Thursday, August 30, 2007

London musings ...

Had a wonderful set of meetings yesterday and learned heaps. Made all kinds of promises for web links, etc so decided to just do a blog post to put them all together. These are my impressions folks, so please feel free to comment and correct!

My first meeting was with Xerxes, Stuart, Susie and Catherine at the British Museum. The BM is at the early stages of implementing an audience strategy, including ways to more closely integrate audience research across the BM, and the use of cross-divisional project teams in planning exhibitions. We had a wide-ranging discussion about the role of audience research, measuring learning, and I finally understand how to use audience segmentation (thanks for that Xerxes!). The way the Interpretation Unit is set-up where staff take on roles of audience advocate and visitor research, among other things, was really interesting with the potential to shake the BM up over the next few years – one organisation to watch I think. I was also fortunate to catch up with Stuart to talk all things web and their plans for e-commerce and online access. Stuart is also very interested in the ideas surrounding online learning, which was great to hear.

Here are the links I promised you:

audience-research » Audience Research Articles – scroll down this page to download the paper
Evaluation, Research and Communities of Practice: Program Evaluation in Museums. This paper outlines the history of audience research in museums, what it's all about and what are the future challenges

audience-research » Museum Learning – here's where various chapters from my thesis can be downloaded. Chapter 2 is the learning literature review and Chapter 7 outlines the major findings, how they relate to the literature and what they mean for museums

Resources page on my website – contains the pdf file Writing Text and Labels (go down the page a bit)

Stuart, here are the blog addresses/posts I promised:

Introduction to museums and Web 2.0 – my post about what Web 2.0 is with relevant links

fresh + new blog – Seb's blog about digital media and museums

Museum 2.0 – Nina Simon's blog about museums, web 2.0, design and many other gems

Post about social technographics on fresh+new. I bought this report and it was worth the money, we're doing a similar study in Australia

M&W paper on web users – proposes a useful typology of online learners

Next was a detailed visit to the Natural History Museum. Catching up on gossip with Michael, sharing various Facebook addiction stories, lunch with Emma and Georgina was followed by a tour through the systema metropolis exhibition with Alice. I have published my review of this exhibition on the ExhibitFiles website, but am unable to upload images for some reason (I think due to my hotel's web access), so I'll add them later.

A very invigorating two-hour seminar followed with a range of staff from learning, interpretation, content, multimedia and web who kept me on my toes! Again a wide-ranging discussion with a focus on how to get findings acted on, different methods for doing research, budgets, using consultants, all things web and the future and, finally, where best to place an audience research function (my answer – needs to be separate and report to a senior level to keep objectivity and enable research to feed in to the institution at the highest levels). The seminar was taped and I might post a short excerpt if I'm feeling brave (and have not been too much my usual tactless elf!). Finally, after birthday cake, I consumed several lagers at the Hoop chatting to some of the curators feeling I could have been back in Sydney – same issues different museums!

Here are the website addresses I promised (additional to above):

AMARC: Australian Museum Audience Research Centre – my website with various links and resources

Audience Research blog

Audience Research wiki

I also need to post a link to my Visitor Voice post on the New Literacy, New Audiences blog but it seems to have disappeared! Will follow that up.

Thanks to all for a great day! See you on Facebook J.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

ICOM 2007 Day 4 morning

What am amazing morning of papers ranging from Austria; Mexico; Greece; Italy; Sweden; Taiwan; Scotland; Germany; Australia just to name a few. My challenge will be to post 1-2 major points from each paper (that is if I don't get distracted by that Facebook!!). Wish me luck!

Research Session

  • Science with all Senses – gender and science in the making (ZOOM Museum, Austria)
    • Both males and females are involved in working with the children, and they come from various backgrounds apart from science
  • Learning from the best: success factors for effective audience research (Eva Reussner, Germany)
    • Challenge to use the evaluations findings – responding to and taking notice of them in planning
    • Identified 12 success factors – including integration, acceptance, senior management support, audience orientation, research utility, research quality, communication, responsibility, understanding, readiness to learn, involvement, resources (on a sliding scale – so integration is the most important and then down from there)
    • Success of audience research not only depends on the researcher but needs the commitment and involvement of senior management and staff
  • Using generic learning outcomes (GLO) as a strategic tool to evaluate impact of learning (Jenny Fuchs, Scotland)
    • Beyond the Palace Walls exhibition used with the evaluation to inform the development of new galleries and an evaluation (200 questionnaires, 20 pre- and post-interviews) using the GLO framework
    • One of the questions used "Was there anything in the exhibition that surprised you?" – I like that one!
    • Some learning outcomes difficult to measure in informal settings
    • GLOs provide a common language to talk about learning; help steer projects that focus on the learner; helps focus evaluation
    • Limitations: some GLOs difficult to measure; responses are self-reflective; measures immediate intent; no measure of long-term impact (although I believe that these are all able to be addressed)
    • I'm very interested in the GLO framework – check it out here Inspiring Learning for All
    • Jenny's presentation can be found here
  • Training of museum personnel in Lombardy's museums (Italy)
    • Umm, sorry, this was in French and I forgot to get my headset thing ...
  • Museums, universities and schools (Athens)
    • Working together with teachers shows that learning outcomes are better for the students – teachers can play a very important role in reading, using and enjoying museums of all different types
  • An exploratory study of learning styles of visitors in the Museum of World Religions (Wanchen Liu, Taipei)
    • Used Kolb's theory of learning styles – divergers, accommodators, assimilators, convergers
    • Important to provide different points of access/learning styles to enable visitors learn about religion
  • Education, learning and leisure (Holger Hoge, University of Oldenburg)
    • Talked to visitors about their concepts of learning: first thing they said was acquisition of knowledge
    • After visiting a museum they are relaxed, satisfied, tired...
    • Museums need to be aware of free-choice learning and how it fits with leisure
    • Here's his website IAEA - International Association of Empirical Aesthetics


  • Pushing the pedagogical boundaries at South Australian Museum (Chris Nobbs)
    • Presented a range of really interesting educational and outreach programs based on different learning principles
  • Do heritage museums preclude visitors' constructing their own narratives (Niza Levavi, Israel)
    • Historical museums presented narratives as closed texts with no opportunities to talk about different points of view – even if the museum says they are doing it needs to be better incorporated into how they plan their programs from the very start
  • Needs and desires, the evaluation of an open-ended exhibit (Silvia and Leticia, Mexico)
    • Talked about the exhibition and the range of methods used to evaluate it – will post the presentation to CECA site (here) when Silvia gives it to me
  • Training for museum education and learning ... (Anne Liden, Sweden)
    • Reported on a range of student projects in areas of diversity and immigration – some of the students were also from these groups
    • Students from immigrant backgrounds have many challenges when studying in universities and schools – this is also a challenge for museums
  • Cultural heritage, lifelong learning and social economy (Henrik Zipsane, Sweden)
    • Problems – what is lifelong learning? Seems to be about employability when defined by groups such as UNESCO
    • Many discussions suggest lifelong learning has its natural end at retirement – he believes (as do I) that it goes from cradle to grave
    • Elderly people are over-represented in museums in areas of genealogy research, visitors and volunteers
    • Focussed on learning to learn in their research – regard the third age as another learning cycle and that heritage institutions have a lot to offer for elderly people and their learning

That's it from me at ICOM/CECA'07 folks. This afternoon is the Market of Ideas and I'll kill myself trying to blog that! Instead, look at the program to see what you missed.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

ICOM 2007 Day 3 Morning session

Gave my talk this morning – nerve-wracking, yet satisfying at the same time. Here's the links to my paper and other things mentioned in my talk:

I was truly honoured to share the stage with Elaine Gurian, one of the leading museum thinkers and a really nice person who has been very supportive of my work – thanks Elaine! I have to spend some time digesting what Elaine was talking about as well as our discussion so I'll post something later. I did place all the links to sites that Elaine and I mentioned on the What's new: August 2007 page of the CECA website.

Then had to rush on over to INTERCOM to give my paper about Museums and cultural diversity in Australia. Was slightly stressed at this pint as I was the last speaker after a looong morning, but all seemed to go well. Have posted my PowerPoint presentation as a pdf file on this wiki here (wasn't able to post the presentation here unfortunately. All papers from INTERCOM will be on their website.

ICOM 2007 Day 2 Afternoon session

Was going to go to the NATHIST group this pm (the natural history museums group). Their program sounds fantastic with several Aussies presenting. Unfortunately I didn't get there as my lunch only arrived at 2pm!! I was disappointed to miss Janet Carding's talk Can natural history museums change the world? A view from Sydney. However, I know that she would be talking about a discussion held at the Museum about the Tom Hennes Hyperconnections article in Curator. Some of that discussion can be found on this wiki - audience-research » Hyperconnection article.

Pity, but luck was with me as I proceeded to have a great lunch with Eilean Hooper-Greenhill and Graham Black. We ranged over the world of Web 2.0 and what this means for museums. I promised that I would give them some links to further information so are two:


Monday, August 20, 2007

ICOM 2007 Day 2 Morning Session

Spent this morning at CECA. Have to take notes quickly so some will be abbreviated – hope you all understand!

Rick West, who I have long admired, gave the first keynote address at CECA. Called Native
America in Museums: The Passing of the Talking Stick, Rick discussed issues around who gets to talk at museums and the concepts of authority and representation. Change in view to idea that communities need to be involved in the work of the museum and in telling their own stories. Scholars have written that need to move museums beyond one-dimensional representation to multiple ones to fully represent the many diverse communities. He feels that US museums are well on their way to a position of shared authority. Motivation came from within the museum community itself, moved away from the metaphorical "temple". All people with legitimate claim may not view museum material in same ways as museum. Widening of concept of authority means museums are becoming different places. Programs based on shared authority widens museum's scope, with a direct benefit to the visitors. Museum as a true forum, gathering place for diverse views has a salutary impact on museums. Museums as forum draws it closer to the community of which it is a part. Becomes a public and civic space.

Experience of NMAI: Museum has a deep relationship with native peoples across North America who were involved in all aspects of development of the museum and shares authority with Native peoples. Five guiding principles for NMAI based on consultations with Native peoples:

  1. Community
  2. Locality – Indian land
  3. Vitality – we are here now
  4. Viewpoint – we know the world differently
  5. Voice – these are our stories

The next speaker was Martin Scharer from the Alimentarium, Vevey, who's paper title was Museums – places for merry discovery. Martin stated that he dislikes the term "learning" and that museums aren't places for learning (I beg to differ – see my thesis
J). Stated that people won't visit museums with boring learning materials – well, yeah! He also talked about the juxtaposition of boring learning and mindless entertainment. Again, he could read some work in my thesis on museums and dumbing down – it's on the wiki. I found the opposite: that visitors well-understood and appreciated the differences between learning, education and entertainment. One interesting part was the presentation of the different exhibition languages for enjoyment, knowledge, experience and thinking. We ran out of time which is a shame because I thought that could have been further explored.

The keynotes were followed by a panel discussing the key ideas of the morning. Cheers to Silvia Singer, one of the panellists, who stated that without the visitors museums are nothing! Objects are not the only way to showcase culture, many things are intangible and this shouldn't be dismissed. Bravo to you Silvia and great to see you here – you look terrific!

BTW I'm not being as good a blogger as I should be as I'm hanging out on Facebook – check me out Facebook | Lynda Kelly.

After morning coffee Graham Black from Nottingham Trent University gave a paper titled Creating a learning environment. It was a thrill to meet Graham as we had previously only corresponded via email when he was writing his wonderful book The Engaging Museum – check out more about Graham here. Going to take fast notes now:

  • When planning for engagement need to look at the whole visitor experience
  • Not just the responsibility of those with "learning" or "education" in their titles
  • Factors in developing a learning environment:
    • Provide stimulus to visit in first place – positive image, arriving expecting to engage
    • Keep visitors in right frame of mind – first impressions vital; create informal, user-friendly atmosphere; key role of FOH staff; minimise user effort
    • providing opportunities and support to engage – encourage reflection
    • Enable follow-up – potential of the web
  • Graham offered to email people his paper – so email him Graham Black

International Council of Museums General Conference 2007, Vienna

This conference (ICOM) is the second triennial I have attended. Traditionally these conferences are terrific, bringing together museum professionals from all around the world. There is a good Aussie contingent here, a couple of New Zealanders and a sprinkling from the Pacific region. It's been great to catch up with colleagues from Taiwan, UK, US, Canada, Netherlands, South America, Mexico, Korea, to name just a few! So far I have attended functions at INTERCOM (the committee of management) and the CECA Board meeting (CECA being the Committee for Education and Cultural Action).

Also took some time out to visit the Natural History Museum and Historical Museum. For this somewhat jaded museum-goer I was absolutely blown away by the natural history museum. The building is absolutely breathtaking and the dinosaur/fossils hall was really wonderful with many great ideas about how to inject some contemporary features into beautiful hisitorical showcases. The display of dinosaurs was stunning, also demonstrating some great interpretive features. Might try and do a separate post about that somewhere else if I get time.

Now I will attempt to blog this conference – have learned several tips from my colleague, the good Sister – which I will try and implement.

Watch this space!

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

University museums engaging university students

This question from Sebastian Moody:

Hello Lynda,
My name is Sebastian Moody I am a Masters student in Museum Studies at the University of Queensland. I have commenced a case study of how university museums engage with the wider student population.

I was hoping that you would be able to inform me about other research that has been done in this area.

Sebastian - I don't know of any studies in this area - maybe some of our university museums colleagues could advise?

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Measuring the impact of museums in their local communities

I have been asked to be a member of a steering committee established by Museums & Galleries NSW (mgNSW) to work on the Regional Audience Development Study. So how do we measure the impact of museums in their local communities? This is an issue that will continue to be of relevance to a broad range of museum folk across a range of institution types and sizes.

There have been two studies that I have been involved in that have looked at this issue from the local museum perspective. All the relevant papers and links from those studies can be viewed and downloaded on the measuring impact page on my audience research wiki. Some of the papers came from doing a simple Google search called "impact of museums", so there is a lot of available reference material.

I'd be interested in hearing about any other studies that people know of or have been involved in.