Museum pecha kucha night

The first museum pecha kucha night was held in London at the British Museum on June 18, 2009. I took rough notes during the presentations, and have included the slides and notes from my own presentation. The event used the tag ‘mwpkn’ to gather together tweets, photos, etc. The focus of this first museum pecha kucha was on sharing insights and inspiration from the Museums and the Web conference held in Indianapolis in April.

The event was organised by Shelley Mannion, who introduced the event, emphasising that it was about fun and connecting the museum tech community in an interesting way.

Gail Durbin (V&A), takeaways from MW2009
She’s a practical person, looks for ideas to nick. Good idea as things get hazy after a conference, good intentions disappear.

First takeaway – Dina Helal let her play with her iPhone, decided she had to have one. She liked her mobile for the first time in her life.

Second – twittering was very important. Decided to do something with it. Twittering is hard, sending out messages that are interesting is difficult.

Enthusiasm at conferences is short lived – e.g. people excited about wedding site, but did they send in wedding photos? She talked to people about a self-portraiture idea, ‘life on a postcard’, but hasn’t had a single response.

RSS feeds – came away knowing we had to review our RSS feeds, had been without attention for a long time.

Learnt that wikis are very hard work, they don’t automatically look after themselves.
Creative use of Flickr – museum ‘my karsh‘ collection

Resolved that had to work with Development. Looking at something like the British Library’s – adopt a book for fathers day.

Something that bothers her – many museums think of ‘Web 2.0’ just as more channels to push out information, there’s no sense of pulling in information about visitors.

Beck Tench, one of the most interesting people she met at the conference – practice and work go together very closely. Flickr plant project. She wants to get staff involved – has meeting on Fridays, in local bar, tweets to everyone, conducts something called Experimonth.

Last thing learnt – librarians have better cakes.

Silvia Filippini Fantoni (British Museum and Sorbonne University)
Silvia makes a plea for extra seconds as a non-native speaker (and synthesis not the best feature of Italians). Lecturer in museum informatics and evaluation methods at Sorbonne and project manager for multimedia guide project at British Museum.

So her focus at the conference was mostly on guides. Particularly Samis and Pau and others. Mini workshops and workshops on the topic before and during the conference. Demos from Paul Clifford (Museum of London). Exhibitors. Lots of museums are planning to develop applications.

Interest in using mobile technology as an interpretive tool is constantly growing, especially delivered on visitors own devices. Proliferations of mobile platforms. Proliferation of different functionalities – not just audio – visual, games, way finding, web access and communication, notes and comments. Have all these new platforms and functionalities improved the visitor experience? Yes, but there are some disadvantages.

Asks: aren’t we trying to do too much? Are we trying to turn a useful interpretive tool into something too complex? Aren’t we forgetting about core audio guide audience?

Are people interested in using their own devices? Do they have the time to pre-download, do they bring their devices? Samis and Pau – the answer is no/not yet. For the medium and short term still need to provide media in the museums. Touch screen devices are easier to use. Limited functionality makes interface simpler. Focus on content – AV messages, touch and listen.
Importance of sharing and learning from best practice. Some efforts at and after MW2009 – handheldconference.org. Discussion of developing open source content management system for mobile devices – contact Nancy Proctor.

Daniel Incandela (Indianapolis Museum of Art)
He’s from America so should have extra time too. Also sick and medicated (so at least one of us will have a good time during the presentation).

Enjoys robots, dinosaurs, football and a good point. On holiday while here.

Slide – Shelley’s twitter profile – she’s responsible for him being here while on holiday.

He blogged about preparing for the presentation and got a comment from one of the pecha kucha founders – the main thing is to have fun, be passionate about something you love.

Twitterfall on the big screen was a major breakthrough at MW2009, (#mw2009 trended as a topic and attracted the attention of) pantygirl.

Digital story telling and tech can’t happen without support, Max Anderson has been dream leader.

He’s here representing IMA so going to showcase some projects – Roman Art from Louvre webisodes – paved the way for informal, agile, multiple content source creation.

Art Babble. IMA blog – ripped off other museums – gives many departments from museum a digital voice.

Half time experiment with awkward silence (blank slide). [In the pub afterwards, I discovered that this actually made at least one of the English people feel socially awkward!]

Brooklyn Museum – for him the real innovators for digital content for museums, won many awards at MW2009.

Te Papa’s ‘build a squid’ had him at ‘hello’. First example of a museum project that actually went viral?

Perhaps we could upgrade MW site? Better integration of social media, multimedia from previous conferences.

Loves Bruce Wyman – reason to go to MW2010.

art:21 – smart team, good approaches to publishing across platforms.

Wonders about agility – love new and emerging projects (?) we hear about at conferences, but how do we face an idea and deal with own internal issues?

The Dutch at Indy (were great) – but somewhere outside north America next for Museums and the Web?

Philip Poole (British Museum)
Everything I got from MW2009 can be put into one statement – spread it about. Enable your content to be spread by other people through APIs.

Does spreading out content dilute our authority? By putting it onto other websites, putting it in contact with other people. No, of course not.

Video was big at MW2009.

If going to use different platforms, will people come? We need to tailor content to different websites – can’t just build it and assume people will come. Persian coins vs. ritual Mayan sacrifice on YouTube – which will get bigger audience? [Pick content delivery to suit audience and context.]

Platforms include ArtBabble, YouTube (shorter, edgier), iTunes U. Viral content – we can put features on our website, but a YouTube or Vimeo audience are going to spread things better. iTunes, U, can download and listen on train – takes out of website entirely.

Stats are important – e.g. need to include stats of video on different platforms, make sure people above you recognise the value in that. DCMS – very basic stats – perhaps they should be asking for different stats. “If DCMS ask how much video we put on YouTube, we’d all start doing it.” [Brilliant point]

API – take content from website and put elsewhere. IMA Explore section – advertise the repeating pattern in their URLs – someone used them but wasn’t going very well, they got in contact with him and helped him succeed, now biggest referrer outside search engines. He wants to do that for the British Museum – he knows the quirks, the data.

Why the ‘softly softly’ approach? Creating an entire API interface is huge mountain, people above you will want to avoid it if you show them the size of the whole mountain.

Digital NZ – fantastic example. Can create custom search, embed on website, also into gallery and people can vote for it

The British Museum is a museum of the world for the world, why should their web presence be any different?

Mia Ridge (Science Museum)
Yes, that’s me. My slides on ‘Bubbles and Easter eggs – Museum Pecha Kucha’ are on slideshare – scroll down the page for full text and notes – or available as a PDF (2mb).

I talked about:

  • keeping the post-conference momentum going, particularly the ‘do one thing’ idea;
  • museum technologists as ‘double domain experts’;
  • not hiding museum geeks like Easter eggs but making more of them as a resource;
  • the responsibilities of museum geeks as their expertise is recognised;
  • breaking down internal silos; intelligent failure;
  • broken metrics and better project design (pitch the goal, not the method);
  • audience expectations in 2009;
  • possible first questions for digital projects and taking a whole museum view for new projects;
  • who’s talking/listening to your audiences? trust and respect your audiences;
  • your museum is an iceberg (lots of the good stuff is hidden);
  • (s)mash the system (hold a mashup day);
  • and a challenge for your museum – has the web fundamentally changed your organisation?

Frankie Roberto (Rattle)
Went to the conference with a ‘fan’ hat on, just really enjoys museums. Loved the zoo – live exhibits are interactive, visceral. Role of live interpretation – how could it work with digital technology? Everyone loves dinosaur – Indy Children’s Museum. All museums should have a carousel (can’t remember what he was going to say about it).

The Power of Children; making a difference – really powerful stories.

Still thinking about the idea of creating visceral experiences.

ArtBabble – shouldn’t generally create silos but ArtBabble spotted that YouTube wasn’t working for certain types of content.

Davis LAB – kiosks and sofa. Said ‘we are on the web’.

Drupal – lots of museums switching to it.

Richard Morgan (V&A) on APIS – ask, what is your museum good at?, and build an API for that – it may not be collections stuff.

‘Things to do’ page on V&A. Good way of highlighting ways to interact on website.

Semantic data, Aaron’s talk on interpretation of bias, relocation from Flickr photos.
Breaking down ideas about authority on where an area is bounded by. OpenStreetMap – wants to add a historical layer to that so can scroll backwards and forwards in time. [I should ask whether this means layering old maps (with older street layouts like pre-Great Fire of London, or earlier representations?). Geo-rectification is expensive because it’s time-consuming, but could it be crowdsourced? Geo-locating old images would be easier for the average person to do.]

Open Plaques – alpha project.

Thinks we won’t need to digitise in the future as stuff will be born digital (ha, as if! Though it depends where you draw the lines about the end of collections – in my imagination they’re like that warehouse scene at the end of Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Arc and we won’t run out of things to properly digitise any time soon. Still, it’s a useful question.)

Dan Zambonini (Box UK)
‘Every film needs a villain’. In his impressions and insights from MW2009 he’ll say things we may or may not agree with.

Slide – stuff we can do vs. stuff we can’t do on either side of a gulf of perceived complexity. It’s hard to progress from one to the other. Three questions to bridge gap – how to make relevant to everyday job, how to show advantages, how to make it easy.

Then he realised should talk about personal things – people and connections made. About people, stuff that happens in the evening. The evening drinks don’t happen at UKMW – it’s a shame we have to go to the other side of the world to talk to each other. [It does it you’re at an event like mashed museum the day before – another reason to open it up to educators, curators, etc.]

Small museums vs. big museums – [should make stuff accessible to small museums.] Can get value by helping people. (He tells his ex-girlfriend that ) small is the new big. Also small quick wins. Break down the big things into smaller things, find ways can get to them through small changes in behaviour, bits of information.

How small is small? Greater or less than one day. If less than a day, might as well try it. If it’s going to take a week, not small.

Museums should share data – not just as API – share data on traffic, spill gossip on marketing costs, etc. [Information is power, etc]

Celebrate failure – admit that some things go wrong.

Bigger picture – be honest. Tell us when to shut up (on e.g. the Museum Tech Pecha Kucha‘ event on slideshare (and mine has now got an audio track, thanks to Shelley).

Final thoughts on open hack day (and an imaginary curatr)

I think hack days are great – sure, 24 hours in one space is an artificial constraint, but the sheer brilliance of the ideas and the ingenuity of the implementations is inspiring. They’re a reminder that good projects don’t need to take years and involve twenty circles of sign-off, even if that’s the reality you face when you get back to the office.

I went because it tied in really well with some work projects (like the museum metadata mashup competition we’re running later in the year or the attempt to get a critical mass of vaguely compatible museum data available for re-use) and stuff I’m interested in personally (like modern bluestocking, my project for this summer – let me know if you want to help, or just add inspiring women to freebase).

I’m also interested in creating something like a Dopplr for museums – you tell it what you’re interested in, and when you go on a trip it makes you a map and list of stuff you could see while you’re in that city.

Like: I like Picasso, Islamic miniatures, city museums, free wine at contemporary art gallery openings, [etc]; am inspired by early feminist history; love hearing about lived moments in local history of the area I’ll be staying in; I’m going to Barcelona.

The ‘list of cultural heritage stuff I like’ could be drawn from stuff you’ve bookmarked, exhibitions you’ve attended (or reviewed) or stuff favourited in a meta-museum site.

(I don’t know what you’d call this – it’s like a personal butlr or concierge who knows both your interests and your destinations – curatr?)

The talks on RDFa (and the earlier talk on YQL at the National Maritime Museum) have inspired me to pick a ‘good enough’ protocol, implement it, and see if I can bring in links to similar objects in other museum collections. I need to think about the best way to document any mapping I do between taxonomies, ontologies, vocabularies (all the museumy ‘ies’) and different API functions or schemas, but I figure the museum API wiki is a good place to draft that. It’s not going to happen instantly, but it’s a good goal for 2009.

These are the last of my notes from the weekend’s Open Hack London event, my notes from various talks are tagged openhacklondon.

Running notes, day 3 (Saturday) of MW2009

These are my running notes from day 3 of the Museums and the Web conference – as the perfect is the enemy of the good I’m getting these up ‘as is’. I did a demo [abstract] in the morning but haven’t written up my notes yet – shame on me!

The session ‘Building and using online collections‘ included three papers, I’ve got notes from all three but my laptop battery died halfway through the session so only some of them are already typed – I’ll update this entry when I can sneak some time.

Paul Rowe presented on NZMuseums: Showcasing the collections of all New Zealand museums (the linked abstract includes the full paper and slides).

National Services Te Paerangi (NSTP).

4 million NZers, 400 museums.  NZMuseums website – focal point for all NZ museums. NSTP administers the site, Vernon Systems is solution provider.

Each museum has a profile page including highlights of their collections. Web-based collection management system.

What needs to be in place for small museums to contribute? How can a portal be built with limited resources? What features of the website would encourage re-use of the data?

Some museums had good web presences, but what about the small museums? Facing same issues that small or local govt museums in the UK face.

Museums are treasures of the country, they show who we are. Website needs to reflect that.

Focus groups – volunteers are important – keep it simple; keep costs low; some places had limited internet connectivity; reservations about content being on the internet were common.

Promoting involvement to the sector – used existing national monthly newsletters to advertise workshops and content deadlines. Minimum of 20 items for placement on site to avoid ‘box ticking’ [some real commitment required]. Used online forum for FAQs.

Lack of skills – NSTP were trained so could then train staff and volunteers in museums. Digitising, photography for the web.

Had to explain benefits to small museums. It gave them an easy start to getting an online presence.

They overcame resistance by allowing watermarking and clear copyright statements; they showed existing museums sites that allowed tagging; promoted that would help them reach a diverse dispersed audience.

First tag on site – ‘shiny nose‘. First comment was someone admitting they’d touched the nose on a bronze sculpture.

eHive.

Could also import Excel spreadsheets as content management system didn’t exist at early stage of project. Also provided a workaround for people with lack of internet – the spreadsheet could be posted on CD.

API provides glue to connect eHive (Collections Management System) and NZMuseums site together.  

Tips for success
Use OS software where possible; use existing online forums and communication networks to save answering questions over again.

90% of these collection items not previously available on the internet. 99% of collection items have images.

[Kiwis are heroes!  Everyone was incredibly modest about their achievements, but I think they’re amazing.]

Next was Eero Hyvönen on CultureSampo – Finnish Culture on the Semantic Web 2.0: Thematic Perspectives for the End-user (the linked abstract includes the full paper and slides).

Helsinki semantic web thingies
Part of national ontology project, Finland
Vision – international semantic web of cultural heritage. Marriage between semweb and web 2.0

Challenges – content heterogeneity, complexity 

Other challenge relates to the way cultural content is produced – Freebase, Wikipedia, open street maps, etc, 

Semweb for data integration; web.2 0 approach for content production

Automatically enriched by each piece of knowledge.

In Finnish the sampo is a magic drum that makes everything possible.  

Portal intended for human users and machines. Trying to establish a national way of producing content so can be published automatically.  

Infrastructure – 37,000 class concepts in ontology. MAO, TAO – museum ontologies, collaboratively built ontologies, then mapped to national system. End user sees one unified ontology. [A little pause while I pick my jaw up from the ground.]  66 vocabularies, taxonomies and ontologies available online as services, can be used as AJAX widgets. Some vocabularies are proprietary so can’t be published online in the service.

28 content providers, 22 libraries and museums and some international associates like Getty places, Wikipedia.

16 different metadata schemas. [Including some for poetry!]

134,000 cultural collection items (artefacts, books, videos, etc)

285,000 other resources (places, people etc)

Annotation channel for content items – web 2.0 type interface.

Semantic web 2.0 portal

Portal users – for humans, Google-like but semantic search. Nine perspectives into cultural heritage. Three languages. Recently view items, recently commented items.  

Map view.

With one line of JavaScript on own website, can incorporate CultureSampo on own website.

[Sadly my laptop died here and the rest of my notes are handwritten.  You can probably get the gist from the published paper and the slide, but the coolness of their project was summed up by this tweet: Musebrarian: What can you do with a semantic knowledgebase? Search for “beard fashion in Finland” across time and place. #mw2009

It might not sound like much, but the breadth of content, and the number of interfaces onto it was awe-inspiring.]

Sadly my notes from Brian Dawson’s paper, Collection effects: examining the actual use of on-line archival images are also still on notepaper.  The paper was a really useful examination of analytical approaches to understanding the motivations of people using cultural heritage collections.

A quick summary of my MW2009

I’m posting this now to get it out of the way (and done in April) though I still haven’t caught up on the Museums and the Web 2009 ‘backchannel’, tidied my notes or read all the papers I wanted to read. I may update this later as I remember things I wanted to say.

Some strong themes (memes?) emerged during the conference. In general, while lots of great sites and projects were presented, including some lovely examples of projects breaking new ground in best practice, some of the most important ideas weren’t about presenting new, flashy things but rather reflected a maturity in approach, and a consolidation of the role of the web in museums.

Breaking out of the bubble
From the informal conversations and unconference sessions proposed it seems to be an issue lots of people are struggling with – how do we communicate with managers, curators, educators to get them excited about the possibilities of the web; Nina‘s question about how we bring the levels of participation we’re seeing on museum websites into the physical museum; how does (or how should) an integrated web program change an organisation; how do web teams go from mavericks to maturity?

And leading on from that: the post-conference challenge – do one thing in April

Conferences are great, especially one as social as Museums and the Web. Those inspiring late night conversations, the unexpected connections, putting faces to names… but I sometimes come away from conferences as cynical as I am enthused because before you know it, you’re back at the same conference next year and nothing has changed.
The ‘do one thing different when you get back’ idea that suffused the crowd-sourced closing plenary really inspired me. Using the post-conference high to make one small change or proactively share with colleagues rather than letting it dissipate seemed to appeal to lots of people – I wonder if there’s a way of finding out who’s taken up the challenge. I hope I’m going to keep the inspiration to do the Right Thing, to keep pushing for quality when resources and energy are limited and projects are many.
I also realised that after all the inspiring conversations of last year some of us came back from MW2008 and ended up with BathCamp, so while the post-conference crash back to reality may be unavoidable, it doesn’t mean you can’t get something done anyway.
So I’ve been working away on the museums API wiki (possibly better known as ‘museums and re-usable shareable data’ but hey ho), tagging links ‘mw2009’ in delicious, and following up some contacts with email conversations. There’s a lot more I should be doing, and if I haven’t yet been in contact with you about something we discussed, let me know.

The unconference
I want to write a proper post about how it worked so that other people would feel comfortable running one of their own, but in the meantime, I’ll just say that I was thrilled that it seems to have been so useful for people.

Twitter
The impact of Twitter was really evident at this conference. Apart from finding people for food or drinks, I used it most usefully to suggest an informal meetup of people interested in museum APIs during the Friday, and to find a whole bunch of people to go and eat noodles with. You can get a sense of the progress of the conference from my MW2009 tweets (from my ‘event’ twitter account).

Randomness
On a personal note, I also made up a new description for myself as I needed one in a hurry for moo cards: cultural heritage technologist. I felt like a bit of a dag but then the lovely Ryan from the George Eastman House said it was also a title he’d wanted to use and that made me feel better. And I won a ‘backchannel award‘ for blogging from the conference, woo!

As well as earlier posts on the opening plenary and the unconference session on failure I still have more notes to dump into posts, I’ll tag them all so you can find them under MW2009.

Notes from the closing plenary, MW2009

These are my quick and dirty notes from the closing plenary of the 2009 Museums and the Web conference .  If I’ve quoted you but gotten your name wrong, I’m very sorry – please let me know and I’ll correct it.  I haven’t put links in for anyone yet so I’ll be editing the entry anyway.

‘We are the program.’  Awards for blog posts, tweets, Flickr photos then David Bearman invited people to come up and talk about what they’ve learnt, what they’ll take away.

Nina, Museum 2.0 – inspired by Max’s keynote address. But she didn’t feel that difference in the institution. Didn’t see the transparency and openness that you get on the web, on their dashboard. Not saying they have to do that, but wants to bring up idea of participatory ghetto… forming relationships with visitors on the web, who’ll show up at museums and wonder why the same relationship isn’t reflected in the building. Pushing in institutions to establish parity, not to give up on physical space also being somewhere for openness and transparency. IMA – had experience of extreme cognitive dissonance. How can you start the conversation, taking great stuff from web world into physical environment of institutions. Her first time at MW.

Heather from Balbao – new to conference and museum world, great introduction.

Nate, Walker Art Centre – I always leave inspired, seen it happen every time- a month worth of trying new things, then it trickles off and fades… go to the wiki and take the post-conference challenge to do one thing in April – choose one task that you can achieve by the end of April. Distributed agile development … beyond API, everyone can benefit from going home and immediately doing just one thing. [eek I feel weird taking notes about my ideas]

Frankie, Rattle – be excited about tin mining.

Brian, UKOLN – danger that losing accessibility cos doing innovative things, but there have been some really great examples. Universally accessible – pushing it (the definition) of it forward.

Seb, Powerhouse – need to bring people in, curators, management.

Julie (?) – boundaries between web and physical boundaries – problematising the name of the conference. Is ‘web’ starting to constrain what we’re about?

Nina – comment on that – conference in US called WebWise – lousy content but less funded projects, mostly director level people who go. How do we get these people in a situation that’s more blended with the kind of people who are here?

Victoria, Smithsonian? carrying on Nina and Seb’s point – spends first month being excited, but directors etc aren’t going to come to conferences like this. You may have five minutes to articulate why something is important – and it’s not heard when it’s someone outside, even if you’ve been saying it on the inside for years. Having someone who’s succeeded from outside, doing snippets of video or whatever – convincing.

David – seeing what can share back. Spend time at conference demanding people write papers, share slides… would really love for the post-conference discussion that takes place online to incorporate thoughts, experience about what doing. Extension into social space of a discourse we’ve never really had – how do you use that post-conference excitement… how do organisations change, which is becoming the centre of the discourse… take it further, keep talking to each other about how do you make it work.

Jennifer – the thing we can do by the end of April, if you write a report, share it with your colleagues. Let people pinch your ideas, send it out. Share the reports as well as the stuff that happens when we’re right here.

Jon Pratty – we need a more social media within the museum.

Peter Samis – can remember this camaraderie in 1991… hearing it just as fresh now with people who are coming to their first conference, loving it… this is going to have legs, it’s going to keep running, continue this spirit throughout the year.

Rich (another Rich) – haven’t really felt the amount of community before, but have been coming since 1999. Being able to catch up on the things he missed while he was here.

Brian – people in the community can fall out, it’s happened in the UK. People have strongly held views, need to depersonalise disputes, constructive criticism.

Scott (?) – we’re not the only people talking about these subjects, it’s happening in higher education, the commercial sector, not a whole of discussion here about what’s happening out there and what impact it has here. Would be neat to do some headlines on what’s going on in the world outside museum, add to the implications for this audience.
[This final session probably contributed quite a bit to my summary of MW2009 – I’d written the ‘MW2009 challenge’ a little while before (after discussions at the ice cream API meet) and it was wonderful to feel so much excitement (tempered with realistic cynicism) in the room about the positive changes we could make when we went back to our home institutions.]

Max Anderson, Indianapolis Museum of Art, ‘Moving from virtual to visceral’

[My very rough notes, I’ve been distracted and missed bits, probably misheard things, etc, but at least it gives people who weren’t there an idea of the flavour of the event.]

[Update – the video is online, you may find that easier to digest.]

Max Anderson, director of the Indianapolis Museum of Art – opening plenary at Museums and the Web 2009, ‘Moving from virtual to visceral’.

Behind the applications we’re producing, for an art museum in particular, we’re looking for something beyond exposure to things. Felt, deep, elemental emotions.

Museums tend to define selves in terms of number of objects, acres, visitors… difficult to translate that endeavour online in a way that sticks. If you get too caught up in plumbing of technology, you forget about the outcomes. “In addition to bragging rights, what features of a museum should be online?”

[missed bits]

So much of what goes on behind scenes is critical to experience of front of house, give visitors an experience of that behind the scenes stuff.

Volunteers are important. Enormous swathe of public who could be continually engaged…

Review of what happens on site in museums: flirting, gossiping, looking, shopping, eating. Looking is wedged among all other activities. Is it heresy to admit that looking and learning are only a small part of a museum visit?

George Hein, visitor survival curves… pathways through museums. Opportunities to construct a narrative – but this isn’t the normal approach to museum attendance. Choice and opportunity should govern what happens, rather than doing what we think the public demands.

Average time in front of a work of art is 3 seconds, it’s ‘glancing at picture to confirm that’s what you’ve just read about’ on the wall label. There are precious few moments when people linger in front of objects – it’s like the Museum of Drag Racing. But look at the percentage of time learning versus that spent living in university. So much of time in college is extrinsic to learning. Give permission for that kind of experience in institutions, make a bond with visitors that’s visceral, not just virtual.

Excessive orientation can compromise the experiential/learning environment.

There’s too much clutter in experiential terms, we’re torn constantly by stimuli. ‘Virtual’ museum programs – we fall in love with the technical solutions, but it’s not obvious that they have the intended effect, and are also good for audiences.

An interactive map is still a map – show what’s behind the velvet rope, it’s sensual, appealing.

Databases – data cleaning before putting things online vs put everything online now and see how much have to clean up. Publishing databases about collections is just a baseline, just the beginning of something. Having high resolution images is, for lots of visitors, not much better than credits at the end of a movie. It’s necessary, but not sufficient. We’ve only gotten to building the ground floor – we need to take visitors to the whole movie, get beyond showing them the credits.

Eschew the virtual, promote the visceral. What we collect has stories behind it, telling the stories is the key issue. What are the avenues for achieving something visceral in a museum visit?

Suspend commercial intrusion and attempts at mind control. Bruegel King.

Privatisation takes away the possibilities of adventure and play. Encourage voyeurism – show staff in action. Public wants to see how museums operate and function. CSI is a hit because it shows what goes on behind police work. We should take a cue from that appetite and enthusiasm.

[Missed a bit]

People enjoy being near original objects. Revel in the thrill of proximity to the original object.

Foster projection into another time, place or condition.

Disorient visitor, give them permission to move away from comfort zone. Encourage playtime, dream time.

Help visitors savour and retain memories and empathetic response. The empathetic response is the memory maker.

Help visitors apply that memory and empathetic response to daily life. Take the lesson embedded in museum objects, find the link to continued application to life after you’ve left the museum. Extensions of learning beyond what happens on site.

Teach now to practice connoisseurship at the mall – aesthetic standards around quality, etc.

Preferable scenario to onsite orientation – use pre-visit planning and post-visit environment. Encourage visitors to get ready before visit online beforehand. Kids who come on school visits to the Indianapolis Museum of Art get memberships for families, they can come back and share their learning with their parents.

Pre-visit – choose a path based on visit duration or thematic interest. Wander through the museum behind the scenes online. Show how complicated it is to run museums, “not as simple as switching on the lights and admiring things”. Sharing this is useful, particularly given current climate.

On-site: deviate from planned path, improvise. The visitor doesn’t need to be tied to our taxonomies. Make room, permission for visitor to experience it that way.

Post-visit – join Facebook, etc. We want to be part of your lives, not just a visit.

Encourage participation by telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. We’ve been good at promoting and marketing and cheering ourselves on but not necessarily good at telling the truth.

It’s about shining a light on how far you’ve got to go, not just what you’ve got to show off.

IMA had layoffs, their dashboard showing employee count dropped. If a museum has more people in development than in education or interpretation, then is bereft.

One of the truths we need to get out to visitors… permanent collection isn’t permanent. Refreshment of new works of art on view. Objects are not permanently on display, they’re in storage, lent, borrowed. Rhythm [of display, I think]. Permanent collections are invitational as well.

Attendance figures – “we don’t necessarily think that’s true but that’s the number we quote”. Is it a clicker with guards, estimates?

Mapping visitors by postcode, what postcodes aren’t represented? Did he just say ‘statistical porn’??

Making institutions more a part of your life, talking about collections. Also showing deaccessioning. Policy on deaccessioning on web – ‘a no brainer’. Also put up db of works planning to deaccession as well as ones have deaccession. He has the uncomfortable feeling that he shilling for deaccession but they’re really just trying to be transparent about process. Next process is to link funds from deaccession to artworks acquired with funds from its sale.

Charity Navigator. Don’t trust what you see on the web. Methodology is flawed. We should present those stats ourselves, don’t wait for someone else to be arbiter of our fortunes.

Why wait for someone else to publish your financial info, do it yourselves when it’s ready.

Steve.museum – more empathetic. Opera in Italy in 19thC was riotous but now is antiseptic – don’t make that mistake in museums.

Transcriptions, search terms is the magic of ArtBabble. Search results will take you to that second in the video. [Awesome!]

Click, Brooklyn Museum. Crowd-curated exhibition. Brooklyn Museum API – on screen, [missed stuff]. Te Papa. [Woo, check the love!]

Don’t bet the farm on commercial applications that may go away.

[The end! I’ll update when slides go online and tidy and correct if I can get more accurate info. Questions to come when I get a moment.]

Museums and the Web 2009: call for participation

MW2009 will be held in Indianapolis, Indiana, USA from April 15-18, 2009. I’ve only been to one Museums and the Web conference but I would recommend it – the sessions were really useful, and I met some fantastic people and overall it gave me access to a wider community of digital museum professionals. It’s a great chance to share your ideas or showcase your project for a proactive and engaged audience and there’s a variety of session formats which means you can find a format to suit you and your content.

You’ve got until the end of this month for proposals for papers, and until the end of December for demonstration proposals. Proposals are welcome on any topic related to museums creating, facilitating or delivering culture, science and heritage on-line – a full list of themes and much more information is at MW2009 Call for Participation.

[Full disclosure: I’m on the Program Committee.]

Notes from ‘How Can Culture Really Connect? Semantic Front Line Report’ at MW2008

These are my notes from the workshop on “‘How Can Culture Really Connect? Semantic Front Line Report” at Museums and the Web 2008. This session was expertly led by Ross Parry.

The paper, “Semantic Dissonance: Do We Need (And Do We Understand) The Semantic Web?” (written by Ross Parry, Jon Pratty and Nick Poole) and the slides are online. The blog from the original Semantic Web Think Tank (SWTT) sessions is also public.

These notes are pretty rough so apologies for any mistakes; I hope they’re a bit useful to people, even though it’s so late after the event. I’ve tried to include most of what was discussed but it’s taken me a while to catch up.

There’s so much to see at MW I missed the start of this session; when we arrived Ross had the participants debating the meaning of terms like ‘Web 2.0’, ‘Web 3.0’, ‘semantic web, ‘Semantic Web’.

So what is the semantic web (sw) about? It’s about intelligent and efficient searching; discovering resources (e.g. URIs of picture, news story, video, biographical detail, museum object) rather than pages; machine-to-machine linking and processing of data.

Discussion: how much/what level of discourse do we need to take to curators and other staff in museums?
me: we need to show people what it can do, not bother them with acronyms.
Libby Neville: believes in involving content/museum people, not sure viewing through the prism of technology.
[?]: decisions about where data lives have an effect.

Slide 39 shows various axes against which the Semantic Web (as formally defined) and the semantic web (the SW ‘lite’?) can be assessed.
Discussion: Aaron: it’s context-dependent.

‘expectations increase in proportion to the work that can be done’ so the work never decreases.

sw as ‘webby way to link data’; ‘machine processable web’ saves getting hung up on semantics [slide 40 quoting Emma Tonkin in BECTA research report, ‘If it quacks like a duck…’ Developments in search technologies].

What should/must/could we (however defined) do/agree/build/try next (when)?

Discussion: Aaron: tagging, clusters. Machine tags (namespace: predicate: value).
me: let’s build semantic webby things into what we’re doing now to help facilitate the conversations and agreements, provide real world examples – attack the problem from the bottom up and the top down.

Slide 49 shows three possible modes: make collections machine-processable via the web; build ontologies and frameworks around added tags; develop more layered and localised meaning. [The data (the data around the data) gets smarter and richer as you move through those modes.]

I was reminded of this ‘mash it‘ video during this session, because it does a good jargon-free job of explaining the benefits of semantic webby stuff. I also rather cynically tweeted that the semantic web will “probably happen out there while we talk about it”.

Questions from ‘Beyond Single Repositories’ at MW2008

I’m still working on getting my notes from Museums and the Web in Montreal online.

These are notes from the questions at the ‘Beyond Single Repositories’ session. This session was led by Ross Parry, and included the papers Learning from the People: Traditional Knowledge and Educational Standards by Daniel Elias and James Forrest and The Commons on Flickr: A Primer by George Oates.

This clashed with the User-Generated Content session that I felt I should see for work, but I managed to sneak in at the end of Ross’s session. I expected this room to be packed, but it wasn’t. I guess the ripples of user-generated content and Web 2.0-ish stuff are still spreading beyond the geeks, and the pebbles of single repositories and the semantic web have barely dropped into the pond for most people. As usual, all mistakes are mine – if you asked a question and I haven’t named you or got your question wrong, drop me a line.

Quite a lot of the questions related to ‘The Commons‘.

There was a question about the difference between users who download and retain context of images, versus those who just download the image and lose all context, attribution, etc. George: Flickr considered putting the metadata into EXIF but it was problematic and wasn’t robust enough to be useful.

Another question: how to link back to institution from Flickr? George: ‘there’s this great invention called the hyperlink’. And links can also go to picture libraries to buy prints.

[I need to check this but it could really help make the case for Commons in museums if that’s the case. We might also be able to target different audiences with different requirements – e.g. commercial publications vs school assignments. I also need to check if Flickr URLs are permanent and stable.]

Seb Chan asked: how does business model of having images on Flickr co-exist with existing practices?

Flickr are cool with museums putting in content at different resolutions – it’s up to institution to decide.

“It’s so easy to do things the correct way” so please teach everyone to use CC licence stuff appropriately.

Issues are starting to be raised about revenue sharing models.

[I wonder if we could put in FOI requests to find out exactly how much revenue UK museums make from selling images compared to the overhead in servicing commercial picture libraries, and whether it varies by type of image or use. It’d be great if we could put some Museum of London/MoLAS images on Commons, particularly if we could use tagging to generate multilingual labels and re-assess images in terms of diversity – such an important issue for our London audiences; or to get more images/objects geo-located. I also wonder if there are any resourcing issues for moderation requirements, or do we just cope with whatever tags are added?]

Update: following the conference, Frankie Roberto started a discussion on the Museums Computer Group list under the subject ‘copyright licensing and museums‘. You have to be a member to post but a range of perspectives and expertise would really help move this discussion on.

Some feedback to MW2008 and other conferences

There’s a thread on the Museums and the Web conference site asking for suggestions for MW2009. I was a bit zombie-like by the time I filled out the feedback form, so I’d added some more comments.

I’m posting them here because I think they apply to lots of conferences and these are things I’d like to see generally. It might look like a lot of comments but I’m probably inspired to write because overall the conference was so good.

There were suggestions to have Pecha Kucha style sessions for people to talk about their projects. I think that’d be really useful – people in the early stages of a project could get a range of feedback and suggestions from some of the best researchers and most experienced ‘doers’ around; and the vast majority of projects that will never be written up as big conference papers can still pass on a few valuable lessons in a few minutes. It’d also help build a pool of people who had some experience presenting.

I also suggested having afternoon versions of the Birds of a Feather breakfasts. I’m one of those people who’s not at all sociable in the morning, but an afternoon session in a coffee shop or pub would be perfect. It’d also give you a way to meet people and maybe go on to dinner or drinks – it must be really difficult if you don’t know anyone there and are a bit shy. I’d imagine you could find people who are interested in the same topics more easily this way because it offers a bit more structure than just drinks.

I don’t know if there are any guidelines when writing papers but I’d like to suggest one – it’s really useful when people talk about how their projects worked in their institutions/sector, as it helps everyone work out how to champion and implement similar ideas when they get back from the conference. Or maybe that’s a thread for one of the museum geeks lists…

It would be really useful if each session listed the audience (managers, technologists, educators, etc) and the level of experience it was aimed at (e.g. absolute beginners, practitioners, people looking for a practical learning session) in the program. A lot of the papers did a really good job covering a range of potential audiences, but I might have skipped other sessions if I’d realised they were aimed at an introductory level.

Museums and the Web conferences are brilliant because they put the papers online, so this is a minor quibble, but it would be handy if the papers were available as pdf (or similar) downloads so I could load them onto my phone or laptop beforehand. That way I could follow them during the presentations if there isn’t any network connectivity, or review them afterwards.

Finally, it would be so helpful if all presenters had to put their slides online somewhere, tagged with the conference tag and linked from the conference site. The one paper I’ve blogged about so far had their slides online, and it helped me immensely when writing up as I could check my notes against theirs. As more people blog about conferences, you might need tags for each session – a bit more overhead, but I’m sure you’d get great conversations between people who blogged about the same sessions and hopefully with presenters too.