MoMA's IT makeover a mix of old and new

When the New York-based Museum of Modern Art moved into its renovated home, it brought a new, custom-fit IT system based on existing iSeries hardware along for the ride .

The Museum of Modern Art made a triumphant return to midtown Manhattan in November following a $425 million renovation based on a simple premise -- to build a modern institution on top of a classic.

MoMA, regarded as one of the world's preeminent homes for modern and contemporary art, used the two-and-a-half year rebuilding process to give its IT department a makeover as well. The museum teamed with Chicago-based software giant Lansa Inc. and followed a similar strategy, mixing the old with the new by developing a custom-fit IT system without abandoning its iSeries hardware.

Because MoMA was operating with what was essentially a clean slate, chief information officer Steve Peltzman said he and his staff explored several options before sticking with Big Blue. MoMA implemented three new core applications -- a membership verification system, a point-of-sale system for MoMA's five retail locations and a barcode scanning application -- and five months later the system has been a success, save for a few minor kinks.

The operating costs are cheap, and it's been very reliable. iSeries boxes never go down.
Steve Peltzman
CIOMoMA

"This seemed to be the right move for us," Peltzman said of the new system, which went into place in September (2004?) at MoMA's temporary Queens, N.Y., digs and made the move to the renovated Manhattan location in November. "We had an opportunity to rip it out. I didn't take it because this was the right solution for us."

Peltzman said that, ultimately, the decision to stick with the iSeries came down to two factors. One, the in-house staff was well-versed in operating iSeries products, but more importantly, he knew he could count on the hardware.

"So far it has worked out great. The operating costs are cheap, and it's been very reliable. iSeries boxes never go down," Peltzman said.

Using Visual Lansa and Lansa for the Web, MoMA sought to adapt to a more modern and growing customer base and to increase scalability. The upgrade was one MoMA had to make. The total space of the new building increased from 378,000 square feet to 630,000 square feet, with 40,000 new square feet of exhibition space, and the retail stores; three in-house with two more off-site, needed to be linked together.

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The new POS stations -- Windows-based PCs -- replaced a DOS system that was 10 years old. The stations are equipped with a barcode scanner, and their databases are linked to an iSeries 820 server and updated daily. The POS system ties into MoMA's back-end for membership systems and allows the retail department to maintain the system's parameters rather than the IT department. Retail staffers using POS software can verify a member's status and activate discounts and promotions. Sales associates can sell museum memberships, run a search and record detailed shipping instructions on the spot.

"'A museum doesn't fit into the mold of a normal business'" Lansa president John Siniscal said. "The nature of some of the applications they were trying to implement, such as membership, ticketing and point of sale, were 'unique.'"

Lansa also programmed the system so that MoMA staffers can process requests from visitors to purchase, renew, extend or upgrade their museum memberships and receive their permanent card at the time of purchase, thanks to PCs and laptops connected to their iSeries servers. The new system also allows any POS station to process similar service requests.

"All three [applications] had to be easily integrated and operable because they're all linked to the membership database. That seamless experience had to be the basis of it all," Peltzman said. "We have flexibility and scalability now."

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