twitter iconTweet this: Shelley Bernstein of the Brooklyn Museum named Deputy Director for Digital Initiatives and Chief Experience Officer at the #BarnesFoundation


Philadelphia PA, May 10, 2016–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 in May.  

"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 ExhibitionSplit Second: Indian PaintingsGO: 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.

About the Barnes Foundation

The Barnes Foundation ( was established by Albert C. Barnes in 1922 to "promote the advancement of education and the appreciation of the fine arts and horticulture." The Barnes holds one of the world's finest collections of impressionist, post-impressionist, and early modern paintings, with extensive works by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Paul Cézanne, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Henri Rousseau, Amedeo Modigliani, Chaim Soutine, and Giorgio de Chirico; works by American masters Charles Demuth, William Glackens, Horace Pippin, and Maurice Prendergast; old master paintings; important examples of African sculpture; Native American ceramics, jewelry, and textiles; decorative arts and ironwork; and antiquities from the Mediterranean region and Asia. While most collections are grouped by chronology, style, or genre, art at the Barnes is arranged in ensembles structured according to light, line, color, and space—principles that Dr. Barnes called "the universal language of art." The Foundation's programs include First Fridays, young professionals nights, tours, tastings, and family programs, as well as Barnes–de Mazia Education Program courses and workshops. These programs advance the Foundation's mission through progressive, experimental, and interdisciplinary teaching and learning. The Barnes Foundation is open Wednesday–Monday and tickets can be purchased on site, online, or by calling 215.278.7200. Ticket prices and current hours are listed on our website.

The Barnes Arboretum in Merion contains more than 2,500 varieties of trees and woody plants, many of them rare. Founded in the 1880s by Joseph Lapsley Wilson and expanded under the direction of Laura Leggett Barnes, the living collections include 40 state champion trees, a Chinese fringe tree (Chionanthus retusus), a dove tree (Davidia involucrata), a monkey-puzzle tree (Araucaria araucana), and a coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens). Other important plant collections include lilacs, peonies, stewartias, ferns, medicinal plants, hostas, and magnolias. The Horticulture Education program has offered a comprehensive three-year certificate course in the botanical sciences, horticulture, garden aesthetics, and design since its establishment in 1940 by Mrs. Barnes. The arboretum also offers horticulture workshops and lectures. Tickets to the Arboretum can be purchased onsite. Ticket prices and current hours are listed on our website.


Deirdre Maher, Director of Communications
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