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Museum innovation

The Museum of Things - How to build an infrastructure fit for the future.

Museums have an increasingly symbiotic relationship with technology. This development forces us to think about what museums are and about the technological choices we have to make. As our collections are extended from the merely physical to the digital, they are visited not only through our front door but also through our firewall.

The boundaries of our identity as a museum are becoming increasingly blurred, as we become a hybrid between the physical and virtual worlds. Museums are becoming an ecosystem whose inhabitants are no longer just the artifacts and its visitors. It also consists of a wide variety of technology applications that interact with our visitors, our colleagues, our collections and each other. Years of experience in the deployment and maintenance of IT facilities has given us the insights we need to realize a flexible and modular infrastructure based on Open Standards and Open Source, which is sustainable over a longer period of time.

Based on technologies we have implemented for our researchers and the guidelines provided by best practices from within the IT world, we have developed a blueprint for our future interactive museum based on Open Source, Cloud Computing, DevOps and Loose Coupling. We view our museum as a network of things, a Museum of Things. In this network the ground layer consist of a private Cloud, standardized hardware, and an Open Source operating system. On top of this infrastructure Open Source software is run that is being further developed and improved. People can communicate with each other over the network through messaging services and APIs. We have therefore created an ecosystem that is monitored, analyzed, and continually improved to guarantee stability and provide a quality experience for the visitor.

The initial tests for our designed system have started. We have replaced, rewritten and automated a simple existing interactive system using technologies like Intel NUC, Arduino, Ubuntu, Openbox, Processing, HTML5, Foreman, and Puppet. Now we are implementing monitoring, logging, and analyzing using Elasticsearch, Logstash, Kibana, and Sensu. This is all done to maintain and improve our systems and the programs that run on it both now and in the future. To boldly go where no man has gone before.

The code we produce can be found on: https://github.com/naturalis/