Learning and Technology sitting in a Museum Shaped tree…EngageM Take Aways

For the past while, the Digital Learning Network and Museums Computer Group have been toying with the idea of holding a joint event.  An event which combines two areas very close to my heart, learning and technology in museums.  Why? Well… we all know that museums are finding more and more ways to use digital technologies to enhance visitor experience; and this has a big impact on museum learning and public engagement programmes. But really how often to these two sections of the museum world really get to talk to each other?  Surprising little, because in many museums the work of learning departments and technology teams is still quite separate.

We wanted to change that so, we held Engaging digital audiences in museums this week.  It’s the first event that MCG and DLNet have organised together, and it’s been great working with everyone.  A big shout out to Rhiannon, Juno, and Mia, who did most of the organising and programme decisions.  I hold my hands up and say that I didn’t do very much of the work, apart from turn up and jump over tables, but I am very proud of how the event went.

The aim was to bring together the two worlds of museum technology and museum learning and encourage them to talk and learn from each others’ skills and experience.  I hope we managed to do that is some form or another.

We had some official bloggers on the day (posts will be up on the DLNet and MCG sites shortly), and there have been a couple of posts up already by Juno and Ben from Thought Den (including not one but two awesome Twitter posters).  So I won’t waffle on but here are my take aways:

  • Nick Winterbotham  is particularly good at soundbites.  I love his enthusiasm for all things learning. From encouraging us all to make this conference the most important day of our lives so far,to, Have you heard about the Big Society version of Cluedo? It’s got no library in it
  • There’s still a lot of questions about mobile use in museum. “Is using mobiles in museums a sign of Super modernity of a sign of flawed concentration and disengagement?”  Matthew Cock asking How does audience motivation fit into the use of mobiles? Can you match mobile functionality with motivation types?  Quite a lot of the discussions reminded me of Kevin Slavin‘s keyonte at MCN2011: “The job of technology is not to give us new things to look at, but new ways to see”
  • Lucinda Blaser encouraging us to all think creatively and not let the technology guide us. “if there was magic in the world what would you want to do in the museum?”
  • Wonderment is the ultimate key performance Indicator
  • I miss Newcastle more than I thought I did.  Thanks to John Coburn’s presentation on Hidden Newcastle.  And the eccentric brilliance of a lying egomaniac.
  • Generic Learning Outcomes. They. Are. A. Good. Thing. But there is more work to do to embed them into digital projects.  See Rhiannon’s post about that.

Short and sweet. ish.

My Take Aways from #UKMW11

First of all: This years UK Museums on the Web Conference was amazing.  It was such a vibrant energetic day. I met lots of new people as well as lots of my old favourites, and new favourites and well just my favourites. I really love the sector I work in. I really enjoyed the day and will be focusing on some of the elements discussed for a good while yet.  Having said that, the whole day was a bit of a blur, from the 4.15am start to the whole having to present, and having to present with a chap who likes to talk (eloquently) lots, blowing all time allotments out the window (I am mentioning no names…), I may have set a new record for speed talking and starved my brain of oxygen. It was a brilliant blur nevertheless.  Well done to everyone involved.

Starting off the day was Ross Parry.  It is always a pleasure to listen to Ross, he oozes calm intelligence, and takes the listener on a journey of quiet enthusiasm.  Quiet enthusiasm is always the most captivating.  I bet his lectures are amazing. Anyway.  Ross explained that the day was about innovation, resetting and overall a brighter future.

So here are my take aways:

  • What’s the difference between museums and Ikea? (meatballs) From Mark O’Neill, Head of Innovation and Delivery, at the Government Digital Service.  I quite liked Mark’s key principles for transforming public services to digital because well the digital user experience of mandatory public services is pretty crummy.  Principles:
    • Digital by Default
    • Putting users first
    • Learning from the journey
    • Building a network of trust
    • Moving barriers aside
    • Creating an environment for technology to flourish
    • Don’t do everything yourself.

Some principles that are worthy of any digital project, whatever the sector.  It is always interesting bringing in a keynote from left field from outside the sector, just to shake us up.  But If I’m honest, I think he was already preaching to the converted.  Oonagh Murphy has a more comprehensive synopsis of Mark’s presentation over on her blog. I don’t know if his comparison to online searching on Ikea vs the Getty Museum was intended to provoke or inspire, so I’ll just leave it at that.

  • Pallant house has a really nice website. Peter Pavement, Surface Impression and Marc Steene, Pallant House Gallery were up first in the Getting it right from the start section.  I was up next, so unfortunately missed most of this talk from sheer panic.  But they have a very nice website, and the idea about intensive collaboration between all partners sounds ace.

(Tom and I were next; I’ll blog about that separately.)

  • Action research is awesome.  Even if it is about Metrics. Jane Finnis, Chief Executive of Culture24 spoke about ‘Let’s Get Real: How to Evaluate Online Success’ and that to succeed in the future Jane advocated that museums have to embrace both agile working, and failure.
  • If the answer is an app……What was the question? Nuff said.
  • Building solid foundations for inter departmental digital projects from Alex Bromley, Rhiannon Loosley and Matthew Rose, Museum of London.  I really like both of case study applications they discussed in their presentation (the picture bank and pocket histories) because they are lovely. But more than that I really like that MoL were working with sustainability and future proofing in mind, whether it was from getting support from senior management early on or integrating data management cross departmentally, future proof thinking was key.  Then there is the awesomeness of the ability to re-purposing and re-using the same content in different departments.  A magic box indeed is the CIIM (did I get the acronym right Rhi?)
  • IWM is basically awesome. Carolyn and her New Media team are doing some spiffing stuff when it comes to digital projects (both present tense and forthcoming). Luke Smith and Giv Parveneh, IWM, spoke about the insanely good ‘Lives of the Great War.  Despite working on a project with IWM, I’m actually terrified of War Museums, mostly the content, rather than the people who work there; but projects like this one are making me suppress my deep rooted fears.  Lives of the Great War aims to piece together the life stories behind thousands of names on war memorials in Britain.  Luke and Giv explained the rich stories that have come from crowdsourcing across digital platforms and across archives.  Its amazing the information you can find, when you ask for help.
  • Become a meta data liberator. Genius. I’ve never really got metadata. I’m a mucky pup, and an impatient one of that, the idea of categorisation and data cleaning, and lots and lots of meta data, will normally bore me, and then irritate me.  Its ten times worse, because its really important, which makes me more irritated that I can’t do it properly.  However. Seth van Hooland, Max De Wilde, and Ruben Verborgh from Free your Meta Data  are awesome. They made meta data interesting!  Watch the video! Watch the video!
  • Create beautiful things to view beautiful things.  Joesph Padfield from the National Gallery talked about using IIPImage to manage high resolution images.

all in all a pretty excellent day.