Gallery One, Overview

How can art museums use interpretive technology to engage visitors actively in new kinds of experiences with works of art? What are the best strategies for integrating technology into the visitor experience? This case study aims to offer some answers to these questions.

Project Overview

In 2012, The Cleveland Museum of Art opened the ground-breaking Gallery One: a highly-innovative interactive art gallery that blends art, technology, and interpretation to inspire visitors to explore the Museum.

The project affirms the Museum’s permanent mission of helping visitors connect with its art collections using the best in interpretive technologies and design.

Gallery One features the 40-foot Collection Wall (the world’s largest interactive touchscreen display that lets visitors explore images and information for more than 4,100 works of art), as well as standalone multi-touch kiosks and the free ArtLens app, all of which provide educational and curatorial information about CMA’s entire collection.

Together these create an immersive and memorable experience not only for visitors on site, but for art lovers around the world. Gallery One has been heralded as a revolutionary space in the world of museums by The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fast Company, and The Plain Dealer, among other media outlets.

“In the museum world, everyone’s watching Cleveland right now. Though other museums have experimented with interactive technology, the extent of Cleveland’s program is unprecedented. They’ve put a lot out there for other museums to learn from.”

– The New York Times, March 20, 2013

How was Gallery One’s technology implemented?

The Gallery One team’s approach to the project, both in creative concept and technology, was driven by new interpretive research, CMA technology infrastructure, and by Local Projects’ extensive experience with interactive content development. The user interface design evolved during the wireframing phase, due primarily to the aggressive schedule required to complete this work. During the development of the wireframes, gaps in the current level of design details naturally emerged, requiring additional brainstorming and activity development.

Once wireframes were complete, the team moved into prototyping. The team believed this project required an accurate proof of concept of the interactive experience combined with hardware and systems support. Local Projects, Zenith Systems (AV integrator), and CMA’s IMTS team were able to deliver prototypes for the entire Gallery One team to test and improve upon.

The Gallery One experience consists of 10 interactives:

  • The Collection Wall;
  • Three interactives designed for children and located in Studio Play, an education space (Line & Shape and two ‘Sorting and Matching’ interactives);
  • Six interactive displays (lenses);
  • The museum-wide app, ArtLens;
  • The Beacon – a large video projection of highlights from the Museum’s collections and events as well as Gallery One – at the lobby entrance to Gallery One.

Planning and Implementation

A spirit of exploration and innovation pervades the one-of-a-kind Gallery One. Unique interactive and immersive technologies share the space with significant works of art from the Cleveland Museum of Art’s permanent collections, together engaging visitors in a museum experience never before seen in museums worldwide.

Key objectives:

• Build audiences–including families, youth, school groups, and occasional visitors–by providing a fun and engaging environment for visitors with all levels of knowledge about art.

•  Highlight featured artworks in a visitor-centered and layered interpretive manner, thereby bringing those artworks to the Greater Cleveland community and the world.

• Propel visitors into the primary galleries with greater enthusiasm, understanding, and excitement about the collection.

• Develop and galvanize visitor interest, bringing visitors back to the museum again and again.

• Create a nexus of interpretation, learning, and audience development.

History of the Gallery One project

At the beginning of the project, the Maltz families’ gifted 10 million dollars to The Cleveland Museum of Art to fund an integrated, interpretive space where visitors could learn to experience art. The gift coincided with inception of the Museum’s seven-year, $320M building and renovation project.

In addition, the Gallery One project was recognized as a model for art museums with a prestigious NEH Challenge Grant, awarded in 2012. Between 2008 and early 2010, leadership developed and adopted a comprehensive long-range plan to focus all the museum’s efforts on the overarching goals of artistic excellence, scholarship, and community engagement.

In 2009, CMA began a concerted effort to make visitors central to reinterpretation of the permanent collection by evaluating visitor responses to the earliest phase of the museum’s gallery reinstallations. Gallery One became a fundamental expression of the museum’s broader efforts to expand its relationship with audiences in Greater Cleveland and beyond.

In 1996 the museum’s strategic plan established a commitment to becoming a national leader in the use of new and emerging technologies. It all started with the purchase of collections management database and digital scanners, and a commitment to digitizing the collection.

Twenty years later, CMA is particularly proud of its on-budget, successful launch of Gallery One. The Information Management and Technology Services department assembled and managed the development team of Cleveland Museum of Art’s collections and tech staff, as well as nationally-based and local vendor partners that pursued our vision for technology. This commitment resulted in the implementation of ground-breaking uses of technology, culminating in international acclaim, increased exposure, and revenue for the Cleveland Museum of Art.