The Newseum has selected an interactive exhibition on social media as its first permanent addition at the museum since it opened in 2008. It’s only natural since Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, Tumblr, as well as Google and YouTube have become part of the daily news feed.
Even in that short span of four years, the way the news is delivered has changed dramatically. And the global exchange of information has led to instant knowledge: the Miracle on the Hudson, the Arab Spring. To tell and demonstrate the sea change that social media has brought, the Newseum worked with Hewlett-Packard, the world’s largest technology company, to tell the history of the new resources, the devices and platforms, and the fast-changing news delivery methods.
The HP New Media Gallery, a 2,500-square-foot gallery with five interactives and a “Game Zone,” opens Friday.
Because the Newseum colorfully supplies an encyclopedic look at how news has been reported throughout history, an examination of the newer platforms had to have some of the same factual foundation. But the show also had to be fun and underscore the sharing side.
“We wanted to talk about how the new technology has increased participation,” in both news reporting and news sharing, said Paul Sparrow, the Newseum’s senior vice-president for broadcasting. “And then how do the stories appear on your devices.”
The new gallery, built in an existing storage space, uses a number of touch screens. A camera takes a picture of the visitor, if permitted, and immediately it’s visible on a screen. An 11-foot-wide storyboard has 25 stories that illustrate the leading stories of the past few months in news, pop culture and technology. The visitor touches the screen to learn more about, for example, the first Twitter reports of the 2008 China earthquake.
Neda’s Death, the gripping story of a young woman who was shot by government operatives and became the symbol of the opposition to the Iranian government, can be selected. “I liked this story because someone took the photo with a camera phone, then it was posted on the Internet and the technology existed to get it out of Iran,” Sparrow said. The video went viral and was one of the most watched videos in 2009.
To deliver all this in a museum setting, Carlos Montalvo, a vice president at Hewlett-Packard, said the challenge was making it accessible in a public space and adapting technology, some still in the development stage. “The collaboration between HP and the Newseum actually accelerated the technological development of the products in the gallery due to the short timeframe we had to build this great experience for the public,” Montalvo explained.
Visitors get a chance to make their own news pages by grabbing stories from real-time sources. Visitors can make a page of entertainment, politics or sports stories and give the page their own banner name. Seconds later, the page is displayed on a larger board and can be downloaded to a personal device for sharing or classroom discussion. During a testing period, the discussions started right at the table with school groups debating a story’s importance.
Montalvo said, “The social media landscape is constantly changing. This gallery experience is the perfect example of where everything is going.”