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JAKE BARTON had just returned from a meeting about the Eisenhower Memorial when he dropped by the MoMA Store in SoHo to look at photo frames.
What might seem like a leap from one activity to another was really more of a segue. Mr. Barton, 39, heads Local Projects, a New York design studio that creates interactive media displays and movies for museums and public settings. Among the ethereal data he collects and arranges are people's cherished memories.
He made his first big mark as the interaction designer for StoryCorps, working on the process of collecting oral histories and developing the listening stations for booths at Grand Central Terminal and ground zero. And though others have claimed the distinction, it was his firm that wrote the subtle algorithm determining the groupings of victims' names at the 9/11 Memorial.
"Frames are somewhere between furniture and memorials," he noted at the MoMA Store, unfolding a package of eight vinyl frames from Butch & Harold, which peel off of a sheet and stick to the wall. The rectangles have graphic patterns and allow photos to be swapped in and out easily. Mr. Barton described the product as a "fun hybrid" between traditional frames with durable portraits and digital frames that host a restless parade of images.
At the artists' supply store A. I. Friedman, he looked at frames based on William Morris patterns. They reminded him that there's nothing like referencing a classic design to dignify a beloved photo subject. "In the same way, you wouldn't put an ordinary frame on a Matisse or a Berenice Abbott," he said.
Frames that hold multiple pictures, like GrowFrame, which he found online, struck him with their cinematic potential. "You have to think of narrative -- sequencing, curating, telling the story of a life," he said.
He was also charmed by Mr. Woof, a photo-and-memo holder in the shape of a dog, but bristled at the incongruous presentation on the seller's Web site: "Tell CB2 that the cat photo has got to go!" he urged.
Mr. Barton took strong exception only to minimal frames of Lucite, which he dismissed with a nasal invective that sounded like "nyeh."
"No one wants a beloved family member to be entombed in a block of Lucite," he elaborated. "Think about the longevity of the materials as a proxy for the longevity of the memories."
First Published 2012-03-07 23:05:53