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 © Copyright 2021 – Barry Joseph

Six Tools for Digital Design

I am writing a new book with the working title Six Tools for Digital Design in Museums. I can hardly wait to bring it out into the world and share it with you.

It takes inspiration from my half-dozen years as Associate Director of Digital Learning at the American Museum of Natural History. It will be published by the American Alliance of Museums with Rowman & Littlefield in August, 2022.

The book takes the readers behind the scenes to learn how the American Museum of Natural History innovated visitor digital engagement through a public-facing iterative design process while highlighting design techniques used both there and at museums around the world.

Based on the bleeding-edge work I was fortunate enough to lead, readers will learn how to apply my Six Tools of Digital Design and take inspiration from rich and engaging case studies that span both subject matter (like constellations, microbial life, and dinosaur fossils) and digital engagement (through tools like mobile apps, augmented reality, and telepresence robots).

Each case study will be enhanced with and contextualized by readings on related work from a wide range of museums.

The book will be designed to be used as a resource – for a designer or instructor to dig deeper into a particular subject area or digital tool – or it can be read from beginning to end to provide a more comprehensive experience.

Woven throughout will be biographical elements that highlight my process of getting into (and out of) a museum, providing one model of a career in the field for those seeking advice or whom enjoy a compelling yarn.

Sign-up to stay up-to-date on the latest developments with the book then read the most recent related blog posts below.

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The main body of the book explores six case studies from the Museum to highlight the six tools in action.

  • 1. Crime Scene Neanderthal, in which student interns invited family visitors to become Neanderthal Detectives and, armed with a paper guide and a mobile app, solve a science-based mystery in the Hall of Human Origins.
  • 2. Cultural halls, specifically how we worked with both Canadian First Nations and New York City youth to augment the Hall of Northwest Coast Indians through both Dreams of the Haida Child (an augmented reality activity guide) and Video Bridge (a telepresence robot).
  • 3. Strategizing games-based learning within a museum, looking specifically at Pterosaurs: The Card Game (a youth co-developed, exhibit-inspired product with an AR component), Playing With Dinos (a mobile app that delivered quick social games in the dinosaur halls), and how a youth program created an exhibit-related set of Minecraft assets for the Museum’s web site.
  • 4. MicroRangers, a multi-year, quarter-million dollar project that invited visitors to enter Museum exhibits through an augmented reality mobile app and tackle science-based problems in collaboration with both scientists and microscopic organisms.
  • 5. XR, specifically how we prototyped our own paleontology behind-the-scenes videos then A:B tested marine experiences in the Hall of Ocean Life.
  • 6. Science visualizations, through three projects: an astro-visualization that addressed the topics of mass and gravity through a round of mixed reality Martian golf, interactive science visualizations leveraging CT scans of bat skulls that visitors could hold in their hands, and the touchtable in Finding Flamingos, a youth program focused on how Conservation Biologists protect endangered flamingos through GIS mapping and predictions software.

Each case study is paired with related work in museums around the world, for comparison and contrast. We will explore designing persona-based storytelling in Greece and France, designing with robots in Alaska, designing for narrative and movement in Washington, D.C., designing for locations in Minnesota, designing for off-site experiences in Chicago, and designing spaces for learning in Washington, D.C.

  • Video: The Revolution Has Been Digitized: MicroRangers, Youth Programs, and a Toolkit for the Future of Museums
    by Barry on October 21, 2021 at 6:07 pm

    Can teenagers co-design new digital experiences for museums? For six years at the American Museum of Natural History, we did just that. This week I was delighted to present how at the MuseumNext’s Digital Learning Summit. Named after an earlier … Continue reading →

  • Invitation to be an early reader on my 2022 book on digital design in museums
    by Barry on October 17, 2021 at 8:02 pm

    If you haven’t heard, I have a book coming out next year on digital design in museums (from the American Alliance of Museums with Rowman & Littlefield in August, 2022). Having recently completed my first draft, I am now looking … Continue reading →

  • Where to catch me this week at MuseumNext and MCN
    by Barry on October 15, 2021 at 7:09 pm

    You know what they say: when it rains, it pours. I haven’t been to a conference in months – last August’s Play Make Learn Conference and, before that, MuseWeb in April. Next week, however, I am set to attend two! … Continue reading →

  • What I Learned at MuseWeb 2021
    by Barry on April 9, 2021 at 4:09 pm

    MuseWeb (the conference formerly know as Museums and the Web) is one of my favorites. The attendees are amazing and I always learn so much. This year’s MuseWeb, to combat Zoom fatigue, is spread all over the month. But this … Continue reading →

  • Where to Find Me at the upcoming MuseWeb Conference
    by Barry on April 1, 2021 at 3:43 pm

    I love MuseWeb. When I started work in 2012 at AMNH, it was the only conference everyone asked me about. Are you going? Are you going? So eventually I went, and I found my people. Educators were still a small … Continue reading →