Designing the Experience: An Interview with Daniel Corti

American Discovery, Vol. 3, Issue 1
Designing the Experience: An Interview with Daniel CortiAmerican Discovery, Vol. 3, Issue 1

Daniel Corti is the Director of the Faith and Liberty Discovery Center, overseeing all things operational. He’s currently directing all of the details that will make the Center run, from the retail shop sales technology to visitor amenities to staffing and everything in between. Recently, American Discovery caught up with Mr. Corti as he was in the midst of selecting a ticketing system.

AD: What attracted you to the Faith and Liberty Discovery Center?

Corti: The main attraction for me was that the Faith and Liberty Discovery Center is not a traditional museum. It’s not a museum based on artifacts, paintings or interactive science exhibits. Rather, the Center is about an inspiring message. Probably the most important message we can share in the world: that faith inspires people towards great things. The exciting part for me was how a museum presents an experience for the public that is about this message. Learning of the technology that will drive the exhibitions and bring this message to life in an interactive, fun and most importantly, inspiring way, excited me to join the team.

AD: What special skills/knowledge do you bring to the FLDC regarding your role as Director?

Corti: I’ve had the privilege of working in the museum industry, here in Philadelphia, for what will be twenty years when we open. In that time, I’ve worked my way up the ranks through seven museums. It was such an amazing experience working at these different institutions and I look to leverage that experience with the FLDC.  I’m grateful for the trajectory of my career starting off as a greeter at the Franklin Institute. Because of it, I’ve been able to maintain an honest understanding of both visitor and staff needs which enables me to cultivate a world class experience.

AD: How do you feel the FLDC fits into the Philadelphia cultural landscape?

Corti: Museum growth in Philadelphia has really ramped up during the last two decades. The National Constitution Center, Museum of the American Revolution, and now the Faith and Liberty Discovery Center are all institutions that didn’t exist prior to 2003. Please Touch Museum, The Barnes Foundation and the National Museum of American Jewish History all relocated to bigger and better facilities as well. Philadelphia’s cultural landscape is ever growing.  Still, it’s almost shocking to think that the Museum of the American Revolution is only two years old or that the National Constitution Center didn’t open until 2003. These are major stories steeply rooted in the Philadelphia story but were not given a prominent place to tell their story for so long. The FLDC complements and supports these stories with the story of faith that inspired and motivated the individuals from these historical stories told at other institutions. It’s the missing piece that informs us about the ‘why’ that motivated these change making individuals. For example, William Penn is prominently featured on top of City Hall however his story, as it is prior to the American Revolution story, is neglected in Philadelphia. We aim to also give figures like Penn the prominence he deserves while exploring his relationship with faith being his guiding light.

AD: What’s this experience been like for you thus far – bringing the plans to life?

Corti: Can I say “amazing” while acknowledging it’s hard work? Working with the FLDC team on all the planning and imagining on how it will all come together once opened is such a unique experience. We’re utilizing our collective experience to ensure we’re creating an experience that is beyond amazing for visitors on site. We’re striving to make sure the experience is profound and continues to create conversations and dialogues among visitors after they leave. That’s the true mark of us hitting these marks so well. We hope to see visitors engaged in the fact that engaging with Scripture can inspire one’s faith to guide them towards greater endeavors. To have played a part in that transformative experience for someone is incredibly humbling and encouraging.

AD: What’s been your biggest challenge so far?

Corti: One of the biggest challenges has been in designing an experience that is like nothing else, both in content and in the technology that delivers this experience. Each visitor is given a device, a Lamp, that pairs with a unique web address.  This Lamp is used to activate the exhibits and collect pieces of information throughout the experience. After one’s visit, a unique web address may be accessed, and all the interactions performed with the Lamp are available for review. Visitors are then able to curate their own post-visit collection and share what that collection means to them with the world.  Figuring out all the technical and operational logistics that will allow all this technology to work seamlessly for the visitor is the challenge that we discuss most frequently. We want to “get it right” for our visitors.

AD: You’ll be hiring a team to help run the FLDC – what’s your goal for that team?

Corti: The main goal I have for this future team is that they are passionate ambassadors for the message that the FLDC is bringing to Philadelphia. There are technical aspects of any role and I have no doubt that folks can learn those parts. But the innate feeling and excitement for what we’re hoping to do at the FLDC is something I don’t take for granted. As such, meeting people who will share in our passion and desire to spread this message of faith inspiring greatness is key in building a terrific team that is ready to serve our visitors.

AD: What’s the biggest surprise visitors will encounter at the FLDC?

Corti: What I think will surprise visitors to the FLDC, compared to other museum visits with an element of learning involved, is how instantly they can utilize what they’ve learned, or rather, by what they’ve been inspired. Engaging faith as the basis for inspiring life changing actions, whether personally, locally, nationally or globally, is something that can be enacted as readily as it is realized. I believe the surprise moment for visitors will be this realization that they can start making a change today. They have the power to engage their faith, engage with Scripture and through those engagements be the change maker in their life or the lives of others. With our post-visit online experience that is custom curated by each visitor for themselves, we’re providing an instant tool set that helps provoke that realization. I’m content with this surprise of realizing the message of faith inspiring us to happen later when guests go online and realize they can share this message. It’s an important message and visitors will be surprised that their experience within the FLDC is instantly relevant to their lives.

AD: What’s the one thing you want people to know about the FLDC?

Corti: The main thing I want everyone to know about the FLDC is that everyone is welcome to come and discover the message of faith guiding liberty towards justice for themselves. Faith is in our name, but we’re not exclusive to anyone. Everyone and anyone is welcome at the FLDC and we look very much forward to bringing our message and experience to all. Sometimes a museum can provoke an idea that some prerequisite understanding is needed before a visit. Perhaps you feel you need to understand art before visiting the art museum. At the Faith and Liberty Discovery Center you need nothing greater than a simple curiosity about faith and liberty. We encourage everyone to stop in and allow the curiosity to explore. Everyone’s experience will be meaningful differently to them. That’s so exciting.