – photography, video and eventually museum exhibitions. I started my museum career at the Indiana State Museum working in education and technology. I’m now Director of New Media at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. I’ve been at the IMA just over 4 years. I’ve worked on countless video projects, audio guides, web content and museum exhibitions. I’m most proud of the work New Media has done with YouTube, Roman Art from the Louvre webisodes, Nature Holds My Camera: The Video Art of Sam Easterson, IMA’s Blog and now ArtBabble. New Media’s role at the IMA is to bring stories of art and artists alive – through the use of technology. We take IMA’s mission and apply it to the work that happens internally – from Curatorial, Education, Conservation, Horticulture and Exhibitions to produce digital stories that are accessed globally through our website, iTunes, Flickr and more. It’s a blast.
The IMA, in the past couple of years, has been establishing itself as one of the top art museum entities on the internet, pushing for more innovative ways to reach a broader audience and to be more transparent concernings its activities. What is the driving force behind this change and how do you see it changing the future landscape of art museums?
Our Director and CEO, Maxwell Anderson is very supportive of innovation, creativity and technology. So we’re fortunate that we have support from the top. Since the museum reopened in 2005, we have all been considering new ways of offering unique or innovative visitor experiences. Technology is one natural choice for this approach. We’ve got some incredibly talented staff working in the technology areas (new media, application development, graphic design) that can bring the stories from across all departments into the digital world. This allows us to work directly with the content experts to produce documentaries, websites-from-scratch or a handheld gallery tour. We’re pretty lucky. The investment in technology staff has allowed us to develop everything internally. If we outsourced something like ArtBabble, well, it just wouldn’t happen.
In terms of the future landscape of museums…every museum will be doing this. Last year, we had almost half a million people interact with our art content online. That’s an important number for us as content creators but also in establishing the IMA globally. Museums like MoMA, Brooklyn Museum or Tate Modern have incredible online presences. Who doesn’t want a better connection to online communities? Online, the Indianapolis Museum of Art gets to rub elbows with museums in New York, LA, London and so on.
My goal at the IMA is to continue our early success with an online global audience, but do a much better job with connecting our local community to our blog, iTunes U page, ArtBabble or The Davis LAB. We have to be more relevant to the local Indianapolis community. I look at some of the highly successful community projects at Brooklyn Museum with envy.
What was the impetus for creating the ArtBabble.org web site? And how do you see its role as being different than say the continued use of communal video sites like youtube.com?
You can find videos from the IMA on YouTube and iTunes U. Both have been really good online arenas for us, but not ideal. We wanted to create an online destination where we could control the way content was presented (not in competition with non-art content), provide better accessibility, make full use of HD video, create a more immersive experience of watching video by providing additional, related content, and ultimately take a step towards establishing THE online destination for video art content – managed by museum professionals. I’m still amazed that this site was built entirely in-house – talk about working with talented colleagues.
ArtBabble plans on partnering with other major museums and institutions, what can you tell us about these partnerships and in what way will they be contributing?
We are talking to six major institutions with excellent art video content as potential ArtBabble partners. Our goal from the beginning was to create the online destination for video art content. There is no way the IMA can do that alone and a reason we did not brand ArtBabble as an IMA project. We will run it separate from IMA, continually searching for the best video art content to add. It’s all about the visitor experience and the opportunity for a visitor with any art background to discover ArtBabble and listen to Maya Lin, Robert Irwin or Type A. Think about all the artists that visit museums and all the potential interviews and talks that museums have documented. We want this content on ArtBabble.
What sort of goals/criteria do you and your department set for yourselves when you begin a new project.
We want to provide better connections to art and artists for our visitors. We want to tell great stories. We want to innovate in this field. We want to enjoy ourselves. We want honest, critical feedback. And it doesn’t hurt to win awards, get tons of hits and so on.
What do you see as the future of art museums and their presence on the Internet?
It’s essential. A museums online presence is an extension of its physical location. This started by simply communicating hours, location and the basics. We now offer tickets online, a blog, videos, our collection, a dashboard and lots more. This is obviously a trend for lots of other museums, but as senior museum leadership becomes more comfortable with technology and the web, I think we will see museums incorporating all aspects of their operations into an online presence. This will mean integrated online marketing campaigns, conservation reports for works of art, fund raising, and much more original new media content. For the museums really willing to take a risk, it will also support user generated content – non-museum staff creating content, such as reviews or articles, audio tours or videos, online exhibitions and who knows what else? I hope we can blur the lines between institution and community.
What other sites/projects/web design inspire you?
I’m always checking out what other museums are doing. Brooklyn Museum, Tate Modern and Walker Art Center do a fantastic job. LACMA, MoMA, and the Met are working on some really interesting things.
Aside from that, I’m a Flickr junkie, and I keep up to date with Facebook and Twitter. I keep track of video sites on the web, art related blogs such as this one and Modern Art Notes. And, I’ve been known to check out I Can Has Cheezburger?
Mostly, I like to consider projects that museums aren’t doing. So, although I keep tabs on what other museums are up to, I generally keep an eye on the private sector and what’s happening with the general web audience. If the IMA didn’t have an open mind, ArtBabble would never have happened.