Category Archives: Behind the Scenes

CMOA: Now Available in the App Store


CMOA Companion App

It’s no secret the proliferation of mobile devices and persistent connectivity are changing the way we live our lives—it even impacts the way visitors experience a museum. Today I’m happy to announce that Carnegie Museum of Art’s first mobile application is available for download from the Apple App Store. Beginning this Saturday, October 5th, in association with the opening of the 2013 Carnegie International, the museum will also make iDevices available to visitors for use in our galleries (first come, first served). It is our hope that this digital offering will deepen relationships with users via the objects on view at the museum.

A Companion App for Your Museum

Launching with the 2013 Carnegie International, this first version of the CMOA companion app will allow you to learn more about the 35 artists in the exhibition, see an image of every work that will be on view, experience related video and audio, explore thematic tours of artworks, and more. The app is a universal iOS application, meaning it is available for iPod Touch, iPhone, and iPad. As this has been the museum’s first foray into mobile application development, we chose the iOS platform because we simply needed a solid and stable place to start. The application works on devices running iOS 6.1 or newer, and it is optimized for the recently released iOS 7. We encourage you to download and install the app on your device (it’s free) or borrow one of ours to use while you’re visiting.

Usefulness and Usability

As we were building the app, we designed it to be useful for visitors in the gallery as well as users experiencing the app from outside the museum. An example of this functionality is the “My Bookmarked Artwork” feature.* Think of it as a “Read Later” service for your museum visit. If you’re in the gallery enjoying an artwork and want to learn more about it, but don’t want to experience the content during your visit, you can bookmark that object for revisiting later whenever you’d like. Conversely, you can use the “My Bookmarked Artworks” area to create a checklist of must-see pieces in advance of your next visit to the museum.

Personality

We want this app to be a delight to use. From the friendly and accessible user interface to the engaging audio and videos, our hope is that users will thoroughly enjoy the app experience and come to love its underlying personality. While substantive and informative, content relating to the 2013 Carnegie International is informal by design and occasionally introduces elements of humor, wit, and the people behind the exhibition. Videos in the “CMOA TV” section shine a light on the museum’s behind-the-scenes process, again highlighting the amazing people here that make the exhibitions happen.

Interoperability and Accessibility

We understand not everyone has an iDevice and we’ve gone to great lengths to build this app so it plays nice with external platforms and the open web. Each object represented in the app also has a corresponding presence on the open web. The open web permalinks include the same images, text, videos, and audio that are in the app. When you share an artwork from inside the app with your contacts or social networks, you are effectively sharing the open web versions so they can be viewed by everyone—even users who don’t have the CMOA app.

We’ve also leveraged the potential of mobile through integrations with popular messaging (Email, Messages, Facebook, Twitter), navigation (Apple Maps, Google Maps) and web browsing (Safari, Chrome) apps.

Future Growth & Development

This is version 1.0 of the CMOA companion app, and as I mentioned before, it’s just the beginning. We’re approaching this project as an organic, fluid and agile process. The app will remain in active development as we work to include the museum’s permanent collection and future exhibitions. We also plan to make it available to Android users in short order and rapidly introduce new and interesting functionality as opportunities arise.

Delivering this project was a true team effort. Without the hard work of the following people, this project would never have seen the light of day: Dimitry Bentsionov of Two Tap Labs; Katie Reilly, Ian Finch and the museum’s publications department; Marilyn Russell, Lucy Stewart and the CMOA education department; John Surloff and John Ericksen in IT; and our wonderful beta testers who helped uncover bugs and provide feedback during the development process.

What would you love to see in a museum mobile application? Please use the comment thread below to let us know your thoughts. Maybe you’ll see your concept in an upcoming version update!

*Hat tip to Jeff Lovett, CMOA’s construction and facilities coordinator. The bookmarking feature was all his idea.

New Hire: Kurt Christian


kurtredWhat is your official title, and what are some of your general responsibilities?  
My title is chief preparator, and I oversee the new department of Art Preparation and Installation (A.P.I.). This department deals with all aspects of art handling, installation, as well as collection care. The planning and coordination of these activities is a key component of my job function here.

What were you doing before joining us at CMOA?   
I was the head preparator at the Saint Louis Art Museum for seven years, where I oversaw installation, de-installation, packing and crating, object handling, and collection care, etc. Prior to my departure, and during my last four years at SLAM, a tremendous amount of my time was dedicated to the museum’s expansion and all of the activity that entailed (a huge amount of object movement as you would expect). Before Saint Louis I was the associate preparator at the Whitney Museum of American Art for eight years.

What’s your favorite exhibition that you saw this past year (at any museum/event)? 
Actually a group exhibition in Philadelphia of three painters comes to mind. The exhibition was at Larry Becker Gallery and included the work of Joseph Marioni, Peter Tollens, and Michael Toenges.

If you could steal one artwork from our collection, what would it be? 
I wouldn’t do that, nor even talk about it :)

Describe Pittsburgh in five words or less. 
Hmmm, I’m not sure I have a great sense of it just yet. “Just as I’d hoped for,” is accurate, and I mean that in a very positive way.

Favorite hobbies? Timewasters? Links?
Painting and reading are legitimate ones but I am also a huge fan of the nap if you can consider that an activity.

Indeed we do, Kurt.

Public Innovation Session with MAYA Design


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Thank you to everyone who participated in our Public Innovation Session with MAYA Design on July 18! In a lively conversation led by Mickey McManus, visitors shared their thoughts about current and potential experiences at Carnegie Museum of Art with each other and with museum staff (including museum director Lynn Zelevansky). We’re still sorting through the copious sticky notes on which people jotted down their reactions to and hopes for the museum; we’ll share some of the most powerful insights in posts to come. Stay tuned!

Video: The Art Connection


We just wanted to say thanks to everyone who came out on Sunday, April 14 to mark the opening of The Art Connection Annual Student Exhibition! Check out the video to see our student artists hard at work in the museum’s studios as they prepared for this year’s exhibition. Throughout the school year, students in grades 5–9 worked through the creative process with the help of teaching artists in the museum’s galleries and studios. Artworks in this year’s exhibition reflect the influence of recent exhibitions such as White Cube, Green Maze: New Art Landscapes, Inventing the Modern World: Decorative Art at the World’s Fairs, 1851–1939, and Cory Arcangel: Masters.

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Wrapping up Oh Snap!


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Oh Snap! combined 13 new photographs from our collection with nearly 1,500 photo submissions from the public.

Wrap Party, Lytro Workshop, and more—Saturday, May 4
First things first—submissions for Oh Snap! Your Take on our Photographs are now closed, but we are excited to celebrate the thoughtful and creative collaboration of the hundreds of participants in the project. Don’t miss the three closing events for Oh Snap!, with a special focus on new photographic technology. A Lytro workshop gives you the chance to try out a whole new kind of camera in our galleries. A public talk with industry insiders from Lytro and GigaPan examines how these new technologies will change the way we take pictures in the future. And at the wrap party you can see all the photos in the exhibition, share your views on our feedback wall, and get your own copy of the  poster showing details from the works sent in by you (below). We hope to see you all there! The exhibition will still be on view in the Forum Gallery through May 12, but as the end of the project nears, it’s a good time to think back on how it all came together.

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The limited-edition Oh Snap! poster (36.75 x 24 inches). ORDER

Process
“If you’re not innovating you’re stagnating” asserted Jeff DeGraf, founder and guru at the Innovatrium, a consulting firm/think tank in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Jeff was speaking to small teams of staff members from six American art museums, including Carnegie Museum of Art and the Warhol that had signed on for an 8-month project to explore what’s working and what’s not in art museums with the goal of injecting a spirit of innovation and experimentation into our organizations. Practically speaking, we all had our sights set on devising new ways of staying relevant to our communities, especially to our younger visitors. Oh Snap! is the most recent manifestation of the ongoing soul-searching and fresh thinking inspired by our Innovatrium experience. We’re feeling pretty good about how the project has turned out.

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The Oh Snap! cross-departmental team brainstorming names for the project—sometimes you just have to get up on a table to get it done.

While Oh Snap! presents 13 works of art—all recently added to the museum’s photography collection—framed and hung on the walls of the museum’s Forum Gallery, the relationship to a traditional exhibition pretty much ends there. We’re calling it a “collaborative photography project,” and collaborative it is. The 13 photographs from the museum’s collection were selected by a cross-departmental team with the explicit goal of motivating the public to send to us photographs that are somehow inspired by one of the museum’s works. As new photographs came in from the public, we printed and hung them in the gallery next to the related museum work. Visitors could view the museum’s Oh Snap! selections either in the gallery or on the project’s website.

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Working on the gallery model to figure out the best way to accommodate submissions from the public.

Opening a gallery that was purposefully “unfinished” was an entirely new experience for us and signaled a new relationship we’re interested in pursuing with our audience, one in which our expertise comes together with the public’s curiosity and imagination to leave all of us a bit richer for the experience. We’re also recognizing that visitors increasingly are not limited to only those who come through our physical doors. As our physical gallery walls have changed over the past two months, our digital “gallery” has grown and changed as well. Photographs were only accepted through the website, making the web a crucial element in the project. When a submission made its way onto the wall, the sender received an email with a free pass to come see it. Submissions have been sent from locations remarkably distant from Pittsburgh, including Peru, Taiwan, France, Germany, and Finland. The project is helping us explore how Carnegie Museum of Art might build relationships through our collection and the ideas it inspires to individuals who might never have the opportunity to be our physical visitors.

Read Jeffrey Inscho’s Oh Snap! overview on Nina Simon’s Museum 2.0 blog.

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Education staff reviewed all submissions as they came in, printing and posting them directly in the gallery.

Response
Two months ago we had a nearly empty gallery and have watched Oh Snap! take shape a little bit each day—growing and transforming thanks to public participation. So the first question of the project—would anyone find it compelling enough to send us their photographs—has been answered with nearly 1,500 submissions. But beyond seeing a full gallery, we are even more rewarded by what’s happening in the gallery and what participants are saying (quotes from the gallery comment book):

  • “Being able to contribute to an exhibition was thrilling. I hope the Carnegie will do many more things like this! Overall, I think the project is Brilliant!”
  • “I think it’s a great way to get the community engaged in what it means to make a photograph art.”
  • “I love seeing the public’s perspective on these photographs.”
  • “Brings art into our lives and our lives into art.”
  • “I could spend all day here but I won’t ‘cause I’m going home to look for something I can submit.”

Ok, it’s pretty hard not to feel elated about comments like that! Many similar messages in the gallery comment book make it clear how appealing it is to be part of the experience. But more than just rallying the crowd, Oh Snap! has also motivated real looking, thinking, and responding to art. The project doesn’t ask for any photograph you want to send us, it invites the public to collaborate with us in interpreting—finding meaning—in specific works in our collection.

It seems that by literally “leaving room” on the gallery walls for the public’s photographs, visitors took up the challenge of seeing the museum’s works as catalysts provoking reflective thinking, inspiring comparison, and motivating action. In Oh Snap!, we actively welcomed those responses, sharing them with other visitors, and acknowledging that a museum experience is not one-directional. The project has produced a real and dynamic partnership between museum and public. That partnership inspires further impact as new visitors—whether contributors or not—linger in the gallery every day comparing museum photographs and public photographs, chatting actively with friends, speculating about connections, and marveling at the range of interpretations a single work of art might inspire.

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Charlee Brodsky, Last Smokestacks at the Homestead Works, c. 1995, gelatin silver print, Gift of the artist, 2009.29.4 © 1995 Charlee Brodsky. By permission

Charlee Brodsky’s image, Last Smokestacks at the Homestead Works is one of the photographs from the museum’s collection selected for Oh Snap!; it is now surrounded by over 170 public photographs (examples below). Several of them capitalize on the image’s powerful composition—a broad flat plane of dirt punctuated by a single vertical element directly in the center of the scene. Many of these submitted photographs achieve a similar sense of order, calm, and solitude through similar arrangements of horizontals, verticals, and measured proportion. But others take a different approach. One submitted photograph offers no visual similarities to the museum’s work but instead shows the facade of Pittsburgh’s United Steelworkers Building, perhaps calling to mind the thousands of workers who once brought life to the site, the former Homestead Steel Works plant. I hear lots of gallery visitors wondering aloud about a photograph of a limp and lifeless bird and another of a dead fish stuck in an expanse of wet sand both of which, when placed near Charlee’s quiet image, take on a sense of poignancy. Then there is the picture of the glowing ball poised in the center of a well-mowed back yard. What might that one be about? These leaps in thought and imagination show just how much room for interpretation the project allowed. Thankfully, art endures because it keeps speaking to people about its own context but also in new and personally meaningful ways.

Some Stats

Age breakdown of the nearly 600 contributors:

  • Not indicated: 7%
  • 18–24: 21%
  • 25–34: 20%
  • 35–54: 29%
  • 55–64: 14%
  • 65 and over: 8%

How contributors heard about the project:

  • From a friend: 38%
  • At the museum: 33%
  • Online: 27%
  • Print media: 2%