For almost 150 years, the Metropolitan Museum of Art has been at the forefront of American art museums, establishing itself as a leader in the museum world. Arguably the most recognized art museum in this country, it has seen its share of leadership come and go, most recently with Thomas Campbell in his third year at the helm as director. Campbell is making waves at the museum in more ways than one, but one important development he is responsible for bringing about is the establishment of a greater virtual presence for the Met.
Leadership at the Met has always employed the mentality of “if we build it, they will come” as an established brick-and-mortar museum full to the brim with priceless art for perusing. This mindset just won’t work in today’s world, where virtual experiences are becoming more and more desirable and available around every turn.
There is absolutely nothing like standing in front of Rosa Bonheur’s The Horse Fair, all 16.5 feet of it and taking in the beauty of the work, while thinking about the magnitude of a female artist tackling the subject matter at that time. However, the Met is working to bring new virtual experiences that, when coupled with a physical visit, will enhance the complete experience for the audience and thus achieve a greater level of engagement.
The Met’s situation isn’t all that unique. Many organizations are struggling with the shift toward using social media, blogs and the web to interact with their audiences. Some have made the shift, but aren’t using social media and the like to achieve maximum potential. It isn’t enough to simply use technology, what matters more is understanding why its use is necessary. It will be interesting to see how the Metropolitan Museum evolves and how other institutions like it take cues to evolve as well.