Archive | February, 2017

Final Project

28 Feb

Final Projects

The purpose of your final project is to use the skills that you have developed in this course to produce a well crafted digital history project. You have already chosen one of two options:

1. Students taking this course for “U.S. credit” should complete Project 1: Voices from the Waterways.

2. Students taking this course for “non-US credit” should complete Project 2: Travels in Asia Minor.


Project 1: Voices from the Waterways (VfW): Reconnecting to Our Waterways (ROW) Steering Committee Interviews


  1. Provide Metadata in XML format for all podcasts
  2. Bundle each sound file and supplementary materials with the metadata in ZIP files and upload these to our Google Drive.
    • Labels for these should be as follows: YEAR-MO-DY-vfw_row_steering_lastname_firstname (the year, month, day should be the date of the interview. Be sure to use lower case).
  3. Create a digital oral history narrative on ROW for the VfW website

Minimum Requirements for the Oral History Narrative

  • The Oral History Narrative will tell a story about the history of ROW
  • While each student may work on a separate part of the project, the overall narrative must be cohesive. So, the group should provide some kind if introductory section that explains the project and frames each section
  • Each contributor should provide 1250-1500 words
  • Each contributor should cite at least 4 oral histories
  • Using Soundcloud, each contributor should embed at least one audio file into the presentation that elucidates the narrative
  • Each contributor should embed at least two visual elements
  • Each piece should use at least two primary (in addition to the oral histories) and three secondary sources
  • You should include your full name on any objects that you have created for the website.

Helpful Hints

  • The best projects will have a core research question that is clear to the reader.
  • Use the rubrics that I have provided on the website to guide your design and writing.
  • Remember, this project is for a public audience who will want to see it as soon as the project is complete, so be sure to make it as professional as possible.

Bonus Credit

  • While I have assigned minimum requirements, I will provide extra credit for going above and beyond. So, if you integrate other digital elements into your project (e.g. interactive timelines, interactive maps, visualizations), I will take this into account when completing your grade.

Project 2: Travels in Asia Minor (TAM)


  1. Create a KML map of TAM
    • The KML map will note every location and historical object mentioned in TAM
    • Each location and object will be given a date stamp (YEAR-MO-DY) or date range
    • Each location and object will be given a geographical position (latitude, longitude)
    • Each location and object will include the text and page number from which it was extracted
  2. Create a Gazeteer for TAM that includes TAM place name (and variations); Ancient place name (and variations); Modern place name (and variations); longitude; latitude
  3. Narrative sketches of major places described in TAM

Minimum Requirements for the Oral History Narrative

  • Each contributor should provide a 1250-1500 word narrative that contextualizes a major location on the map, associating it with the history of archaeology
  • Each narrative should use at least two primary and three secondary sources
  • You should include your full name on any objects that you have created.

Helpful Hints

  • Use the rubrics that I have provided on the website to guide your design and writing.
  • Remember, this project will eventually be available for a public audience, so accuracy is a necessity.

Bonus Credit

  • While I have assigned minimum requirements, I will provide extra credit for going above and beyond. So, if you integrate other digital elements into your project (e.g. interactive timelines or visualizations), I will take this into account when completing your grade.

Museums of New York

22 Feb

Schomburg Center entrance. Harlem, New York.

Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture and the Museum of Sex are located in New York City. There is plenty to be explored in New York City and museums provide exploration of edgy topics for its local inhabitants and tourists who visit the city. Both of these museums utilize digital technology and displays in their exhibits. The Schomburg Center is geared towards a wider audience while the Museum of Sex is catered towards adults. Both museums were busy on the days I visited. The Schomburg had a school group going through the Black Power exhibit with a worksheet. The teacher was explaining the concept of black power to the majority black body of students. Another teacher was on Facebook Live to broadcast the experience to her friends. She was giving a virtual tour of the exhibit. There were screens set up in almost every section of the exhibit with headphones. Visitors could listen to news
clips and interviews from prominent Black figures who helped to develop the concept of black power as it arose in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The other exhibit in the Schomburg center was about Blaxploitation films. This exhibit was equipped with touch screen stations where visitors can select to watch video clips of popular Blaxploitation films or take a Google Earth tour of the life of Josephine Baker and Jacob Lawrence.


Digital display screen with headphones. Black Power exhibit. Schomburg Center.



Touch screen display in the Blaxploitation exhibit. Schomburg Center.


The Museum of Sex has more exhibits.

20170220_200527946_iOSVisitors are encouraged to begin in the exhibit about popular clubs and discos in New York City. Interspersed between the thumping disco music are clips of oral history interviews that are describing what it was like to go to the discos when they were at their height. Interviewees talked about the drugs, the sex and described what it was like to experience a night out dancing with a diverse crowd. The next exhibit is on the second level titled XXX. It has glass displays of objects used throughout history to enhance or control human sexuality. Visitors are encouraged to play a game on their smartphone as they make their way through the exhibit. The game determines the participant’s “sexual personality.”


Both exhibits use technology through screens featuring audio and visual pieces to immerse the participants into the experience. The sustainability of both seem viable for the moment. The Schomburg Center is a part of the New York Public Library with a bookstore attached to also help with funding. The website has a donation page for those who wish to offer financial support online. The Center is under renovation as more exhibits are being added and it was free to the public. The fee to enter the Museum of Sex is a bit high, even with a student discount. The museum is attached to a gift shop which sells a lot of adult toys and books on the topic of sex. The first exhibit about New York clubs in the 1980s has a functioning bar which was busy in the evening. The topic of sex may intrigue visitors to continue to support as the Museum of Sex has changing exhibits every year. The Museum of Sex has the Muse Foundation that is the main source of funding. The Muse Foundation is looking for equipment and resource materials from the general public to remain sustainable into the future.

Going Digital: Exhibits at the IMA and Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum

22 Feb

Digital elements in exhibits allow museums to create dynamic, playful spaces and experiences for visitors. Two special exhibits, one at the IMA, What Lies Beneath and the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design MuseumProcess Lab: Citizen Design incorporate digital tools that invite visitors to investigate and solve problems presented in the exhibit.

The IMA’s exhibit, What Lies Beneath allows visitors to learn about tools like infrared and x-ray scanning technology that art conservators use frequently to examine paintings. X-Rays and infrared technology can reveal far more than the human eye, which helps conservators learn about the artist’s process, root out forgeries, and assess the condition of the painting [1]. Visitors assume the role of a conservator by investigating a painting on display  by using the infrared camera to determine if it is original or fake based on information provided. Three additional touch pads also allow visitors to explore hidden layers of three paintings with infrared and x-ray technology. The participatory nature of What Lies Beneath creates a opportune learning space where visitors test their new knowledge within the boundaries of a thoughtfully playful environment [2].


 Step 3. Discover. A infrared camera allows visitors to uncover hidden layers of a painting.

While the exhibit space for What Lies Beneath includes participatory elements, the corresponding online exhibition remains sparse. The webpage provides basic information about the special exhibit and a short video explaining the usefulness of infrared and x-ray technology for art conservators. Since What Lies Beneath is a special exhibit funded by the NEA,  the IMA is mindful to keep the online curation simply as an advertising platform.

Over winter break, I had the opportunity to go to the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum (CHSDM)  in New York City. CHSDM is well known for its cutting edge use of technology, catalogs all objects, designers, and colors from the museum on a steady accessible website [3]. One of their exhibits, Process Lab: Citizen Designutilizes digital technology to record and compare visitors design processes created during their experience. In this exhibit, visitors are asked to think about what they and their community care about, evaluate the issues, and propose ways that they can make a difference. Process Lab: Citizen Design mimics the processes designers face when they collaborate with a community to address a problem, and allow visitors to think critically about how they can facilitate change in their communities.

Digital Visualization .jpg

Design “Pen” used to record visitor’s data. Courtesy of Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian  Design Museum

Once the visitor’s design plan is complete, they can use a special digital “pen” to record their choices and upload them onto a station. By downloading their selections, visitors can see their results in a data visualization that compares their choices to other visitors’ designs.  The Process Lab: Citizen Design also allows visitors to access their design plans on an online account after they leave the museum, giving them the opportunity to compare their selections as the lab collects and updates visitors’ data daily [4].


My data visualization recorded during my visit. 

Digital elements ties both of these exhibits together. Touch screens are used for exploration and discovery at the IMA, and a smart “pen” collects and sharing personalized experiences at the CHSDM. While both exhibits create engaging activities for visitors, What Lies Beneath digital presence primarily remains on-site and whereas The Process Lab  encourages visitors to return to their experiences online.


[1]. “What Lies Beneath | Indianapolis Museum of Art,” accessed February 21, 2017,

[2]. Scott Nicholson, “Microsoft Word – Using Transformative Play for Meaningful Gamification.docx – mp2012_submission_79.pdf,” accessed February 21, 2017,

[3]. Robinson Meyer, “The Museum of the Future Is Here,” The Atlantic, January 25, 2015, accessed February 21,2017 

[4]. “Installation and Data Visualization, Process Lab: Citizen Design, 2016-2017,” accessed February 21, 2017.

Digital Humanities and the Small Cultural Institution

22 Feb

The Center for Ray Bradbury Studies and the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library have a lot in common. Both are dedicated to a single author and both attempt to connect their audience to the author by using the author’s personal artifacts and both are relatively new institutions, founded in 2007 and 2011, respectively. However, they have had very different origins and goals, which reflects in their use of digital technology.

The Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library (KVML) was conceived primarily as a monument to the author, a place where people could gather to pay respects and feel connected to someone that influenced them personally. Its primary exhibit is a recreation of Vonnegut’s library, where brief labels assigned to shelves of books are supplemented with QR codes that provide additional context. The museum also makes good use of video both on site as an introduction to the author and the library and on its website to provide a history of the project. While this use of digital technology does help the library make the best use of limited space and resources, their use of digital technology really shines in social media. The KVML Facebook page has over 35,000 likes and its posts are frequently shared by dozens of users. This involvement on social media extends to a community focused approach in the real world, as the library is frequent sponsor and host to cultural and education events.

In contrast the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies was conceived primarily as an academic resource. It was only the gifts of the Bradbury records, library and office objects in 2013 that expanded the scope of the library to where it is today, hosting a recreation of the author’s 1960s office and an extensive collection of correspondence. In the real world, the library and recreated office are difficult to access, have no set hours and no real system of interpretation aside from a tour from Professor Eller, current director of the Center. Unsurprisingly, while the Center has a website, it has not made great use of digital technology in the delivery or interpretation of Bradbury scholarship. However, like the KVML, the Center has begun to make effective use of social media, posting 360 degree tours of the archive and office exhibit. Considering the Center’s limited resources, this is likely the best use they can make of digital technology, followed by offering a digital library of archival materials. Like the outreach created by social media, the planned processing and publication of a selection of the archive’s contents will help create awareness of and support for the archive moving forward.

While the KVML and CRBS have a lot in common, they do have slightly different goals. While social media requires relatively little investment and can pay dividends for both institutions, the KVML’s focus on the audience prompts the use of digital technology to enhance the onsite user experience, while the top digital priority for the Center is the creation of a scholarly database of Bradbury correspondence.

Digital Learning in the Indiana State Museum and the State Library Education Center

21 Feb

When creating an exhibit in a museum or other entity, more and more organizations are turning to digital components as a teaching device rather than just relying on the material objects and carefully placed panels. Not only does using digital aspects heighten the educational experience, if done correctly, they can be the stand-out in the whole exhibit. However, there can be some problems that arise when using digital technology, especially in a place where the public will be in constant contact with the devices. Both the Indiana State Museum, and the new, Education Center located at the Indiana State Library have interesting digital aspects that enhance the experience for visitors and enhance the quality of the exhibit overall.

The Indiana State Museum is currently undergoing a major turn-around of all their exhibits, and is expected to be done by the fall of 2018. While during my visit only one of those sections was done, the museum is still a great place to visit and as a first time visitor, I really enjoyed myself. The digital aspects in the State Museum range from the very simple to a state of the art, one-of-a-kind digital experience. The best digital thing that I saw at the museum was located in an exhibit dedicated to the lives of Hoosiers when Indiana became a state in 1816. The set up was, a full size covered wagon was placed in the entrance to the exhibit, and where the driver would sit to steer the horses, was a touch-screen that was transparent so the visitor could see all the way to the back of the wagon. The task was simple, pack enough items that would get you safely from Kentucky to the new state of Indiana. While touring with a member of the Education department, I learned that this exhibit is one of the only ones of its kind. The online digital aspect of the State Museum is like any other website for a museum you could think of. They have the very modern scrolling page like many other organizations are utilizing, but they do have an easy to use site, unlike that of my next site, the Education Center.

The Statehouse Education Center, which is located at the Indiana State Library, just recently opened as a project that was a part of the 2016 Bicentennial. Designed to cover not only the history of the Indiana State House, but also cover Indiana civics. Most of the exhibits in the Education Center are digital, with only four display cases for artifacts. One of the standout exhibits at the Education Center is a scale model of the Statehouse with several touch screens that go on a virtual tour of the building. Another exhibit at the Education Center goes through how all three branches of government are involved with how a bill becomes a law. This is a very interactive exhibit, especially for children, and it is a very well done digital exhibit. The digital aspect of the Education Center really changes the small space in the State Library. The website for the education center is in the same format as all of the other state websites in Indiana. However, the website, while not that pretty, gives a lot of information on the center.



The IWM and IMHM and their use of Digital Technologies

21 Feb

As technological capability has rapidly increased, so too have museums needed to increase their knowledge of and presence in the digital world.  Some museums feature digital displays in their exhibits, allowing patrons to interact with them.  Others have not gone that far but have created and continue to maintain websites for their respective museums. The Indiana War Memorial and the Indiana Medical History Museum are of the latter group.  While their exhibits are not as digitally immersed as other museums, both make use of digital tools, using such methods to promote their exhibits and engage with their audiences.


The Indiana War Memorial’s use of digital technologies currently focuses primarily around its website.  The physical exhibits themselves offer very little digital interaction and primarily focus on presenting artifacts and documents as well as models and interpretations from this evidence for patrons to view in person.  The website primarily aims to encourage patrons to come to the museum, making information regarding tour times and exhibits readily available.  They include many articles on various aspects of Indiana’s role in various military conflicts, which can give potential visitors some background information prior to their visit. They also have on their website a ‘virtual tour’ which allows for one to view certain exhibits and features from home, through various pictures.  However, the tour is primarily a collection of photographs with little context given on the tour.[1]  The War Memorial’s site primarily focuses upon the memorials themselves rather than the museum beneath the War Memorial and its exhibits, though it gives many pictures of the memorials themselves.[2]


The Indiana Medical History Museum also lacks the presence of digital technologies at the museum itself.  Its website is similar in many ways to that of the Indiana War Memorial’s, albeit different content.  However, the IMHM also has online exhibits including their recent exhibition, “Voices from Central State,” which tries to present life at Central State from the patient’s perspective. [3] Updates are likely to be made on this site, as the museum prepares to collect oral histories from individuals who experienced Central State when it was operating, through the eyes of patient, staff, neighbor, or someone otherwise associated with the hospital.  The website will need to be updated to make these accounts and documents available to the public, however the museum has clearly been trying to increase their digital presence and do more to engage their audience digitally.  ‘Voices from Central State’ is likely to be the project that pulls their museum into the future with regards to digital technology and their use of it.


Though both the Indiana Medical History Museum and the Indiana War Memorial Museum utilize their websites as their primary digital tools, they use them in very different ways.  The IMHM is preparing to feature more material online for patrons to access through their site and will likely be revamping their website to incorporate their oral history project very soon.  The War Memorial on the other hand, focuses primarily upon the physical artifacts and memorials themselves and then providing explanation around them.  The War Memorial’s efforts are not without their merits as they provide exciting teasers for potential patrons that may decide to come and view these exhibits first hand, however with the proper staff and funding, they could provide more digitally interactive resources through such mediums as digital mapping tools and perhaps taking a page from the IMHM’s book and providing an exhibit featuring the stories of the Hoosiers who lived through these wars.  The War Memorial Museum has an impressive collection and interesting exhibits and to seek to expand their presence digitally, as the IMHM is currently attempting, would greatly benefit them and their patrons.

[1] “Indiana War Memorial Museum,” Indiana War Memorial Foundation,

[2] “Explore the Memorials,” Indiana War Memorial Foundation,

[3] “Online Exhibits,” Indiana Medical History Museum,

Digital History Two Ways: The Indiana Historical Society and the Indiana State Museum

21 Feb


The Indiana Historical Society (IHS) and the Indiana State Museum (ISM) both feature digital technologies and displays in their exhibit spaces. Each museum has taken a different approach that reflects the mission of their respective organizations. IHS’s use of technology is most evident in their standalone exhibit Destination Indiana, while ISM has integrated digital methods throughout their traditional cultural and natural history exhibitions.

The Indiana Historical Society considers itself to be “Indiana’s Storyteller” and strives to connect “people to the past by collecting, preserving and sharing the state’s history.”[1] As a result, the bulk of the exhibit space at IHS is devoted to their unique You Are There experiences in which a historic photograph is recreated and brought to life for visitors. However, IHS also offers a completely digital space called Destination Indiana. Destination Indiana consists of eight “time-travel stations” which include a large touch-screen display and guest setting.[2] Visitors can explore several themes important to Indiana history and can select specific stories to learn more; each story features images from IHS’s collection including historic photographs, maps, and letters. The technology behind Destination Indiana is intuitive and user-friendly; to operate the stations, visitors need only know the swiping and pinching motions, familiar to those who use smartphones or tablets, to move forward in the stories or enlarge images. Visitors may choose to read the stories themselves or they can listen to them being read by a narrator.


The “time-travel” stations in Destination Indiana.


In Destination Indiana, visitors can explore nine different themes in Indiana history.

In addition to their main website, IHS has a separate website for Destination Indiana. is available free-of-charge and grants users the ability to explore Destination Indiana stories from their personal computers, tablets, or smartphones. Anyone can use the site, but users must create a free account to favorite and save stories. The website is particularly useful for teachers looking to integrate historic photographs and documents into their lesson plans. Users can create their own stories by downloading images on the site and writing captions and interpretive texts. At this time, users can save these stories to their accounts but they cannot be seen or used by the public.

While IHS concentrates its digital history project in one space, the Indiana State Museum features digital elements in nearly all its exhibit spaces. IHS uses technology in Destination Indiana to create a unique experience and to serve as a vehicle for their collection materials; however, at ISM, the majority of the digital displays are not particularly innovative (videos, diagrams, audio clips, ambient sounds, etc.) nor are they the primary means of content delivery. The mission at ISM is to “celebrate, explore and steward all that is authentically wondrous about Indiana.”[3] To do this, the museum focuses on artifacts and technology acts as a supplement to the traditional exhibit panels and labels. Likewise, the organization’s website does not include any digital aspects of note, though it is a well-designed and informative site for teachers and potential visitors.


Visitors must choose the school they wish to attend; as this image shows, sometime of the options were not available to African American students.

However, the displays in the Legacy Theater: Indiana’s African-American Experience are a bright spot for digital history at ISM. Broadly speaking, the Legacy Theater discusses the cultural experiences of African Americans in Indiana. In the exhibit, there are three displays that help visitors learn more about, and empathize with, the experience of African Americans in three arenas: education, work, and play. In the “Go to School to Get Ahead” display, visitors take on the role of an African American child and try to earn their primary school, high school, and college diplomas. Each of the displays teaches visitors important aspects of the African American experience and presents the information in engaging, innovative, and meaningful ways.


[1] “About IHS,” Indiana Historical Society,

[2] “Destination Indiana,” Indiana Historical Society,

[3] “Mission & Vision,” Indiana State Museum,

The Digital Faces of the ISM and the GASF

21 Feb

In this day and age, no museum exhibition can be successful without some sort of digital interactive as part of the experience.  Technology-savvy visitors expect it every time they walk in the door, and with every successive visit they expect the interactives to get bigger and better and cooler.  Yet museums large and small often struggle to supply what their visitors demand.  Technology is expensive, and many museums do not have room in their budgets for it.

The Indiana State Museum (ISM), as a state-funded museum, has adapted fairly well in terms of on-site use of digital technology.  Every core gallery has at least two or three small interactive touch screen stationss where visitors can watch videos, tap through a series of informative slides, or answer questions based on information presented in the exhibit.  The design and placement of these interactives, however, suggests that they were added after the fact, years after the exhibits were originally created; but luckily for new and returning visitors, the core galleries are undergoing major remodeling, during which the digital aspects of the exhibits will likely be upgraded and properly integrated into the whole.

The ISM’s online presence, though, leaves something to be desired.  Although the website looks great at a glace, it lacks much depth.  The pages for current exhibits offer only a few pictures and a short blurb about the subject matter, without any real attempt to persuade the digital visitor to become a physical visitor.  Aside from a link to an external site hosting the digitized archive of the Lincoln Financial Foundation Collection, none of the ISM’s objects appear to be accessible from the website in any way—a clear demonstration of the museum’s priorities.  Its major focus is providing needed information like prices and program dates and times to people who have already decided to visit the museum in person.

On the other end of the spectrum is the Great American Songbook Foundation (GASF) in Carmel.  As is made obvious by its website, the GASF is located inside the Center for the Performing Arts, and shares the CPA’s website even though it is a separate entity.  The GASF’s physical display space is incredibly small—not much more than twenty feet by thirty feet—and only contains one exhibit at a time.  It has a single digital interactive, a large touchscreen on which music related to the exhibit and the Great American Songbook in general can be explored and played.  However, visitors often find the interactive to be incredibly engaging, and some will stand and listen to music for much longer than it took them to look through the rest of the exhibit.

More notably, the GASF has gone to considerable efforts to catalog and publish finding aids for the contents of its archive.  Unlike the ISM, the GASF clearly welcomes potential researchers, and even just Songbook enthusiasts, to explore the materials in its collections, and clearly states what can and cannot be done with them.  Its online presence is less sophisticated than the ISM’s, but infinitely more informative and interactive in regards to its digital environment.  While the ISM’s focus is on the on-site visitor, the GASF has a much greater focus on the needs of digital visitors.



A Tale of Two Museums: How Digital Technology is Implemented at the IMA and the IMHM

21 Feb

In this blog, I will compare the digital environments of two vastly different Indianapolis museums.  I interviewed a staff member responsible for technology at each museum and asked them about the challenges they face.  Each museum acknowledges the benefit of digital technology, but are governed by far different means.  Both the Indiana Medical History Museum and the Indianapolis Museum of Art have websites, but only the IMA currently has digital technology integrated into their exhibits. Each museum’s implementation of digital technology reflects its resources in terms of staff and budget constraints.

Both the IMA and IMHM websites include the expected information about the museums such as hours, staff, news, exhibitions, and so on.  The IMHM site is powered by Wild Apricot, which is a subscription based service that describes itself as a membership management platform.  Wild Apricot includes the ability for users to design simple websites that can be maintained by museum staff. It keeps track of memberships/donations and allows the staff to do things like send mass e-mails.  Excellent support is available if the customer gets in over their head.  For this, clients pay a scalable monthly fee based on the number of contacts they manage (up to 2000 contacts is $130 per month) The simplicity of the IMHM website makes it manageable for the museum’s limited staff.

The Indiana Medical History Museum has recently embarked upon a design for a separate website that aims to collect stories from those who have an affiliation with the decommissioned Central State Hospital, which is a major area of interest for them and their visitors.  The museum has recognized that those who have stories to tell about CSH are dying off.  IMHM is guided by a younger generation eager to record the stories of those willing to share them.  Towards that end, IMHM engaged HCI (Human Computer Interaction) students from IUPUI’s School of Informatics and Computing to design a prototype website that encourages community input.

The goals of the new website are to capture and share stories of those who interacted with the hospital, along with historical documents and other materials. They want to encourage people to explore the varied perspectives of those who were associated with the hospital either as patients, staff, neighbors, family members, etc.  With the HCI students, they are currently working through design issues and considering how to best encourage people to, not only share their stories of CSH, but also to reflect upon the perceptions of others.   As CSH was a state operated psychiatric institute, the staff is carefully weighing issues such as patient confidentiality and the preconceptions often associated with mental hospitals.  They are concerned about how to strike a balance that encourages the public to tell their stories while at the same time minimizing the potential misuse that might occur from people preferring to tell ghost stories or advance urban legends.  This type of design is more sophisticated than building an informational website and the staff is earnestly seeking guidance from outside, as well as significant finding to support the implantation of the project.  If all goes well, it should be launched in 2018.

In contrast, the IMA website is more complex and includes a broader range of topics and information.  In addition to the usual themes one would expect in a larger and better funded facility, the IMA site has a more sophisticated back-end for collecting and tracking things like memberships, donations, tickets, etc.  A phone interview with Stewart Alter, the IT manager of the IMA, reveals that the IMA is constantly responding to visitor expectations.  They will soon be leaving their web-platform, Drupal, for an in-house design.  Alter acknowledges that they are unique in that they have a competent technology lab that can react quickly to visitor expectations.  When asked for an example of what visitors expect nowadays, Alter referred to their mobile needs, “they expect to be able to buy tickets on their phone.”  Another challenge IMA faces is the question of how much information about their exhibits they should include in their website.  Alter said that this consideration is an ongoing challenge.  Clearly, the IMA and the IMHM face different issues based on their needs and resources.

The IMHM has no digital footprint beyond their website, while IMA has several digital exhibits.  One tool often used by IMA curators to determine the authenticity of paintings is to expose them to x-ray and infra-red light. Sometimes an entirely different work exists just beyond the surface.  A digital exhibit, entitled Davis Lab, allows museum-goers to use that technology.  There is an interesting exhibit on the fourth floor of the IMA that is worth experiencing.  It is a rudimentary video mapping exhibit whereby complementary video clips are displayed on two surfaces – in this case, walls.  Each is unique, but supports the other.  This one includes different camera angles of the same scene.  I won’t ruin the exhibit by revealing the subject.  I only wish it was accompanied by music – but only the music I want to hear.

The Indianapolis Museum of Art is larger and more sophisticated than the Indiana Medical History Museum and each’s digital environment is a reflection of the resources they can muster.   Both museums recognize the value of responding to the expectations of their visitors and are continually challenged themselves to meet those those expectations.

The Uses of Technology in Museums

21 Feb

I evaluated What Lies Beneath from the Indianapolis Museum of Art and The People’s Place from the Eiteljorg. What Lies Beneath allows visitors to use technology to view what lies under the paint using infrared and x-ray on the displayed paintings. The People’s Place explores Native people and their traditions that previously and currently live in Indiana, particularly the Potawatomi, Miami, and Delaware.

The IMA’s exhibit gives visitors a glimpse of the tools museum professionals routinely use to gain a better understanding of a painting. The use of new technology makes the exhibit appear exciting, while also encouraging news skills to be formed and tested. The exhibit includes an opportunity to test your new knowledge to determine if a painting is real or a forgery based on provided artist information. During my visit, I saw answers from visitors of a variety of ages, which suggests high interaction within the exhibit. What Lies Beneath follows many of the established rules of play, like providing boundaries and gaining new knowledge.[1]

bosch-csi-what-lies-beneath Image of What Lies Beneath touch screen using infrared and rotated. Image courtesy of the Clowes Fund, Indianapolis Museum of Art.

The People’s Place is a long-standing exhibit, first erected in the 2000s, with the help of several tribes and museum staff.[2] Each ‘pod’ within the exhibit has its own computer to supplement the physical items and at the end of the exhibit is a large interactive map, where tribal lands can be viewed by year, see images, and hear the pronunciation of tribal names. This map is also available online in its entirety for researchers.

peoples place.PNG
The online interactive map of The People’s Place. Image courtesy of the Eiteljorg Museum.

The IMA does not offer many online resources for its exhibit, it merely includes a brief video explaining infrared and x-ray and a simple description.[3] It makes sense that the IMA would provide just enough information to entice people to visit. The exhibit is funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and will be on display for one year, however, I believe (with funding or donors) that this type of exhibit can be installed into a variety of museums.

The People’s Place is the only exhibit to use technology within the museum, which is now outdated. The computer systems are clunky and awkward to use, only allowing you restricted options of how to use the computers. This does not seem to entice visitors to use the computers, and while at the museum I frequently saw people disregard them completely.

These exhibits provide different uses for visitors, depending on the reason it was created and what was hoped to be gained from using the technology. The People’s Place had to contend with different groups and their opinions on what to include in the exhibits and computers. The map at the end was the most interactive and user-friendly. What Lies Beneath was created with the goals of Art Work and the NEA in mind to provide greater engagement in art. The design of the exhibit, touch screens where you can slide different lenses over a painting, was the focus of the exhibit, while the Eiteljorg’s technology appears merely supplemental.

[1] “Microsoft Word – Using Transformative Play for Meaningful Gamification.docx – mp2012_submission_79.pdf,” accessed February 20, 2017,

[2] “Native American Continuing Exhibitions,” accessed February 21, 2017,

[3] “What Lies Beneath | Indianapolis Museum of Art,” accessed February 20, 2017,