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.
You can follow Jeff @StaticMade and the Innovation Studio’s @CMP_studio or check out his podcast, Museopunks.
Great interview, Natalie and Jeff! I especially enjoyed Jeff’s comment that museums need to have an open discussion about business models and how technology needs to become a key part of a museum’s overall strategy. Also, “museums should inspire, connect, and delight people.” Yes, yes, yes please!
You both really presented some thought provoking ideas about the digital presence of museums and how it effects the overall experience. I really like what Jeff’s thoughts on the competitions that museums have with other types of venues both physical and on the internet and it is something that we talked about in our group discussions about why is our museum or web presence important? Why does it matter? I agree with Jeff that the experience is very important and is a very important tool to make that presence unique. I also really liked Natalie’s comment about a museum’s virtual presence as being a powerful addition instead of replacing a physical experience. Which as Jeff explained helps tell the story. Using these mediums to complement each other is the best use of each resource and a better way to give the visitor an holistic interaction with the museum’s mission.
“A digital representation of an object…can not replace the physical in person experience, but we can leverage digital technologies to augment those experiences.” I think the key message from this interview is that the digital initiative is a new outlet for museums and institutions that can rival and compete with other online and community experiences. The digital experience leads you to the physical experience, or vice-versa, but neither can ever replace the other, just like neither can completely stand on their own.
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