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The Barnes Foundation appoints Shelley Bernstein as Deputy Director for Digital Initiatives
Shelley Bernstein, 2016. Photo by Robert Nardi.

PHILADELPHIA, PA.- Thom Collins, Executive Director and President of the Barnes Foundation, today announced the appointment of Shelley Bernstein as Deputy Director for Digital Initiatives and Chief Experience Officer. Ms. Bernstein joins the Barnes Foundation following 17 years at the Brooklyn Museum, where she most recently held the position of Vice Director of Digital Engagement & Technology. She will begin working at the Barnes this month.

“It is a great pleasure to welcome Shelley to the Barnes. With her expertise in utilizing digital technologies to enhance the visitor experience, and her innovative work developing audience-engaging projects and interactive exhibitions, she is the ideal person to lead the Barnes’s new digital initiatives and visitor experience division,” said Thom Collins. “Shelley is a forward-thinking and highly creative individual who will play a key role in spearheading exciting new initiatives here at the Barnes and in engaging and inspiring the current and next generation of visitors.”

The newly created position of Deputy Director for Digital Initiatives and Chief Experience Officer—a hybrid role that is currently unique in the field—was designed to embed visitor-centered thinking into every aspect of the Barnes Foundation. In this role, Bernstein will lead a visitor experience team and develop both onsite and online points of engagement aimed at deepening and enhancing the visitor experience before, during and after their visit to the Barnes. An expert in engaging the public through technology, Bernstein will collaborate across departments to develop new ways for visitors to engage with the Foundation and create meaningful, long-term relationships with the Barnes. These initiatives will also be aimed at cultivating new audiences and making the Foundation’s exceptional collections, exhibitions, programs, and resources broadly accessible.

Bernstein will lead the creative and strategic development of the Barnes Foundation’s online presence in support of its educational mission. She will establish the formation of a web and digital production department which will lead the redesign of the Barnes’s digital content and the development of new digital tools geared toward deeply engaging audiences.

Her appointment follows the recent hires of Metropolitan Museum of Art veteran Nina McNeely Diefenbach as Deputy Director for Advancement, Sylvie Patry—previously Chief Curator of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist Paintings at the Musée d’Orsay— as Deputy Director for Collections and Exhibitions and Gund Family Chief Curator, and Dr. Martha Lucy as Deputy Director for Education & Public Programs and Curator.

At the Brooklyn Museum, Bernstein spearheaded digital projects with public participation at their center. She organized three award-winning projects—Click! A Crowd-Curated Exhibition, Split Second: Indian Paintings, GO: a community-curated open studio project—which enabled the public to participate in the exhibition process. Her most recent project—ASK Brooklyn Museum—is a multi-year initiative funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies, which enables visitors to ask questions using their mobile devices and experts answer in real time.

“With the plethora of stories embedded in the Barnes’s world-renowned collection, there is enormous opportunity for deep and meaningful visitor engagement,” said Bernstein. “Our new digital program will complement the onsite experience without taking away from the fundamental physical experience that makes the Barnes unique. These are rewarding challenges and the promise is a rich visitor and user experience that fundamentally changes the way the Barnes is thought of in the daily lives of visitors. The possibilities are very exciting.”

Bernstein is a leader in the field of technology and museums having been a keynote speaker and presenter at conferences worldwide including MuseumNext, Webstock, and CanUX. She has received numerous awards for her projects, including an innovation award from the American Association of Museums and an award for the Brooklyn Museum’s BKM Tech Blog at Museums and the Web, the largest international conference dedicated to digital practice in the cultural sphere. In 2010, Bernstein was named one of the “40 Under 40” in Crain's New York Business and her work on the Brooklyn Museum's digital strategy and approaches to social media have been featured in the New York Times.

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