Up Where We Belong


The National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) is dedicated to housing and presenting Native American artifacts and artworks. It is based in New York City and is part of the Smithsonian Institution. In August of 2012, NMAI was planning an exhibit called “Up Where We Belong: Native Musicians in Popular Culture” highlighting Native American performers who are active in popular music. Musicians like Russell "Big Chief" Moore (Gila River Indian Community), Rita Coolidge (Cherokee ), Buffy Sainte-Marie (Cree), and the group Redbone are but a few of the Native performing artists who have had successful careers in pop music and were highlighted in this exhibit.


Design and develop an interactive "kiosk-like" experience to accompany the exhibition—allowing visitors to access music, photos, videos, and biographical information for approximately 25 Native artists. The experience was delivered on five, securely enclosed, wall-mounted iPads with attached headphones in a dedicated "listening gallery" within the exhibit.


Appropriately echo the exhibit design thematics while still respecting the unique needs of the audience, content, viewing device, and environment. Include tutorial content on how to navigate the experience. Be stable enough to avoid crashes or memory outages. Be secure with no backdoor that could be used to disable the experience or otherwise get online (even though home button access was physically blocked with secure enclosures). Offer access for remote restarts, content updates, and recording of analytics data on usage.


We ended up using HTML5 and the Kiosk Pro app for the iPad 2 (iOS 5) as our deployment solution. We did have issues with freezes, wake fails, and utterly mysterious hackings of the devices (despite all of our security precautions) but overall the institution was very happy with our creative solution and it was super-exciting to work with such great content. Produced on the Smithsonian side by Dan Davis. Development by Alex Smoller.

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