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DMA Getting REALLY Innovative Now?

by Jerome Weeks 22 Jun 2012 10:46 AM

The Dallas Museum of Art just got 300 grand to launch a ‘Laboratory for Museum Innovation.’ Cue the eery sound effects.


Dramatization of the ‘Laboratory for Museum Innovation,’ somewhere in the DMA parking garage

Photo: Shutterstock

Even before the arrival of new director Maxwell Anderson — a man who marked himself as a pioneer of the New Digital Life for art museums — the Dallas Museum of Art was doing some groundbreaking work. It’s been mostly in non-flashy,  non-headline-grabbing ways, though:  re-thinking how visitors can access all sorts of archived electronic data, for instance, or figuring out how visitors interact with exhibitions and tailoring the presentations to them.

But since Anderson came here in January, the DMA has a) established an online “dashboard” that provides some carefully curated ‘transparency’ on the museum’s stats, b) started contributing to Anderson’s previously established ArtBabble video website and c) put out the catalog for the current George Grosz exhibition not only as an e-book but as an app.

And now the museum has received $300,00 to launch a “Laboratory for Museum Innovation. ” Robert Stein, the DMA’s newly hired deputy director, will be (the mad scientist, we hope?) in charge of developing “focused and highly innovative projects” directed at improving “visitor experience,” projects that will also “offer a broad application to the global museum community.”

These will be short-term pilot efforts aimed at enhancing educational resources, digital distribution and, yes, understanding how visitors react to art.

No word, apparently, on bioengineering very cool aliens or developing an anti-virus for Conceptual Art.

The full release:

Dallas Museum of Art Receives $300,000 to Support Launch of Its Museum Technology Laboratory

Laboratory for Museum Innovation will Test and Develop Digital Projects

Pioneering New Ways of Engaging Museum Audiences and Enriching Visitor Experience at the DMA and Within the Broader Museum Community

Dallas, TX, June 22, 2012 — The Dallas Museum of Art has received $300,000 to support the creation of a Laboratory for Museum Innovation. The Laboratory will produce focused and highly innovative digital projects that will positively impact visitor experience at the DMA and offer a broad application to the global museum community. The three lead gifts to this new initiative are from AT&T, Texas Instruments Foundation, and Forrest and Cynthia Miller. Together with the recent $500,000 grant from the Andrew M. Mellon Foundation supporting conservation at the DMA, this new grant will strengthen the Museum’s role within the community as resource for education and innovation.

The Laboratory, to be led by Robert Stein, the DMA’s Deputy Director, will utilize an open and collaborative approach to solve common challenges within arts institutions in novel ways. The Laboratory will mount a series of short-term pilot projects that will investigate and focus on enhancing educational resources for K-12 students and teachers; expanding data and information on its collections to aid scholars and visitors; deepening understanding of how visitors encounter works of art; and improving global distribution of content from the Museum and its audiences. Each of these projects falls under four specific areas of study at the Laboratory: Access to Collections; Visitor Engagement and Participatory Culture; Advancing Digital Scholarship; and Transformative Infrastructure. Work on the first pilot projects will begin this summer and continue through 2013.

“We thank AT&T, Texas Instruments Foundation, and Forrest and Cynthia Miller for their eager and enthusiastic support of the Dallas Museum of Art’s Laboratory for Museum Innovation. Their generous commitment will allow us to develop cutting-edge technologies that further enhance the vital role that museums play in their communities,” said Maxwell L. Anderson, the Museum’s Eugene McDermott Director. “Under Rob Stein’s leadership, the Laboratory will address important issues facing museums as we seek to make a difference in the lives of visitors both locally and globally.”

“With social media and mobile computing becoming increasingly important factors in the lives of museum visitors, the methods and means to effectively engage with those visitors are changing at an incredible pace. Now is the best time in the history of the DMA for such an effort to be launched, and I am excited to be a part of it,” noted Stein. “In an ever-connected age, museums occupy an important place as a significant local resource as well as an important cultural resource to a global community.”

Robert Stein is widely regarded among the foremost technology innovators in museums today. His accomplishments were cited in 2011 by The New York Times in an article Four to Follow in Museum Technology and have been hailed by The New York Times, The Guardian UK, The Washington Post, and technology blogs like

Developer of the innovative cloud-hosted video platform called, Stein, together with Anderson, succeeded in building a partnership of 35 major international museums to contribute hosted video content about art and artists. In 2009, Stein founded an initiative to create TAP (, a mobile technology platform for museums that was subsequently awarded a National Leadership Grant by the Institute of Museum and Library Services and brings together a dozen major U.S. museums around a common goal. From 2006-2009, Stein led a collaboration of 21 museums in a research project called Steve.Museum ( that explored the potential for social tagging to improve collection access in museums. In 2011, Stein was awarded a grant from the Getty Foundation to innovate new methods for online scholarly publishing in art museums. A part of a larger collaboration of 10 museums called the Online Scholarly Catalogue Initiative, the grant supports the creation of innovative publishing tools that take advantage of technical innovation in mobile and tablet computing.