Natural History Museum of Utah, Salt Lake City

On November 3rd, 2015, posted in: case studies by

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In 2011, the Natural History Museum of Utah (NHMU) were in the final phases of a $103m project to build a new museum that not only showed the amazing natural history of the state but also encouraged visitors to visit collections related sites beyond the museum walls.  The exhibition and programmes team asked us to deliver a digital interpretation system, ‘Trailhead to Utah’, an innovative multi-platform project using a mix of mobile and static web, in-gallery kiosks and an iphone app.

The project was considered high risk, combining an innovative use of multiple platforms within a very short timescale to deliver a project that was top of mind with key funders and sponsors.

We provided a detailed review of the user experience design and technical specifications. We then acted on behalf of the museum team to ensure that their external technical and content development teams to ensure that the project was delivered within the tight deadline and to a high quality.

The fast-track schedule and high visibility of the project required that we:

  • Reviewed the specification and advised on improves to the experience design and work-flow
  • Re-designed the development and production processes to save time and whilst maintaining quality
  • Designed and implemented user testing of the experience design
  • Prioritised decision making and approval tasks for the museum team
  • Managed a complex series of sign offs and checks with multiple team members to ensure the museum met its deadlines

During 2012/13 we evaluated whether the products were delivering on museum objectives and carried out research to deliver insights into different ways the museum could develop each product or service.

By 2014 museum had reached a point of review and wanted to re-evaluate their approach to digital. Their objectives included:

  •         Understanding how to deliver digital more effectively and sustainably
  •         Delivering better value from investments into digital projects
  •         Prioritising where the organisation should and shouldn’t use digital to serve it’s visitors

We spent some time investigating (through interviews, workshops, review of business objectives and strategy) their existing work and processes to understand how the organisation was using digital and how improvements could be made. We delivered:

  •         We identified the barriers prohibiting a more strategic approach to delivering digital strategically.
  •         A framework for them to evaluate future digital project ideas against organizational goals and objectives

We also been involved with the evaluation and development of the Utah Futures in gallery game, which you can read about in this blog post, work which is ongoing.

Frankly Green + Webb joined our team to provide technical savvy during our review of spec documents, but quickly became our go-to colleagues for the myriad questions arising in the development of our complex and fast-moving project. Their ability to interpret the techo-language of our vendors, to liaise with our enormous and varied team, to help us grapple with priorities, and to calm rattled nerves was incomparable. Despite the distance between our facility and FG+W’s home base in the UK, they provided us with ready access via Skype, phone, and email, and when it was critical, they were here on site to shepherd the process along.

FG+W brought their considerable knowledge of mobile applications and visitor interface analysis to bear on our project and saw to it that the system included visitor testing and extensive trouble shooting in advance of its on-time launch. FG+W delivers.

Becky Menlove, Director of Exhibits and Public Programs, NHMU

This was a complex project that combined new technology, diverse stakeholders, a brand new Museum, and the pressure of an imminent deadline. It was with your extraordinary help, support, experience, project management, tenacity, patience and good humor that we met our launch date. In the crunch time just before opening, you managed to bring us all together and help complete a project we can be proud of — one that delivers on its promise and gives us a good framework to build on in the months ahead. Thank you!

Chris Eisenberg, Director of Development, NHMU

Image courtesy of Natural History Museum of Utah – “The Natural History Museum of Utah at the Rio Tinto Center is located above ancient Lake Bonneville, at the base of the Rocky Mountains. Jeff Goldberg/Esto for Ennead Architects.”

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