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connect people to ourcultural treasures

Our Stance

While vital to society in a myriad of ways, many libraries, museums and cultural institutions are missing opportunities for reach, engagement, and leadership online. We believe this spreads the misconception of the institution’s shrinking relevance in a digital age, and this stymies stakeholders from creating content and data that’s vital to engagement and leadership. Byte creates rich interactive websites, digital kiosks and collections interfaces that help change the conversation and help an organization start to realize technology’s potential online.

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The digital age is upon us

It feels as if every snippet of information imaginable is accessible through a quick Google search. Some say this renders libraries, museums and other cultural institutions irrelevant. But in fact, cultural institutions are more relevant than ever, not just for their curatorial excellence and unique collections -- because they offer education, events, scholarship, and leadership that organizes and uplifts our society and the world around us.

As digital becomes de facto, and as collections digitization and holdings metadata becomes ubiquitous, questions have emerged on how collections will be consumed, works viewed and books read.

  • How can the digital realm further your mission?
  • How will digital technologies increase access to your collections across the world and deeper into your community?
  • How will the connecting of many cultural institutions’ data help scholars and academics dig deeper?
  • How do collections change with the advent of publicly created collections, curations and annotations, and when patrons become metadata creators?
  • How does the “third space” change with worldwide access to specialized databases?
  • How does federated search and discovery work with the deeper level of collection databases?
  • How does open data and creative commons licensing fit into your mission?
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Byte has been building the internet for twenty years, creating datasets, metadata, taxonomies, and hierarchies in data and content management systems before Wordpress and Drupal even existed.

We’ve helped libraries, museums and cultural institutions understand and use their data in their online presence, and helped define engagement metrics and analytics to understand how people consume that data. We've helped cultural institutions build interfaces and websites and experiences, and our partnership model helps us and our clients learn over time and adapt to changes.

Byte is a digital studio with deep roots in open data. We were a founding member in Milwaukee’s Open Data Initiative. We’ve lobbied local and state legislators for access to more government data, created public tools utilizing that data, and helped organizations host and publish their own data in open formats. We’ve also been consumers of open data and licensing, including The Walters Art Museum’s TEI manuscript data, described in a [case study below], Milwaukee Public Library's collections data, UPENN Libraries' BiblioPhilly project [case study below]. We helped Milwaukee Public Library create a collection that was consumed and used in our online and kiosk product Listening to Mitchell [case study below].

Between our long term partnerships and a deeper view of data, information architecture and visitor engagement, we’ve created a culture of continuous learning, pushing boundaries and creating data-rich, next-generation interfaces. We’ve focused on iteration over one-time delivery, allowing us and our clients to fine-tune toward perfection over time. As an agency, we’re involved in conferences internationally and alliances locally, attending Code4Lib, Eyeo and KIKK, and speaking at library and museum conferences about website best practices.

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Special Collections

Cultural institutions have some of the most fascinating special collections, like Milwaukee Public Library’s rock poster collection, their historical recipe databases and The Walters manuscript collection spanning 1300 years of the handwritten word.

Smaller public libraries have a connection to local history through their own local collections. Oftentimes these collections were made by a local historian or a former librarian who saw a need to organize and label artifacts of their city’s or a prominent local family’s history. We applaud these collections.

We may be a nerdy bunch here at Byte, but we love opportunities to make a collection come alive through open data, usability, an innovative interface, and extending the data a more public face. Some collections could even be augmented by crowdsourced curation, translation, annotation, and even members of the public adding their personal items to the collection.

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Museums and Cultural Institutions

Museums and other cultural institutions have a variety of challenges, including increasing membership, attracting visitors into to exhibits and special events, renting the space and showing funders the achievement and value that funding is allowing, and what still needs to be done through capital or endowment investment.

Websites and online collections need to show funders, the community and the world the relevance of the collections and institution itself.

As museums are digitizing and making collections accessible online, the challenge becomes to allow visitors to make connections between an array of information sources, databases, research and public data related to the collection. Museums want to enable academics and researchers with a discovery and search layer to do basic and deeper research on its collection, and provide access to the museum’s curators and researchers for deeper research and collaboration.

A great collections site, kiosk or interactive will show connections between the items in the collection, related works, current research areas, and items in other museums. A good site will start conversations between patrons, visitors and other museum researchers and curators alike. We love it when there’s an opportunity for a collections site or interactive to include sharing tools. We also love to include visitors comments directly from the interfaces or sites, have them content curated and put right back onto the interface and site.

Museums and Cultural Institutions Offerings

  • Museum websites
  • Collection and exhibition interfaces
  • Discovery and search interfaces
  • Kiosks and interactive touchscreens for exhibitions
  • Special exhibition, event and campaign mini-sites
  • Event calendars, ticketing, scheduling systems
  • Event rental sites, including wedding inspiration galleries
  • Online and on-site emergency messaging, announcements
  • Digital displays for wayfinding, today’s events, campaigns
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A Mission-based Digital Partner

Technology has given libraries and cultural institutions a new set of tools to increase reach into their communities and share their collections and insight across the world.

Like us, cultural institutions are never finished learning, always trying new ideas, technologies and paths. We start every project by digging deep and understanding all we can about our client, the audiences, the collections, the mission and the communities. Librarians, curators and administrators have always been a source of ideas and inspiration for the tools and interfaces we build.

We understand data, metadata and information. We help make connections between disparate information to build new understanding, as well as lend unprecedented access. We believe in open data. We see many cultural institutions are big supporters of open data as well, and they utilize standardized, extensible formats that make the unknown possible.

Brand plays a vital role in how people understand and interact with an institution today, and it’s much more than just a logo, font & color palette. A brand is the organization’s voice, and it’s important that that voice translates to the digital realm just as well as it does to print, signage, kiosks and other collateral. We can work with a current brand, give it life online and on touchscreen. And we can create an informed, smart brand that reaches a wider audience. 

We specialize in building meaningful connections between users & data, and a big part of that is search. The discoveries we’ve made from tracking sterilized versions of used search terms are invaluable -- it helps us learn what people expect from a site, the words people use to describe their search, and what confusions or misconceptions arise.

We believe in power an iterative process. From small updates to full site redesigns, websites are meant to grow and evolve over time. We don’t want this evolution to be arbitrary -- we want to learn, iterate and learn again whenever possible, and learn from analytics or other usage data. That’s why we work often iteratively on institution websites, using analytics to tell us about the visitor's trek through the site, and what they’re missing along the way.

Most importantly, as a boutique firm rooted in relationships, we are fully invested in success in all ways success is measured.

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Byte was incredibly committed to realizing this vision from day one, and their expertise in both functionality and style led to the development of a final product above and beyond what we had envisioned.

- Kimber Wiegand and Ariel Tabritha, The Walters Art Museum

We couldn’t have found a better partner in this process than Byte, the stunning results speak for themselves.

- Stephen DeLeers, Board President