Chicago Blogs: The Field Museum

The Field Museum of Natural History is perhaps best known as the permanent home of Sue the dinosaur, and she is a fitting symbol for the lumbering museum’s attempts to pull itself from the late 19th century into the 21st.

What do you do when much of your collection consists of ancient taxidermy in faded dioramas? Answer: Use QR code to give added content. Right! See the Springbok springing, right on your phone, animating the long dead beast in front of you. Brilliant!

Except...I waited and waited for it to load. After an eternity, up came an advert for Subway. Then one for Macdonalds. Still loading, and loading. At this point I noticed that my freshly-charged battery was at 60% and hurriedly ended the call.

So what happened Field Museum? Your servers lacked the power to implement the plan in the form that it was originally conceived? That’s really disappointing but you can’t just shrug and let everyone empty their power on adverts. If you can’t use the data heavy clips you first wanted, you have to provide something that is quick to load and still gives the bonus experience to your visitors. Five facts about the creature, a quote from a curator, a witty cartoon. Anything, to avoid a totally negative experience. 

Everywhere I saw signs of attempts to welcome and involve that were shot in the foot by bad execution.  New exhibitions, but you could only choose one with general admission, otherwise get the more pricey ticket. There was plenty of time to choose which one you’d see, because out of four ticket desks only one was open.

Then at the desk, a surprise. Instead of the three exhibitions we had been choosing from, it appeared there were now four. The ticket assistant had to explain to us our new choices – just as she had for everyone else who had come before us.

Considering how onerous this must have been, she was remarkably good humored. But it explained the 20mins of waiting time, and was so unnecessary I felt like screaming, “For the love of Mike, update your front of house notice. And if you have a line reaching out of the door, draft in someone from the marketing department until the wait is down to 5mins.”

It’s hard to cast a fresh eye over such a venerable institution, especially when you are on the inside and worrying about research and budgets, but so much can be achieved with just a little flexibility. Something in the structure of the Field is as ossified as Dinosaur Sue.