This interview is part of our “Thought Leader” series, where we get inside the heads of the best and brightest in the museum & technology world.
Multimedia Producer at the Dallas Museum of Art
Ted Forbes is a designer, multi-media producer, photographer and film director.
Ted is currently the Multimedia Producer for the Dallas Museum of Art where his duties include production of interactive and digital content including exhibition Web sites, teaching materials, in-gallery interactive content (kiosks and touch screens), and video production.
Ted has been an adjunct faculty member at Brookhaven College since 2003 teaching interactive and Web design. He was recognized in the 2005 Dallas Show with two gold light bulbs including an unanimous best in show. Ted served on the Board of Directors for the Dallas Society of Visual Communications from 2001-2006.
TourSphere: What was a stand-out museum/exhibit that caught your interest this year?
Ted: I was in London last November and got to see Gerhard Richter at TATE Modern. In a word it was sublime. Always been a fan of Richter’s work and this was a beautiful retrospective. TATE Media always produce such wonderful work. The media aspect was fairly simple but there were some incredible behind the scenes pieces that were filmed. Not only were they well done, but it was interesting how popular the video piece was with visitors. I sat in the coffee bar for an hour after seeing the exhibition and I don’t think there was a moment where there wasn’t a crowd gathered around.
TourSphere: What was the coolest use of technology you saw in a museum in 2011?
Ted: It’s not used yet, but Rob Stein and the IMA staff’s initiative for the TourML specification is one of the most significant projects I’ve seen. Not only does it share resources across the participating museums, but the project is going to yield an important tool that will make an impact on mobile tours in the near future. Museums have never owned their own standards and this is a uniting move for both museums and vendors. This will give us a platform for tour creation and sharing which will allow for some beautiful work produced by and for museums.
TourSphere: Did your museum do something this year (or have something coming soon) that you’re proud of?
Ted: This past year there were 2 major initiatives. For the first time we produced a TV spot based on a concept from the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts for our Jean Paul Gaultier exhibition as well as several other video pieces that I feel were a large triumph for our institution. This work was not only a big deal in terms of financial saving, but it was work I am very proud of. Gaultier is a complete ham and was easy to film. Of course this type of exhibition allowed us to push limits not only on the exhibition, but how we chose to market it. We reacted well to both the situation and to the limiting budget restraints.
The second project involved launching 50 new stops to our Permanent Collection for the mobile tours. It was important for us to spend our time creating works that live longer than the standard exhibition time. They are also important interpretive pieces for the objects in our collection. Again we were fairly agile producing everything in house with a limited staff. About 106 audio and video assets were produced over a period of about 4 months.
With the recent addition of Maxwell Anderson as our new director at the Dallas Museum of Art, it is an exciting time for sure. I’ve been a big fan of the work coming out of the Indianapolis Museum of Art for the last few years and I feel extremely lucky to have the opportunity to work for Max. We’ve already begun setting up our own Museum Dashboard building on what the IMA broke ground with back in 2007. Its a little early to say what we have next in the works, but I will say I’m excited to get to work every morning.
TourSphere: Is there an app or a technology that has changed the way you do things or made your job easier this year?
Ted: Oh my – there’s a ton of desktop and iOS apps that are part of my everyday routine. I’m a big GTD [Getting Things Done] guy and rely heavily on OmniFocus and syncing over DropBox. Alfred came along and has begun to fill the void left by Quicksilver. I still rely on TextMate for coding. For media production there are a lot of new apps I’ve been using that are incredible. T-Racks from IK Multimedia is my new mastering app for audio production. I’m actually a big fan of the new Final Cut Pro X. Scrivener is a wonderful app for writing projects. The cameras that have been coming out over the last 2 years are a real God-send for folks who have to film in dark museum galleries. The low light performance on digital cameras is better than ever – not to mention the price point. I’ve got a Canon HF G10 that I can’t put down. Its saved me a ton of time fooling around working in spaces that I can’t control the lighting in.
Its a great time to be in technology.
TourSphere: Apple or Android?
Ted: Since I’m usually testing web apps I have to say both. But I’m an Apple nerd if I’ve got a choice. Like the desktop, its the quality and selection of third party apps that keep me on a Mac most of the day.
TourSphere: If you had to sum up what you think the theme for museums in 2012 will be in one word, what would your prediction be?
Ted: I really have no idea how to predict that. In the last few years I’ve seen the community become stronger than I’ve ever seen it. I’ve also seen the quality and pricing of technology come down to a point where I really believe this gives all museums an advantage which is timely given the current economic climate. I think we are about to get into a very exciting time. The technology is accessible and the awareness of concepts like "participation" and "transparency" are becoming regular discussions. I think this is the perfect storm for exciting work.
TourSphere: What do you see as the biggest challenge for museums in the coming years?
Ted: Keeping faith. Financial times are tough these days. Budget cuts, furloughs, tabled ideas, layoffs – these are all common things to hear – particularly in non-profits. As excited as I am about where we are with technology, I have many colleagues are meeting roadblocks due to economic factors. The challenge is realizing there is a community and successful institutions have to become more self sufficient. Its important to stay focused and find new ways of doing things. You don’t always need a grant to make something happen. You do need determination, institutional support (which can be hard sometimes) and a passion to want to make things succeed.
The commercial world finds ways to change and find new ways to do things. There’s no reason why the non-profit world can’t do this too.
TourSphere: Is there something you are passionate about in the museum world that you would like to wax philosophical about or rant about?
Ted: I can rant all day, but what I’m really interested in is what other people are saying. Its a great time to take things in, collaborate and learn!
Thanks for sharing, Ted! Your enthusiasm is contagious. Follow Ted and his work at: