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  1. Sarah Freda says:

    After reading about Artlens repeatedly throughout the Museum Studies program, it’s so exciting to listen to Jane Alexander talk about digital. As someone who is not an “art person,” I’ve been wanting to take the trip and try it out myself!

    Throughout the course we’ve talked about the benefit of failing forward, but I think what COVID is forcing museums to think about is, as Alexander says, “How can we make it more useful?” How can we take advantage of digital or improve existing digital projects to better support the mission and your visitors? I think what will help museums take that leap to change what works is by reading reports and understanding the data. By making data public as the Cleveland Museum of Art has done, museums can understand what works, and hopefully break down that resistance to change.

  2. hohathaway says:

    Hi Mary, this is Stephanie.

    I first of all just want to express unabashed jealousy of what a strong team it sounds like they have at CMA — I think that is so crucial to getting anything done. I think the strength of Alexander’s leadership is reflected in her comment that now, the museum staff representing various departments talk about the project, rather than who owns it. As she noted several times, collaboration and teamwork are the keys to success.

    Other interesting points:
    1) the need to integrate and centralize all the museum’s digital assets and information so that an update to any part of it is instantly reflected throughout the institution
    2) “it’s been a successful year, despite a hard time” — which is her way of saying she saw the pandemic as a good opportunity to figure out how to improve digital offerings.
    3) online visitorship to the museum’s collection were up 157% — which she said was a great way to level the playing field and was a strong showing for a museum that wasn’t in a big east coast city.
    4) part of the strength of the teamwork was holding regular meetings where they went over EVERYTHING
    5) CMA has an Evaluation team — that is indeed lucky!
    6) re ARTLENS, “it’s important that anything we create is iterative,” so we can learn from it and build on it.

    Ok, that’s it, but now I definitely want to visit this museum too!

  3. Mary,

    It is clear that Alexander has a passion for her work. I enjoyed her perspective as a professional who has been in the field for a decade. In the interview, you touched on the fear that people could be hesitant to participate in digital projects because they feel it could distract from the art. I appreciated how Alexander kind of debunked that hesitation by stating that it can improve the museum’s accessibility. I also really enjoyed Alexander describing the Studio Play situation. She mentions the importance of moving out of your comfort zone to create success that I wholeheartedly agree with. I appreciate any museum professional who is willing to talk about projects or situations that did not necessarily turn out how they thought they would. It allows all of us to learn and grow. Great interview, I enjoyed your conversation!

  4. Deena Deutsch says:

    I am a HUGE admirerer of the ArtLens initiative at the Cleveland Museum of Art, and found Jane Alexander’s discussion compelling, for how it continues to evolve in real-time.

    This initiative draws not only upon the richness of the museum’s collections, but optimizes its human creative assets in the process! I am always surprised at the level of resistence that is sometimes expresssed at the introduction of the digital into the analog gallery, and Jane’s narrative described this museum’s triumph in on-boarding not only the most skeptical onlooker, but traced its success to the collaborative manner through which it transformed critic- into active contributor.

    Through the efforts of this project, the CMA was well-positioned to confront the many challenges of this past horrific year, and ArtLens proves the power of the analog:digital collaborative to prevail and thrive under extraordinary circumstances.

    Fantastic interview, Mary! I am truly envious, and do hope you take Jane up on her invitation for a behind-the-scenes tour!

  5. Madison Ney says:

    Hi Mary, I like how Jane recognized how uncomfortable change can be when making improvements or decisions for everyone involved. Yes, it can be hard and difficult, but the perspectives it brings to the table may yield better results.

    Jane sounds like such a cool person, I’m glad you got to interview her. Do the behind-the-scenes tour for me, please!

  6. Carissa Johnson says:

    Very interesting point that I had not considered in our previous deep dive into the Cleveland Museum of Art. When there was push back from some people, including staff, or repeat visitors, who felt that making the Art Lens front and center at the museum would lose credibility, she suggested that you have to take a look at the main goal. “Make museums more accessible” and once they are in, get them into the gallery. I think it quite clear that Art Lens has been doing its job. It even looks cool to me and the next time I am in Cleveland, I am definitely going. I love her anecdote about the old lady and the younger person who were laughing and giggling and that Miss Alexander assumed that they were grandmother and grandchild. That warms my heart because I could picture my own grams and I doing the same thing when I was little and also, the exhibit just brought strangers together and starts conversations. What a blessing in any society, especially in our political climate.

  7. Kenny Clink says:

    Hi Mary,

    I think it is super important that the concept of collaboration and comprise are stressed so much as they are vital to any working environment but even more so in a museum. With so many pieces needing to fit together properly for something like Artlens or an Open-access art database to function properly having the established connections and collaboration between departments is extremely helpful. Jane also suggested that it made for a smooth transition for each project.

    The concept of iterations is interesting. It reminds me of versions in a program and how newer version can be constantly and consistently refined to correct, streamline, and elaborate functionality and purpose. Thinking about a digital program in such a way is important because it lends to the idea that there is no such thing as failure, only something that didn’t work.

  8. Kristina Zapfe says:

    So fascinating to hear your interview with Jane since we learned so much about ArtLens this semester. I like her emphasis on their mission to build transformative art experiences and constantly explore new ways to document and present collections. I feel like this mission really distills the purpose of digital projects and serves as a litmus test of success for visitors.

  9. Jennifer Kimberlin says:

    I’m kind of in awe of Ms. Alexander’s organizational and documentary skills and inspired to head back into my volunteer job and annoy everyone with unsolicited suggestions to get them in shape 🙂 The level of structure and teamwork is admirable; I liked hearing how she is keeping everyone on the same page with regular, productive meetings to review data metrics and distinguish how visitors are engaging. I can see why they are so successful.

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