All the things I didn’t say in my welcome to UKMW14 ‘Museums beyond the web’…

Here are all the things I (probably) didn’t say in my Chair’s welcome for the Museums Computer Group annual conference… Other notes, images and tweets from the day are linked from ‘UKMW14 round-up: posts, tweets, slides and images‘.

Welcome to MCG’s UKMW14: Museums beyond the web! We’ve got great speakers lined up, and we’ve built in lots of time to catch up and get to know your peers, so we hope you’ll enjoy the day.

It’s ten years since the MCG’s Museums on the Web became an annual event, and it’s 13 years since it was first run in 2001. It feels like a lot has changed since then, but, while the future is very definitely here, it’s also definitely not evenly distributed across the museum sector. It’s also an interesting moment for the conference, as ‘the web’ has broadened to include ‘digital’, which in turn spans giant distribution networks and tiny wearable devices. ‘The web’ has become a slightly out-dated shorthand term for ‘audience-facing technologies’.

When looking back over the last ten years of programmes, I found myself thinking about planetary orbits. Small planets closest to the sun whizz around quickly, while the big gas giants move incredibly slowly. If technology start-ups are like Mercury, completing a year in just 88 Earth days, and our audiences are firmly on Earth time, museum time might be a bit closer to Mars, taking two Earth years for each Mars year, or sometimes even Jupiter, completing a circuit once every twelve years or so.

But museums aren’t planets, so I can only push that metaphor so far. Different sections of a museum move at different speeds. While heroic front of house staff can observe changes in audience behaviours on a daily basis and social media platforms can be adopted overnight, websites might be redesigned every few years, but galleries are only updated every few decades (if you’re lucky). For a long time it felt like museums were using digital platforms to broadcast at audiences without really addressing the challenges of dialogue or collaborating with external experts.

But at this point, it seems that, finally, working on digital platforms like the web has pushed museums to change how they work. On a personal level, the need for specific technical skills hasn’t changed, but more content, education and design jobs work across platforms, are consciously ‘multi-channel’ and audience rather than platform-centred in their focus. Web teams seem to be settling into public engagement, education, marketing etc departments as the idea of a ‘digital’ department slowly becomes an oxymoron. Frameworks from software development are slowly permeating organisations that use to think in terms of print runs and physical gallery construction. Short rounds of agile development are replacing the ‘build and abandon after launch’ model, voices from a range of departments are replacing the disembodied expert voice, and catalogues are becoming publications that change over time.

While many of us here are comfortable with these webby methods, how will we manage the need to act as translators between digital and museums while understanding the impact of new technologies? And how can we help those who are struggling to keep up, particularly with the impact of the cuts?

Today is a chance to think about the technologies that will shape the museums of the future. What will audiences want from us? Where will they go looking for information and expertise, and how much of that information and expertise should be provided by museums? How can museums best provide access to their collections and knowledge over the next five, ten years?

We’re grateful to our sponsors, particularly as their support helps keep ticket prices affordable. Firstly I’d like to thank our venue sponsors, the Natural History Museum. Secondly, I’d like to thank Faversham & Moss for their sponsorship of this conference. Go chat to them and find out more about their work!

What are the hidden costs when you attend an event?

I think quite hard about how to make Museums Computer Groups events as inclusive as possible, from the diversity of the speakers on stage, to setting dates and times as early as possible to allow cheaper pre-booked travel, to keeping event costs down and more, but there’s always more to learn.

I’ve been thinking about the ‘shadow’ or hidden costs accrued when people attend events. For me, it’s the cost of getting to London (up to £50 if it’s at short notice) and the time it takes (up to 3 hours each way if I’m unlucky). For others, accessibility requirements add to the cost of events, whether that’s sign language translators, taxis to accessible train stations, or someone else’s time as an aide. For parents or people with other caring responsibilities, childcare costs may add to the expense of attending an event. This in turn affects our ability to put together a broad range of speakers for an event. So –

Hello parents in the UK! I’m thinking about hidden costs for speakers turning up to an event. How much does a day’s childcare cost you?
— Mia (@mia_out) June 15, 2014

I’m asking parents in the UK for a rough estimate of childcare costs for a day. You can share yours by tweeting @mia_out or share anonymously via this form if 140 characters won’t allow you to mention things like your location, number and age of kids: What are the hidden costs when you attend an event?* The second question on the form is more general, so if your costs have nothing to do with parenting, go for it! I’ll share the answers so that other event organisers have a sense of the costs too.

Here are some responses to get you started – with thanks to those who’ve already shared their costs:

@otfrom @mia_out @JeniT £12 / hr for 2. A full day is usually 100 plus. Quite difficult to justify often esp w/ travel.
— Yodit Stanton (@yoditstanton) June 15, 2014

about £40 a day in the West Midlands.
— Andrew Fray (@tenpn) June 15, 2014

@mia_out childcare is £3/hr for a 5 year old. Was 330/mth as a child for 5 hrs a day.
— Mick Brennan (@lightzenton) June 15, 2014

We’re a volunteer Committee rather than professional events organisers, and there’s a humbling amount to learn from people out there. What hidden costs have I missed? Are there factors apart from cost that we should consider? We’ve got a Call for Papers for November 7’s UKMW14: Museums Beyond the Web open at the moment (until June 30, 2014) – is there any language on that CfP or our Guidance for Speakers we should look at?

Update – more responses below.

@mia_out assuming you can actually find a reliable (qualified?) babysitter for a whole day or two, then min. wage c£6 per hour at very least
— Internet Archaeology (@IntarchEditor) June 15, 2014

@mia_out nursery (under 5s) costs might be between £30-50 per day but of course they won’t do weekends
— Internet Archaeology (@IntarchEditor) June 15, 2014

@mia_out day would cost us £90 or so, but not always poss; last conf my wife presented at I took leave and came along to look after babies.
— Jakob Whitfield (@thrustvector) June 15, 2014

@mia_out @otfrom Nurseries in East Dulwich vary, but since they’re all oversubscribed 1500/month isn’t outrageous.
— JulianBirch (@JulianBirch) June 15, 2014

@mia_out That’s 8-6 including meals. Costs typically go down after age 2.But plenty of people can’t find childcare at all and give up work.
— JulianBirch (@JulianBirch) June 15, 2014

@mia_out About £50 a day. We’re lucky in that our nursery will usually have space if we need an extra day.
— suzicatherine (@suzicatherine) June 15, 2014

The daily childcare costs (£40 pc,pd) are usually factored into a working day @mia_out The early drop off and/or late pick up can be tricky!
— Kathryn Eccles (@KathrynEccles) June 15, 2014

I’d been thinking of single-day events and the impact on speaker availability, but I was reminded of the impact of childcare and other responsibilities for people wanting to attend residential programmes or longer events (or day events that require an overnight stay to fit the travel in). For example:

@mia_out can’t bring pets to conf., and dog walkers are not cheap #hiddencost
— Scott (@moltude) June 16, 2014

The ability to attend residential events for career or research fellowships is obviously going to have an impact on the types of people we see in leadership positions in later years, so thinking about things like childcare (which might be as simple as providing space for someone who already helps look after the family) now would make a positive difference later. On the positive side, many fellowships provide honorariums, which could help cover the hidden costs many of you have shared with me.

* I’m experimenting with typeform but already I’m concerned that their forms don’t seem accessible – how are they for you?

Collaboration, constraints and cloning and ‘the open museum’: notes from UKMW13

MCG’s UK Museums on the Web 2013: ‘Power to the people’ was held at Tate Modern on November 15, 2013. These are very selected notes but you can find out more about the sessions and see most slides on the MCG’s site. UKMW13 began with a welcome from me (zzz) and from Tate’s John Stack (hoorah!) then an announcement from our sponsors, Axiell Adlib and CALM, that CALM, Mimsy and AdLib are merging to create ‘next generation’ collections system – the old school collections management geek in me is really curious to see what that means for museums, libraries and archives and their data.

Our first keynote, Hannah Freeman, presented on the Guardian’s work to reach and engage new audiences. This work is underpinned by editor Alan Rusbridger’s vision for ‘open journalism‘:

‘journalism which is fully knitted into the web of information that exists in the world today. It links to it; sifts and filters it; collaborates with it and generally uses the ability of anyone to publish and share material to give a better account of the world’. 

At a casual glance the most visible aspect may be comments on pages, but the Guardian is aiming for collaborations between the reader and the newsroom – if you haven’t seen Guardian Witness, go check it out. (I suspect the Witness WWI assignment will do better than many heritage crowdsourcing efforts.) I know some museums are aiming to be of the web, not just on the web, but this ambition is usually limited to making their content of the web, while a commitment to open journalism suggests that the very core practices of journalism are open to being shaped by the public.

The Guardian is actively looking for ways to involve the audience; Freeman prompts editors and authors to look at interesting comments, but ‘following as well as leading is a challenge for journalists’. She said that ‘publication can be the beginning, not the end of the process’ and that taking part in the conversation generated is now part of the deal when writing for the Guardian (possibly not all sections, and possibly staff journalists rather than freelancers?). From a reader’s point of view, this is brilliant, but it raises questions about how that extra time is accounted for. Translating this into the museum sector and assuming that extra resources aren’t going to appear, if you ask curators to blog or tweet, what other work do you want them to give up?

Hannah Freeman, Guardian Community coordinator for culture at UKMW13. Photo: Andrew Lewis

Our closing keynote, the Science Gallery’s Michael John Gorman was equally impressive. Dublin’s Science Gallery has many constraints – a small space, no permanent collection, very little government funding, but he seems to be one of those people who sees interesting problems to solve where other people see barriers. The Science Gallery acts as funnel for ideas, from an open call for shows to some people working on their ideas as a ‘brains trust’ with the gallery and eventually a few ideas making it through the funnel and onto the gallery floor to incubate and get feedback from the public. Their projects have a sense of ‘real science’ about them – some have an afterlife in publications or further projects, some might go horribly wrong or just not work. I can’t wait until their gallery opens in London so I can check out some of their shows and see how they translate real scientific questions into interesting participatory experiences. Thinking back over the day, organisations like the Science Gallery might be the museum world’s version of open journalism: the Science Gallery’s ‘funnel’ is one way of putting the principles of the ‘open museum’ into practice (I’ve copied the Guardian’s 10 principles of open journalism below for reference).

Michael John Gorman, The Ablative Museum

Possible principles for ‘the open museum’?

While the theme of the day was the power of participation, I’ve found myself reflecting more on the organisational challenges this creates. Below are the Guardian’s 10 principles of open journalism. As many of the presentations at UKMW13 proved, museums are already doing some of these, but which others could be adapted to help museums deal with the challenges they face now and in the future?
  • It encourages participation. It invites and/or allows a response
  • It is not an inert, “us” or “them”, form of publishing
  • It encourages others to initiate debate, publish material or make suggestions. We can follow, as well as lead. We can involve others in the pre-publication processes
  • It helps form communities of joint interest around subjects, issues or individuals
  • It is open to the web and is part of it. It links to, and collaborates with, other material (including services) on the web
  • It aggregates and/or curates the work of others
  • It recognizes that journalists are not the only voices of authority, expertise and interest
  • It aspires to achieve, and reflect, diversity as well as promoting shared values
  • It recognizes that publishing can be the beginning of the journalistic process rather than the end
  • It is transparent and open to challenge – including correction, clarification and addition

The open museum isn’t necessarily tied to technology, though the affordances of digital platforms are clearly related, but perhaps its association with technology is one reason senior managers are reluctant to engage fully with digital methods?

A related question that arose from Hannah’s talk – are museums now in the media business, like it or not? And if our audiences expect museums to be media providers, how do we manage those expectations? (For an alternative model, read David Weinberger’s Library as Platform.)

Emerging themes from UKMW13

I’ve already posted my opening notes for Museums on the Web 2013: ‘Power to the people’ but I want to go back to two questions I was poking around there: ‘how can technologists share our knowledge and experience with others?’, and ‘why isn’t the innovation we know happens in museum technology reflected in reports like last week’s ‘Digital Culture: How arts and cultural organisations in England use technology‘? (Or, indeed, in the genre of patronising articles and blog posts hectoring museums for not using technology.) This seems more relevant than I thought it would be in 2013. Last year I was wondering how to define the membership of the Museums Computer Group when everyone in museums was a bit computer-y, but maybe broad digital literacy and comfort with technology-lead changes in museum practice is further off than I thought. (See also Rachel Coldicutt’s ‘I Say “Digital!”, You Say “Culture!”‘). How do we bridge the gap? Is it just a matter of helping every museum go through the conversations necessary to create a digital strategy and come out the other side? And whose job is it to help museum staff learn how to manage public engagement, ecommerce, procurement, hiring when the digital world changes so quickly?
Another big theme was a reminder of how much is possible when you have technical expertise on hand to translate all the brilliant ideas museums have into prototypes or full products. At one point I jokingly tweeted that the museum and heritage sector would make huge leaps if we could just clone Jim O’Donnell (or the BBC’s R&D staff). Perhaps part of the ‘museums are digitally innovative’/’museums suck at digital’ paradox is that technologists can see the potential of projects and assume that a new standard has been set, but it takes a lot more time and work to get them integrated into mainstream museum practice. Part of this may be because museums struggle to hire and keep really good developers, and don’t give their developers the time or headspace to play and innovate. (Probably one reason I like hackdays – it’s rare to get time to try new things when there is more worthy work than there is developer/technologist time – being inspired at conferences only goes so far when you can’t find a bit of server space and a free day to try something out.) This has also been a theme at the first day at MCN2013, from what I’ve seen on twitter/webcasts from afar, so it’s not only about the budget cuts in the UK. The Digital Culture report suggests that it may also be because senior management in museums don’t know how to value ‘digital experimentation’?

Other, more positive, themes emerged to link various presentations during the day. Community engagement can be hugely rewarding, but it takes resources – mostly staff time – to provide a conduit between the public and the organisation. It also takes a new mindset for content creators, whether journalists, educators or curators to follow the crowds’ lead, but it can be rewarding, whether it’s getting help identifying images from ‘armchair archaeologists’, working with online music communities to save their memories before they’re lost to living memory or representing residents experiences of their city. Both presenters and the audience were quick to raise questions about the ethics of participatory projects and the wider implications of content/item collecting projects and citizen history.

Constraints, scaffolding, the right-sized question or perfectly themed niche collection – whatever you call it, giving people boundaries when asking for contributions is effective. Meaningful participation is valued, and valuable.

Open content enables good things to happen. Digital platforms are great at connecting people, but in-person meetups and conversations are still special.

Finally, one way or another the audience will shape your projects to their own ends, and the audience proved it that day by taking to twitter to continue playing Curate-a-Fact between tea breaks.

We should have a proper archive of all the #UKMW13 tweets at some point, but in the meantime, here’s a quick storify for MCG’s Museums on the Web 2013: Power to the people. Oh, and thank you, thank you, thank you to all the wonderful people who helped the day come together.

Opening notes for Museums on the Web 2013: ‘Power to the people’

It’ll take me a few days to digest the wonderfulness that was MCG’s UK Museums on the Web 2013: ‘Power to the people’, so in lieu of a summary, here are my opening notes for the conference… (With the caveat that I didn’t read this but still hopefully hit most of these points on the day).

Welcome to Museums on the Web 2013! I’m Mia Ridge, Chair of the Museums Computer Group.

Hopefully the game that began at registration has helped introduce you to some people you hadn’t met before…You can vote on the game in the auditorium over the lunch break, and the winning team will be announced before the afternoon tea break. Part of being a welcoming community is welcoming others, so we tried to make it easier to start conversations. If you see someone who maybe doesn’t know other people at the event, say hi. I know that many of you can feel like you’re working alone, even within a big organisation, so use this time to connect with your peers.

This week saw the launch of a report written for Nesta, the Arts Council, and the Arts and Humanities Research Council in relation to the Digital R&D Fund for the Arts, ‘Digital Culture: How arts and cultural organisations in England use technology‘. One line in the report stood out: ‘Museums are less likely than the rest of the sector to report positive impacts from digital technologies’ – which seems counter-intuitive given what I know of museums making their websites and social media work for them, and the many exciting and effective projects we’ve heard about over the past twelve years of MCG’s UK Museums on the Web conferences (and on our active discussion list).

The key to that paradox may lie in another statement in the report: museums report ‘lower than average levels of digital expertise and empowerment from their senior management and a lower than average focus on digital experimentation, and research and development’.* (It may also be that a lot of museum work doesn’t fit into an arts model, but that’s a conversation for another day.) Today’s theme almost anticipates this – our call for papers around ‘Power to the people’ asked for responses around the rise of director-level digital posts the rise of director-level digital posts and empowering museum staff to learn through play as well as papers on grassroots projects and the power of embedding digital audience participation and engagement into the overall public engagement strategy for a museum.

Today we’ll be hearing about great projects from museums and a range of other organisations, but reports like this – and perhaps the wider issue of whether senior management and funders understand the potential of digital beyond new forms of broadcast and ticket sales – raises the question of whether we’re preaching to the converted. How can we help others in museums benefit from the hard-won wisdom and lessons you’ll hear today?

The Museums Computer Group has always been a platform for people working with museum technology who want to create positive change in the sector: our motto is ‘connect, support, inspire’, and we’re always keen to hear your ideas about how we can help you connect, support and inspire you, but as a group we should also be asking: how can we share our knowledge and experience with others? It can be difficult to connect with and support others when you’re flat out with your own work, yet the need to scale up the kinds of education we might have done with small groups working on digital projects is becoming more urgent as audience expectations change and resources need to be spent even more carefully. Ultimately we can help each other by helping the sector get better at technology and recognise the different types of expertise already available within the heritage sector. Groups like the MCG can help bridge the gap; we need your voices to reach senior management as well as practitioners and those who want to work with museums who’ll shape the sector in the future.

It’s rare to find a group so willing to share their failures alongside their successes, so willing to generously share their expertise and so keen to find lessons in other sectors. We appreciate the contributions of many of you who’ve spoken honestly about the successes and failures of your projects in the past, and applaud the spirit of constructive conversation that encourages your peers to share so openly and honestly with us. I’m looking forward to learning from you all today.

* Update to add a link to an interview with MTM’s Richard Ellis who co-authored the Nesta report, who says the ‘sheer extent of the divide between those in the know and those not’ was one of the biggest surprises working in the culture sector.

Some personal highlights from UKMW12: Strategically Digital

#ukmw12 trended over 'Christmas'
#UKMW12 trended above Christmas!

There are a few reports about UKMW12, the Museums Computer Group’s Museums on the Web 2012 conference out there already and I’ve already written about the themes for UKMW12, but as I wanted to note some things I wanted to remember or follow up on later, I might as well share them. But be warned, these notes are very sketchy because I was keeping an eye on lots of other things on the day (and preparing for my first ever AGM as Chair). It’s amazing how quickly one day can go by when you’ve spent so long preparing for it.

The keynotes
Andy Dobson talked about the incredible new energy that ‘creative technology’ is bringing to digital work. He remember going to a show on London’s South Bank and seeing Mosaic, Myst on a mac and Nicholas Negroponte’s Being Digital, all for the first time. My first experiences with the potential of the web were different, but I remember that sense of exciting things being in the very near future, and of the web being something you could do as well as something you used.

I loved that he turned the proliferation of web technologies and the number of acronyms in the standard developer’s toolkit into a positive – ‘it’s exciting, it’s like the early days again’. His broader description of ‘hackers’ as people who apply technology to the creative process was inspiring, and perhaps particularly apt for museums. They’re people who circumvent standard practices, and while hack days can be technology-led they can also be about hacking internal processes.

He emphasised that digital is inherently multi-disciplinary work, encompassing technology, user experience design, sociology, etc and that it doesn’t work if any one discipline hogs the process. If I were to pull out one thread from the day, it might be the idea that ‘digital’ is too big to stay in technology departments while also being too important to deliver without taking seriously the expertise of technologists and related disciplines. As Tate’s John Stack put it, ‘digital doesn’t respect organisational boundaries’, a theme that was echoed by the V&A’s Rich Barrett-Small who called on developers to ‘flex within the scope of the museum’ and not just be ‘grumpy developers in the basement’ while pointing out they also need to be ‘a strong and credible voice’ within the museum. Perhaps as Andrew said, ‘organisational hacking’ is the answer, though ‘change management’ and new forms of collaboration might be a less scary description to use within a museum.
Speaking of ‘makers’, Andrew gave some great examples of artworks and the migration of the web ethos into the physical world. The thought that a Maker Faire can draw in 100,000 people is mind-blowing. I loved his description of the ‘creative gene pool’, partly because museums can play that role in others lives, but sometimes we need a reminder to go and hang out and be inspired by our collections. And to close, a tweet from @Sarah_Fellows that brought Andy’s points right into the sector: ‘#ukmw12 Access, community, sharing, collaboration, learning; interesting that the words which describe digital creatives = heritage ideals’. There was a great question from the audience about ‘how do you get inspiration when recommendation systems are geared at giving you things you already like?’, which doubles as a great challenge for online collections sites.

Metrics, Channels, Engagement, Re-use, Transparency, ContentPaul Rowe introduced us to the ‘online collection hamburger‘ in which metrics and content surround channels, engagement, re-use and transparency. He pointed out that ‘Collection content is internet gold – it’s unique, interesting, has an emotional connection with people, places and times’ but also that a museum website is ‘no longer the final destination for publishing online content’. I loved his solution to the fact that a single museum can’t always answer a user’s query: ‘show related content from other museums if you don’t have an object for a search term’. His statement that ‘We shouldn’t be leading people into a dead end just for the sake of keeping them on our website’ should be made into t-shirts and sold outside digital project planning meetings, and his advocacy for ‘wonder’ and surfacing interesting things from your collections made me wish I was working on a museum website again. Paul provided examples from museums across the world, and was a brilliant advocate for both collections and audiences.

Mobile
One of the surprising highlights of the day was the general realisation of the importance of mobile traffic to museum websites. As Andrew Lewis said of the V&A’s digital strategy: ”If it doesn’t work on mobile it’s probably not going to happen’. I suppose I’ve been immersed in research on mobile devices and behaviours (not least for the Culture24-led action research project ‘Let’s Get Real’) so I forget that not everyone is aware of how many of their visitors are on mobile devices. One figure quoted on the day on an ‘increase of 170% in mobile access in last 12 months’ came from some analysis I did for the Let’s Get Real project, so I thought I’d share some more information about that. I was reviewing analytics from the partner websites to see how many had reached the ‘tipping point’ of 20% or more visits on mobiles, and thought I’d compare that to the same period for the previous year (Jan-Aug 2011 and Jan-Aug 2012) to see how fast mobile visits were increasing. It turns out that in general there was a 170% increase in mobile visits to cultural websites. So even if you’re getting less than 20% mobile visits now, it won’t be long before mobile is important for you too. But a caveat – there’s a lot of variation across different organisations (and regions) so as ever, your milage may vary.  The project report will contain lots more detail, but at least now there’s some context for that stat.

Put visitors at the heart of what you do
Whether it’s through data analytics or digital R&D, this was a theme of Tom Grinsted’s talk on making data-based decisions, and lay behind Nick Poole asking how and why museums are sharing their content online (and asking for help in building on his research into different options for sharing collections online) and Katy Beale asking us to prioritise people over products. Claire Ross and Jane Audas talked about the impact of stakeholder management on agile, iterative projects but looked beyond organisational issues to focus on their key positive finding about trusting audiences when moderating social media.

The lesson of the day may be that the whole point of a digital strategy is to help balance the internal needs of a large, often conservative organisation like a museum with the changing needs of our audiences.  It’s clear that the best strategies are a framework for decision-making rather than a static document, but perhaps they’re also a reminder of why we’re doing it in the first place: to connect audiences with knowledge and collections.

And just in case that’s not enough UKMW12 for you, I’ve made a storify of the day:

‘Behind-the-themes’ at the UK Museums on the Web conference – UKMW12 ‘Strategica​lly Digital’

Full disclosure: I’m the Chair of the Museums Computer Group, and in this case I also chaired the Programme Committee, but I think we’ve put together a really strong programme.  I thought I’d provide some background here about where the themes came from.  (Also, I’ll take any excuse for a punning title.)

When putting together the themes, I reviewed reports from a number of international conferences and went through the archives of the MCG’s mailing list to get a sense of the issues that were both bugging our members on a daily basis and having an impact on museums more generally.  I’ve also spent time talking to staff in museums in Australia, New Zealand, Taiwan, the US and (of course) the UK and those conversations also informed the themes.  I also referred back to the MCG Committee‘s discussions about our vision for ‘MCG@30’, which included supporting our members by advocating for their work at higher levels of the museum sector. Hopefully this event is part of this process, as is a session on ‘digital strategy’ at the Museums Association conference.

For me, being ‘strategically digital’ means the best solution for a project might not involve technology.  Being ‘strategically digital’ offers some solutions to the organisational change issues raised by the mismatch between web speed and museum speed, and it means technology decisions should always refer back to a museum’s public engagement strategy (or infrastructure plans for background ICT services).

Like our ‘Engaging digital audiences in museums’ Spring meeting that aimed to get museum technologists and educators talking and learning from each other, UKMW12 is about breaking out of our comfortable technology-focused bubble and making sure the goals and language of web and digital teams relate to the rest of the organisation; it’s also about helping the rest of the museum understand your work.  We’ve seen a range of people sign up for tickets so far, so hopefully the day will provide a chance for staff to understand more about the workings of their own museum as well as the museums presenting on the day.  The conference is grounded in reality: our speakers address both successes and failures in digital strategies and organisational change.  You can get a sneak preview of the range of discussion on the day at Andrew Dobson’s post on ‘10 things I have learned working for Sky‘, Tate’s Online Strategy or Caper on Happenstance, Simon Tanner’s ‘Balanced Value Impact Model‘ and of course through the talk abstracts in the programme.   Some of our best Museums on the Web conferences have featured a similar mix of fresh voices from outside the sector and hard-won wisdom from within the sector, so I have high hopes for this event.

After some thought, a call for papers and the input of the wonderful 2012 Programme Committee (Ross Parry, Melissa Terras, Carolyn Royston and Stuart Dunn), this is the result:

Logo that says: 'museums computer group: connect me, support me, inspire me'

The Museums Computer Group’s annual Museums on the Web conference – UKMW12 – will be held at the Wellcome Collection in London on 30 November 2012.

UKMW12 is about being ‘strategically digital’. Responding to the issues faced by museums today, it’s an opportunity to take a step back from the everyday and think strategically about the impact of the digital revolution on your museum and on the sector as a whole, including themes such as: digitally enabling the modern museum and its staff; sustaining the digital agenda and the realities of digital strategies and organisational change; and the complexities of digital engagement and the impact of social media on audience expectations. 

UKMW12 brings together speakers from organisations including the Tate, the V&A, UCL, King’s College, the Guardian, Strategic Content Alliance, Collections Trust and Caper. 

As always, UK Museums on the Web is a day for being inspired by the latest ideas, for learning from case studies grounded in organisations like yours, and for networking with other technologists, curators, managers, academics, learning and marketing specialists in the museum and heritage sector. 

Don’t miss out! Book your ticket now at http://ukmw12.eventbrite.co.uk
Find out more about the conference at http://bit.ly/ukmw12.

If you’ve never been (or haven’t been for a while) to an MCG event, these posts link to several event reports from attendees and should give you an idea of who goes and what’s discussed: Your blog posts and tweets about ‘Engaging digital audiences in museums’ (Spring 2012); UKMW11 Blog Posts (theme: The innovative museum: creating a brighter future); UK Museums on the Web 2010.

On a personal note, this event will mark 30 years since the first ever Museums Computer Group event, and eight years since the first UK Museums on the Web conference – a milestone worth celebrating!  If you’d like to be an active part of the MCG’s future, we’ll be electing new committee members in the lunchtime AGM on November 30.  Get in touch if you’re curious about how you could contribute…

The (UK) Museums Computer Group – can you tell us what you think of MCG?

The Museums Computer Group is interested in canvassing a wide range of views. If you’re not a member but work in a relevant field, we’d be interested to hear about why you’re not a member, and of course if you’re a member we’d love to hear about how we can help you and your organisations.

Message from the MCG committee (of which I’m a member) below.

As our next 25 years of Museums Computer Group activity begins, we’re looking to the future, and what sort of shape you – the membership – would like the MCG to take.

To get your views, we’ve set up an online survey on http://www.museumscomputergroup.org.uk.

As the sector opens up to new ways to meet audiences, new ways to allow access to searchers, and new horizons like the semantic web, the MCG committee think it’s time to open up our plans to all our members for comment.

If you think about it, the way people work together, think together and spark ideas off each other is changing rapidly right now. Many of us are on Facebook or LinkedIn – what sort of opportunities might networks like these bring MCG? How can we truly make the group represent the excitement and feel of the 21st century digital world?

Do you think we should still be publishing printed newsletters, or is the web a better place to find the published expertise and thinking of a respected professional organisation? Should MCG continue to plan regular meetings for members around the UK? Does our conventional committee structure really represent the sector and serve the membership?

We’d like you to tell us what you think about these issues, and anything else you feel would be constructive and helpful. It would be great if you could visit the MCG website (http://www.museumscomputergoup.org.uk)
and click the survey link on the homepage.

If you’d rather not fill in online forms, send an email directly to MCG Chair, Debbie Richards – DRichards@leics.gov.uk.

We’ll be reporting survey results to the membership at the Spring 08 MCG meeting, which is on 23rd April at the National Waterfront Museum, Swansea (http://www.museumscomputergroup.org.uk/meetings/1-2008.shtml)
and on the MCG website.

Bookings are now being taken for the meeting and please do book soon as spaces are filling up fast.

With best wishes,

The Committee of the Museums Computer Group

“Sharing authorship and authority: user generated content and the cultural heritage sector” online now

I’ve put a rough and ready version of my paper from the UK museums and the web conference session on ‘The Personal Web’ online at Sharing authorship and authority: user generated content and the cultural heritage sector.