Digital Storytelling: A Way of Demystifying not just Art, but the Museum

I was not aware that LACMA was working on web-based videos as a way of communicating stories about their artwork, exhibitions and directors. It was interesting to see that this medium is being used not just for documentary style videos, but to conduct interviews and offer a close-up look of some of the museum’s new initiatives.

When thinking about a museum’s digital presence, I first expect it to have a comprehensive and well-designed website. Apart from museums, I judge organizations, schools and other institutions based off their webpage. A poorly designed website or one that is not user friendly is almost as bad as turning in a bad resume- first impressions are so important and I am not likely to put in more effort to find information if the simplest things e.g. contact information, opening hours are difficult to locate.

It would also be great for museums to have a social media presence that seeks to engage us with in-the-moment news. Apart from just promoting their events and exhibitions, museums as an educational institution have the authority and power to be responsive to current events. For instance, several artists have produced works referencing the Black Lives Matter movement, and a museum could tweet or make a post about a previous or upcoming artist who would be featured as part of that movement. This ensures the institution itself is not viewed as being politicized, while still promoting the works of artists.

It would also be helpful if museums were somehow able to track the visitors at respective exhibits, and notify past visitors of similar/ related exhibitions that might pique their interest. This will encourage return visits and sustain audience engagement, rather than have visitors seek out exhibitions and events solely through their own research.

I did not have access to any classes on Coursera, but I found a TedX video titled “The Problem with Modern Art” by Tomas Gonzalez Cueto. He is not the most engaging speaker, but the subject matter is unique (something I would watch from start to finish) in that it was critical of museums and the construct of modern art. Members of the general public already have a perception of modern art as being disconnected from reality, abstract and difficult to comprehend, and museums do little to address this lack of understanding for the art. Perhaps addressing this elephant in the room by creating videos that directly acknowledge some of the misconceptions and pressing questions the public has about art (rather than just assuming everyone who watches the video should be an art enthusiast) will help people relate to it better. The institution itself is seen as uptight and some level of self-deprecating humor might be well-received by museum goers, and make the content produced by museums seem less dry and intimidating.

Finally, I looked up the trailer for the ballet documentary “First Position” since I have heard a lot about it but not actually watched it. The trailer does a good job of incorporating personal stories into a greater narrative, and provides insight on the less well-known and hardly publicized lives of professional ballet dancers. I would encourage this digital storytelling approach as it gives viewers the perception that they are being let on a “sneak peek” or exclusive “behind the scenes” video of what museums do. When people can relate to and have a better understanding of the institutions that are creating content, I think it naturally makes them more curious of the museum’s exhibitions.

3 thoughts on “Digital Storytelling: A Way of Demystifying not just Art, but the Museum”

  1. I love the idea of confronting directly the notion that museums are boring or outdated. It’s a bit risky, but it could work!

  2. I appreciate your brief acknowledgement on the important of interface design. As a designer, it is my responsibility to effectively communicate through visual language and if a website looks outdated, the audience can’t help but feel that the website is archaic or not worth updating. So I definitely agree with you that poor websites do effect the overall experience of digital storytelling.

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