The Black List Project just opened last week and our education staff really wanted to include visitor response as part of the exhibition. Typically, we do this with our electronic comment books which have been working well for us, but the educators felt that a more personal storytelling was what they were looking for with this show and incorporating video would help fulfill those needs.
The original idea was to set up recording times and take quick video responses in the gallery, but knowing how much editing work would come our way…my response was a very fast and very frustrated “we can’t possibly take this on.” We started thinking about self-service video kiosks, but quickly found engineering a custom solution was going to drain too much staff time and products for purchase were insanely expensive, so no go. Argh!
…well, we found a way and it’s simple enough that anyone can do it. We are taking advantage of YouTube’s Quick Capture feature, which allows anyone to use a webcam to directly record a video to their YouTube channel. We grabbed the two Macbooks we had used for Click!…setup a YouTube channel for the exhibition…fired up the webcams…and locked everything down with wKiosk. Presto, a working video kiosk with no overhead! I couldn’t be more excited that we were able to find a Scrappy-Doo solution that got us over the technical and budgetary hurdles.
Now that we’ve got these working, we are all a little curious to see what in the world happens. There’s plenty of monkey-business going on with our e-comment books—I always joke that you always know when there’s a school group in the building :) That’s to be expected, though. There’s no established community around those books and they can be completely anonymous, so it’s easy to see why someone will goof off. For the most part, the e-comment books work well, we get meaningful comments and discussion from them. Our visitors have come to expect them and we recommend this system as something that has had great benefit (if you are interested in implementing, you might take a look at Nina Simon’s recent post for some ideas).
I have to wonder, though, what happens when you turn a camera on? Are there fewer goof-offs because comments are tied directly to an identity (at first glance, that’s probably too optimistic)? Are there fewer responses because visitors are less comfortable with this format? Are responses more personal because the act of commenting is more confessional (despite the tech glitches we are still working through, maybe yes)? These video kiosks are out in the open in a large space…are people attracted to that or would they rather have a more private setting like a booth? Do visitors shy away from it by the very nature that the resulting video is hosted on YouTube?
Clearly, we have more questions than answers right now and I’m betting we may make adjustments as we go through the run, but it’s kind of fun to try something new and you just know I’ll report back on what we learn :)
Shelley Bernstein is the former Vice Director of Digital Engagement & Technology at the Brooklyn Museum where she spearheaded digital projects with public participation at their center. In the most recent example—ASK Brooklyn Museum—visitors ask questions using their mobile devices and experts answer in real time. She organized three award-winning projects—Click! A Crowd-Curated Exhibition, Split Second: Indian Paintings, GO: a community-curated open studio project—which enabled the public to participate in the exhibition process.
Shelley was named one of the 40 Under 40 in Crain's New York Business and her work on the Museum's digital strategy has been featured in the New York Times.
In 2016, Shelley joined the staff at the Barnes Foundation as the Deputy Director of Digital Initiatives and Chief Experience Officer.