Not unlike a sports car, shiny museums and exhibits aren’t reaching their full potential without the right engine running under the hood, says Jason Fiddler.
Based out of Springfield, Massachusetts, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame is an 80,000 square-foot museum that’s undergone a significant transformation in recent months to meet new customer expectations and to display the treasure trove of artifacts and footage still buried deep inside the museum’s archives.
Fiddler, the museum’s vice-president of sales, marketing, and partnerships, says the $23 million capital investment in the museum experience is significant. The IT engine working behind the scenes needs to do more than just keep the lights on and flash a few slides on a screen. It had to enhance the living history on display.
“That’s really where Dell has stepped up and allowed us to do this transformation and help us through the whole process,” explains Fiddler, adding how the modernization effort, which began last year, was split into three phases.
In direct response to people’s shorter attention spans and appetite for digital experiences, phase one of the project was focused on user experience.
The updates to the museum’s Coach’s Circle, indicates Fiddler, is one of the strongest examples of phase one. With the help of Dell EMC’s VxRail, a hyper-converged appliance, the Coach’s Circle went from what could have been a static screen with some text flashing on it to an interactive experience.
“The Coach’s Circle is a series of interviews with current and former coaches, and it allows the user to ask a question to each coach through a monitor. You can ask it eight questions … for example, you can ask the screen ‘Why did you get into coaching?’ And the kiosk is receptive enough to answer that question for you,” says Fiddler, noting the station’s significant storage and backup requirements.
Phase two focused on the museum’s Hall of Honour where the sport’s Hall of Famers received a significant facelift this summer.
In addition to the static images and artifacts representing the hundreds of Hall of Famers, the museum installed a 60-foot-wide wall that houses dozens of embedded monitors playing 11-minute loops of different clips, such as action shots on the court, images and old interviews.
Not only is it a unique alternative to the static representations of the players and coaches, but the presentation is an eye-catcher as well, adds Fiddler.
“The signature piece is really the interactive kiosks where we bring our Hall of Famers to life. They’re all powered by both storage and activations components from Dell. With these digital kiosks, you literally can pull up any Hall of Famer, from any decade, any sports organization, whether it be the WNBA, the NBA, the NCAA, the international game…and create your own experience within these kiosks.”
Phase three entails upgrading and digitizing the rest of the 80,000 square-foot museum with new user experiences that borrow ideas from the Coach’s Circle and Hall of Honour. It’s expected to be completed by September 2020.
Fiddler says the museum wants to place a greater emphasis on the game’s Canadian roots and highlight its expansion to different countries and cultures in recent years.
“The milestones that people care about and want to see – the points, records, and the wins and losses – they’ll all be there, but we want to layer on a really nice digital immersive experience that we think will rival any sports museum in the world.”
Only scratching the surface
Only 10 per cent of the museum’s entire collection is actually on display.
Fiddler says phase three and beyond will require some heavy lifting from the museum’s IT department – which consists of two people – and Dell to bring the rest of its collection to life.
“We have thousands of pieces that people have never seen. Not to even mention all the video footage and photo reels we have. The challenge we have is that it’s a lot of old footage, and as old footage sits around, it deteriorates and once it’s gone it’s gone.
“So once this September 1, 2020 deadline arrives and the new museum is up and running, the next phase will be taking all the footage that we have, both video and photography, and moving it to digital. That’s a whole fourth phase that we haven’t really even started to explore yet.”
When asked about virtual and augmented reality capabilities, Fiddler says that while the Hall has talked about integrating the two components, it hasn’t made any solid plans.
“The technology is only getting better,” he says.