Someplace Studio (2018)

Reporter: Annie Armstrong
Sources: Carmen Hermo, Paddy Johnson, Bika Rebek

Turns out museum technology isn't as sophisticated as appearances would lead us to believe. High-tech capabilities aside, art museums and galleries are, like the rest of us, neither immune to nor exempt from the headaches of low-tech glitches—any number of which can and do prevent artworks from being experienced as intended.

Take, for example, a headset that breaks down on a regular basis, or GIF-based pieces that seem all but impossible to troubleshoot. That installation running on custom-built programming? Refuses to cooperate. Behind the scenes, the administrative programs that support curators, archivists, and other museum workers rarely fare any better, the vast majority of which are outdated, difficult to manage, and equally temperamental. 

This pain point is where Bika Rebek is taking aim. A former exhibition designer for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Rebek, along with a team of three other designers, is working to streamline both backend and frontend museum technologies with a project called "Tools For Show." The full scope of its applications is still forthcoming, but the software is purportedly able to tackle common museum inefficiencies.

At its core, Tools For Show is a software that facilitates proposals completely online by using 3D-models that visualize a collection. With that information centralized in one place, curators and designers gain access to a single organized vision, allowing for functions like maintenance and foresight. What's more, curators will have a unique opportunity to learn together as technological hiccups surface, starting from the backend and into the galleries.

“The reason it's so difficult and expensive for many museums to integrate technology in their shows is because all the processes leading up to it are essentially analog,” Rebek told us in a recent interview. “I think it will soon be necessary for museums to start building their own digital experiences and engagement tools. Maybe twenty years ago, museums didn’t think they needed a digital department, or ten years ago they thought they [didn't] need a social media manager. Now, these jobs seem indispensable.”

Read the full feature on NEW INC STREAM.