CLIENT: National Museum of the American Indian
DATE: August 2013
MY ROLE: UX & Visual Designer, Project Lead
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.
In May of 2012, NMAI was planning an exhibit called “Up Where We Belong: Native Musicians in Popular Culture” highlighting the contributions of Native American performers who are active in popular music. The NMAI wanted to complement the gallery experience with a listening room where visitors could consume audio, video, and still imagery for each of the participating artists. I was asked to 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.
We were able to capture some simple metrics based on daily usage analytics data generated by Kiosk Pro to help evaluate performance from the first week of the exhibit, with 254 daily visits per device with an average visit duration of 21 minutes.
The NMAI is housed in the George Gustav Heyes Center. Heyes began collecting Native American artifacts in 1903 and opened the museum in 1922.