Polycom® RealPresence® Video Solutions Help Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art Bring Content and Culture Alive for Schools and Organizations Everywhere

Tue Apr 9, 2013 8:30am EDT

* Reuters is not responsible for the content in this press release.


Real-time HD video collaboration available to schools and organizations anywhere
in the world opens doors to Smithsonian Institution`s African art collection
SAN JOSE, Calif. & WASHINGTON--(Business Wire)--
Polycom, Inc. (Nasdaq: PLCM), the global leader in open, standards-based unified
communications and collaboration (UC&C), is helping bring the Smithsonian
Institution`s vast collection of African art to a global audience via Polycom
RealPresence video solutions. 

Through interactive and real-time video classes, briefings, tours and
collaborative sessions of the National Museum of African Art (NMAfA), guests are
gaining a new perspective not just on how artists in Africa have expressed
themselves through the arts over centuries, but also on the diverse cultures and
peoples who live on a continent comprised of fifty-five countries, three times
the size of the United States. 

"Arts education in public schools has declined in recent years," noted Deborah
Stokes, Curator for Education at NMAfA, one of 19 Smithsonian museums. "Art has
been squeezed out of daily class schedules, and school time spent in art class
has shrunk by nearly half since 2001. We knew we had to get creative to find a
way for schools to enhance their art education without spending resources. With
Polycom RealPresence video solutions, we`re bringing content and culture alive
to students around the world - teaching students how to look at art, and engage
with the museum`s educational programs to enrich understanding, inspire,
encourage curiosity, and make connections." 

Combining Art and Science

An example of this approach is the museum`s popular African Cosmos: Stellar Arts
tour, which combines both art and science to investigate celestial symbols,
earth-sky connections and cultural stories that date to the time of the
pharaohs. The educational programming was developed with astrophysicists from
the Smithsonian-Harvard Astrophysical Observatory and scientists and educators
from the Smithsonian`s Air and Space Museum. The teaching module enables
teachers to fulfill not only their curriculum requirements in art, but also
those for science, history and geography. 

"One of our academic goals is to incorporate the arts into the STEM initiative,"
said Stokes, referring to a growing effort to sharpen global competitiveness by
improving students` proficiency in science, technology, engineering and math.
"We did that with the African Cosmos exhibition. We`re showing how both
scientists and artists have for centuries looked into the night sky to
understand our place in the universe." 

Equipped with a Polycom HDX Series room system and a Polycom RealPresence
Collaboration Server, Stokes can conduct virtual visits and collaboration
sessions globally. In her video classes and tours, she uses Polycom
People+Content to appear integrated with images and artworks. She opens her
classes by guiding students through the entrance of the Washington, DC museum -
located almost entirely underground -introducing them to a small part of its
permanent collection of more than 10,000 works, then showing HD images of
related pieces and field photographs, encouraging interactive discussions with
the video audience. 

Schools can register for the classes using the Center for Interactive Learning
and Collaboration (CILC) clearinghouse and through Polycom`s CAPspace portal,
which is used by more than 13,000 educators in 47 countries to access
collaborative video distance learning programs. 

In 2011, NMAfA also used Polycom RealPresence video collaboration systems to
virtually connect a group of young survivors of the 2010 catastrophic Haitian
earthquake that devastated the island nation with peers in DC. The NMAfA
produced "The Healing Power of Art: Works of art by Haitian children after the
earthquake," an exhibition of drawings by Haitian children living in tent

As a common link between students in DC and Port-au-Prince, Haiti, a group of
students in an award-winning DC elementary school French club created pictures
of hope and healing and wrote encouraging messages about the rebuilding of
schools. The pictures were shared with students from Haiti in a face-to-face
live ceremony over video at the U.S. Department of Education. 

Doubling the Number of Students Reached

The face-to-face video classes are proving so popular that Stokes has already
doubled the number of students reached in a school year - from 800 in 2011-2012
to an anticipated 1,600 this year. 

"I could be doing this every day of the year, there`s such a demand for it,"
said Stokes. "Teachers have requested that I develop other modules for them, so
I`m working on an introduction to African art, a class on African masks,
textiles, and country-specific studies of the art of Nigeria, Ghana and Mali." 

In conjunction with Earth Day 2013, NMAfA will host a collaborative learning
experience that focuses on artists who use e-waste and earth materials in their
works. Eventually, Stokes said, she hopes to arrange video meetings between
students, interested parties and Smithsonian field scientists in Gabon and other
African countries. 

No matter the standard or custom topic, the museum`s Polycom infrastructure
helps Stokes deliver an exceptionally lifelike collaboration experience, and
Polycom`s support for open standards allows the museum`s programs to be
available to a broader audience. "I`ve been surprised how great the Polycom
technology has been to use," said Stokes, who acquired the Polycom equipment in
2011 using a grant applied for with help from the Polycom Grant Assistance
Program. "I`m just so thrilled with it." 

About Polycom

Polycom is the global leader in open, standards-based unified communications and
collaboration (UC&C) solutions for voice and video collaboration, trusted by
more than 415,000 customers around the world. Polycom solutions are powered by
the Polycom® RealPresence® Platform, comprehensive software infrastructure and
rich APIs that interoperate with the broadest set of communication, business,
mobile and cloud applications and devices to deliver secure face-to-face video
collaboration in any environment. Polycom and its ecosystem of over 7,000
partners provide truly unified communications solutions that deliver the best
user experience, highest multi-vendor interoperability, and lowest TCO. Visit
www.polycom.com or connect with us on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn to learn
how we`re pushing the greatness of human collaboration forward. 

© 2013 Polycom, Inc. All rights reserved. POLYCOM, the Polycom logo, and the
names and marks associated with Polycom`s products are trademarks and/or service
marks of Polycom, Inc. and are registered and/or common law marks in the United
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respective owners.

Polycom, Inc.
Brianna Woon, +1-408-586-4072

Copyright Business Wire 2013