My notes from yesterday's meeting with DIA

Colin Clark colin.clark at
Tue Apr 28 15:24:28 UTC 2009

Hi everyone,

Here are my notes from our meeting yesterday with David, Matt, and  
Jennifer from the Detroit Institute of Arts. They're by no means  
comprehensive, but hopefully they'll be useful.


Detroit Institute of Arts and Fluid Engage

• completely reworking and reinstalling all of their exhibits at the  
• a shift from presenting works in strictly art historical terms, and  
towards more inclusive or thematic approaches to organizing works
• for example, moving from chronological to "day in the life"  
presentations of works
• they have great content: how can we give people technology and tools  
so they can take what they've done in the gallery and extend it?  
teachers, visitors, etc.
• they've had some success in using technology in the gallery, but  
it's all one-offs, and very expensive to create
	- electronic books
	- Rivera Court: handhelds using video and other materials, but the  
first generation of equipment was really difficult to use
		- rich collection of documentation of these Diego Rivera murals:  
photos, etc.
		- created AcoustaGuide: company in NYC who traditionally build audio  
tours; this was their first attempt at building handheld-based tour
		- details are shown on the PDA; you can click through to find things  
you're interested in
		- can get commentary from local experts, poets, etc.
		- still fairly tour-based
		- people wear headphones and use a Nokia 800
		- really wanted to allow visitors to add their own commentary
	- see Fluid Engage as a way to build the next generation, and  
something they can build upon
• TMS for collections database
• our own interpretive database using FileMaker Pro
• Through African Eyes, their next big exhibit in the pipeline
• generally have six or seven exhibits in various stages of development
	- the length of development time is a pain point for them
	- 12-16 months to do the design/development part, where you're  
organizing the way the show is going to lay out in the gallery, the  
text, educational material, etc.
• open slot in Fall 2011: that's a tight period for conceiving of a  
new exhibit
• DIA was an early user of TMS
	- there are portions they don't use: conservation and exhibitions  
	- large collection: 60,000 objects with lots of fields and descriptions
	- reporting is very limited: requires Crystal Reports
	- good from a registrarial point of view, but not very useful in  
terms of developing interpretive materials because of the limitations  
of the fields
	- exhibits module: limited ability to group objects and attach text,  
but not useful enough, especially for large collections
• wanted a tool to do exhibit planning
• TMS keeps object information
• FileMaker lets them import data from TMS and then group them together:
	- which objects go together in which gallery?
	- different sections of objects in a gallery: more groupings
	- even information about proximity within space
	- information about look and feel
	- interpretive material can be attached at any level: the gallery,  
the section or the object
• they have a digital asset management system where graphic designers  
build the actual labels
	- their design team is off-site; contractors
	- this company gives them online access to content, letting them make  
changes to designs, etc.
• really interested in visitor participation:
	- low-tech so far
	- stations where people write postcards, etc.
	- experimented a little with their website (Monet to Dali), where  
they asked visitors to write their own labels for works of art
	- planning to do so on several new exhibits
• web site:
	- changes and innovation are very expensive, because they have to go  
to outside contractors to change the website
	- site has some basic ability to extract data from TMS, but again,  
every upgrade costs
	- contractor is M6
	- they're frustrated, feel limited by the way they manage their website
		- one of the attractions of Fluid Engage is having more control and  
flexibility about how they deal with their website
	- their contractor isn't a partner who helps them think through the  
best ways to implement experiences on the Web
	- website run by the marketing and PR department
	- they've been doing some strategic planning about how to expand and  
improve their website

Colin Clark
Technical Lead, Fluid Project
Adaptive Technology Resource Centre, University of Toronto

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