MoMA: Leading the evolution of art museums in the digital space

It’s twenty years since the launch of moma.org, but the New York art gallery is not resting on its laurels when it comes to its digital presence.

At the Culture Geek conference in London last week (23 June), MoMA’s director of digital content and strategy, Fiona Romeo, revealed how the institution is constantly analysing the way its digital channels are used, discovering what its users want and adapting to the latest advancements and trends in technology.

We’ve reached a point, Romeo said, where almost all encounters with art happen online. This has led MoMA to move beyond the principle use of digital as a marketing tool to using its website and other platforms predominantly to engage people with art.

“My role was to recuperate digital for curatorial,” said Romeo, “so that MoMA’s digital channels are primary spaces for ideas, visual pleasure and engagement.”

Romeo went on to discuss several examples of how the contemporary art gallery has managed to diversify its audience and create ways for online visitors to meaningfully engage with the collection. A starting point was realising that most of the 16 million people who visit the MoMA website are using an artist’s name as the entry point – not an art term or a specific work. This led to a more artist-focused redesign of the website, featuring Wikipedia excerpts and specially commissioned videos for its thousands of artist pages.

A second point was about the evolution of the gallery’s online collection – an ongoing process for many attractions. MoMA is currently compiling a comprehensive online history of almost 2,000 exhibitions dating from 1929 to today, containing numerous artefacts, documents, programmes and exhibition designs, available for the first time later this summer. “This will be a time machine where every MoMA exhibition is equally accessible,” Romeo said.

Another area that MoMA’s digital media department is especially interested in is video, with mobile video the fastest growing platform for engagement with under 35s. One example of this is MoMA’s movement towards screening more film and video artworks online for limited periods – fitting nicely with the fact that museums are “increasingly event-driven”. MoMA also creates “explainers” which are “short, thematic videos with narration which can be found as a standalone playlist on Youtube, or as 60-second versions on Instagram.”

A major area of interest is live video, Romeo said, boosted by the rise of YouTube Live and Facebook Live.

“‘Real live’ is next,” she said. “Live streaming has really started working for us. They are our most successful videos, whether you are judging them by subscribers, shares, likes or minutes watched. Live streaming events drive online attendance and can reach the right audience who will also come and physically visit the museum.

Inspired by Norway’s ‘slow TV’, a recent experiment was a day-long live stream of Pierre Huyghe’s sculpture Reclining Female Nude (2012) in MoMA’s garden. It had an average view time of eight minutes – exceptional for an online engagement.

An upcoming new series also along the lines of ‘real live’ video will include candid footage of artists at work or installing projects at the gallery. “It’s a series of 30-minute live experiences with an emphasis on materiality and detail,” she said. “Viewers literally feel like they have been dropped into the museum and they’re looking over the shoulder of someone at work. The idea is to give unmediated access to the artists.”

digital  online  video  live video  visitors  engagement  art  MoMA  New York  Culture Geek  MuseumNext 
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It’s twenty years since the launch of moma.org, but the New York art gallery is not resting on its laurels when it comes to its digital presence. At the Culture Geek conference in London last week (23 June), MoMA’s director of digital content and strategy, Fiona Romeo, revealed how the institution is constantly analysing the way its digital channels are used, discovering what its users want and adapting to the
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MoMA live streamed a day of footage of Pierre Huyghe’s sculpture Untilled (Liegender Frauenakt) [Reclining Female Nude], 2012 / MoMA
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