For a long time now, I’ve been straddling the worlds of storytelling, education, and tourism, not knowing where I really fit in. Then, while treasure hunting in New York, I discovered the cool new kids on the digital block.
They go by such names as Chief Digital Officer (CDO) and Director of Digital Experience. They even have their own online club, which reports that their numbers doubled worldwide from 500 in 2013 to 1,000 at the end of 2014. They expect to double again in 2015.
I met and talked shop with two of them, and now I understand where I belong.
Frank Migliorelli recently joined the New York Public Library as Director of Digital Experience, a new position that was a perfect fit for him. His mandate: to lead the development of digital strategy for the vast library network.
Now we’re not just talking about digitizing text content. Oh No! Under Frank’s direction, our understanding of what a library is and does is about to undergo serious and exciting change.
There are many cool treasures in addition books and manuscripts being preserved within the library archives, Frank told me. They are unfortunately out of public view. He aims to change that.
Frank, who taught digital media design for educational technology at New York University’s Steinhardt School before joining the team at the New York Public Library, wants to transform the library into a place that shares both books as well as historical artifacts to patrons through interactive user experiences. He also intends to harness technology to improve literacy retention rates across the age-span.
We’re talking immersive educational programs on a whole new scale throughout NY’s five boroughs!
Frank and I talked about the importance of storytelling in bringing the library's rich cultural legacy to life. What better place to travel through time with the magic of storytelling than at the library?
It gives a whole new twist to Story Hour!
Another New Yorker bullish on the power of story to highlight history and culture is Sree Sreenivasan. Sree is the first-ever Chief Digital Officer at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and probably the first person to have already graduated into his second CDO role. Before taking the reins of the 70-person digital education team at the Met, Sree acted as first-ever CDO of Columbia University where he’d previously been on faculty at the Journalism School, teaching social and digital media.
At the Met, Sree is responsible for producing and managing both digital documentation as well as interpretive and educational materials highlighting the museum’s vast collections, and for delivering that content to audiences of all ages, both online and onsite. A very tall order, indeed!
It’s no small challenge to leverage today’s extraordinary and ever-changing palette of mobile, in-gallery, and online platforms to tell one million stories to one billion people. But if anyone can do it, Sree can.
He and I share the belief that enhancing existing museum education efforts with innovative technologies will improve visitor experience, and give folks of all ages a reason to keep coming back to the museum, to become life-long patrons of the arts.
With the new digital tools now available to us, we have the opportunity to re-imagine, as Frank is doing at the NYPL, how history, culture, and the arts are experienced. We can do this by connecting the person with the physical object and/or environment by way of the device.
To me, this constitutes the true meaning of "interactivity." In lieu of seeing heads cast downward in interaction with a device, my goal is to use digital storytelling to compel users to look up, in wonder, to experience something they might otherwise have passed right by.
This is the goal for interactivity at Time Traveler Tours & Tales. And that’s what I pitched to Sree.
In response, he gave me a challenge: Search the museum for Paul Revere’s spurs. If you can find them, tell me what you would do with them. The hunt for Paul’s spurs took me about 20 minutes. I am a seasoned treasure hunter, after all (and, truth be told, Sree gave me a pretty good clue). Stay tuned for “what I would do with them” in my next post.
In the meantime, we want to know: What has been YOUR most MEMORABLE museum experience?
Please click "comment" to the right and let us know.
To get you started, here's an answer I recently received from Antonia, one of Lily's oldest and dearest school friends:
"The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia is one of my favorite museums because the whole thing, even its permanent exhibits, has a "Please Touch" kind of feel to it. My favorite was the interactive Titanic exhibit. I was given the ticket of someone who actually was on the Titanic and was able to follow her story throughout (and eventually find out her fate!). It really made the experience memorable. I didn't feel like I was an observer of history, I was an active participant. As a result, I remember almost everything about the exhibit -- what exactly happened the night Titanic sank -- and it was 10+ years ago! They had a replica of the iceberg that the Titanic hit, and we were able to touch it. It was actual ice, and the room it was in was freezing. By allowing me to have an emotional response to the exhibit, I remember everything. I think that's the best way to really get people to learn and retain information. I remember seeing the dinner menus for the different classes, and the broken watch that stopped at the exact time the wearer died in the icy waters of the Atlantic. I remember that there was a woman, a candy shop worker, who was running off with her already-married boss and carrying his child. I remember that my cousin's ticket holder died, and that his name was Edward, or Edgar (something with an E!), and that he wrote a letter to his loved ones about how amazing the Titanic was. I remember the events, of course, but I also remember the people. More museums and learning communities need to be able evoke such a response in their audiences."