Museums are more than just giant warehouses for cultural artifacts. They can be potent symbols of change and of conformity. We tend to focus more on the museum as symbol of social status quo. After all, museums effectively legitimize taste probably more than any other institution. But if you look at how the museum has confronted technology and its educational mission a different picture emerges.
A textbook case is the Met’s new hiring of a Chief Digital Officer, Sree Sreenivasan. Sreenivasan is one the most followed tech savvy journalists by the twitterati. The Met, of course, is one of the world’s great collections. If any museum could rest on its laurels and bask in its own glory it would be the Met. We think it’s amazing news that the Met is at the bleeding edge of conceptualizing what it means to interact with a work of art in the app age. It’s the perfect symbol of the often overlooked compatibility between tradition and innovation. It also gives us hope when our venerable institutions aren’t just unafraid of evolving. Here we’re looking at museums as change-agents in new frontier of digital space.
Four other outstanding cultural institutions in addition to the Met are getting a boost from a recent announcement by Bloomberg Philanthropies that will thrill culture lovers. They are recipients of a $15 million grant to advance the integration of new technologies into the viewing experience. The grant will extend over three years, focusing on mobile platforms. So in the not too distant future we can expect the Art Institute of Chicago, MOMA, The New York Botanical Garden, and the Guggenheim Museum to also offer radically new digitally-enhanced exhibits.