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Local Projects And The Cleveland Museum Of Art Use New Tech To Connect The Classics

Museums must compete for attention in a second-screen world. One venue embracing the challenge is the Cleveland Museum of Art, which worked with Local Projects to design new interactive galleries. "We wanted the tech to be predicated on the art," says Local Projects founder Jake Barton. Here’s how they did it.

Wall text provides basic details about pieces, but doesn’t always enable you to meaningfully connect with ancient statues, or to appreciate the technique involved in creating simple-seeming art.

The main gallery has eight kiosks that can, among other things, scan your face and display works with similar-looking subjects, or let you create a Jackson Pollock via motion tracking. Now you’re connecting.

As you go from exhibit to exhibit, you find that they’re often organized by chronology or style. That can make it difficult to recognize the transcendent themes and relationships that exist.

A 40-foot screen displays every piece in the museum. When a work is touched, an iris opens to highlight broader relationships. You can then drag works to a provided iPad to create a custom tour.

You want details about the art in front of you, but checking an information source—wall text, plaques on stands, your phone—requires you to shift your attention away from the piece.

By holding an iPad up to certain pieces, you’re presented with an overlay of information. Your focus remains directed on the art, not down at a plaque.

[Thinker Image: Flickr user Erik Drost; Illustrations by Pete Sucheski]

A version of this article appeared in the March 2013 issue of Fast Company magazine.