Various projects include websites, digital publications, site migrations, content management system implementations, interactives and in-gallery kiosks, interpretive platforms, digital signage systems, and augmented reality applications. Sometimes all in the same year.
Under my direction as the Director of Digital Media, the Clyfford Still Museum has launched an ambitious program of innovative digital initiatives that support the organization’s mission, serve its visitors, and have raised its national profile. I have accomplished this through smart choices of external partners, ranging from big fish like Google to boutique development agencies like Cogapp; and creative collaborations with her museum colleagues. I take pride in building great teams, and maintaining an atmosphere in which talented individuals can do their best work. I have responsibly shepherded the growth of the organization’s technical stack, ensuring that the properties not only met their objectives on launch, but continue to pay dividends into the future.
“The unexpurgated online exhibition will reveal a fuller picture of Mr. Still’s work, with subjects ranging from log cabins, grain elevators and plow horses dating from the 1930s and quasi-Surrealist creations of the early 1940s to his later, more familiar towering abstractions.”
—Phyllis Tuchman, New York Times
The Clyfford Still Museum’s Online Collection presents the depth of the CSM’s holdings and the breadth of Abstract Expressionist painter Clyfford Still’s artistic output in a clean, elegant interface. Though there’s still nothing like being at the museum, researchers and casual browsers alike can finally experience this collection without coming to Denver, marking another major milestone on the museum’s mission to preserve and share the legacy of one of our nation’s most significant artists.
The interface showcases Still’s artwork with high-quality photographs displayed in full-screen, deep-zoom capabilities, allowing an intimate viewing of Still’s detailed surfaces and revealing evidence of his hand. The platform features multiple ways of searching and browsing the collection, providing viewers the ability to explore the museum’s most treasured assets.
The online collection is a CMS-less site, and fits seamlessly into CSM’s technology stack by making use of system APIs and existing workflows. The front-facing interface is built on top of the museum’s collections management and digital asset management systems. Data from the collections management system is harvested and published into an ElasticSearch database, which is displayed to users via Laravel. Images are served directly from the digital asset management system’s API via IIIF server. The project team employed an Agile development methodology, which proved crucial in bringing the collection online in less than four months.
The online collection launched on September 15, 2017. Data collected through Google Analytics shows that online collection usage accounted for 25 percent of the museum’s total web traffic in the first six months. Since its launch in mid-September of 2017, the online collection homepage has been viewed more than 85,000 times (as of June 15, 2018). More than six percent of all sessions occurred outside the United States—not too shabby for a single-artist museum in Denver, Colorado, which gets just over 40,000 in annual attendance each year.
This project was a collaboration with Cogapp. The internal team for this project includes Jessie de la Cruz, Emily Kosakowski, Bailey Placzek, and Dean Sobel.
“Not a gimmick or a tech toy, the augmented reality experience woven throughout ‘Still & Art’ makes a compelling case for the use of technology that is grounded in reality, but pushes our understanding and sense of possibility beyond physical boundaries.”
—Tara Bardeen, Modern in Denver
Placing artworks by Clyfford Still in close dialogue with the works of other artists is a challenge born of Still’s well established philosophies on exhibiting his work. Therefore, when a curator endeavors to show Still’s work situated in an art historical context, one must get a bit creative. Enter augmented reality.
Clyfford Still Museum’s augmented reality application allows visitors to view artworks by artists like Vincent van Gogh and Georgia O’Keefe, virtually hanging alongside actual works by Still. When the visitor looks through the phone’s camera lens, virtual artworks appear to be in the gallery, next to the physical artworks actually hanging on the walls.
“The real surprise is the tactical brilliance of the virtual paintings … the renderings are terrific and do an effective job of presenting the work. Viewers can move about them like real paintings, getting close up or far away, and the surface textures — mounds of paint and scratches on canvas — can be seen and felt.”
—Ray Mark Rinaldi, The Denver Post
The museum provides visitors smartphones, through which to use the augmented reality application. The app utilizes Google’s visual mapping technology, Tango, to pinpoint the visitor’s position in the gallery.
Clyfford Still: The Works on Paper is the first exhibition devoted exclusively to Still’s graphic art. The accompanying exhibition catalogue, the Clyfford Still Museum’s first in a digital format, provides a visually rich experience of never-before-seen works.
The online publication features installation photographs from every gallery wall in the exhibition, as well as high-resolution images of all 256 objects included in the exhibition. The deep-zoom interface allows for an intimate examination of these drawings, revealing evidence of Still’s hand and his mastery of drawing media.
The publication was created using a static-site-generator plugin (Simply Static) on a custom-built theme in WordPress. Inspired by recent work in digital publishing by the Getty Museum, the static-site approach helps ensure stability and longevity for the publication and its scholarly content. E-pub and PDF formats are also available via the online publication at no charge. A 152-page print-on-demand softcover catalogue is available through CSM’s online store.
Distribution online has ensured a much larger audience for this work, a major priority for the museum, whose collection rarely travels outside Denver. Online user sessions for the publication have far exceeded our expectations in numbers and geographic reach, and quickly surpassed estimates for sold copies of a print run.
This project was a collaboration with Spellerberg Associates.
“Emotion, Intimacy and Space: Designing and Developing the Clyfford Still Museum’s In-Gallery Video Kiosk System” (to be presented at the MCN Conference in November 2018) will discuss how digital design can reflect the physical space in which it is installed, how graphic and movement choices affect visitors’ sense of intimacy, and how the interactive components of museum visitors’ experience can be made approachable through the collaborating disciplines of design and development.
Clyfford Still Museum’s new video kiosk platform was built to scale with the museum’s growing video library. The priorities for the system were to make the videos accessible to people with hearing impairments; to design a system that could be content managed from afar; and to create an architecture that could scale with the content—one that could easily accommodate as many videos as desirable, and allow for flexibility in the organization and presentation of those videos on a station-by-station, screen-by-screen basis.
It features touchscreen navigation; closed captioned videos; and the ability to create, publish, and maintain multiple custom interfaces simultaneously. Although the application was built for onsite audiences, the new system leverages web standards for accessibility and sustainability.
The technical configuration is a lightweight, easy-to-update system that fits well into CSM’s technology stack and can accommodate an infinite number of videos and combinations thereof. The interface’s content management is handled through WordPress. The application itself is written in React JS, and communicates with WordPress via a JSON feed. The videos and captions are hosted on Vimeo and accessed by the kiosk application through Vimeo’s API. Each station runs on a Mac Mini that is configured for touch inputs (which is not native in Mac OS). The application runs in Chrome through the Kiosk app extension for a frameless, secured experience.