Work To Watch This Summer: Live Video, AR, Folksonomy, and Games

This week, in New York City, we are entering the final days of the public school year and transitioning to our summer programming. On Thursday, we host the culminating event for the MicroMuseum program (more on that later), concluding this past year’s programming, but are well underway planning for this summer a fascinatingly diverse collection of innovative and interesting programs and projects exploring the intersection of digital media and museum-based learning. Here’s a short primer on the programs which will receive the bulk of my AMNH-based posts over the next few months:

Observation Station 

The Observation Station (placeholder name for now) is a prototype offering a video bridge between our oldest hall, the Hall of Northwest Coast Indians, and the communities from where the displayed objects originated. What’s a video bridge? As the picture below demonstrates, we are exploring setting up two video screens and one camera in the Haida alcove. One video will show the visitors to the Hall. The other video will show a live feed from a second set of screens and camera, this one located on Haida Gwaii at the Haida Gwaii Museum. Essentially, visitors at both locations will see each other and the spaces around them.

Last week we ran our first tech run, which was successful, and are planning for the first pilot in early July. For two hours we will explore how to use the video bridge in two ways: 1. to connect invited people on both ends in a facilitated, structured manner (e.g. Haida and NYC college students in dialogue) and 2. to connect random visitors with the other location in an unfacilitated, unstructured manner, strictly through observation (there will be no audio).

We are most interest to learn what visitors to our Hall will experience the moment they realize that the represented communities whose treasures they are observing were not lost to the past and, instead, might actually be observing them in turn.

Anthropology: Boards, Cards and Dice

In this new Museum program, A:BCD, middle school youth will observe and play games from around the world while developing observational and analytical skills from Anthropology. A:BCD is being developed and co-taught by Alex de Voogt, an AMNH researcher and assistant curator of African Ethnology with a research expertise in the dispersal of board games. The program will delve into de Voogt’s personal collection of games from around the world, game play videos from his research, games in the Museum’s cultural halls, and more.

By the end of this two day mini-camp, the participants will be able to understand the relationship between games, cultural contact and practices as well as the methods used within Anthropology. While our programs often use games and gamesplay as educational tools, as well as the creation of games (re: Minecraft and #scienceFTW), this might be the first time we will focus on games as the subject of study and as a window on world cultures. Video games will not be used during this program, but should this expand in the future, that is definitely an option to be considered.

Augmented Activity Guide

During the first two weeks of August, we will be partnering with Global Kids, a NYC-based after school youth development program, in conjunction with collaborators from amongst the Haida Nation, to design a prototype for a new and innovative way to engage Museum visitors in cultural content. The Global Kids Youth Leaders will work with us to develop an activity guide for children to teach them about the culture of the Haida Nation, based on objects in our public collections, and excite them to learn more. The activity guide will be in the form of a coloring book which, when paired with a mobile app, will bring the drawings to life (just digitally, of course) and involve them with a broader narrative.


Finally, by the end of the summer, we will be ready to launch a short term web-based project to explore how local communities respond to objects related to our Gardner D. Stout Hall of Asian Peoples. This design activity will encourage visitors to create their own digital exhibit and, in the process, help us to build a folksonomy – a crowd-created classification system – to better understand different pathways people might follow to form connections with the Hall.

If you have any questions about any of these projects, or aspects you’d like me to focus on in future posts, please let me know 

About Barry

The Associate Director For Digital Learning, Youth Initiatives at the American Museum of Natural History.
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