National Leaders Join Museum's Digital Media Strategy Group

Technology is changing and influencing our world in countless ways—in how we work, play, participate in civic life—and it is ushering in different ways of interacting with museum collections. The Wolfsonian is exploring the possibilities of these new and valuable types of interactions and investigating ways in which it might freely share resources and inspire digital users to engage with the collection.

In order to understand and implement strategies that establish and encourage a user-centered participatory culture, The Wolfsonian has formed an advisory group of nationally and internationally recognized visionaries in the digital and design fields. The group will work with the museum to develop a digital engagement strategy and advance its objective of becoming a leader in the ways in which museum collections and the digital world can intersect.

“We believe that people will do amazing things with the collection, things we have not even begun to imagine,” says Wolfsonian director Cathy Leff. “This is an extremely exciting time for a museum like ours. There is an increasingly networked global online learning community and a new world of opportunities. The traditional ways of engaging with museums, libraries, and archives, which generally involve visiting in person and physically moving through space, while still critical, are not a blueprint for the digital world—we have to look outside of established practices.”

The members of the Digital Media Strategy Group are drawn from several fields, including art, journalism, technology, business, user interaction, and education. The group members are:

• Cathy Davidson, John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies and Ruth F. DeVarney Professor of English, Duke University
• Patrick Ip, co-founder, CEO, Kip Solutions
• Joi Ito, director, MIT Media Lab
• Samantha John, co-founder, Hopscotch
• Aaron Koblin, creative director, Data Arts Team, Google
• Jocelyn Leavitt, co-founder, Hopscotch
• Michael Maness, vice president, Journalism and Media Innovation, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
• Hong Qu, independent design consultant (and one of YouTube’s first employees), expert at user-centered design

“We are honored that such an amazing group of people will be working with us on developing a digital engagement strategy,” says Derek Merleaux, The Wolfsonian’s digital asset manager. “Our collection is unique and we believe that making it accessible for meaningful digital engagement is a major step that will yield significant results.”

In terms of its digital presence, in addition to recently launching its new website, The Wolfsonian has been actively working for the past five years on digitizing the collection. The digital images catalog, which launched in 2012, is in the testing stage, with new images added continuously. Currently, the catalog provides access to approximately fifty-five thousand digital images representing more than seventeen thousand items (many items, such as library materials, have multiple images).

The group’s initial session will take place in the coming months and be funded by the Ford Foundation. The digital engagement strategy is an integral part of the museum’s five-year strategic plan, which is supported by a grant of five million dollars from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.