Faced with the monumental task of relocating their entire catalog, the Mingei International Museum took a tech-centric approach.
Technology has radically altered the way we interact with art. Social media has provided a new platform for discovery and gives galleries and dealers the ability to showcase work remotely. For all the advances in recent years, it’s understandable why a field like art might be reluctant to embrace the promises of tech. It can sometimes fail to deliver a personal connection and experience. Then there’s the sheer physicality of artwork: it defies easy digital solutions.
The Mingei International Museum in San Diego confronted these issues head on when they renovated their Balboa Park space earlier this year. They had to rehouse their entire collection in the process. “It was such an intensely monumental task that the people who were taking it on literally didn’t know where to start,” recalls Alexis O’Banion, Creative Director & Technology Strategist of the Mingei International Museum. The collection comprises 26,000 objects of high art, all of which were designed with a functional purpose.
The task of moving and tracking this type of collection is no small feat, even without the time constraints the Mingei team were facing. Not to mention, Mingei’s old inventory system was an outdated database that made everyday work a challenge. “There was no remote capability, no API,” O’Banion explains. “You had to be on a desktop to use it.” The logistics for the project were further complicated by having to accommodate multiple stakeholders on different teams.
“It inspired our team to realize, “Hey, this is a really flexible tool. It’s not just something that the design department can use to track their projects. We can literally move a collection with it. We can track our events with it. We can make it do whatever we want.”