On the third of February, my class visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art to speak with Neal Stimler, a Digital Asset Specialist in the Digital Media Department.
In his discussion with us, Neal gave us insights about the museum’s digital strategies and cataloging practices. What I was particularly impressed with was the sheer variety of interfaces available pulling from a single DAMS. The variety of interfaces without data redundancy means that anyone looking for information can conduct their inquiry with the best possible interface for their particular needs. Educational research has long proven that various learning styles mean that people require multiple access points for information at levels which are best suited to their individual method of knowledge acquisition. The Met’s team has clearly thought this out, by having access points that are appropriate for different learning styles, age groups, and interest levels.
As we were meant to evaluate the digital platforms of the Met, I personally interacted with the following:
- The Met App
- This is very robust, but I actually didn’t get to interact with it very much within the museum on the day of our visit. Unfortunately, my iPhone 5S decided that was a good day to malfunction, and staged a protest against my using it. Nevertheless, I had the app before my phone’s nervous breakdown, and I continue to have it. The Met app is a sleek portal to more information than most museum apps. It’s a gateway to exhibitions, museum highlights, events, and accessibility guides. It has a search feature and houses audio guides. It has a way to gather donations, sell tickets, and even has a shop feature. I would say GPS feature on the map might be nice– I’ve yet to master the navigation of the Met in its complex enormity. But honestly, that’s nitpicking.
- Digital Kiosks
- These were in the American Wing, and I loved them. They are large touchscreens with access to all of the metadata of the objects in each room. These aren’t museum-wide, but I can see a future where they are– or at least I want a future where that’s an option. The kiosks are easier to manipulate than a phone, and are chock full of information. One of my favorite functionalities was the option to touch silhouettes of items in each room and see all of the information about that object– be still my information-hoarding, detail-obsessed heart. The kiosks are also at an appropriate height for all visitors. I saw a visitor using a device while seated in a wheelchair and a child also manipulating a device. I saw people more engaged with these kiosks than the phone app. In my opinion, this is an improvement– it brings museum visitors into the space of the museum while still offering access to the information available.
Overall, I was impressed with the digital platforms I encountered during this visit to the Met. I believe they have embraced the shift into digital information mindfully. In our discussion with Neal, he confirmed that data storage and preservation is an important element to the Met’s digital strategy. It was interesting to see inside the data framework, and I feel as though I left with a clear insight into the Met’s information infrastructure.