Blanton staffer Kevin Madden examines his unique role as “techie” in the midst of more arts-minded folks, and the museum’s ongoing commitment to integrating new technologies into the visitor experience….
Although my primary duty at The Blanton is to provide technical support to the staff, as the only “IT person” at the museum I am often called upon to assist with projects that involve technology of just about any kind. This is one aspect of working here that differs from most other places I have worked. I often have to step out of my comfort zone to learn about and help others with things that I am not always so familiar with. It is challenging but fun, and I love working with so many people who are interested in and excited about integrating technology into what they do.
In the past year we have really been focusing on how we can use technology at the museum. Last fall, a group of staff was able to attend the Museum Computer Network conference, which was held here in Austin. At the conference, we saw some amazing things that colleagues in museums around the world have done with technology, from websites and mobile tours, to interactive displays in galleries. It was great to see the variety of creative things that others are doing and I think it provided some inspiration for what we can do here at The Blanton. Of course we don’t want to just be inspired by what others have already done. Our goal is to be on the cutting edge of museum technology. To that end, a technology task force has been assembled which includes staff from across the museum. We meet regularly to discuss our strengths and weaknesses and short and long term goals, and we are dedicated to achieving our goals. In fact, you can already see things that have been implemented, at least partially, because of these discussions.
One of the projects we recently finished was in the museum’s Meredith eLounge, a space made possible by Lynn and Tom Meredith. The eLounge is a wonderful space in the museum with several computers that previously were not put to their best use and, therefore, were rarely used. Last fall, the eLounge was revamped to include a curated library of art books, games and activities, a work of video art, and educational documentaries on the computers. My part of the project was to prepare digital videos that were selected by curator Risa Puleo, and to create the computer interface for viewing the videos. This was definitely one of those things that was a little out of my comfort zone and put my limited web design skills to the test. I really enjoyed this project and it has been great to see visitors of all ages using the eLounge and especially watching videos on the computers.
For our current exhibition, About Face: Portraiture as Subject, a cell phone audio tour in both English and Spanish was created. Although the audio tour is best experienced in person, we decided to also feature the audio files and images of the works on our website. In addition to the audio tour, several web videos that feature curators, educators, and others speaking about select works in the exhibition are also being featured on our website, YouTube, and Facebook. The videos and audio tours are great examples of ways in which we are using technology to engage our audience and enhance the visitor experience, and I look forward to continuing to develop new ways to do this in the future.
Image: The Blanton’s Meredith eLounge