Dial M for Micky

Dial M for Micky is a web-based application which provides users the opportunity to hear from Wolfsonian founder Mitchell “Micky” Wolfson, Jr., and explore objects from The Wolfsonian–FIU collection. Produced as part of the Knight Foundation’s Collection Deep Dive project, Dial M represents both the museum’s efforts to make our collection more accessible online as well as our commitment to visitor-focused project development.

The original project was to retrofit two vintage payphones so that the rotary dial activated short audio clips of Micky Wolfson speaking about a variety of subjects. Our intention was to design kiosks that would be installed in our entrance lobby.

COVID-19 forced a major shift in plans in March 2020. Recognizing (a) that the museum would have to close to the public for a substantial amount of time and (b) that museum visitors would be reluctant to handle a public telephone handset, we decided to delay installation of the telephone kiosks in the lobby. We have the phones, and they work as intended, but we will not prepare to install them until the pandemic threat has ended.

At the same time that we put plans to install the telephone kiosks on hold, we decided that we would build a website to simulate the experience we wanted visitors to have. Like the real telephones, the site enables users to use a virtual dial (controlled via touchscreen, keyboard, or mouse) to activate nine different clips of Micky Wolfson speaking. But the website builds in a number of additional functionalities: (1) It provides a running transcript of the audio clips; (2) It gives users the option of reading instructions and transcripts in English, French, or Spanish; (3) It gives users who listen to three or more calls access to a “gallery” of digital images from our collection; (4) It gives users the option of either using a menu to select clips, or dialing in “Roulette” mode, without knowing the topics of the clips; (5) It provides a way for visitors to leave a written message for Micky; and (6) It offers a link to our website.

Recording topics were determined via user testing, as was the functionality of the digital application. After each recording the user listens to, they “win” a collection object. Listen to three and they access a full gallery of objects available for exploration. Upon exiting the program, they are invited to visit the collection digital database.

Another important component was interactivity and user agency. The Dial M team prioritized visitor feedback during the testing phase and again in the final product, including an option to “leave Micky a message.” Users are invited to ask Micky questions or share their own thoughts, and Dial M team members will respond through The Wolfsonian’s social channels.