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5 Ways The Met is Using Technology

Media Lab Project, 2012 hackathon.

By Sree Sreenivasan @Sree 
Chief Digital Officer, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Most people don’t associate museums with technology beyond audio guides – which were cutting-edge visitor experiences at one time – but that’s quickly changing. The Digital Engagement Initiative at Bloomberg Philanthropies is supporting cultural institutions like the Met Museum to use all kinds of digital, mobile and social media to connect with our audiences and enhance their experiences.

At the Met, I have the privilege of working with a wonderful team of technologists and art experts on ways we can increase access to our collection for everyone including those who visit our galleries in New York to online art enthusiasts around the world. It’s a revolutionary moment for us as we explore new ways to engage our audience through technology – even the audio guide has evolved into a multimedia device – and with the advent of smartphones, we are ramping up our efforts to transform how visitors learn about and interact with art through a mobile experience.

Here are five examples – among many others – of technology in action at the Met:

1) METCOLLECTS: Our recently launched Bloomberg-supported project showcases the latest additions to the Met’s ever-expanding collection of art. This online feature spotlights a newly acquired piece of art each month, with a curator explaining the work’s importance, dozens of photos and, on occasion, an artist or curator interview. The first three items launched in March 2014; you can see them here and sign up to receive a monthly email alert about each new acquisition.

2) METBLOGS: An effective way for us to share what’s going on at the Met is through our blogs. Curators, staff members and guest contributors are invited to blog on a number of topics. These include: Now at the Met – which covers our events, exhibitions and research; Of Note – featuring blogs from our Musical Instruments department; Digital Underground – musings from our Digital Media department; Teen Blog – has posts from our Teen Advisory Group and Travel Blog – highlights from the Travel with the Met program, featuring photos from trips abroad.

3) 82nd & FIFTH: Named for the Met’s address in New York City, highlights our collection featuring curator’s discussions on art objects. One of my favorites is called “Fine Dining” in which curator Chris Lightfoot compares a combined spoon and fork from Ancient Rome to “pulling out your latest handheld device in the modern world.” In addition, each episode enables viewers to explore the artwork via close-up photography or 360-degree rotations and is subtitled in 10 languages.

4) MEDIA LAB: The Met isn’t just showcasing the past, it’s also connecting with, and shaping, the future. Don Undeen manages the Media Lab and defines it as exploring ways that new technology can affect the museum experience for our staff and visitors, in our galleries, classrooms, and online. The photo below was taken during the Met’s 3D scanning and printing hackathon in 2012 and is just one example of the Media Lab’s projects.

5) SOCIAL MEDIA: The Met is active on several major platforms including Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Flickr, YouTube and Instagram. More than 2 million followers across these platforms receive posts that range from news items to daily doses of art and glimpses into our galleries. Our newest platform is Weibo, the popular social network based in China, where our Asian Art department posts information in Chinese about our collection. A one-stop shop for our social media is here on our Community Page.

To learn more about the role of technology in museums, you can read a recent New York Times interview with our Director, Thomas P. Campbell.