Notes from Meeting with Brian Porter at ROM

Erin Yu erin.yu at
Mon May 25 04:22:19 UTC 2009

Last  Wednesday James and I went to the Royal Ontario Museum to meet  
with Brian Porter, Associate VP of New Media. This meeting was to be a  
starting point of our interaction with the ROM, rather than an  
information gathering session.

Current State of Cultural Institutions
Overcoming current economic situations. A lot of museums are at risk.
Many institutions are trying to reinvent themselves with  
reconstruction: ROM's building on Bloor existed since 1914, and it has  
added on the H wing.
Past: Museums have focused on "taking care of stuff". Conservation -  
and displaying a little fraction of it. Wasn't about communication or  
Present: But they are realizing that it isn't just about putting  
things behind glasses anymore. Visitor engagement and understanding is  
becoming more important. Sharing. Programming. Making things available
Future: Social engagement, exchange of information fueled by  
technology, creating more context

Opinion on Visitor Experience
People look at objects from their own perspective e.g. fashion tour,  
bug tour, etc.
Whole slew of paths you can take outside of what curator has decided,  
and it is important to cater to that when designing exhibition. much  
like choosing experience from an "app store"

ROM acquired funding for a digitization project. Acquired 10,000  
digital images (ROM has 6,000,000 objects), but project stopped when  
money ran out.

Web Content
Online has no connection with what's going to be in the exhibition
There is a disconnect between science and art departments: use  
different databases that don't talk to each other. Need single  
database that marry science and art.

Use of Media in Exhibitions
The museum's business plan is largely based on A-show
Current A-show: Dead Sea Scrolls
Traveling show coming from Jerusalem
Controversial 16 scrolls, 8 scrolls in the first phase, 8 in second
Museum is spending major $ on A-shows, it doesn't have $ for its own  
Cannot create virtual experience out of these traveling shows due to  
political reasons. Various authorities are involved. The objects  
cannot be photographed locally. The photographs videos have to be  
ROM creates its own traveling shows, which tend to be very small. e.g.  
Fakes and Forgeries - meant to travel to small towns, malls, community  
centers. Limited by budget.
Limited in the context of one new media gallery with flat screens

Public Awaremess
Youtube trailer video:
Museum is part of Orion network (research and innovation network,  
where UofT, hospitals, and public schools are members). It allows  
sharing of resources and makes video teleconferencing public schools  
ROM maintains Twitter feed called GreenROM:
Positioning ourselves with education - elementary and secondary school  
students. Can reach about 1 million students
A pilot project to deliver content through Orion online network.

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