Tag Archives: intern

Your Smartphone Summer Travel Tool

22 May

Wow! This past weekend sure was crazy here at the Harbourfront!
The Queen’s Quay Terminal building was full of families, couples, and anyone curious to see what we had in store for the holiday (and maybe take in some free air conditioning as well).

Here at MIA we were really happy to see kids getting creative at our craft table or excitedly pointing to our video screens and proudly announcing, “We’ve been there! We’ve seen that!”. And as a lot of my internship duties revolve around the use of new media and technology, I was particularly happy to hear the adults mention how they found our museum through smart phone apps.

Above: iPhone screenshots of Baffled by Travel’s “The Best of Toronto” (Version 1.6.3)
and BeeLoop’s “At a Glance” City Guide tour for Toronto (Version 3.3)

If my post about QR codes, and my sneaky hints pointing towards AR markers didn’t already give it away – I am really into tech. Not enough to start writing everything in binary code, but enough to read the work of Nancy Proctor while on the subway, or waiting for a friend, or in a coffee shop…

Currently I’ve been reading a book she’s edited featuring essays about how museums are using smart phones to achieve various exhibition goals, but as the above mentioned visitors have pointed out – these same smart phones are great for promotional and way-finding purposes as well.

Above: iPhone screenshot of GPSmyCity’s “Toronto Walking Tours and Map”

Now that vacation season is starting to pick up and people have more time to explore the city, it will be interesting (at least to me) to see HOW people have been planning their trips. The MIA has an interesting hurdle to overcome because we share our location with an entire mall. So when people look up 207 Queen’s Quay West, they find themselves amongst everything from shops to restaurants to our Inuit museum. One of my summer projects will be coming up with a way to easily direct people to our museum so visitors don’t end up thinking they’ve taken a wrong turn somewhere. Apps might be one direction we could go, but there are other options as well all of which I learn more about as I finish Nancy’s book.

Posted by: Brittany Holliss, MIA’s Educational Assistant

Happy International Museum Day!

18 May

ICOM 2012 Poster for International Museum Day: Museums in a Changing World

As an intern in the museum world, this celebration is pretty near and dear to my heart. Thanks to the good people at ICOM (the International Council of Museums), countries from across the globe have banned together since 1977 in order to raise awareness on the importance of museums.

And to show how awesome museums are, some places dedicate more than a single day to this event – they make a whole month of it!

You may have noticed that yesterday, the Twittersphere was full of answers to #museospark’s question, “What inspires you about museums?” That question was part of a run-up for IMD and we got some great responses like;

Using Twitter to lead into IMD was perfect considering this year’s event theme is entitled “Museums in a Changing World” and is all about museums and technology.

Today, the world is changing faster than ever. New technology delivers new ideas, gigabytes of information, news of an increasingly unstable climate, all shared by social media. Modern museums must compete for an audible voice against the furious pace of this background.

Museums in a Changing World is recognition that institutions are faced with interpreting, and existing in, a field that is becoming increasingly fluid. Each may face a unique set of goals, interests and audiences.    – ICOM

The MIA has certainly undergone some changes within the past year. In previous posts I’ve already written about our incorporation of social platforms like Pinterest, and explained how smartphone applications like QR code scanners are changing the way people interact with exhibitions. We’ve also used Skype and YouTube to record interviews with some of the Inuit artists we exhibit (since physical travel is not always possible). And the fact that you’re reading this on a blog is another example of our digital interests.

Those are only some of the projects we’ve completed and continue to work on – but it’s just the beginning. There are still a lot of tech surprises to come…

For instance, did you know that in the digital alphabet AR comes after QR?

What that means is once you’ve figured out how to scan all those crazy shaped QR squares, you’re ready to move to the next level: Augmented Reality (AR). Museums are just getting into this so similar to how it took a while for people to figure out how to best use QR codes, there will again be a lot of experimentation with AR.

While the MIA plays around with their computers and smartphones (stay tuned for an upcoming “What’s the deal with…AR blog post) you’ll have to wait a little longer to see the end results. But in the meantime we’re offering some special tours and fun stuff to ring in IMD. Oh, and did I mention that today admission is FREE! So come celebrate International Museum Day with us 🙂

Posted by: Brittany Holliss, MIA’s Educational Assistant

What’s the deal with… Pinterest

16 May

Last week I spoke a wee bit about how the MIA has incorporated QR codes into their exhibitions. This week I continued to explore some tech trends by finally succumbing to Pinterest.

As per my usual skeptical self, as soon as I heard that something was popular, I gave it a long hard stare and questioned everything about it. Hours later I’m beginning to see there might actually be something to all the hype, aside from the countless cute puppy photos.

For those of you who don’t know what this newfangled site is and why the number of followers has been exploding on a daily basis, here’s a quick summary from the Pinterest people:

Pinterest is a Virtual Pinboard.
Pinterest lets you organize and share all the beautiful things you find on the web. People use pinboards to plan their weddings, decorate their homes, and organize their favorite recipes. Best of all, you can browse pinboards created by other people. Browsing pinboards is a fun way to discover new things and get inspiration from people who share your interests.

Now you might be saying to yourself, “But Brittany, but why would MIA get a Pinterest account when they already have Flickr? What’s the difference?”

Great question, and pretty much the reason why I didn’t get a personal Pinterest account earlier.

The main thing I took away when dealing with that question is that Flickr is built around posting images you’ve created whereas Pinterest is built around sharing all types of content.

Pinterest isn’t limited to photos, it’s a collection of everything. So you could click on a photo of our Educational Coordinator, Alysa Procida, while she is speaking with an Inuit artist via Skype – and also see the actual video of her interview. Unfortunately, Flickr can’t do that.

And since Pinterest encourages sharing (or “repinning”) you can include the content other people have posted into your own collections (or “boards”). That’s pretty cool, especially for museums because a HUGE part of our mandate revolves around education. Through Pinterest, we can both inform the public about Inuit art, and show support for like-minded institutions all while maintaining professional courtesies (i.e not stealing the hard work of others) because the original links are automatically embedded in the pins.

Now that I understand the concept behind the site I’m starting to play around with our boards. A lot.
I foresee a Pintervention in my future…

Posted by: Brittany Holliss, MIA’s Educational Assistant

“Getting” Art with Alysa

14 May

More musings from the MIA intern coming at ya!

When I first came into the museum studies program I thought that I would be surrounded by students who loved art as much I do. I had this vision of people gathered together at an exhibition opening, talking about such-and-such an artist and their brilliant project -which was sure to change the world.

In reality though…not so much.

Turns out I’ve got a bit of an art history bias and sort of forgot about the other types of museums out there. Like the natural history or science museums.


Not to give my fellow students a bad rap. Networking with archaeologists and scientists has some pretty cool benefits. And there are a lot of people out there who either haven’t given art the time of day, or walked away from it rather quickly because they “didn’t get it”. There are even times where I myself struggle to understand a theory or philosophy an artist is trying to address in their work.

But thank goodness for the internet! Google searches, podcasts, and videos have certainly answered a lot of questions I’ve had about what the heck some artists are doing. And joining that resource list is a member of our MIA team, Educational Coordinator Alysa Procida!


Recently she was asked by Lifestyle Goddess to talk about some of the pieces in the MIA collection. In the short segments, Alysa quickly covers portions of an artist’s biography in order to give the viewer context but without over burdening them with lots of detail or complicated terminology.

I’ll admit that before starting my internship here at MIA, I had never heard of Mattiusi Iyaituk before. But after watching Alysa’s video, and understanding his style and motivations I’ve been able to walk around the MIA’s collection pointing out his sculptures without referencing any labels. Success!!!

Alysa has also discussed the work of Bart Hanna  and Abraham Anghik Ruben in two other videos, which I hope you’ll enjoy as much as I have. And hopefully they’ll make you feel like you’ve finally arrived at the “art getters” club.

posted by: Brittany Holliss, MIA’s Educational Assistant

A Mother’s Day Amauti Lesson

13 May

Time for another intern update!
This week I was able observe a few docent tours and training sessions where our volunteers went through the MIA collection and pointed out fun Inuit facts.

For those of you who have taken part in the MIA’s docent program, you may have been introduced to some “two-headed sculptures” during your tour. These are actually part of a very popular theme in Inuit art and a perfect sculptural reference for Mother’s day!

Mari Kuunnuaq “Mother and Child” (c.1980) in the Museum of Inuit Art Collection

The “second head” belongs to that of a small child, who is being held against the mother’s back by an amauti. While in many artistic depictions it appears as though the baby is nestled in the hood of a parka, they are actually secured in a type of pouch and share the enlarged hood with their mother – so both can be protected from the cold arctic wind.

The amauti is an incredibly practical and multi-functioning piece of clothing. While the mother is busy working with her hands, she can swivel the child behind her. When it’s feeding time, the mother can bring the baby back to her front without needing to take off her warm parka. Not only does the amauti keep the baby sheltered from the harsh environment, but some people have argued that it even strengthens the bond between mother and child because of the close contact they remain in.

On the left is Margaret Notarina “Muskox Pack Doll” (c.2002) and on the right is an unidentified artist (“M.E.”) “Rabbit Pack Doll” (c. mid-200s) from the Museum of Inuit Art Collection.

MIA also has these pack doll examples made of duffle. These guys are definitely on my Top 10 list of favorite MIA pieces, and quite a few visitors from the Playing Favorites blog seem to agree with me.

So to all those mom’s out there. Happy Mother’s Day, and thanks for the lift!

posted by: Brittany Holliss, MIA’s Educational Assistant

Interactive Intern Insights

7 May

Hello again! It’s week 2 of my internship and now that I’ve got the full run through of MIA’s inner workings, it’s time to get cracking on my summer project.

One of the many things I’ll be working on over the next few weeks is building on all the social media sites the MIA is connected with. I’ve already written a few Tweets (and found some written about me!), posted some links about upcoming local events, and figured out how Hootsuite works.

Museum visitors may have also noticed that our virtual interests go beyond these social media sites and appear throughout the museum. As a recent smartphone purchaser I’m the type person you’d see scanning any QR (Quick Response) codes in sight, and our exhibitions are no exception. I think it’s great that people can personalize their experience by pressing a few buttons to find more information about a particular object or artist. QR codes mean that people aren’t limited to what is presented in ‘Tombstone’ labels – an affectionate term we in the museum biz call those short labels that tell you the title, artist, and date. Scanning the bizarrely patterned QR codes can reveal videos, audio clips, and other images.

Like the Bart Hannah “Drum Dancer” we have in our lobby!

Bart Hannah’s ‘Drum Dancer’ at the entrance of MIA.

By scanning this QR code, you can access an interactive website featuring a map of his hometown of Iglulik, photos of the sculpture in various stages, and a video interview with our Education Coordinator Alysa Procida.

Using my Android Galaxy S to scan the Bart Hanna QR code.

Linked to the Youtube video of Alysa’s interview with Bart Hanna.

QR codes are still a bit new to many Canadian museums, with lots of different institutions trying to figure out how best to handle the technology. We have used our codes as an alternative to an audio tour, but we’re still on the hunt for other technologies that can enhance a trip through our collection. In fact, last month Alysa Procida and one of our volunteers Rob Mausser headed out to San Diego for the Museums and the Web conference where they gave a presentation on our QR code project. You can read a copy of it here and get a sneak peak at some new ideas we have for the future.

Posted by: Brittany Holliss,  MIA’s Educational Assistant