New Year, New UMMNH: LSA Technology Services Partners with Natural History Museum to Unveil New Facility and Website

After months of collaboration, LSA Technology Services’ work will be apparent in the U-M Museum of Natural History opening on April 14, 2019.
by Maria Laitan, Web Designer

The U-M Museum of Natural History announced it will re-open to the public on April 14, 2019.  The museum is housed in the Biological Sciences Building (BSB) which is one of the largest and most interactive teaching and research facilities of its kind among higher education institutions.

Big ideas were accomplished through months of collaboration between LSA Technology Services’ departments, UMMNH, and others to achieve their opening goals. Conference rooms, classrooms, and presentation spaces were being outfitted with a multitude of different forms of technology that Instructional Support Services (ISS) needed to consult on before installation, and support in the future.  The museum website also required a brand new look to match its physical space.

The BSB houses a large variety of different types of technology that ISS Manager of Engineering & Design, Karl Aldag and his team were able to provide input on throughout the construction process. Because of this, a lot of the technology these rooms house meets LSA standards and will be serviced by the ISS Technical Assistance Group (TAG), managed by Jean Arnold.

Lynne Friman, Capital Project Manager for LSA Facilities and Project Manager for UMMNH, has been working with BSB and the museum construction project and has described her collaboration with ISS as bringing the big picture to life. Aldag and his team’s engineering expertise has outfitted the space to suit the needs and vision of all involved, including the museum and the science community that resides in the building: Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (EEB), Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology (MCDB), Paleontology, and Zoology.

“We are really happy to have them as partners. We have a really good relationship,” said Friman of her regular meetings with ISS.

Examples of this creative and collaborative work are The Science Forum and the team-based learning classroom. The presentation space is located outside the entrance for the Planetarium & Dome Theater and needed a visually stunning solution. This area will house the equivalent of nine vertical Monitors in an LED format, to display films, presentations, and other visually rich media.

Aldag compares finding AV solutions to building puzzles, “There is no such thing as a standard. It's about finding a bunch of different puzzle pieces and integrating them together to get the required outcome.”

The team-based learning classroom is located on the main level and is one of the most technologically advanced classrooms on campus.

With all of this exciting technology to enhance the museum’s collection, it’s no wonder the museum event and public relations staff are eager to share it with the public. Lori Dick, Manager of Marketing and Communications for UMMNH, and Elizabeth Asteriou, Communications and Events Coordinator with LSA Undergraduate Events & Communications, worked tirelessly to produce, organize, and acquire content to populate the museum’s new website. To coincide with the announcement of the museum opening, Dick and Asteriou collaborated with LSA Technology Services’ Web Services and Marketing teams to launch the new website.

Web Services had around eight months to develop and deploy a new website to fit a vision that Dick and Asteriou created to match the building’s physical aesthetics. Maria Laitan, Web Designer with Web Services, used the existing components in Adobe Experience Manager (AEM) to identify the areas that developers, Cris Rockwell and Ananta Saple, would need to address to achieve the desired 3-column navigation, full width website.

“I’ve been so pleased with the Web Services team, [they] were so great to work with. They worked with the ideas we came up with to develop a plan that met our goals of serving the visitor and making it visually impactful,” said Dick.

Whitney Dye, Web Designer Associate with Web Services, worked closely with Asteriou on the information architecture for the website to ensure no content was lost in the migration and was easily accessible. Dye creatively used a combination of new and old AEM components to create unique pages for the museum’s website.

Asteriou said what she loves about the new website is that the possibilities are endless. It could look a little bit different in a year and that’s really exciting.

Dye said some of the components that the museum requested would be beneficial for other LSA websites. To keep track of these requests, Jessica Kowalewski created documentation to track design and development updates and challenges which will be instrumental in further development releases.

The visitor experience has been the driving force between both the physical and online space of the museum. And with the opening, many who have worked behind the scenes are eager to hear first-hand feedback from the opening events.

Aldag sums it up, “the new digs are spectacular, it’s pretty impressive. It needed a facelift. We are bringing them into the fold support wise. And that’s a good thing.”

The collaboration between the museum, BSB, and LSA Technology Services exemplifies our department’s vision to anticipate, innovate and evolve so that we, our services, and technology are an integral part of each and every person’s life-long LSA experience.

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