Given the privacy issues surrounding radio frequency identification (RFID) tags, it might seem too controversial a technology for a museum. But the Cleveland Museum of Art is planning to deploy it this October.
The museum’s upcoming exhibit—The Arts and Crafts Movement in Europe and the Americas, 1880-1920: Design for the Modern World (opening Oct. 16)—expects to feature a modern twist: RFID. The tags will collect detailed information about how visitors use the museum and will answer questions about what happens if someone comes in a group instead of alone and what exhibits interest visitors the most. The over arching goal is to determine how the museum should accommodate new technologies in a major renovation that is expected to begin in September and is due to finish in 2010.
Leonard Steinbach, Cleveland Art’s CIO, says the museum doesn’t expect to track anything personally identifiable. Rather, it wants to get a better sense of a patron’s viewing habits so that the museum can deliver content in the most effective manner. For example, one visitor might look at the painting first, while another might look at the plate providing background information about the artist in question; it all depends on the visitor’s personal preference.
By using technology that adapts to visitors, Cleveland Art curators hope to create an experience personalized for each visitor. Succeeding would earn it admiration for more than just its collection.