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.
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.
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).
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!