Robert Stein

Robert Stein will present:

Cross-platform Publishing


Designing for Engagement: Changing the Museum to Build Participation

Why does your museum matter? The ability to answer this question succinctly and with supporting data is more difficult than it might seem. For museums that collect objects of historical or artistic significance, one answer to that question is that the collection itself justifies the museum’s existence. In the past, this ethos has been a central tenet of creating successful museums, but most of today’s museums will admit that simply amassing a great collection or building amazing architecture is no longer enough. In fact, throughout the history of museums, artists, philosophers, and theorists have suggested that without an engaged audience, the museum matters very little.

Given the reach of the web and the technology available to museums today, how can we best change the underlying business model of museums to reflect the fact that success in museums better defined by the impact we make in people lives, rather than simply attendance through our doors.  It’s very easy to count the number of people who visit your museum each year, but the ability to define and measure “engagement” is much more difficult.
In this panel session, Stein will discuss a model under development at the Dallas Museum of Art (DMA) that seeks to incentivize and measure repeat visits and deepen engagement with museum audiences. A large scale project involving more than half of the museum’s staff, the pursuit of engaged audiences is also completely changing the underlying business assumptions for the museum. In addition, the DMA seeks to blur the lines between onsite and online engagement – leveraging technology and the web to understand and measure the way the museum is perceived by audiences in Dallas and around the world.  By creating a system that takes advantage of open-source or inexpensive software and services, the DMA hopes to demonstrate a method that other museums can use to integrate the metrics of engagement into the core operations of museums around the world.


Robert Stein serves as the Deputy Director of the Dallas Museum of Art since 2012 where he leads the staff and champions the DMA’s active programs of Education, Conservation, Technology, and Research. In 2012, Stein founded the Laboratory for Innovation in Museum Technology at the DMA applying the principles of startup venture capital to solving classic problems in museums. Stein also established funding for Visitor Research and Evaluation investigating visitor experience between art and science museums. Prior to his role in Dallas, Rob served as the Deputy Director for Research, Technology, and Engagement at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. Under Stein’s leadership, the museum launched a pioneering effort in support of museum transparency called, the IMA Dashboard. Stein is Project Director and Technical Lead of the Steve.Museum project since 2006 and continues to advocate for user-generated content that can be usefully integrated with museum practice. In 2009, Stein created the award winning video website, that brings together more than 35 international organizations creating a true destination for art video online. In 2010 he founded the TAP open-source mobile platform and established the TourML standard for mobile museum content. Stein serves on the board of the Museum Computer Network, the board of Project Audience, the advisory board of the NMC’s Horizon Report for Museums, the International Program Committee for Museums and the Web and on Advisory committees for the online image resource, ArtStor and also, a part of the Art Genome Project. He continues to be active in writing and speaking on topics related to museum technology, transparency, and strategy.

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