Sunday, December 2, 2012

Guided Access - Can It Aid in Device Management? – Part 1

Crystal Bridges opened to the public on November 11, 2011. Through our first year we have been using two kinds of Apple consumer products (iPod Touches and iPad) for different purposes, but both are set-up for public use. Instead of jailbreaking them to gain more control, the Museum made the decision to use the devices as they came from the manufacturer and only employ configuration profiles.

We have three areas in our museum called Reflection Areas that are set-up with comfortable seating and collections of art, architecture, and nature books. Each of these areas also has two iPads running iBooks, the iOS ebook reader. The ebooks installed are a mix of internally-produced books about the museum and its collection and public domain books on art and nature. In order to help secure them and control access, the iPads are in enclosures that cover the home button.

Despite the enclosures, on several occasions guests have used the sleep button to turn the devices off in order to exit the iBooks app. The Museum's main objection to a user leaving the iBooks app is that some of our guests are unfamiliar with iPads, but are anxious to try them. Since no other content is installed on the iPads, and users sometimes don't know how
to get back into iBooks, they find the experience rather disappointing.  Thus our response was to put signs near the iPads asking users, for the enjoyment of all guests, to please leave the iPads set-up as we had them, and informing guests that public computers are available in the library should they need one.

This simple measure helped to eliminate over half the incidents with our iPads, but not all of them, so we continued searching for other solutions.

With the introduction of Guided Access in the release of iOS 6, we thought we had a great solution for our iPads in the Reflection Areas. Guided Access mode allows device owners (such as administrators, teachers, or parents) to limit users to a single app, and it provides the ability to block some controls and features within that app.

Guided Access has succeeded at keeping users from accidentally leaving the iBooks app, so we no longer have instances of people getting “lost” in the device. A few enterprising users have still found ways to get out of the app, but that is rare enough to not be a significant problem. It is important to note that to dis-engage Guide Access the Home button has to be triple-clicked and a code entered, or you have to shut down the device by holding the Home button and the sleep button. However, we have covered our Home button, so it remains a frustrating mystery how guests are still getting out.

Another issue we've faced with iBooks on the iPads is users sometimes deleting books and renaming the different bookshelves, giving them creative (and sometimes offensive) names.  Fortunately, Guided Access provides a feature that allows administrator to circle areas on the screen that they want to disable, such as the Edit button in iBooks. This allows us to prevent users from editing the bookshelves.

The problem we found with disabling parts of the app is that doing so disables the selected area of the display regardless of which screen is visible in the app. For example, in iBooks the Edit button and the Bookmark button appear in the same location on different app screens, so that turning off the Edit button also turns off the Bookmark button that appears on the screen after a book is opened. Likewise, when you disable the Collections button on the bookshelf screen, it also disables the Table of Contents and Share buttons in the book view and greys out a section of the text.

The other issue with disabling screen areas is that you have to setup the disabled areas separately for both the landscape and portrait orientations.  Whether or not this is an issue depends on the type of case your device is in. Since our cases allow users to rotate the iPads, we have to configure Guided Access twice per device. It isn't a serious problem, but it is a significant inconvenience.

As it stands now the combination of a simple sign and Guided Access has cut down 90% of our misuse activity. This means staff spend less time monitoring and resetting the devices. It also means that the devices are more accessible to all our guests and not just those who are familiar with iPads.

Next time I’ll discuss how Guided Access fared when we implemented it on the iPod touches that act as our audio guides.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Updating and Organizing

Since changing jobs I've gotten behind on posting my presentation handouts and updating my CV.  So I've spent the evening updating my CV, my Linked In profile, my website, and my slideshare account.  I'm not finished yet, but I should be in the next few days.

Whew, I do not recommend getting this far behind in keeping your online information current!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Power of a Great Museum

Several months before the museum opened, a number of staff members were asked to speak at a staff meeting about our belief in a great museum's power to transform individuals and communities.

Because of the American Association of Museums recent advocacy efforts in DC, I felt compelled to go back and clean up the notes, which I had hastily written on short notice, and share my thoughts with more of my museum colleagues and friends. I hope that for some of you this will inspire you to include your voice and get involved. It's important that we all continue to work to save funding for museums.


We believe in a great museum's power to transform individuals and communities.

I feel like this statement is the story of my life.

When I was growing up, my family was by no means what you might call "well off," so my parents were very careful about how they planned family vacations. We did not go to amusement parks and such, because they were just too expensive for a family of four on a tight budget. Instead, most of our vacations were spent going to free museums, art centers, state parks, and other cultural institutions. By the time I graduated high school, my parents had given me the wonderful gift of having driven to 20 different states and having visited museums and cultural institutions in every single one.

These trips introduced me to the wonder of the world outside the little community in rural Arkansas where I grew up, and I experienced the world in a way that could never be truly captured by reading a textbook in a classroom.

I met Ramses the Great in Dallas and first started learning about Egyptian art; I was probably five or six at the time. I saw dinosaurs come back to life in Utah. The first play I ever remember seeing was Dracula at the Arkansas Arts Center. I was in the fifth grade, and it scared the bejeezus out of me, but I loved it. My sister and I rode with Billy the Kid's gang in the desert town of Lincoln, New Mexico, even though we were girls. I charged the hill at Vicksburg, Mississippi, with my entire eight-grade class, just like the Union soldiers assaulting the town. I've walked through the Valley of Fire, the Painted Desert, and Carlsbad Caverns. I've floated the Buffalo River more times than I can count.

All of this was before I ever graduated high school, but my cultural explorations didn't stop there. I’ve kissed the Blarney Stone in Ireland, and explored the Irish National Museum. I've seen The Phantom of the Opera in Her Majesty's Theater in London, and I've raced through the British Museum at closing time, desperately trying to see just a few more wonders. I've seen the breathtaking grandeur of Crater Lake. I've ridden a paddleboat from the port of New Orleans. I've met King Tut in Chicago and Vulcan in Birmingham. I've paced the floors of Independence Hall. I've been to nearly every Smithsonian Museum. I even became a spy while I was at the International Spy Museum.

That is the power of great museums: They transport us to places we might not be able to go. They take us to times we've never lived in. They show us what was and, in some cases, what may yet be. They spark imagination, curiosity, realization, and hope. They make us better people.

And, in my case, they introduced a world of possibilities to a wide-eyed little girl, and it was a world she never wanted to leave. That is why I became a museum professional.

At every museum that I've ever worked, I've enjoyed the wonder on people's faces as they explore the exhibits and galleries. At my current job I get to see kids meet George Washington, Rosie the Riveter, Dolly Parton, Bill Clinton, and so much more. As spring emerges I can't wait to see them explore the natural world through our trail system. Perhaps they'll learn which plants the Native Americans used for medicinal purposes, or they'll see an owl, fox, or deer for the first time.

But for me, I'll be imagining the greater impact, the deeper impact. Which of them will decide to be the next world-renowned scientist, the next entertainment sensation, or the next President? Which one of them will become the next icon of patriotism?

And I wonder which one will become the next humble museum professional...

...all because great museums have the power to transform lives and show us a world of possibilities.