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Museums trying to stay nimble

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Courtesy New Museum: The New Museum’s programming will serve as an inspiration and a resource to NEW INC members. “Pawel Althamer’s: The Neighbors” exhibition invites the public to paint the walls and floors in an ongoing community mural.

 

Travel to a new city and it’s a fair bet you’ll end up at a museum – or three.

And while museums are traditionally not known for their nimbleness, many are experimenting with big data, business incubators and some helpful, but potentially creepy surveillance strategies to get visitors in the door.

“Museums have a long view in their DNA,” said Ford Bell, president of the American Alliance of Museums (AAM), but faced with limited funding and staffing “it is possible to get bogged down in the day-to-day.”

Ideas for getting out of the bog are outlined in a new report from the AAM’s Center for the Future of Museums, which encourages museums to learn tricks for increasing foot traffic from the likes Toms Shoes, Ben & Jerry’s and websites that offer free access in exchange for personal data.

“The pace of change is increasing rapidly,” said Elizabeth Merritt, CFM director and the author of the report. “So we’re trying to increase the speed at which museums adopt some of the latest trends.”

The Dallas Museum of Art, for example, has significantly increased memberships—and funding—by making admission free.

In January 2013, the museum scrapped its $10 general admission fee and began offering free entry and memberships in exchange for personal information shared by visitors. Participants can also earn points, badges, credits and discounts by participating in certain activities.

In the first year, 48,000 people enrolled in the program.

“By increasing access and emphasizing participation, we are enhancing the DMA’s role as a cultural convener in our city,” said museum director Maxwell L. Anderson.

The museum has also seen an increase in donations and is building a database that can be mined for valuable information about its audience.

Taking a cue from mission-driven, for-profit companies such as Toms Shoes and Ben & Jerry’s, some museums are getting entrepreneurial about delivering services.

The NEW INC incubator project at the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York City, which will be a shared workspace for those working in art, technology, and design.

“The goal is to generate ideas that create sustainable business models for creators, who pay membership fees to the museum to work in the incubator and gain access to professional development opportunities and mentors,” said NEW INC Director Julia Kaganskiy.

The first deadline for applications is April 1; the space is scheduled to open this summer.

New technology is also transforming the museum visitor experience.

As the technology for capturing and creating sensory experiences becomes better and more effective, museums are moving beyond “lift and sniff” panels and presenting multi-sensory exhibits that incorporate poetry, music, drama, history, dance, performance art and scent.

With their security cameras and guards, museums are already sites of intense surveillance, but “museums can now tap into mobile technology and track a visitor like a blue dot through the galleries,” said Eric Hintz, a historian at the Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation at the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum of American History.

That means visitors looking at a woolly mammoth might get an email message offering them a discount coupon for a woolly mammoth plush toy in the gift shop, said Hintz. “But while it’s good to be creative and find a way to help the bottom line, that may creep some people out.”

(My story about museums trying to stay nimble first appeared on CNBC Road Warrior in a slightly different form.)

 

The magic of flying

Like everyone else who flew to New York from Seattle as a guest of Alaska Airlines and its Russell Wilson “12th Fan Airlift,” Riley (age 8), got to spend a weekend in a cool city and attend a pretty darn exciting Super Bowl-watching party.

Riley

But unlike all the happy-but-hoarse-and-tuckered-out fans on the very-delayed flight back to Seattle, Riley still had the energy – and the sense of wonder – to stay awake and look out the window as the plane came in for a landing.

He was sitting by the window in the row in front of me and, as we both had our noses pressed up against the window, we had a quiet little conversation about how cool it is to look down at all the lights and all the spots where there are no lights (lake, we decided) and how as the plane gets close to the ground there’s that moment when you’re flying – and then the tires touch down – and you’re not.

Stuck at the airport? Inflate an office.

Back in 1969, architect, urban planner and designer Hans Hollein came up with a good – somewhat kooky – idea:

An inflatable office that could be used when out on the road. Here’s a fun photo that shows him at work during a stop-over at an airport.

Inflatable office at the airport

(Photo courtesy Hans Hollein)

Snowstorm triggers cancellations & fee waivers

Snowstorm

Here’s a rundown of the airline fee waivers offered due to snowstorms in the Midwest and Northeast as of Thursday evening, January 2nd. Be sure to check with your airline – and your airport – for updates.

Alaska Airlines: Travel advisory in effect for travel scheduled January 2 and 3 for travel to or from Boston Logan, Liberty Newark (EWR) and Philadelphia International Airport. Details here.

American Airlines: Travel advisory for travel scheduled January 2 and 3 to or from: Boston (BOS), Buffalo (BUF), Harrisburg, PA (MDT), Hartford, CT (BDL), New York Kennedy, NY (JFK)
New York LaGuardia, NY (LGA), Newark, NJ (EWR), Philadelphia, PA (PHL), Rochester, NY (ROC)
Syracuse, NY (SYR),Westchester County / White Plains, NY (HPN). Details here.

Delta Air Lines: Advisory for travel scheduled January 2 and 3 to or from airports in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont. Details here.

Frontier Airlines: Advisory noted for travel through January 3 for Harrisburg, PA (MDT), New York-LaGuardia, NY (LGA), Philadelphia, PA (PHL), Trenton, NJ (TTN), Washington-Reagan, D.C. (DCA), and Wilmington, DE (ILG). Details here.

Jet Blue: Advisory listed for travel scheduled through January 3rd for Baltimore, MD (BWI), Boston, MA (BOS), Buffalo, NY (BUF), Hartford Springfield, CT (BDL), New York (JFK), New York (LGA), Newburgh, NY (SWF), Newark, NJ (EWR), Pittsburgh, PA (PIT), Portland, ME (PWM), Providence, RI (PVD), Reagan National Airport (DCA), Rochester, NY (ROC), Syracuse, NY (SYR),Washington Dulles (IAD), Westchester County, NY (HPN), Worcester, MA (ORH). Details here.

Southwest Airlines: Advisory listed for Akron-Canton (CAK), Albany (ALB), Boston Logan (BOS),Buffalo/Niagara (BUF),Chicago (Midway) (MDW), Cleveland (CLE), Hartford (BDL), Long Island/Islip (ISP), Manchester (MHT), Milwaukee (MKE), New York (LaGuardia) (LGA), Newark (EWR), Philadelphia (PHL), Pittsburgh (PIT), Portland (PWM), Providence (PVD), Rochester (ROC). Details here.

Spirit Airlines. Advisory covers Atlantic City (ACY), Boston (BOS), New York LaGuardia (LGA), Latrobe (LBE), Niagara Falls, New York (IAG), Philadelphia (PHL). Details here.

US Airways: Travel advisory includes Hartford, CT ; New Haven, CT ; Portland, ME ; Boston, MA ; Manchester, NH ; Newark, NJ ; Albany, NY ; Binghamton, NY ; Buffalo, NY ; Islip, NY ; New York, NY (JFK Airport) ; New York, NY (LaGuardia) ; Newburgh, NY ; Rochester, NY ; Syracuse, NY ; White Plains, NY ; Allentown, PA ; Harrisburg, PA ; Philadelphia, PA ; Scranton, PA ; Providence, RI. Details here.

United Airlines: Travel advisory issued for a very long list cities. Details here.

Virgin America: Cities include advisory are:o or from Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD), Boston Logan International Airport (BOS), Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR), John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) and Philadelphia International Airport (PHL). Details here.

Flying into the New Year

Here’s to a great 2014!

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