New staffers needed more than parking, however. They also needed
training. “These folks were going to be the institution’s front line,” Ms.
Chun says. Training videos were developed to quickly bring new staff
members on board.
Despite the many challenges the Bowie show presented, there was
one project component that, ironically, did not pose a risk: the installation of more than 400 objects—from Bowie’s music videos to his
outrageous costumes to a tissue bearing traces of makeup he once
wore. Although the team chose to present the materials differently than
the V&A Museum had—omitting less familiar British history to make
the show more accessible to an American audience—the installation
process began in late August, just one month before the 23
The Bowie project wouldn’t be deemed a success just because
the exhibit opened, however. The team knew it had to look
beyond the project close by putting in place metrics to track
the projects’ benefits after the exhibit launched. A meticulous
benefits realization approach helped the organization determine how well the show was selling, and, if necessary, work
to bolster that.
To that end, the team created an online ticket-sales dashboard to chart sales each day, allowing the MCA to compare
them to projected sales and adjust its marketing strategy
accordingly. The MCA hadn’t planned to have a student discount, for example, but dashboard metrics led the organization
to introduce one to lure more students. The team thought the
show would easily get many visitors on Friday nights, yet the
museum’s audiences were not accustomed to visiting then. The
dashboard demonstrated that and allowed the project team to
tweak its marketing to emphasize Friday-evening hours.
“It’s the ability to adjust in real time that is the hardest part
of project management,” Ms. Chun says, “because you have to
be willing to say, ‘I’m not going to make all the decisions now.
I’m going to be nimble and adjust on the fly.’”
To understand the show’s overall impact, the dashboard
also tracked how many visitors were first-time MCA attend-
ees, how long they stayed in the exhibit and whether they
visited the store.
“It’s really important to us that we’re capturing all this data
to help us prepare for the next large-scale exhibition,” Ms.
For now, however, the organization isn’t looking to the future—it’s
relishing its high-stakes success. “David Bowie Is” was the most-attended exhibit in the MCA’s history. “We wanted to bring the work
and creative process of an amazing artist to a broad public,” Ms. Hanner
says, “and we’ve accomplished that.” PM
We got very
entrenched in the
details, and every
once in a while an
was incredibly useful.”