Modern Art Overhaul

When 19,500 visitors attended opening day festivities to celebrate a four-year, $425 million renovation at New York City’s Museum of Modern Art, Randall Mosby was busy behind the scenes making sure the vast new technology infrastructure was running smoothly. As assistant manager of network services for the information technology department, Mosby, 35, played a key role in building and implementing the museum’s internal network and technology upgrade.

IT departments that provide the network for e-mail applications, Internet access, and databases are as vital to museums as they are to any business, though they remain largely invisible to visitors. “Data is the most important thing in any network,” says Mosby, listing personal and systemwide software, databases, and payroll programs as key elements. “I had to work on the migration of data, plus the implementation, administration, and building of servers, net devices, storage capacities, and the new wireless capability.” To further complicate matters, the museum remained open in a temporary location during the renovation.

The job turned out to be no small task. Mosby led the team responsible for making sure the existing networks and technology infrastructure functioned smoothly while the staff was moved to another borough during the renovation. He had to upgrade the old network to specifications, oversee the building of a new network and infrastructure, and then smooth the transition between the two as the staff gradually moved back to the Manhattan office.

“IT supports the art, it supports members, and it supports the 700-member staff,” says Steve Peltzman, MoMA’s CIO. The 5,000-image museum collection database is, for the first time, fully digitalized and searchable online and can finally be leveraged for its full potential. “The staff uses it for collections management, inventory, publications, curating, and much more,” says Peltzman. Also, it provides a powerful resource for online visitors to the museum. Users can search Van Gogh, for example, and link to detailed art and information pertaining to the artist and MoMA store items, which generates revenues.

Mosby now co-manages a huge, climate-controlled data center housing the museum’s 100 servers, affectionately nicknamed for famous artists. Network management is a 24/7 operation; if a problem occurs, Mosby can manage it from his ever-present Blackberry or anywhere with an Internet connection.

Museum visitors now experience shorter wait times due to a wireless infrastructure allowing instant ticket and member card entrance scanning. There’s also a gallery dedicated to new media, the museum’s first, where curators can present multimedia exhibits without incurring the costs of wiring the room.

Peltzman says it was Mosby’s work ethic, dedication, and smarts that earned him the promotion to assistant manager. “His seasoned technology skills and leadership ability put him out in front of a crowd.” Today, Mosby’s role is to lead all trouble-shooting and maintenance activities, says Peltzman. “You invest in people just like you invest in a data center, and he is someone we choose to invest in.” As far as his pervasive contribution to the new MoMA, Peltzman says, “If the museum were a human body, Randall designed the heart.”