Polycom RealPresence video solutions drive Smithsonian Institution

Infotech Lead America: Polycom, a provider of open standards-based unified communications and collaboration (UC&C), is helping bring the Smithsonian Institution’s vast collection of African art to a global audience through Polycom RealPresence video solutions.

The National Museum of African Art (NMAfA) provides guests interactive and real-time video classes, briefings, tours and collaborative sessions that helps them develop a new perspective on how artists in Africa have expressed themselves through the arts over centuries. It helps them learn about diverse cultures and peoples who live on a continent comprised of fifty-five countries, three times the size of the United States.

Polycom RealPresence video solutions helps the museum bring content and culture alive to students around the world, and teachs students how to look at art. The solutions engage with the museum’s educational programs to enrich understanding, inspire, encourage curiosity, and make connections.

The museum’s African Cosmos: Stellar Arts tour is one such example, which combines both art and science to investigate celestial symbols, earth-sky connections and cultural stories that date to the time of the pharaohs. The educational programming was developed in conjunction with astrophysicists from the Smithsonian-Harvard Astrophysical Observatory and scientists and educators from the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum. The teaching module helps teachers to fulfill their curriculum requirements in art, science, history and geography.

Equipped with a Polycom HDX Series room system and a Polycom RealPresence Collaboration Server,Deborah Stokes, Curator for Education at NMAfA can conduct virtual visits and collaboration sessions globally. She uses Polycom People+Content In her video classes and tours, to appear integrated with images and artworks. She opens her classes by guiding students through the entrance of the Washington, DC museum while introducing them to a small part of its permanent collection of more than 10,000 works, then showing HD images of related pieces and field photographs, encouraging interactive discussions with the video audience.

After the of the catastrophic Haitian earthquake of 2010, the NMAfA produced “The Healing Power of Art: Works of art by Haitian children after the earthquake,” an exhibition of drawings by Haitian children living in tent cities and used Polycom RealPresence video collaboration systems to virtually connect a group of young survivors.

The face-to-face video classes are gaining popularity so rapidly that Stokes has already doubled the number of students reached in a school year – from 800 in 2011-2012 to an anticipated 1,600 this year.

The museum’s Polycom infrastructure helps Stokes deliver a lifelike collaboration experience. Polycom’s support for open standards takes the museum’s programs to a broader audience.

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