The Henry Ford’s Connections Table

The Henry Ford

Blending Machine Learning with Curatorial Insights

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Project Overview

The Henry Ford of Museum American Innovation wanted to give guests a peek into the sometimes messy, always interesting mind of a museum curator. We built them a device that turns searching through a database into a playful experience.

The Connections AI Table marries curator-created concepts with surprising AI-driven discoveries, illuminating connections between objects across the museum’s digital collection.

Project Videos and Images

View of Connections Gallery

The Connections Table is part of Intersections of Innovation, a new exhibition at The Henry Ford. Situated at a literal crossroads within the museum, Intersections helps guests unlock the stories of innovation across the museum’s many collection areas including the Industrial Revolution, agriculture, and mobility.

Finger swiping

The table adds an interactive component to the exhibition and helps users decide what part of the museum to visit next.

Surfacing Connections

On an early tour of the museum, The Henry Ford’s chief curator showed us how a lathe from the Industrial Revolution, a trowel, and a cell phone are all connected. Inspired by that series of connections, we set out to take visitors on a similar journey using the museum’s robust, ever-growing digital collections as a jumping-off point. 

The Henry Ford Connections Table

The work began with the museum curators who made 2,000+ connections between objects organized by 80+ topics (“death”, “knock-offs” and “hero worship” were some favorites!).

The Henry Ford Connections Table

Bluecadet employed an AI to find new and unexpected connections. Finally, we combined the curator-led and AI insights into a single explorable web of interconnected objects.

With AI, not About AI

As much as we enjoyed training an “AI curator” on The Henry Ford’s collection, we decided that the user experience should be AI-informed, not AI-driven. We resolved to make the Table an experience about connections and concepts, not the tech that makes the exploration possible. And for our team, this was a chance to take artificial intelligence off of its pedestal, have fun experimenting, and treat AI as one more tool in the creative process.

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With a single swipe, visitors can discover an infinite chain of connected objects.

An Ever-Growing Platform

As The Henry Ford’s digital collection grows, so do connections on the Table. Because the Table is directly integrated with the museum’s collection management software, new artifacts and connections appear the moment they are digitized.

Bluecadet's processes are very thorough and participatory; from hands-on workshops with brainstorming and body mapping to weekly calls, Bluecadet is always listening, thinking, and bringing technical and creative expertise to every touchpoint.”

Matt Majeski

Managing Director & Chief Digital Officer, The Henry Ford