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Museum of Contemporary Art in Antwerp

Museum of Contemporary Art in Antwerp

Highlights

  • Meraki APs provide seamless museum-wide coverage, supporting staff and visitors
  • Cloud-based dashboard simplifies maintenance for part-time IT manager
  • Deployed in two days with multiple SSIDs and layer 7 application firewall

The Museum van Hedendaagse Kunst (M HKA), or Museum of Contemporary Art in Antwerp, is one of the most important art museums in Belgium. It holds a permanent collection of contemporary art from international artists, an arthouse cinema, and an extensive library of books on contemporary art.

Kristof Michiels, the IT Manager and Developer at M HKA, built a database of the M HKA collection and developed a new mobile application to share with museum audiences. “I wanted to create a digital tool for knowledge sharing within the organization, and I wanted our audience to profit from the knowledge we gathered,” Michiels said. “It’s a secret mission I have, to make contemporary art more accessible to a wider audience.”

But Michiels knew he couldn’t successfully release his mobile application at M HKA without a robust, reliable WiFi connection. Originally the museum had an ad hoc collection of access points (APs), each with different configurations, which offered poor coverage and no seamless roaming. In addition, the original APs had an unattractive black design and had to be placed behind the museum walls, further weakening signal strength.

Michiels wanted a new yet affordable WiFi solution that would be easy to manage – especially since he only works at the museum three days each week. M HKA investigated solutions from Ruckus and other vendors, but nothing could match Meraki’s cloud networking in terms of ease of management.

“If you want this kind of functionality from other brands, you have to pay a lot more money,” Michiels said. “More importantly, you must have specialized people on site. The main difference with Meraki is that anybody can manage it, from anywhere, through the dashboard. This is a big advantage.”

Michiels was also impressed by the aesthetics of the hardware. “The Meraki APs are so beautiful and unobtrusive that we can hang them in the galleries.”

M HKA deployed 15 dual-radio Meraki APs to provide coverage for most of the museum. “The APs arrived here and I had three of them up and running within two hours,” Michiels said. “The whole network was deployed in two days. I installed it myself, and I never looked at a manual.”

Michiels created two SSIDs, one open for museum guests and one password-protected network for staff. The private network offers access to internal resources, while the open network is blocked from internal resources and has a lower bandwidth limit. Michiels used Meraki’s Layer 7 application firewall to block bandwidth-wasting BitTorrent and Meraki’s SSID scheduling to turn off the public network when the museum is closed. “Network configuration was a breeze,” he said.

The main difference with Meraki is that anybody can manage it, from anywhere, through the dashboard. This is a big advantage.Kristof Michiels, IT Manager and Developer

Much to Michiels’ delight, visitors to the museum started using the network right away. “We wanted to be a museum with good WiFi,” he explained. “Now every day I see people in the galleries or at our restaurant going online, and that’s a great feeling for me — we’ve improved the hospitality of the museum. Our staff is also enthusiastic about the wireless network and is telling visitors about the mobile application that provides additional information about the works of art.”

Michiels’ innovative mobile application makes it easy to navigate the entire M HKA collection. It’s designed like a Twitter or Facebook page for each piece of artwork, including a “wall” posted with digital assets like streaming video or audio clips with the artist, notes from museum curators, and relevant essays or historical documents.

Michiels hopes the mobile app will increase the number of museum visitors. “Sometimes contemporary art can be difficult for a general audience, and I hope these resources help people to engage more with each exhibit,” he said.

M HKA has ordered 15 iPads for the museum staff and guides, who can now show streaming interviews with the artists when they lead tours. Museum visitors can also bring their own mobile devices, and the gallery’s furniture includes integrated iPads to allow visitors without tablets to experience Michiels’ application.

“We’re experimenting with the right tablet strategy,” Michiels said. “The easy part is, we have a reliable wireless network, so we can offer access everywhere. I love seeing the staff running through the museum with their iPads – it’s a real success story.”