MIT Museum’s digital (r)evolution

Tuesday, April 4th: 9:30am - 11:00am


Managing Director @ Cogapp
Digital Archivist and Collections Database Manager @ MIT Museum
Director of Technology and Digital Strategy @ MIT Museum

Paper Abstract

MIT Museum’s new home is open and welcoming the diverse communities of Cambridge, Mass. This paper will detail how a new online home was delivered in parallel to the successful physical move to the museum’s new location at Kendall Square.

With the aim of laying solid digital foundations for the museum’s programmes to thrive in the coming years, MIT Museum, in collaboration with Cogapp, have developed a modern, accessible, API-based, headless, web frontend. Presented in its fullest form to date, the museum’s collection interface enables casual browsing and research on a level that, until now, has not been possible online. 

In this paper we will describe the thinking behind this approach as well as the benefits and learnings that we have made during this 18 month project.

We’ll discuss how the new museum brand was interpreted for the online experience and how the museum’s mission is woven into the tools provided by the new website. We’ll explore how our approach provides flexibility for the future, affording opportunities for the web CMS to drive other areas of the museum’s digital estate, such as on-site screens and future in-gallery interactives. We’ll discuss how the collection is now available as a digital resource to power narrative stories on the site and act as a future resource for other digital projects.

Under-the-hood the new website pulls information from a web content GraphQL API, an Elasticsearch-backed GraphQL collections API, as well as other 3rd party integrations such as ticketing. It does all this while making the creative process as simple as possible for museum staff for both adding and updating collections metadata and editorial content.

We’ll discuss how exceptional project management, creative thinking, and high-quality technical skills from everyone involved fostered an environment of experimentation in keeping with MIT’s ethos. This collaboration was formed and maintained throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, it serves as an excelle

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