Sree Sreenivasan, Chief Digital Officer, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Sree Sreenivasan is Chief Digital Officer of The Metropolitan Museum of Art.


Dec 05, 2014

Sree Sreenivasan is Chief Digital Officer of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. At the Metropolitan Museum, he explores new digital opportunities for the Museum and leads its Digital Media Department, which is responsible for managing and producing digital content—especially documentation and interpretive materials on the Museum’s collection—and for delivering it to a variety of audiences, both online and in the galleries.

Mr. Campbell stated, in making the announcement: “Sree comes to the Met with a strong background in the communication of ideas.  His work in traditional journalism, his role as a commentator on technology and media issues, and his expertise in websites and social media will all be key to the Museum’s work in the digital space.  His academic background will also position him well within our community of scholars, and we look forward to working with him as we leverage mobile, in-gallery, and online platforms for the Met’s collections.”

“Until now, I’ve had a one-way, three-decade-long love affair with the Met,” said Sree Sreenivasan, “so I am absolutely delighted to have this opportunity to contribute as part of the staff and as the leader of the digital media team there. Much of my work in recent years has been about connecting the physical and the digital, the in-person and the online experience. Now I look forward to forging new connections between the superb, expansive collections of the Met—which are a true representation of our shared global history—and the two billion people who use the web.”

Mr. Sreenivasan became the first Chief Digital Officer in 2012 at Columbia University, where he has been a professor of digital journalism at Columbia Graduate School of Journalism since 1993 and served as Dean of Student Affairs from 2008 through 2012. He trains and coaches journalists and other professionals around the world about smarter use of social and digital media. In 2012 he became a blogger for CNET News, writing the SreeTips blog about social and digital media. From 2009-2011, he was part of the founding team and a contributing editor at, a hyperlocal site named one of the six hottest news startups of 2010 by BusinessInsider. He is also a co-founder, past president, and current board member of SAJA, the South Asian Journalists Association, comprised of more than one thousand journalists of South Asian origin who are based in the U.S. and Canada ( 

He appears weekly on WCBS-TV to discuss technology trends and tips, and was a technology reporter for WNBC-TV (2007-2009) and WABC-TV (2000-2007), as well as co-writer of the Poynter Institute’s weekly Web Tips column, aimed at helping media professionals understand the Internet better(2001-2007). He published more than 40 stories in the New York Times between 1996 and 2002, including regular contributions to the “Taking in the Sites” column when the web was new.

Mr. Sreenivasan has been named one of Poynter’s 35 most influential people in social media; one of AdAge’s 25 media people to follow on Twitter; one of SPJ’s top 20 journalists to follow on Twitter; one of’s 50 most social media savvy professors in America; one of GQ India’s 30 digital Indians; and one of the Huffington Post’s 50 media people to follow on Facebook. 

His Twitter feed is at and his tech tips are on Facebook at

Mr. Sreenivasan was born in Tokyo and raised in Manhattan, Bhutan, the former Soviet Union, Myanmar, and Fiji. He received his B.A. in history from St. Stephen’s College, Delhi, and subsequently earned a Master of Science degree in journalism from Columbia University. He lives in Manhattan with his wife and two children.



(00:04) The world of the Chief Digital Officer is certainly a very interesting one, and CIO’s and CMO’s and analysts and pundits and everybody else is wondering what dose a Chief Digital Officer do. Well  today, on episode number 89 we are privileged to have with us a Chief Digital Officer.

I’m Michael Krigsman with my fabulous and friendly co-hos Vala Afshar. So we’re here today Vala with Sree Sreenivasan, who is the Chief Digital Officer of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.


(00:49) The most influential museum on Twitter based on a recent study. That’s maybe on a reflection of an awesome Chief digital Officer, but we’ll learn more about that as we have our conversation. So Sree, could you please provide us with a brief background about yourself.


(01:06) Sure thank you. I’m delighted to be on your show, and I’m delighted to any invitation that doesn’t require me to get on a plane and fly out anywhere. I know lots of the folks listening love getting on a plane but I’m not one of those people.

(01:21) I joined the Met about a year and a quarter ago about in the middle of last year in 2013. I came here after spending a lifetime at Columbia University. I arrived on campus at 21 and I planned to leave when I was 81, but mi left at the age of 43 to come the the Metropolitan museum. And I would have not have left for any other job except this one.

(01:50) I grew up a few blocks from the Met and gone to school one block from the Met and I had this idea that I had this 30 year love affair with the Met, and if you love someone for 30 years and they call you, you talk the call. And then with your wife permission you carry on and that’s what we did and I did and that’s how I ended up here.

(02:11) A couple of quick things. I taught in the journalism program at Columbia. I was a full time professor there and I was also a Dean of Admissions and career services in the part of the world of studying and academia. And then I had the privilege to spend a year as the first Chief Digital Officer of Columbia University and try to understand and navigate that world. And the this opportunity at the Met came up

(02:38)We have here about 70 people doing digital media at the Met and we work very closely with our CTO, whose name is Geoff Sparr. He and I work very closely together. We’re in multiple meetings every week and it’s a true partnership that makes everything we do possible.

(03:00) I also work very closely with our CMO, Cynthia Round, who came to use from a career in places like P&G. but was also at United Way, the world’s largest charity. So those are some of my partners in crime here.

(03:15) We have another kind of CDO, a Chief Design Officer, and all of this is to say the the Met is very committed to the world of digital and technology. And I’m here to take your questions and learn along the way myself.


(03:30) Great. Well thank you so much. So you were at Columbia for many years. You were a journalist and you were a professor and then you were a Chief Digital Officer at Columbia. What is that pathway? What’s the pathway from journalism to being a Chief Digital Officer? Let’s start there just to continue to set the stage.


(03:54) Sure, I would say that people are confused about my past and wondering what I’m doing here. And there are certainly days I’m wondering what I’m doing at the Met.

(04:06) I am a fan but I am not an expert on any kind of art myself, but I do love storytelling. And I believe the future of all businesses is in storytelling and in connecting the physical and the digital, the in person, and the online.

(04:25) And at the Met we are committed to this idea of storytelling, and I tell people on a very informal basis is that my goal is to tell a million plus stories about our million plus works of art to a billion plus people. So that’s where that journalism, digital media background comes in.

(04:47) We’ve been teaching digital media at Columbia University journalism school since the fall of 1994, which, as you know is ancient history and in that spring of ’95 we were super excited because a new product had come along called Netscape. Until then we were working on Mosaic and Netscape arrived and Virgin 0.9 was what my colleagues used to launch our first websites.

(05:14) Back in those days it was very easy to be the digital guy, because no one knew anything. Our students didn’t know anything. So now as people become more sophisticated, to stay ahead of them we have to work a lot harder as professors.


(05:30) So the 20 year anniversary of Netscape, and you have one of the founders and recent and very active on Twitter on a daily basis, so one of the most prolific investors and thought leaders on Twitter.

So let’s step back a little bit and maybe you can help to explain to our audience you know, what is a Chief Digital Officer, and what does that role encompass and the goals of a CDO. So you were the first CDO of 2012 at Columbia University, and now the CDO at the Met. So please help define the role for us.


(06:04) Sure, and we should say that CDO’s are a brand new type of role within corporations andit’s also a role that’s in transition itself and maybe we can get into it a little later. It might be a transisitionary role itself, meaning that it may not always be around.

(06:21) So that’s quite a provocative thing to talk about but we will. But maybe let me back up and explain.

(06:28) A CDO as opposed to a CTO, CIO and similar roles, I see it as the person who deals with the content that’s created and shared and interacts with the public facing part of the museum.

(06:45) So for us that meanseverything, so I have a team that does email marketing. We have a team that does website. A team that does social media, we doubled it to two people. We have a team that has a media lab which is just getting started. We’ve had it for a while, but we’re doing a reboot and reenergizing our media lab. It’s about just a two person operation, just thinking about the museum. We have a team that do the interactive and the gallery.

(07:16) We have audio guides, which is something that people still use. we have mobile developers and doing that kind of work. We have a team that does video and online publications and on and on and on.

(07:31) We have a group of folks who do our CMS development. We work on a platform called Sitecore that some of your colleagues may know. On email we use Cheetahmail, so it’s all of these different types of platforms. And then we have some museum specific technology that we use.

(07:49) All of this is done in conjunction with our CTO’s team. They’re the ones that build our infrastructure. Our galleries are all wired, so he does that for us and for the museum. We do all kinds of things that require the CTO and the CIO to be in close contact.


(08:09) So you’re like the content arm. So if we think about a vein diagram where you have the intersection technology digital delivery and content. You are the content arm, would that be a correct way of phrasing that?


(08:26) I think so. That’s one way to look at it. Anything that touches the public audience we’re the ones responsible for that. But it’s all built on the infrastructure that the CIO, Geoff Sparr has pulled together for us.


(08:41) I’m hesitating because it’s almost the boundary between IT is doing and the CIO, and what you’re doing, it’s got to be a very grey kind of boundary.


(08:56) As somebody who has a lot of grey hair, I like grey. So I think that’s absolutely fair. And it would also be fair to say that on any given day there may be some confusion in who does what. But this idea of thinking, does it phase the audience or does it not phase the audience. I think that helps us stay out of each other’s way. But as I said, we do so many things together, we don’t worry about the things that we have to do separately.


(09:21) So it looks like a quad of let’s say digital business transformation that has a CIO, a CTO, CMO, a CDO and then the design chief that perhaps ensures that the customer experience is preserved as you are adding technology and capabilities to the museum.


(09:42) I think that’s very good. I think if anyone at the Met has ever sat down and drawn any of that out – and you have to remember, this all fits into a much larger context at the Met. At the Met we are all about the art. So all of us are in service of the art and I should give for the folks that don’t know, just a 30 seconds on the Met itself. People always want to know the biggest, largest, oldest kind of parameters.

(10:07) We are the world’s largest encyclopedic Museum, which means we represent 5000 years of human creativity from every corner of the world, from every country of the world is represented here. There are fabulous museums in other parts of the world and in New York, but not all of them have every culture. They are specializing in certain things or having gaps in them but we have everything.

(10:31) We are going to celebrate our 150th anniversary in 2020 and that gives you a sense of how long we have been doing this as well. We have had 6.2 million visitors in person at the Met, the largest tourist attraction in New York. And we have about 40 million people online, and this is where I get in trouble because I said my goal is to tell a million stories to a billion people. What kind of crazy person gives his boss a set of metrics on which he can be judged against. So we are only at 40 and we have a long way to go to hit 1 billion.


(11:07) So I grew up in New York and the Met, I have such incredible – the one thing I really miss about Boston is the Metropolitan Museum art.

But tell us why did the museum need to create a chief digital officer role, because the museum has been in the business of presenting content to audiences since its founding. And at the same time we have a question from Twitter, from Lauren Brousell, who is a big on show over at CIO magazine who asks, what are the top challenges for the Met in terms of digital content. So is two challenge questions, why did the museum need to create the role and what are the big challenges?


(11:58) Well as the person that has the role I’m glad they did, and I think the reason they did is because the Met is no longer the old Met - it’s not to say your grandmother’s collection of art or your grandpa’s collection of art. It is a living, breathing museum that – not just has all of this great art, but collects art and acquires new art and it is also constantly a place where art is being made. And we have hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of art classes that are free that people can take and can participate in. Adult classes to young kids.

(12:37) We work also very closely with our head of education, her name is Sandra Jackson-Dumont who came to us from the CLR museums. So she is full of tech ideas and she and I work very closely together. Just this morning, we were touring through a group from my daughter’s favorite app. It’s an app called Paper, from a company called 53.

(13:09)What they have there is an iPad app where you can drill and they just do it in a beautiful way. So we already teach iPad sketching but we are working with these folks to improve the way we do iPad sketching. So you come into a gallery, you take a class, and you will be given an iPad and one of their new special pens to interact. So that kind of technology we are able to use.

(13:32) But this all goes to the idea that there are a lot of opportunities for a Chief Digital Officer to get his or her team to be thinking about the digital aspects. For many many years the Met was just the Met and people would just show up, but now we’re in a battle for attention – not just amongst other museums, but sort of everything.

(13:55) As a couple of you know because you commented on it, I was lucky enough to have just returned from NASA, where NASA hosts something called NASA Social where they bring influencers to come and see behind the scenes at NASA. And that was such a meaningful experience for me. When I was growing up, I would have been absolutely have been an astronaut, except that I am scared of heights. I’m not good at math and I didn’t have the guts, but other than that I’m Neil Armstrong basically and I would have loved to have been an astronaut. So I couldn’t do that, but the next best thing was getting to see behind the scenes at NASA.

(14:38) We were there for the launch of Orionand I got up at 3:30 on Thursday morning and I was there, waiting and waiting and it didn’t launch. And then I got on a plane and came back home, because I knew I had to be here on Friday to be with all of you wonderful people, and I had lots of meetings in New York, and I wanted to be in my office when I talk to you.

(14:55) But this idea that if NASA has to do this, then what hope do the rest of us have. NASA is sending a rocket into space, and they worry about attention, then what hope do we have.

(15:10) I was in a meeting this year with Sal Khan from Khan Academy and you know this K through 12+, his organization is changing the world of education, and Sal said something to me that really detests me, he said that the vast majority of people who will benefit from my service, my free service whose lives will be improved tonight, whose kid’s lives will be improved tonight, whose neighbors, grandkids lives will be improved tonight have never heard of my service and will never hear of my service. I said, Oh my God, if Sal who is doing this Get all of this promotion and all of that, then what hope for the rest of us have.

(15:52) So that’s one of the things that we have to do at the Met is tell our stories, our internal stories I was touring a group of people through the Met this morning, including those folks from 53 and you end up walking in our armor gallery which is so beautiful. It would have been one of the largest museums of arms and armor in the world if it wasn’t just inside the Met. And you walk right by these handmade spurs, and they were crafted by a silversmith in Boston named Paul Revere.

(16:25) You wouldn’t even notice them because they are just lost amongst all of these other things. And that’s the challenge. In any other museum you would have had a shrine to Paul Revere and these spurs, but here they are kind of lost. And that is the challenge of having a big place, so to your question from Twitter, so what are some of the challenges

(16:44) Telling the stories are big challenge. Another challenge is how do we harness all of this excitement that our audience have and our employees have. We have 2200 employees at the Met, including hundreds of guards and we have these curators - 100+ curators, 100+ people who are conservatives and scientists, inventing new ways of preserving this art.

(17:11) So we have to think about those very strongly, very deeply and think about how we make those work. And what I try to tell people when they ask about the role of digital in a museum is I kind of think about our curators who might buy a beautiful Greek vase and decide that this – they will buy this, 2000 years old.

(17:37) And as a CDO, my instinct might be to say to them, I want you to do XYZ by the third quarter, or by the close of business or Q4 - words that make a lot of sense to everybody on this call. But for a curator whose thinking not in five year bursts or five-month bursts or five decade bursts, she is thinking about this for the next 2000 years.

(18:06) So what is my role and how do we motivate our team? What we say is that it’s our role to make several things with this cup. We need to make it shine online, so that it’s so attractive that people want to come and see it in person. We want to get a generation of people to support that cup, so people will come – and it will have a roof over its head and it can stay.

(18:32) But also we have what we told our collection information systems. These are the people who do our digital asset management and our text management of our fields of information so that everything we do is catalogued in a permanent way. So that five years from now, someone can come and say, hey, isn’t that a knockoff made in India – it’s not from Greece.

(18:55) Well the only proof we have is that digital record that we have kept that has the provenance that we publish publicly. All of these things that they can see, that knows that is in fact here for 2000 years. So what we talk with our team, our goal is to keep that cup and keep it with us for 2000 years and we have a role to play in that process, and we think about that all of the time.


(19:22) So in this hyper connected world and this participation economy what you have – folks coming to the Met and they have got this tablet, their phone, their iPad. And at the same time you have technology like the sensors and Internet of things and augmented reality. How do you as the Chief Digital Officer look at the innovation of velocity that exist today and plan a roadmap of, ‘this is how I can boost participation by using may be an Oculus Rift or sensor technology, that detects patron’s that are frequently visit the Met and so on and so forth.

What is the process of building your technology roadmap for the next 12, 24, 36 months.


(20:06) So have have you been looking into my Google Docs and figured out everything that we have been doing here, because we use several terms that are in our plans and in our…


(20:19) We are connected to the NSA.


(20:21)We are really worried about this because I can take a part that was said, including IBeacons can set which we are playing with. We have Oculus Rift here. We have four instances of Google glass – I don’t know what the plural of glass is. We have various ways in which we are trying to find ways in which we can connect to deal with our visitors and connect them with the museum better.

(20:48) Connect them amongst each other better – those are all things we have to do if we want to be successful at the Met. So those are things we work on most of those projects and things. We will work with our CTO and CMO building our CRM strategy. By the way I love talking to you guys because you know all of these words and when I’m normally in a conference with folks from the art world, these are not jargons that everybody is familiar with – which is fine because most of the time I I am not familiar with the things that they are saying.

(21:21) Part of it is this idea that I’d tell people that the role of the CDO is also as Chief Listening Officer. CDO/Chief Listening Officer, because we need someone in the museum whose listing for new ideas and saying, is this worth it. Does this make sense for us? And you all know that you can spend as anybody in the tech world, your entire day dealing with vendors – all day long and all of these pitches.

(21:49) I tell people, let’s take as many of these pitches as possible, because you don’t know is what if something that is going to change your business and what is something that is absolutely worthless, and that’s because everything that we use today that we love and swear by was once something that someone had to pitch, and a lot of luck was involved along the way.


(22:13) That’s interesting, because most of the senior executives that I know have put layers and layers and elaborate mechanisms in place to filter those pitches out. But you are doing the opposite, how do you manage that?


(22:28) Now you are going to make me regret this aren’t you!


You are only amongst a bunch of start-up founders, no one worries.


(22:38) I didn’t say anything guys, that was my evil point.

(22:43)What I would say is that it’s part of my role. I mean is defined in my role, in my mind as Chief Listening Officer then you have got to listen. And by the way, a couple of things and some tips to start-ups is that I have been teaching entrepreneurship and teaching entrepreneurs and being involved in start-ups myself.

(23:01) I taught for four years with an awesome guy called Kenneth Lerer, the co-founder of the Huffington Post, who runs Lerer Ventures and now Lerer Hippeau and here’s one of the most influential folks in the world of entrepreneurship, and one of the things I have learnt from him is the importance of when you are doing work even how you pitch it matters.

(23:26) And for example, I keep getting pitched by these social listening tools, right, all of these social media tools. And you would be shocked of how many of them don’t listen themselves. Some of them don’t know that I have tweeted about them, or they have coming to the meeting which I have given them – they are sitting with me in a meeting and we would say, okay, these are the next steps I would like to learn more. Let’s do this and that. And then because I filled in some forms somewhere, two days later I get a cold call from somebody who is at the same company, and has no idea that they have already got the meeting, they already have a plan, and they are starting from scratch.

(24:06) And in the last few years I have noticed that vendors have this really clever way where the email subject line says, free on Wednesday – like very specific in the subject line. So you think, my God is this somebody I already know it says free on Wednesday. Maybe it somebody that I’ve met at a conference or whatever, and then I read it and it’s a standard pitch. But they are like, let’s get on your calendar for Wednesday. And I understand the hustle, because you have got to hustle if you are doing this. But listen to your own teams listen before you reach out.

(24:37) So for example, you guys know the importance and we live in a social world and for the first time, vendor’s and others have this enormous advantage, that the people who you are reaching out to have public profiles with public information and they are sharing way too much, including me.

(24:56) So what happens is, if I get a cold call email on Wednesday night when I’m preparing to go and see Orion lift off, that means this person hasn’t read anything I said for the last three days. This is not because I’m important, but this just means that they don’t bother to look and read before they come.

(25:18)That’s why I’d tell everybody, get this app called Rapportive, which has now been bought by LinkedIn, and what it does is when you compose an email to me, on the side will come all of my social status mentions and you will see – for example, if you are about to write to me saying, Sree can I meet you. It will say I’m at my grandfather’s funeral. Do you want to be the guy that contacts me on my grandfather’s funeral? –no.

(25:46) Instead, you might write a note but we later and say, Sree I’m sorry to see that your grandfather has passed away. Whenever you come back I would love to talk to you, then again this is not because I’m important but that’s because it’s common decency to understand this, and you have these tools now.

(26:02) So when I wrote more than 50 articles for the New York Times, I never cold called anybody and that was from the New York Times. I believe the best way to reach somebody is via email and give it 10 days, and if you don’t hear back write another note. Nobody minds that, but that’s how I work. Other people may love getting phone calls, but you should see these kind of aggressive phone calls where they have no idea what I’m doing when they call. Again, not because I’m important, but this is the new world we live in.

(26:31) It’s so much easier to sell now, because you can understand something about the person you are selling to, otherwise you are doing it all blind. So please, don’t do it blind you don’t need to do it blind.


(26:42) It’s incredible that marketing organizations are not taking advantage of for example, social listening tools and some of the applications that you mentioned. In fact, anybody who has a decent CRM solution, perhaps already has the ability to look at all of the various social channels and add contextual intelligence to the process. So that they’re not trying to reach you when it’s at NASA. And by the way, if you have pictures of Nasser please share, because we see the astronauts now frequently tweeting and there are some of the more popular folks on Twitter with just the brilliant photography, and you have got the Mars rover tweeting and so on.


(27:34) Here’s an astronaut and I was so excited to meet astronauts. And what I think is by the way that there is a person at twitter called Erica Anderson and her twitter handle is @EricaAmericaand you should all follow her. And Erica has this great line, is that if you are good in real life you can be great on Twitter. And I believe she is right, but let’s take it one step further. If you are good in real life, you can be great on social. But if you are great in real life, you can be awesome in social. But if you aren’t bad in real life, you will be awful on social.

(28:13) And I see some terrific people who are just not using their social as well as they could, maybe they didn’t get the training, may be they don’t understand, and maybe they can be doing more.

(28:23) I met this guy as a conference named Dan Goods,, he works for JPL, the Jet propulsion laboratory and he is just terrific. He’s not very active on Twitter, so what I want everybody to do is to follow him on Twitter so that he will Tweet more. But there are people like this. You see this every day – these astronauts this is Astro-wrecks, so you can follow him.

(28:49) But the favorite moment was – well there was several favorite moments including by the way, sometimes you don’t see things in front of you – this is near a launchpad in Cape Canaveral, before I notice that there is a space shuttle right on the ground. I stood for half an hour and I never noticed it and it is actually a quarter of a mile walking track. Of course I went for a little walk around it, it was so exciting.

(29:20) But I want to tell you this last story that gentleman who runs the head of all of NASA is CharlieBolden, and he is not on Twitter. And we can talk about bosses on Twitter in a moment if you like to. And he is terrific. And then what happened was, we had a kind of a bad selfie background, it doesn’t say NASA in any way. So I just turned him around and said let’s stand here, and he had no idea who I was. He said so what did you do? I said I worked at the Met.

(29:54) So now you are about to see by luck, I captured his reaction to my saying, I work at the Met. So you look at this and you look at his face and he said, you have a better job than me.


(30:07) It sounds like you do!


(30:09) But I said, my God, you’re the head of NASA are you kidding me! of course you have the best job in the world. He was asked by the way at the press conference, isn’t it that this is not such a big deal, because after all you’re not sending any people and we’re not going to get to Mars until 2030, so what’s the big deal.

(30:26) So this man, the head of NASA said to his audience, all of the journalists and everybody, said, it’s a BFD. Who else would say that and get away with it and I love the idea of that and say it and it just shut everybody up after that because he answered them

(30:47) Look at the joy when someone sees an astronaut. There’s a little boy with one of the other astronauts we met and he’s just so excited and that’s what NASA needs to capture and to tell these stories, and we need to do that for all of our institutions, whatever they might be, wherever they might be.

(31:07) This is 5AM arriving for the launch of Orion. Look how dark that is, then we waited until 9:30 and look how bright that is and then we left when it didn’t launch and then we came back home so that I could be here and watch it with my family.


(31:23) Where do we find these photos? Do you put them on Facebook, Twitter, do you have Instagram.


(31:27) Yeah, everywhere. I live tweeted from @sree and my Instagram is sreenet and my Facebook is sreenet and I have a Facebook business page called sreetips, where I share my best social media and other tips.

(31:52) Here’s something funny that happens sometimes with these things that you don’t realize that how useful it might be to get your name the way you want it on these channels and I didn’t bother to sign up. So now whenever a new platform launches, I don’t join it necessarily, but I certainly book the name on it, and there is a tool to help you do that and I certainly recommend that.

(32:14) And one other tip, what happened was that NASA brought us altogether and they treated the social reporters who we were, it was called NASAsocial#NASAsocial, and they gave us the same respect, the same access and the same location as all of the major news outlets. So I was standing next to someone from one of the biggest Japanese TV networks and this side someone else.

(32:36)And they treated us all equal, but we were in a place that was so jammed that the cell phone networks weren’t working very well so it was hard to tweet. And you know the new rules about Twitter. You have to put a picture if you want to engagement. 300 to 400% more engagement, but then no one could tweet because there was no signal. But then I remembered that I had set up my 40404.

(33:00) What is that? The ability to tweet via text, via SMS and I was able to tweet out and at least get the text out, which nobody in that public space. So we started telling people to go ahead and do that. The problem is you have to set it up in advance. You can’t do it on the ground when the network is down. You can do it from your desktop earlier.

(33:27) But it was a good reminder to me that you need to set up things in advance before you need them. It’s just like LinkedIn. Too many people in our worlds do not use LinkedIn properly. They think of it as a job hunting tool, when it is infact a relationship tool that you should be building out long in advance because if you start using it the day you get laid off, it’s to late.

(33:35) My wife, her handle is roopaonline. She does a lot of business strategy and she worked at big big companies, so she knowswhen a company is having lay-offs, because she’ll get 10 invitations from one company.

(34:10) But it’s too late to join LinkedIn then. Because what happens, you come across as desperate. You don’t know the language, the etiquette or how to use it properly. And desperation does not work on LinkedIn and just as it doesn’t work on e-harmony or or j-date or any of those services.


(34:30) So let me ask you a question. You’re describing an absolutely contemporary digital view, yet you are working in an organization that by it’s nature looks backwards. How do you bring these two together?


(34:51) This morning as part of that tour, our group met with Ken Moor. Ken started 42 years ago at the Met as a night watchman. Today, he’s the head of the world’s best collection of musical instruments. This would be its own premiere museum in the world from musical instruments if it wasn’t inside the Met. This gentleman is thinking about digital from 1970, he was using digital technology to enhance his collection.

(35:21) What’s in his collection? The world’s oldest piano and is still in tune and he still plays on occasion and he also has enormous collection of Indian non-Western musical instruments.

(35:36) Since I’ve been here, Steve martin’s played, Rosanne Cash has played, Steve Miller from abracadabra fames – some of you might know. Too many people are too young to know who Steve Miller is. But they are all kinds of people who are in the building come and play.

(35:53) We have Stradivarius instruments- all kinds of things here but we are talking to people at Sound cloud and Spotify. How can we use contemporary technology to tell better stories from things of long ago, and that’s what we want to work on and improve and see what we can do.

(36:13) And that’s what makes this place so alive and so exciting to be a part of, and when we look at the Met, the Met at any point has 100 job openings and what I say to people is that in the art department it’s very easy to hire people because they want to be here their whole lives. But here in technology, it’s a little different. People have not necessarily even spent much time in the Met.

(36:39)How do I compete with developers than with you guys? How do I compete with Wall Street server farms – equity, the people in equity and all of those startups – all of those things? So how do we do it if we tell our own story about the Met in what an exciting place it is, that it’s a place that’s looking ahead and looking back at the same time.

(37:01) An institution that to survive has to be thinking ahead all of the time but always thinking about our great scholarship, our great authority, and making it all accessible. And if we can crack that or continue to crack that, we’re going to do fine.


(37:18) Most of the people who are working at the Met are not digitally focused. They are focused on the depth of knowledge as academics and so forth. So how do you bring the culture this way forward.


(37:45) Well, the way we do it is very carefully, by bringing people along. Like someone said to me you’re never going to get 100 curators do all of these new things. And I said, my God, if I had 100 curators who wanted to do things I would be drowning – I can’t do them. all I need are people who want to do things, then others will come along. I have 20 years of experience in doing that in the world of Columbia. If you think museums are slow and careful, then what about universities.

(38:14)So I have experience bringing people along. I used to do workshops in the mid-90’s about a new form of technology that everybody needed to embrace, but wasn’t sure of. That technology, email. I would say why people should use email. People say I love the fax, so why would you want email.

(38:35) What happened was you had to show them what makes sense. I had that with email, I had that with the web in general. We have that with blogging and social media. Tonight I’m doing a social workshop for 200 people and the idea is how do we do social better. How does it make sense for us.

(38:56) And if we can bring them along in universities, we can certainly bring them along here at museums. These people understand technology, but not necessarily what you or I are talking about. Think about that cup again, why does it exist today? Because the people who made that cup had the right technology in 2000 BC, or 1000 BC or 100 BC, and because of that, that cup exist today.

(39:23) That beautiful iPhone that you own will die in two years. So technology has been part of museums forever, it’s just a different kind of technology.


(39:34) We had a question earlier from Brian Fanzo, who asked, how do you extend the in-person experience digitally?


(39:44) Thank you, that’s a great question and something we think about all the time. What I want to do is build a virtual circle. Have such a fantastic experience online that you want to come to the Museum and when you are in here have such a fantastic time that you want to stay in touch, and we need to give you a bunch of tools to do that.

(40:04) So we want you to come here and if you like as so much you actually follow us on social, and then you will get our app and look at it. And our app which we just launched this year it’s a beautiful at and it has three principles –

(40:29) It should be simple, useful, delightful. Simple, useful, delightful – that’s all we wanted it to be. And we are not trying to do Museum in your pocket, so here are the highlights of all of the things you should see. We also have a today’s events. Then we have this thing called staff picks. Funds things that you can look at, it says, 2 million objects and many opinions. Fun things like, if we come up here a little bit you will see all of the Met stashes – all the moustache tour, so you can take that at the Met and you can travel.

(41:01) And then we also have for members. Remember, a lot of things are free but we want people to sign up. We have 150,000 members – tens of thousands who don’t even live in America who support us that way. Then over here upcoming events, and then finally instead of a press release section, we just have Twitter going up here and these are all tweets that we are posting. I think we posted a tweet about this session. So you guys should frame that because this is the first time that the Met has promoted a talk that is not at the Met and not connected to ours. So that’s on you guys, just for you.

(41:41) But the principle here, we took from a couple of tools that we love. One is the NYTnow app. It is so good that I deleted the main NYT app. It’s only 30% of the New York Times, but it’s the right 30% of the New York Times.

(42:01) Another app I love is called dark sky. In a world of thousands of whether apps, this does one. It tells you whether it is going to rain or snow where you are standing in the next hour. It just works and I love it, and even offered – as I understand it lots of money to sell and they haven’t done it. But not just does it work, it looks really beautiful, and those are principles we can get behind at the Met.

(42:25) So these are examples in ways in which we think about technology that we don’t invent. We want to work with companies with with partners around the world. Sal Khan, we just launched 100 videos on his platform, so we could extend the reach of what we are doing. That’s just an example.


(42:47) So we have three minutes left, tell us anything you want.


(42:52) I’m sorry, I’m accused of turning into Professor again, I don’t teach anymore.


(42:58) We don’t want to to ask you any more questions. Just talk to us in whatever you want.


(43:04)Let me tell you something funny, right? So this is how I make the sale to a developer, who is like why should I come and work for you when I make lots of money. And this is why tell them and am going to tell you the same thing.


(43:15) How many companies do you have right now?


(43:19) We have – I’ll show you one second. We have flow chart right here and all of the yellows are job openings.


(43:32) So we are going to tweet…


(43:35) The Met has dozens of openings at any time, but we have to find the right folks that want to come and work in this place, and want to be part of this team and want to do exciting things – that’s how we sell it to them. But here’s what I’d tell them and it’s going to shock all of the parents in the audience.

(43:52) I gave up free full tuition at Columbia University for my 11 year old children. If they were lucky enough and smart enough to get in, and have tuition anywhere in the world to come and work at the Met. That is no better sale things then I can tell you, but it gets worse than that guys. So you can do the math on how much money is left on the table, those are pre-tax dollars.

(44:23) Totally insane, and these are my kids and I told them basically they don’t need an education. So that’s okay in what I did to them and those are my twins there. But remember, my kids eat if you come to the met. But I tell people, don’t just come to the Met, go to every museum. I don’t care what Museum you become a member of – become one. The MFA in Boston, the art studio in Chicago, SFO – please become patrons of the art.

(44:44) There are people who don’t understand technology is key to museums, and we need support from the people watching, the VC’s and others who have influence. We need your support. Wall Street money, oil money, have built all of our great museums, but now it’s time for the next generation to step up and support the arts. Because the arts are hard to quantify compare to certain things, but everything is important and we can do it all if we have partners and people like you.


(45:26) So I hope you’ll come back and be our guest again another time.


(45:29) I hope you’ll have me back, thank you and I just want to make an offer to everybody. If you are in New York and you are coming to the Met, just tweet about me or email me I am or sree@metmuseum – I’m the first sree in Google and reach out to me and I would love to show you around and get your feedback. How do I tell 1 million stories to 1 billion people – I have no clue, I need your help.


(46:04) What an offer, you can get a guided tour of the finest museum in the world arguably from the chief digital officer. To me if you are not accessible, you’re not social and what you just offered is a clear indication that not only do you care about and you are the chief listening officer with that type of offer. So thank you very much.


(46:27) I’ve been reading the tweets that have been coming and I see 186 tweets came during your show, that means people are listening, people are interacting. I don’t know what the heck they are saying – I’ll go back and read. I see 206 now the number has jumped to and I love that, and there is a lot we can all do together guys.


(46:48) Frank Scavo, who is one of the top technology industry analyst in the world, he comments, okay, I love museums but Sree has convinced me to visit them more often. So we have been talking with Sree Sreenivasan, who is the chief digital officer for the Metropolitan Museum of art in New York City.


(47:17) Can I show you the only museum experience I had before I came here. This is the Museum of dead technology and here I got some great stuff here that many of you will be familiar with. Let’s see if I can show you a couple of things. Tin cans they still work. Look at this phone, beautiful. I have lots of blackberries. This was my favorite camera this was the Nikon cool pix 990 – do you remember them? It travelled with me around the world. I have lots of other things in here. I have a Walkman that most kids have never seen them. This is called a cassette player. Walt Mossberg, my hero in the world of journalism, digital journalism, said this was the best smart phone in the world. Does anyone remember this? The 3O. I have the original Palm pilot in here I also have x-ray vision. Do you remember this from the back of comic books? With the bald wig and  I don’t need the bald wig anymore. I’ve got all kinds of crazy things. Come and visit and we will show you this as well. There is lots of great things here, the Sony e-reader, which was so beautiful but got eaten alive by other people.

(48:47) And then finally just to leave you with this idea that we can never predict. We can have great ideas and it’s all in the execution. What you see here is a VHS tape about the tablet newspaper; a vision for the future and you can’t see the date and it says 1994. It is on a VHS tape, and in 1994 they had predicted and made even what was going to be the iPad 15 years before it was launched. They didn’t do it, so life is all about execution and we need to keep that in mind.

(49:27) So I’ll let you guys go, and thank you so much for including me and I had a great time.


(49:30) Well thank you and I’ll tell you that Brian Fanzo says, that thanks to this interview he is going to be visiting and subscribing to the Metropolitan Museum, and Meg Bear, who is a vice president at oracle says that Vala and I has the best job in the world and after this conversation I have to agree. So Sree Sreenivasan, chief digital officer of the Metropolitan Museum of New York thank you so much for joining us, and please come again. And I hope everybody has a great weekend and we’ll see you again next time. Bye bye.



Companies mention in this week’s CXOTalk:

Metropolitan Museum of Art



53 (Paper app company)



Khan Academy               

Oculus Rift                      

Huffington Post             

Lerer Hippeau                





Dark Sky app                   

NYT now app                       

Published Date: Dec 05, 2014

Author: Michael Krigsman

Episode ID: 89