In a blog post announcing CFM’s Trendswatch 2013 report, Elizabeth Merritt speculated that a future museum visit may go something like this:
- On the way in, a staff member asks if you want to borrow a “digital disconnect” pouch for your mobile device, to help you go offline for a stress-free visit.
- But you decide to opt for the fully immersive digital experience. You authorize your mobile device to track your progress through the museum, pull information from exhibits as you approach, synch with your bio-monitor wristband to assess your reaction to the experience and suggest what other galleries you might enjoy.
|The symposium banner image was assembled by Joyce Bedi |
using a camera image from Silver Spoon (Own work)
[GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons.
We invite the museum community to attend or tune in to our daylong symposium, especially our session on “Surveillance in Museums and Cultural Attractions.” Because of the treasures they hold, museums have always been sites of intense surveillance, but the scope of that surveillance is expanding. At museums and other cultural attractions, surveillance cameras help ensure the safety of thousands of visitors whiles securing priceless artifacts and works of art. However, those same cameras (with the right facial recognition software) can also be used to count visitors and analyze their demographics. And as the Trendswatch report suggested, visitors’ smartphones can already deliver rich, location-specific content to complement in-gallery experiences. Meanwhile, mobile apps also provide the museum staff with a trove of data about visitor behaviors, from walking paths to dwell times. Again, depending on your point of view, this is either really exciting, a little creepy, or both.
Thus, in this session, we’ll examine the emergence of surveillance technologies in museums and cultural institutions, and their potential to transform the visitor’s experience and visitors’ studies. We have three terrific speakers. Steve Keller, a leading security consultant (and a member of AAM’s Centennial Honor Roll), describes the various surveillance technologies in place at museums around the world, while explaining a paradox: additional surveillance technologies can actually introduce more potential vulnerabilities from hackers and cyber-thieves. Sam Quigley, chief information officer at the Art Institute of Chicago, describes how his museum implemented comprehensive WiFi coverage throughout the museum to power content-rich mobile applications. He also addresses the touchy questions that arise from the wholesale acquisition and analysis of data revealing visitors’ movements and usage. Finally, CFM’s own Elizabeth Merritt speculates on the future of museum surveillance and asks some tough questions: Will visitors embrace or reject the increasing use of surveillance technology in museums? Can museums enforce security and serve their patrons while respecting the privacy of their staff and visitors? Nancy Proctor, the head of the Smithsonian’s mobile strategy and initiatives, will serve as the moderator of the session and lead what we hope will be a vigorous Q&A session and discussion with our friends from the museum community.
We hope you’ll join us on Oct. 25, in person or over the web! And you can follow the Lemelson Center on Twitter @si_invention.