A departmental team in Education that had been struggling with the concept of a life-long learning center was replaced with a new, cross-departmental team in mid 2010. It was this collaborative effort that refined the interpretive space into Gallery One and ArtLens.
The development of Gallery One and ArtLens at the Cleveland Museum of Art required a true and equal collaboration among the Curatorial, Design and Architecture, Education and Interpretation, and Information Management and Technology Services departments.
The CMA’s chief curator and deputy director provided executive oversight on the project, an atypical and noteworthy approach among museums in the design of interactive technology spaces. This collaborative organizational structure is groundbreaking, not just within the museum community, but for user-interface design in general. It multiplied each department’s contribution, resulting in an unparalleled interactive experience, with technology and software that has never been used before in any venue, with content interpreted in fun and approachable ways, and through unprecedented design of an interactive space that integrates technology into an art gallery setting.
The museum partnered with award-winning outside consultants to realize the project, including Local Projects (media design and development), Gallagher and Associates (exhibit design), Zenith Systems (AV Integration), Piction Digital Image Systems (CMS/DAM development), Earprint Productions (app content development), and Navizon (wayfinding).
Many digital experiences were created and work-shopped, and then the best were chosen for final execution. This offered flexibility to align the project budget, scope, and timeline into a final workplan that was optimized for each part of the team.
Collaboration Model – Post-Launch
The work doesn’t stop—nor the investment—with an installation like Gallery One. The technology is such a paradigm changer, it opens up whole new previously uncharted gaps in interpretation, which in turn call for new, more effective strategies. Internal: Iterative Feedback and Planning: Collaborations continue, and deadlines are necessary.
The Gallery One collaborative team of ITMS, Education, and Design staff continue to meet weekly to address issues like the ones highlighted above. There is no sense that the project is ‘done’ and ready to be archived. All understand this commitment to be iterative and evolving. Both professional and casual visitor feedback provide focus for the team’s agendas and strategies. However, it is apparent that deadlines are essential for keeping up to date. For example: the group completed ten interactives and an app in two years (with the unmovable deadline of 12/12/2012); after opening, the group determined that additional labeling was needed for various asset types, and it took a hard deadline of MW Deep Dive event to force necessary decision.
Partnership: Key to Launch and Post-Launch
From the beginning of the project it was important to establish strong and strategic partnerships with the external firms involved. In partnering with Local Projects, who worked with CMA from concept to production, there was mutual dedication and commitment to Gallery One being a success.
In practice, this became consistent and open communication about expectations and process, and ensured that the larger goals for the project were not only being met, but then surpassed. It is one hundred percent true in this case, that all the individuals that worked on the Gallery One project were deeply invested and dedicated to its success, even years before any visitors would set foot in the galleries!
This type of commitment is an absolute requirement for any project that has the level of complexity and cutting edge features contained within Gallery One. The project launch is often seen as the culminating moment where the (sometimes years) of planning, focused effort, determination and late-nights all coalesce into a moment that resoundingly sounds like “You’re Finished!” Launch is a time during all projects that requires even more time and effort, because project team members need to prepare for both the launch itself, as well as prepare for the needs that occur immediately afterwards. Launch puts the ‘product’ into the world, delivers it to a (hopefully) ready and excited public and means that discussions about the project now use concrete versus abstract terms. This also means that management should not underestimate the demands and needs that the post-launch phase ushers in.