Innovators Convene: Museum’s Digital Media Strategy Group Meets During Art Basel

Several leaders in digital technology, drawn from multiple fields, donated their time for a day-long brainstorming session with Wolfsonian staff members on December 7. This was the first meeting of the museum’s Digital Media Strategy Group, although several of the group’s members have visited the museum individually during the past several months.

“This workshop resulted in a significant shift in the way we, as a museum, think about the many possibilities for digital engagement,” says Sharon Aponte Misdea, The Wolfsonian’s deputy director for collections and curatorial affairs. “Our goal, as set forth in our five-year strategic plan, is to expand online engagement with our collection—to digitally tell stories about the objects of everyday life in a uniquely Wolfsonian way—and reconsider established museum and library approaches to interaction with audiences. The meeting, which focused initially on enhancing our digital contribution, included discussion about bridging our online and physical experiences. It was incredibly productive and we’re excited about continuing the conversation in the coming months.”

The Digital Media Strategy Group was established last spring; members at the December 7 meeting were:

  • Cathy Davidson, professor of Interdisciplinary Studies and co-director of the Ph.D. Lab in Digital Knowledge at Duke University; co-founder of HASTAC
  • Samantha John, co-founder and CTO of Hopscotch Technologies
  • Aaron Koblin, creative director of the Data Arts Team at Google
  • Jocelyn Leavitt, co-founder and CEO of Hopscotch Technologies
  • Michael Maness, vice president of journalism and media innovation at the Knight Foundation
  • Hong Qu, founder of Keeper and formerly one of YouTube’s first employees
  • Kevin Slavin, assistant  professor of media arts and sciences at MIT

The meeting was facilitated by Eric Schoenborn, creative director of the Knight Foundation.

“Having the chance spend several hours with these people was extremely productive and presented us with new and intriguing avenues to explore for advancing the museum’s presence and mission online. We are grateful to the members of the Digital Media Strategy Group, who very generously volunteered their expertise,” says Derek Merleaux, The Wolfsonian’s digital asset manager.

For more than five years, The Wolfsonian has been working on one aspect of its online presence, which is digitizing the collection and posting those objects online in a user-friendly digital image catalog. New images are continually being added—at present, the catalog provides more than seventy thousand images representing more than twenty thousand items.

The meeting of the Digital Media Strategy Group was funded by the Ford Foundation and was part of the digital engagement strategy that is integral to the museum’s five-year strategic plan, supported in part by a grant of five million dollars from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.


Book cover, The World of Tomorrow, c. 1939
Westminster Tobacco Co., Capetown, publisher
The Wolfsonian–Florida International University, Miami Beach, Florida,
The Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection