When it comes to restoring historical buildings or cultural landmarks, there is a certain amount of sensitivity needed in regards to the preservation and essence of such institutions. Such anxieties are admittedly rational, given the chance of potentially disrupting and ruining a treasured artifact or institution.
Technology solutions can help to preserve some of the world's most prolific institutions for generations to come while maintaining historical or artistic integrity. However, incorporating new technology into a solidified cultural landmark or institution is like walking a fine line.
One wrong decision can garner the public backlash from countless fans, members or philanthropists. Collaborating with key personnel and decision makers to understand the institutions vision as well as the perspective of visitors, fans and members is crucial.
Preserve Tradition and Assure Future Scalability
Incorporating technology driven processes into historical and culturally significant institutions is similar to creating remakes of popular classic films. Such projects must take into account contemporary audiences as well as long-term dedicated fans. There is a definite fine line between betraying the trust of loyal followers and selling out to catch attention from newcomers.
For an example of such a successful technology implementation, take a look at the Cleveland Museum of Art. By incorporating touch technology and software applications for interacting with exhibits, the museum was able to update their exhibits for current and future generations, without alienating core attendees.
Widen the Audience and Increase Exposure
In today's technology driven landscape, adapting an institution for present day expectations is crucial. Adults and teenagers alike have become incredibly discerning when it comes to judging technology. If you plan on incorporating touch screen technology, you should hold yourself up to standards such as iPhone and Android apps or HTML5 websites. Consider the fact that the average American spends one hour everyday on a smartphone and 13 hours per week online.
With such exposure to new media and technology, the average visitor to a museum will be well equipped to judge the tech-savvy nature of an institution. Regardless of the technology, the main focus is to revamp an institution for the purpose of increased exposure, visitors, donations and awareness. Most of these organizations are nonprofit and depend on the dedication of their members, philanthropists and visitor donations to operate.
Update the Experience but Maintain Authenticity
In April 2013, the Digital Public Library of America was officially opened. The entirety of archives from multiple universities, museums and libraries across the country have been digitized and made available through this website. Not only has the project opened access to a trove of information to the public, but the development team also created an API available to app developers.
On the main page of the website, there is an apps section which features apps for searching through the plethora of information in the libraries' records. Such incorporation of technology to expand upon the already rich value of such an institution is a perfect example of how technology can expand upon something that is already great.
As a technology company, it is difficult to walk the line between preservation of an institution's historical identity, and the desire to update the experience for future generations. Thankfully, technology has the ability to open up access and widen the audience for institutions, historical or contemporary.
Are there any institutions that come to mind that you feel could benefit from a technological upgrade?
Himanshu Sareen is Founder and CEO of Icreon Tech.