Innovation is one of those words that gets thrown around way too much. But it’s not just a buzzword — it’s a survival tactic that is becoming more and more crucial, especially in the arts. Some may say that the arts don’t have the same relentless focus on innovation like insurance, banking or payments; but I’d counter that argument by pointing to the incredibly innovative technologies and collaborative marketplaces we have seen emerge in music, film, books (e.g. streaming, e-book readers, self publishing platforms, etc). These advancements could not have been made without the creative application and use of wellsprings of data, and focused application of innovative design and network thinking.
Innovation is, according to Wikipedia: often viewed as taking place through the provision of more-effective products, processes, services, technologies, art works or business models to make a meaningful impact in a market or society.
Another sector of the arts where these provisions are finally starting to take shape in the form of new experiences and rapid digital adoption is fine arts, specifically museums.
One such example is The Cleveland Museum of Art integrating their online collection information of more than 61,000 objects with Slack to create a daily ‘gamified’ exhibition for millions of Slack customers to engage in art that fits their mood, the time of year or the events of the day. The application, ArtLens for Slack, integrates with Cleveland’s Open Access API-based collection for users to create and curate virtual exhibits with their team allowing them to rate, comment on and be actively engaged remotely with world-class art. Cleveland achieved this by using the Creative Commons Zero (CC0) designation for high-resolution images and data related to public domain works in its collection.
Another example is the MIT Museum’s recent exhibition, The Polaroid Project: At the Intersection of Art and Technology. The second installation of this popular exhibition, originally scheduled to be on view in the Museum’s galleries from March-June of this year, closed after just 7 days due to COVID-19. Part II (released on October 29th) is now fully online and includes a 3-D interactive “tour” with commentary by curators Deborah Douglas and Barbara Hitchcock. This is a great example of how a cultural institution can quickly pivot between the physical and digital worlds.
Over the past few months, we’ve seen the beginnings of cultural change in museums and have learned that in times of great uncertainty, creativity shines. Like most industries, the effects of COVID-19 have created challenges for museums around the world: “When do we open and to what capacity?” “What will exhibitions look like moving forward?” “How do we reach our wider audience that can’t visit?” “How do we leverage our data in new and interesting ways?” “Will these efforts be enough to survive?” The list goes on.
At CultureTech™ our mission has always been to Open Up Art™. After spending many months learning from cultural institutions about the problems that they face on a daily basis (from lengthy and tedious procedures and out of date practices, to manual workflows and uncertainty around data) we’ve realized that there is a more productive way forward — by providing and implementing tools for discovery, collaboration, automation, verifiability and efficiency.
This mission inspired us to create MONA (an acronym for Museum Open Network of Art/Artists). Our first iteration of MONA, a workflow efficiency tool, allows museums, artists, galleries and creatives alike to:
- Track requests for digital assets
- Create and manage contracts
- Search records and collection metadata
- Identify collection trends and analytics
- Manage internal and external relationships
- Facilitate Rights and Reproductions
We beta tested with about 16 museum partners, getting frequent feedback and in real-time throughout the design and development process. This feedback was critical in learning that we are solving a real problem. Consistent feedback illustrated the importance of integrating into existing museum systems and utilizing APIs.
Well into our next phase, we partnered with product innovation specialists Sylon based in Dublin, Ireland. Sylon immediately understood our mission and as a start-up themselves, it was the perfect partnership. Over a few short weeks, we leveraged their experience and expertise and took a collaborative deep dive into improving our technology by refining our value proposition, mission and roadmaps.
“It’s been amazing to see CultureTech’s vision take shape through our partnership with them. We are excited to build this solution together and bring this much-needed product to the art world.”— Rob Allison, Head of North America, Sylon
In addition to digitizing the rights and reproduction process, MONA will automate other critical workflows utilizing direct system integrations as well as 3rd party integrations like payment, distribution and financial reporting. Leveraging modern technologies like APIs and Microservices architecture will enable greater flexibility while minimizing our dependencies. Building a knowledge-base of artwork, metadata and associated images has become a critical part of building customer confidence in the fine art ecosystem we’re developing. Our technology will help drive connections between cultural institutions, artists, and objects — further providing opportunity to Open Up Art.
“The interplay between technology and the creative arts will eventually result in completely new forms of expression and media. This innovation will come from people who are able to link beauty to engineering, humanity to technology, and poetry to processors.”—WALTER ISAACSON, PROFESSOR OF HISTORY, TULANE UNIVERSITY