Feb 7, 2024

MIMS Alum Leslie Tom Is Digitally Transforming the Charles H. Wright Museum Into a ‘Smart Museum’

From Autodesk Tandem

The Charles H. Wright Museum’s digital transformation to becoming a ‘Smart Museum’

When sustainability efforts are discussed, consumers often look at the initiatives undertaken by major corporations to achieve these goals. Rarely do we consider the efforts of our local museums in striving to diminish their carbon footprint or embrace cutting-edge technologies for more eco-friendly building operations or implications to visitor experiences. Surprisingly, the collective number of museums in the United States surpasses that of many renowned retail and restaurant giants combined—amounting to an impressive 35,000 establishments. One institution, nestled in the heart of Detroit, is carving out its own unique path, by adopting new technology that will support its goal to be a “smart museum.”

In the pursuit of cultural preservation and community impact, the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit has undertaken a groundbreaking digital transformation, emerging as a “smart museum.” By integrating digital twin technology, the museum not only enhances its facility management but also pioneers a model for sustainability in cultural institutions nationwide. This transformative journey not only addresses the challenges faced by the museum—but also serves as a beacon. By urging other cultural institutions to embrace innovative technologies for sustainable practices, fostering collaborations, and making a tangible impact on both their mission and the environment...

The museum was founded in 1965 by Detroit obstetrician and gynecologist Dr. Charles H Wright with the goal of creating a space for “celebration and remembrance.” Chief Sustainability Officer and architectural designer, Leslie Tom shed light on the history of the 125,000 square-foot twenty-seven-year-old building (built in 1997). “It was designed by two Black Detroit architects, Howard Sims and Harold Varner. They designed this institution based on an African village. We have a huge 140-foot dome, and off that dome, that centering kind of village space offshoots our museum store, the theater, the exhibitions, and the classrooms below.” Leslie’s passion for the museum’s infrastructure is apparent, “it has become this beautiful iconic space within Detroit...”




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Leslie Tom graduated from the MIMS program in 2012. 

Leslie and technical team inside one of the large mechanical rooms that power the Wright Museum.
Leslie Tom and technical team inside one of the large mechanical rooms that power the Wright Museum (Photo credit: Autodesk Tandem)

Last updated:

February 8, 2024