Jeffrey Inscho is a creative technologist based in Pittsburgh, PA. He currently leads emerging media initiatives at the Innovation Studio, the research, design, and development laboratory at Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh. His professional work lives at the intersection of technology, cultural narrative and interaction. Our interview focused on his work on the Warhol Museum’s digital strategy, the successes and challenges of digital engagement, and his work at the Innovation Studio.
The conversation began with the Warhol Museum’s digital strategy and despite it being a “solid document”, Jeff considers it one that is also a challenge in that it “needs to be shepherded by someone, “ says Jeff who recently left his position as the digital strategy shepherd to the Innovation Studio just a few months ago. His warning indicates that though museums might want to be digital, it is easy to fall into old habits. The Warhol Museum is only a few dozen employees, their enthusiasm and innovation (perhaps well-aligned with Warhol himself) needed to be streamlined to maximize the possibilities, hence the creation of a digital strategy that tried to make the most of the museum’s limited resources. Though Jeff believes that digital cannot replace the physical, the potential to “inspire, connect, and delight” users is undeniable.
Our conversation shifted to broader issues of museums and technology, particularly around openness, which is a pillar of the Innovation Studio’s mission. He advises museums to think openly. He understands that licensing might be revenue for museums, but opening access allows museums to be open to information in return. One example of this information sharing is modeled through the Innovation Studio’s Innovation Salon talks that connect museum professionals with technology experts (of which there are many in Pittsburgh) to discuss the role museums can play in areas of innovation and emerging media. The fact is, museums do not have the resources to do everything alone, but openness provides opportunities to pool resources for effective results. He believes museums have a lot to learn from the tech world and why creative partnerships are another pillar of the Innovation Studio.
Our conversation concluded with the future of museums and what changes he sees on the horizon. His comments were not about specific technologies, but about the people within the organization. Again, perhaps why the Innovation Studio includes digital adaptation as another pillar. When discussing adaptation, Jeff says this is the hardest, “because it’s not technology, it’s not code, yet it’s the most important.” He suggests that museums start to take more cues from the technology industry. Consider hiring coders or data architects. And start moving faster, “not to suffer the attention to detail or scholarship”, says Jeff, but he does see museums as slow to change. The idea of “fail fast” is well understood in the technology world and is something museums need to consider adopting on some scale if they want to keep up with the changing pace of our society.