The Observation Station Tech Run-Through – Views From the Start of Something Remarkable

I look forward to updating you soon on the widely diverse range of fascinating work I’m engaged with at the Museum this summer. So my apologies for not spending the time now to give full content to the following photos – but they are  just too remarkable to hold them back.

In short, the oldest hall in the Museum is the Hall of Northwest Coast Indians, opened in 1900. It highlights the traditional cultures of the native peoples of North America’s northwest shores from Washington State to southern Alaska, including the Kwakiutl (known today as Kwakwaka’wakw), Haida, Tlingit, and others.

One project I am working on this summer is exploring live video feeds between one section of the Hall – the Haida alcove – and a cultural institution (the Haida Gwaii Museum) within the community from whom its objects originated. Visitors at both locations will see two video screens – one showing a live video feed of themselves within their own museum and one seeing visitors to the other museum. We’ll be exploring, in part, if visitors to our Hall come away with an increased sense that the cultures represented in the Hall have not been relegated to the past, and in many cases are alive and well. In addition, we are curious to see if the experience can generate  a new self-awareness of their relationship to the objects within the Hall. In other word, what will the affect be of New Yorkers and other visitors observing Haida objects and then realizing visitors to the Haida museum might be observing them in turn!

Below are photographs from yesterday’s tech set-up where we just wanted to see if the technology could support our shared vision. These are photos from the AMNH perspective, with the AMNH on the top screen and the Haida Gwaii Museum on the bottom. And even though we had organized it just for technical reasons, we both experienced random visitors walking by, checking out the experience, and then walking away. I don’t think I was alone experiencing something both deep and profound, suggesting we are moving in the right direction to offer visitors on each end a potentially transformative experience they won’t soon forget.

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A photo that shows the full context of the screen set-up and, in the distance across the hall, the camera filming the AMNH Haida alcove.

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At top, the wide shot of the AMNH Haida Alcove and, below, Scott Marsden, Director of the HGM, giving us a tour of the museum, highlighting the entry way and the Pacific Ocean outside.

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At bottom, Scott shows us some art on the wall while, at top, we all try to photograph what we are experiencing.

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Scott took us outside to see the totem poles between the ocean and the Museum.

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Photos were taken on our end and Scott said it was find to share them.

About Barry

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