2017 MUSE Award Winners
Applications & APIs
The Walters Ex Libris
The Walters Art Museum and Byte Studios
This application provides an intuitive search with multiple access points via rich metadata. Manuscript images are presented through a page-turning tool with multiple viewing options; binding detail photos provide some nice extra detailed content. Scholars will appreciate the open access (CC Zero licensing) to different sizes of manuscript images and extensive cataloguing information available for download.
Audio Tours & Podcasts
Accessible Tours at the National Gallery of Art
National Gallery of Art and Acoustiguide
The availability of excellent verbal description for blind and low sight visitors is notable and the inclusion of ASL video descriptions rounds out a fully accessible experience. All museums should consider providing this level of accessibility.
Maple Audio Tour
American Maple Museum and Daystar Productions of Black River, NY
The editing, performance and narrative power of these short audio stops is wonderful. There is a very personal and homespun quality to these recordings that brings alive the subject matter. Stories hold up enough to repurpose in classrooms or homes. It’s great to see a small museum using audio effectively.
The Rama Epic Audio Tour
Asian Art Museum and Acoustiguide
This project is moving toward an immersive, almost cinematic approach to interpretation for these narrative works, bringing alive the content to reach new audiences. With an expert use of sound design, scripting, and superb voice acting, this is a significant audio tour that stands above traditional gallery audio interpretation with a greater emphasis on storytelling. It also moves toward the universal design ideal of creating interpretation that both describes the work, the emotion and the story behind the images.
Raw Material: A Podcast from SFMOMA
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
This is a superlative example of podcast production value. The writing, performance, narrative power, and editing combine to create a storytelling world unto itself. The stereo field is used magnificently to bring alive the sound textures of the stories. These episodes frequently feature a synthesis of delivery and subject matter that is often sublime. The podcast also broadens the brand of the museum in ways that may be particularly useful in the digital age. The way the writing and sound mix, often felt viscerally, brings the content front & center. It draws you in, challenges, makes the listener think and connect seemingly disparate dots. The episodes are addictive.
Building for Art
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
This superlative audio experience represents a significant contribution to the field. The project combines the personality driven podcast style with a walking tour with unique results. It works perfectly, like a smart friend walking you through the building and pointing out cool features. No small trick in making this highly produced audio sound improvised! The script also takes great advantage of offering unique views or even secret aspects of the building. It encourages closer looking, immersion in physical space. It has great mood and great use of interviews and music. Makes you feel like a museum insider. It’s completely meshed with the context and purpose. It leaves the listener within a virtually shared immersive space. It strikes just the right tone for a sophisticated audience without being alienating to those new to the art world.
Royal Ontario Museum
#Chihulyto originally started as marketing campaign but quickly became self-sustainable and driven by a major audience. As museum visitors continued the conversation, new audiences could engage thanks to the level of accessibility. The only requirement was a Twitter account. Thanks to this project the exhibition expanded digitally and became a platform for visitors to share thoughts and have fun.
The Field Museum
Tattoo stories allowed visitors to become part of the exhibition, both physically and via the story of their tattoos. These stories were also displayed in the exhibition, the crowd-sourcing aspect of this project can be seen as a great example for other institutions. The live aspects were exploited very effectively and invited ‘outsiders’ to join the community, although it might be a lot for people to participate by getting a tattoo. The project encouraged community members to participate, get together and share their stories with each other and a wider audience.
The Stinkiest Thing You Ever Watched
The New York Botanical Garden
The live feed via GoPro was a great aspect of the programme and the main driver for digital content, besides some blog posts. It was very much focused on the live feed. The project offers a unique experience for this garden and for the digital community they build around this moment. Like a pop-up museum that disappears after 24 hours, you needed to be there at that exact time and the institution made it possible to tap in from any location in the world.
Can You Name #5WomenArtists?: A Viral Campaign for Women’s History Month
The National Museum of Women in the Arts
What started with raising awareness and a viral discussion led to a platform for both institutions and individuals, where voices were heard and conversations started. What began as a viral campaign led to a self-sustainable, digital community with global reach and impact.
No matter what the size of a digital community is, essential is a two-way communication – or dialogue – from institution to audience. The community which has been created after the launch of this campaign is still expanding, growing in international impact and taps into a wider audience. By building this community, the museum has confirmed its relevance and is showing an example for other institutions on an international level.
Education & Outreach
Gauguin Paintings, Sculpture, and Graphic Works at the Art Institute of Chicago
Art Institute of Chicago
This project is a thoroughly researched digital resource. The design is visually appealing and easy to navigate, but is much more rich than a typical e-book including the ability to navigate to different texts, change the dimensions of the artworks, view objects in 3-dimensions, get detailed overlays, and video resources. A great resource for scholars and Gauguin enthusiasts!
Wild Minds: What Animals Really Think
New York Hall of Science and National Science Foundation
Most e-books serve as a glorified PDF. Wild Minds: What Animals Really Think took the content from an exhibition and put them into a book that leverages technology and interaction, not just a PDF. The entries and activities are fun and informative and clearly organized for the target audience. There is just the right amount of information, and the integration of short videos, interactive games, 3D imagery, brain scans, and challenges make this resource interactive and personalized, rather that linear and static.
Museum at Your Fingertips
San Diego Air and Space Museum and Balboa Park Online Collaborative
The Museum at Your Fingertips takes the virtual field trip to a new level, allowing user control rather than a broadcast model often offered in virtual fieldtrips. Telepresence is pretty innovative but in education, it’s quite innovative if coupled with museum tours – it provides experiences and reach that are not otherwise easily accessible. This project serves as an excellent model for how the use of telepresence robots, combined with human-to-human connections, can make for an impactful remote touring experience. The additional documentation of the work through a white paper provides valuable insights for the field and a model for replication and scale.
Smithsonian Learning Lab
Smithsonian Center for Learning and Digital Access
This project is an outstanding full package of high quality digital resources, tools for teachers and students, that includes scaffolding and instructional support. With the ability to create your own personalized learning experiences and share them so that others can build on them is very powerful. The design is crisp and intuitive with accessibility in mind. This project is now the model for how learning and online collections can support each other.
Games & Virtual/Augmented Reality
Small Wonders: the VR Experience
Art Gallery of Ontario, CFC Media Lab, and Seneca College
Jurors enjoyed viewing the break out VR views of the 16th century prayer bead that is the focus of this project. The jury was particularly impressed with the direct connection between each component of the bead in the VR environment and illuminating information, highlighting the strong pedagogical foundation upon which this project was built.
Handley Page VR
Science Museum and Preloaded
Jurors were impressed with how well the educational goals were supported in this project. The use of VR to convey the physics of flight was a solid match, and the integration of the project with the gallery space was also well thought out and well designed.
Situation Room Experience
The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum and National Archives and Records Administration
The jury was impressed with the educational and experiential foundation of the Situation Room Experience. The technology component of the project was less overt and more integrated than many museum technology projects, and that integration with the experience for students was a real strong point for this submission. The game play structure was well thought out and the project included an impressive array of interpretive media and analog content to support the play.
Detroit Institute of Arts, GuidiGo, and Google
Jurors felt that the Detroit Institute of Art’s Lumin project was a very effective application of AR for their audience goals. The tour offers both wayfinding functionality and the opportunity to explore aspects of objects in the collection that are normally impossible for visitors to access. The project was built with a clearly delineated audience with well-researched engagement goals, both of which give the Lumin project a well defined focus and sense of the visitor experience.
High Museum of Art and Second Story
The jury loved the idea of the Ism-Izer and of the delight of visitors who could make a connection between themselves and works of art in the same style. The jury was also impressed with the collaborative development model where, at extremely low cost, experiments can be conducted within the Art Lab setting. Visitors shown using the Ism-Izer looked to be engaging fully with the experience and having fun while they did it. Congratulations on creating an engaging and fun interactive experience.
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art and Waltz Binaire
This project was commended by the jury for its focus on movement and on encouraging visitors to an exhibition about dance, to dance themselves. The interactive was entirely appropriate to, and linked to, the themes of the exhibition. The interactive is elegant and responsive and we liked the idea that more could be revealed the more the user participated. Congratulations on a dynamic approach to interactive kiosks.
Engineering in a River System
Museum of Science, Boston
The jury was impressed with the combination of technology and interactivity in the Engineering in a River System interactive. The projection mapping worked very well and the use of a contoured physical table and tactile engineering pieces was very effective. The jury also commended the fact that the interactive was open-ended, collaborative and designed to inspire discussion rather than achieving a ‘correct’ answer. This interactive is an excellent example of using technology to provide innovative ways for visitors to learn through experiences. Congratulations on a project well realized.
Postcards to Your Future Self Prisons Today: Questions in the Age of Mass Incarceration
Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site and Interactive Mechanics
This interactive was simple but incredibly powerful. How to provide a post-visit connection with visitors is a problem that many museums have tried to approach. The jury considered that this interactive really does provide a superb way to continue to re-engage visitors. The idea of sending a postcard to yourself in two months, one year and three years after seeing the historic site was very compelling. The jury considered that after such a span of time, these postcards really would be a call to action. We also considered that the postcards really would add meaning to the exhibition as well as being entirely appropriate to the experience of the exhibition. Congratulations on a very well considered and seamlessly realized interactive.
Follow the Green Book
National Museum of African American History and Culture, Smithsonian Institution and Cortina Productions
This interactive is beautifully set in the context of the exhibition space. It is also cleverly situated so that visitors physically walk up to a car, and then feel as though they’re sitting in the front seats. Our jury was particularly struck by interactives that are deeply enmeshed in the exhibition they are a part of as well as offering relevant and compelling subject matter. The interactive is guided through simple game play of two-option choices throughout the journey, cleanly rendered on a touchscreen. The tale is told through clever technology that turns the windshield into a projection surface, further enhancing the feeling of actually sitting in the car. Users are ‘spoken to’ through the windshield in a very convincing montage. The two screen presentation was extremely effective and provided not just a narrative to follow but detailed information as well. The jury warmly congratulates the winners of the Interactive Kiosks category for this year.
Interpretive Interactive Installations
Singing and Songwriting Studio
Grammy Museum Mississippi
This installment engages the visitor in the process of creating a blues song. It earned recognition from the judges because it is not only a fun and memorable experience, but it also gives a sense of the creative process through choices in mixing, background tracks, and vocals.
Design a Dress
Chicago History Museum and George Berlin
This is incredibly engaging, creative & interpretive, achieved in-house and on a low-budget. An easy to use well-conceived & creative use of technology to interpret a collection type that is generally difficult to make engaging. Nice context with the subject of the exhibit. Fun and memorable, and does put one in the seat of the designer. This is one I would have liked to try! Let’s make it work, people!
New York at its Core
Museum of the City of New York
The Future of New York, where visitors get to play the role of civic planners, was a kind of interaction that enhanced and supported the rest of the exhibition. One of three interactives is a gamified Future City Lab, five challenges: Housing a Growing City, Living with Nature, Getting Around, Living Together, and Making a Living. Finished designs projected and Kinect technology allows people to step into it. Wonderful. The other sections are Port City and World City with interactives to help visitors learn about the challenges those presented, with major themes of money, density, diversity, creativity, portrayed though studies of famous individuals, issues, and city features. One example, horses: the poop problem.
On Stage: Stories behind stories
Corporación Parque Explora
An exhibit about old and modern methods of self-expression —a fairly abstract and daring idea. A number of interactive pieces using a variety of technologies to get visitors to express themselves individually and together. Strong sense of interactivity, very fun and engaging, with lots of personalization. Highly engaging with experiential insights into the creative process.
The Institute Presents: Neurosociety / Media Design and Production
Pace Art + Technology, Todomundo! and Unified Field
Virtual reality goggles have recently made their way into the mainstream as a consumer product, and Institute Presents: Neurosociety utilizes this medium as a way to illustrate the greater message of what neuroscientific experiments in an academic setting might feel like, with a bit of a gameshow twist. It uses technology as a medium for participants in this ‘performance’ exhibition to learn about themselves and their own cognitive processes. In addition to the uniquely experiential aspect of participants in the exhibition, the academic and educational component is interesting and novel. Moreover, the inclusion of academics and research while keeping the budget surprisingly low exemplifies using tech and creativity to convey a message.
The Tech Museum of Innovation and Local Projects
Described as the world’s first synthetic biology learning lab, one juror called this installation “brave and daring” for taking on a complex scientific subject and process, and turning it into a visually appealing, engaging learning experience. Digital lifeforms can be created with physical DNA models that then come to life and interact on a large screen. The combination of tactile and visual interactivity is a great fit, and the cell graphics are colorful and fun. Visitors can use Turing pattern algorithms to create nature’s patterns in on 3- dimensional structures. Augmented reality is used in a fully integrated way in a lab-like setting to simulate manipulating DNA. Technology is used in an appropriate and highly engaging way to create a strong interpretive experience for the visitors.
New York Hall of Science, Design I/O, and CIESIN, Columbia University
The creation of a fictional world to communicate complex ideas like the ecological connections among different biomes is highly significant. It’s a remarkable accomplishment on all fronts. Great for school age kids and reminds the jury of Sim Ant at a museum level. An intense scientific interactive of ecosystems. Uses gestural camera so kids can interact with the environment. A simple guidebook lays out the rules and suggestions. Pretty complex concepts are being planted here. Impressive use of game programming in a full room experience. This project is apt to influence thinking about immersion & simulation experiences moving forward.
American Museum of Natural History
While the Explorer application from the American Museum of Natural History is not a new application, this improved version of it contains significant improvements to the user experience and production value. The quantity, consistency and depth of the content, and the playful, engaging delivery via games, media, and zippy copywriting, is most impressive. The application is truly a world class visitor guide, combining ease of use, practicality, and unparalleled content to match their extraordinary collection and museum.
HMT: Hoover-Mason Trestle
Hoover-Mason Trestle, Redevelopment Authority of the City of Bethlehem, and Bluecadet
The web application for Hoover Mason Trestle (HMT) masterfully demonstrates how technology can and should seamlessly integrate into the service design of an attraction in order to delight and engage visitors. The app strikes an elegant balance among storytelling, innovation and utility, which comes through in the high production value of the content, the expressive look and feel, and the engaging user experience. The content is ample and compelling and accessible from multiple entry points, which enables various modes of engagement based on visitor preferences.
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and Detour
The SFMoMA app leverages the museum experience platform Detour to great effect, dazzling even the locals of Silicon Valley. Through a location-based content delivery mechanism, visitors are led through the museum by audio cues embedded in the content, culminating in an engaging heads-up visitor experience that the sector has sought to achieve for decades. First-in-class audio production quality meets irreverently creative tour writing in order to produce memorable, thematic storytelling trails, first person-led narratives, and imaginative and whimsical messages accessible on demand.
The Andy Warhol Museum and The Studio at Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh
As a shining example of Universal Design, The Warhol: Out Loud is a beacon in the museum technology sector and beyond. The application learns what the user selects most frequently and rearranges content to surface that which may be most relevant in a location-based experience. The experience feels curiosity-driven, elegantly weaving in commentary from Warhol’s family and friends, and providing just enough information to enrich a visit. In order to support multiple modes of engagement, the app presents verbal descriptions of artworks and content, and while these features provide accessibility to visitors who are blind or have low vision, they also provide a deeper level of guided interaction for visitors with full sight, providing a strong example of universal design. Finally, because the application code is open source and available to the public, the app provokes the sector to raise the bar of the museum experience everywhere, no matter the budget, and to leverage technology to truly engage broader audiences.
Corporación Parque Explora
A highly thoughtful project that provides personalized experiences at emotional levels which enhance educational impacts with environmental lessons. Even the height of the interactive media table is at a comfortable level for anyone including those with special needs access. Careful design and clear lessons that visitors can learn through physical actions make this a project praiseworthy. The project not only entertains with high technology, but also communicates its message in a holistic way.
BMO Soundscapes Gallery
National Music Centre, Haley Sharpe Design, St. Joseph Media, Richard Lewis Media Group, mediaNoise, and Design and Production Incorporated
It is an amusing, experiencing, and interesting attempt to create the animated wall. This project should be highly refreshing for music lovers who have been mostly focused to music only, but now, this project is expanding visitor experience into graphics, photographs, animation, and imagination in experimental ways. The public friendly graphics are appreciated for any type of audience. Plus, the brown, darker value than most of the colors help the audience to better concentrate to the multiple communications of music and visual art atmosphere in full.
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
The level of performance using technology in trendy, creative, specific, and stylish ways is impressive. Specific applications of technology in various ways for detailed sections are surely enhancing visitor experience to be more engaging and to dive into the realm of fashion flow displayed on the floor. This project has a special atmosphere that brings people into artistic viewing path. It is not only emotional but also specifically educational through accurate points of information communicated through individual displays.
Cave 45: A Virtual Immersive Experience – Cave Templates of Dunhuang: Buddhist Art on China’s Silk Road
J. Paul Getty Trust, yU+co, Dunhuang Academy, and Dunhuang Foundation
The usage of the large screen is highly effective for this immersive representation of the cave. The quality of the image is high enough that the visitor experiences it vividly enough as if they are in the real site. Generally, the main purpose of creating virtual reality is to provide real experience as much as possible, and this project successfully achieves the major goal and nature of such technology. Visitors should be able to feel as if traveling with a guide that is replaced with spot lights and motion specified on the image.
The Open Road Microsite and Travel Photo Sharing Experience
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art and CultureConnect
One of the few experiences reviewed that served as a nexus of experience across multiple digital platforms. Clearly a project that celebrated a moment in time and directly engaged user input, experience, and reactions directly into the overall exhibit experience. More examples like this are desired.
“Jacob Lawrence: The Migration Series” Website
The Phillips Collection and TOKY Branding + Design
The Migration Series website is a fine exemplar of responsive design work, and it serves not only as a complement to the exhibit and a showcase for visitor-contributed artwork, but also as a resource on Jacob Lawrence’s life and work. The site makes considerable effort to put the work itself and newly-digitized, previously-unreleased interviews, into the context of the artist’s life and times; interactive map visualizations, a timeline, letters from the migration, and work from Harlem contemporaries are all presented and flex beautifully on mobile. Overall, it’s an impressive online companion to the exhibit.
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
We found this site inviting and very easy to navigate, which was surprising given the huge amount of discoverable material. The jury was impressed with the institution and the website’s commitment to accessibility of all sorts. It was exciting to quickly and easily explore old art lectures via the Soundcloud embeds. The collections online is finely curated, well structured, and especially fast. It is a model for other institutions.
A Year of Facebook Live from the American Museum of Natural History
American Museum of Natural History
We liked this project in part because it wasn’t exactly a website. Engaging a larger museum community, doing so regularly with live video and question and answer sessions, going for function over form, giving people access to parts of the institution that they might not ordinarily see, and doing so with an eye to the long haul was strategically impressive.
LAKE: An Open Source, Community Driven DAMS for Museums
The Art Institute of Chicago
This project looks inward to a very institution-specific problem to solve digital asset management and is on the path to developing a set of open source tools for other museums to also utilize. Building upon Fedora, which has primarily been used by libraries, as well as integrating IIIF, is forward thinking for how all cultural institutions can work together in their utilization of technology. This project is one to follow as it is further developed, made available to others, and it can be seen how data generation, collection use, and end user availability will be considered.
Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and Prime Access Consulting
This project gets out in front of the issues of accessibility, images, and websites. Through the utilization of open-source tools for describing images, this project will vastly improve accessibility (think ADA compliance) and navigation of website visitors with visual impairments and is presented in a way that can be applied to any museum putting images on its website. The potential impact of this project is hugely significant when its adoption by other museums and integration with other systems is considered. Further, the timeliness of this project is additionally important in light of the Marrakesh Treaty.
British Art Studies
Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art and Yale Center for British Art
As a category, Open Culture, can and does encompass so many different types of projects, but this project typifies what “open” means and aims to set a new standard for digital publishing. Through utilization of an innovative web platform, a Creative Commons license applied to all content (not just text), and overall careful consideration of the myriad copyright and access details (the DOI is embedded directly next to articles!), this project presents one of the most elegant solutions to the sharing and reuse of peer- reviewed, published research while actively applying fair use and fair dealing exemptions of copyright law.
Pacific Visions Promo Video
Aquarium of the Pacific and Cortina Productions
This project featured clear presentation and sound methods of execution and distribution. It invites you “to participate in designing a sustainable world” – a fascinating crowdsourced/involved project. It is an immersive experience for viewers – putting them right in the picture!
#KeepThemRuby Kickstarter Campaign
Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History
This Kickstarter for Dorothy’s shoes confirms/reinforces a role for institutional strategic crowdfunding as a mechanism for fundraising and “crowd” awareness and engagement. The ROI as mentioned is more than the money raised, for this campaign and more money for a secondary goal – it is the value of all the free media publicity and buzz it achieved. The project truly reached out to the public and It seems that the visitors felt involved and voted with their feet. The jury found it original and inspirational. A unique and special project
Happy Holidays from Crystal Bridges
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art
The message was simply 100% on target for an interesting mix of personal message (holiday greeting) and exhibition enticement. It mesmerized from beginning to end and in “humanizing” the director this way blew away a lot of elitists’ predispositions. As a “smiler” and not a “laugher” they struck intellectual and emotional cores in an unexpected and most memorable way. The biggest “problem” may be in whether they own up to the challenge of one-upping themselves every holiday season, which could turn their greeting into a wonderfully awaited “event.”
Video, Film, & Computer Animation
NIXON: Visitor Orientation Theater
Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum
In a field of submissions that contained a lot of montages, this one works, balancing quick-cut bytes on a broad canvas filled with exactly the right evocative images. It tackles the complexity of its subject with clarity and vigor.
“Megacities Asia” Video Series
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and Richard Lewis Media Group
Compared blindly to other “artist statement” video series, this project might not stand out, but when you consider how it was made, with an iPod Touch shipped to each subject for their use, remote interviews done via Skype, etc., it’s an extremely innovative use of digital technology to stretch a limited budget into a cross-border international collaboration. The editing is well paced and thoughtful, and the various forms of deployment, including web and social media and a 16-screen collage installation add to the interesting problem solving at play in this submission.
My Mother, Mabel McKay
The Autry Museum of the American West
Revealing the human connection in inanimate objects is one of the most difficult challenges you can face when creating interpretive videos that have a preset inventory and provenance. On the surface, this piece is a charmingly rustic stop-frame animation that describes each object’s origin and purpose, but by rooting each scene in a story about how their owner and maker lived, day-to-day, it builds a greater and greater emotional connection. Over its short duration viewers are offered both a sense of the importance of the objects but also receive insight into the personality of Mabel MCKay.
Shelf Life: Fossil Hunting In the Gobi 360
American Museum of Natural History
Like VR, 360° video has yet to prove itself as a go-to storytelling tool for use in museums, but this social media project uses it perfectly. Even more surprising, it dips way into the past for its raw materials, telling a story that would be pretty standard and straight-forward in an innovative new way.
Science Museum of Virginia and Sanan Media
This work stuck in our minds. This work won us over with its humor (copy and lightly handled 3D objects) and the effectiveness with which it was able to deliver its core message. This lively and intoxicating work stood out as one-of-a-kind in this year’s roster of submissions.
“Liberty Fever” Introductory Film
American Revolution Museum at Yorktown and Cortina Productions
Reenactments are a tricky business, but this piece not only renders each episodic reconstruction beautifully and effectively, it ingeniously frames them within another; each historic episode is placed in context for viewers by an imagined 19th Century shadow puppet storyteller regaling an audience of small town citizens. These “stories within a story” are artfully shot, written and acted, and in their aggregate add up to a unified and poignant story that earns every moment of its 17 minute length.
Jim Blackaby Memorial Award
The Institute Presents: Neurosociety / Media Design and Production
PACE Art + Technology, Todomundo! and Unified Field