Washington Post Magazine: Storykiosk Popups on the National Mall
Now that it’s out and published in the news, I’m eager to write about our project with Washington Post Magazine, setting up a popup Storykiosk installation on the National Mall with Editor Lynn Medford and staff. I don’t think anything quite like this had been done before — using a popup exhibit in a national park (or museum) to gather news media for wide-scale print and online distribution. The results? Eye-opening I think. The stories themselves and the video created by Washington Post staff are remarkable and diverse. Be sure to check out the inspiring video mashup of visitors’ stories and timelapse photography in the online version of the story (which also was featured in the print magazine on Sept. 20).
This points to a new model of collaboration possible between museums and local (and national) news media. Museums have something that news media doesn’t have — a physical location with a steady throughput of engaged audience members. People who want to talk about their experience and can relate it to issues of the day and in the news. It’s a win-win: news organizations get engaging stories from their local audience, and museums get publicity and recognition of their expertise on the news.
We designed the technology behind the story-based initiative to keep the process simple, both for visitors on the National Mall, and Washington Post staff, who set up the popup Storykiosk in locations without power as close to traffic flow as possible. Stories were automatically uploaded to our Content Management System whenever internet connection was available, saving them in cue when it wasn’t available. The CMS is built on Amazon Web Services using best practices for security and dependability, including: multiple user levels based on tasks, managed login with password protection, and SSL-encryption. The workflow was designed to interface the onsite popup installations with the demands of a national newsroom.
A few years ago, our Storykiosk project with Levine Museum of the New South fed stories from the museum’s Changing Places exhibit on the new multicultural landscape of the South to their local PBS station for broadcast throughout the year. Again, the theme: using the physical space of the museum to gather stories for distribution by local news.
One other interesting extension of the Washington Post project — the Trust for the National Mall featured the video created by Post staff (including Storykiosk videos) at the Landmark Music Festival in support of the Mall. Two days of top name musical groups, celebration, national parks, young audiences in the local community…quite a synergy for the popup story installation to participate in!
A few considerations:
- Our cloud-based story review system made it easy for Washington Post staff to review and share videos during production
- e-Postcards generated by Storykiosk build connection with visitors after their experience
- Science museums may gather stories around local science topics and issues for news publication
- Children’s museums are a natural connection for “family play” and “family learning moment” topics
- Local history organizations may focus on “antiques roadshow” style stories about special objects