Friday, November 28, 2008

NDF Conference User-Generated Content Session

This was a really cool session. Some points I noted for us to think about for our new site:

  • Te Ara
    caters to a traditional print-based audience as well as planning a play space for those who are more web-savvy
  • Found the blog didn't generate as much two-way engagement as they expected or wanted – reinforces the idea that you have to work hard to create and build community
  • I liked their simple interface for uploading stories (although they haven't had much success with this in terms of people uploading stories)
  • Our Space set up a Flickr group months ahead of launch to generate media interest and content (and build community too?)
  • Integrated an online and physical experience, an exploration and playful space with little instruction, which is new for museums (but based on constructivist principles which are not new!)
  • Originally user-generated content not part of the brief (same for Te Ara, we need to factor this in)
  • 'Generation C' – content creators
  • Focus groups with 15-24 year olds to help develop the brief. What did they find? Its' all about me now (therefore needs to be instantaneous); young people are digital content creators (they want control and choice and ability to share); they are used to making stuff digitally; curators really need to lose control (become moderators and facilitators); must also have something the web can't deliver (i.e. the exhibition space must be able to stand alone)
  • Applied principles of social networking sites to a physical exhibition
  • Provide visitor voice and platform to interact with the museum, losing their centralised structure and control – how to reconcile this with role of protecting national treasures? (I don't think they're mutually exclusive)
  • Are working with Maori now to get their involvement as a separate project
  • Institutional paradigm shift where hosts now encourage visitors to play and explore; think about viral distribution of information and bit more sense of collaboration within Te Papa now

A great session nicely summed up by Angelina who also ran the Q&A, which meant I didn't have to do anything!

National Digital Forum Friday 28 November

Well, I've left INTERCOM and arrived in Auckland at the New Zealand National Digital Forum conference. Am facilitating a fascinating session looking at Te Ara – the Encyclopaedia of New Zealand and Our Space – a new multimedia space at The Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. I have heard people (well, only Angelina!) rave about the latter installation so be really interested to see what the developers have to say.

In the afternoon I ran an audience research workshop and the slides from that can be found here.

Wasn't able to get to the first day of their conference (or indeed their conference dinner, probably a good thing given the way I feel today!) but you can get more information here.

Paul Gerhardt, Archive for Creativity (UK) talk:

  • By 2010 all the info on the internet will double every 11 hours, YouTube has broadcast more hours of movies in past six months than three major networks broadcast between 1948 and 2008.
  • Mentioned Video Republic report – Demos 2008 (this is a good read by the way)
  • How has media shaped the ways we communicate? Emergence of writing meant a skills barrier – need to know how to read and write, now we have a plethora of products we can use beyond texts, including audio, moving images and sound
  • The written word has been central to how we renew our cultures – why should it be different for moving images?
  • George Bernard Shaw wrote about the importance of cinema in 1914
  • Five forms of Digital Literacy
  • Where is the low-hanging fruit? In public service broadcasting, given that we need to open up access to 100 years of moving images
  • But – who pays for it? Who owns it? Who looks after it? Who has rights to distribute it?? The BBC worked on this in their Open BBC project, they established an advisory group form across industry, community, etc
  • Public value and commercial value
  • Showed an awesome film about the Open Archive and how to do stuff – can't find that exact film online but will keep looking. They did audience research all the way through the pilot and changed their program based on that. There is also a very interesting section – Teachers'' TV – with lots of online resources for teachers

Eight lessons from the project:

  • Design a future proof system
  • Coopt all stakeholders
  • Prove the concept by conducting a pilot
  • Open up to creator-generated content
  • Develop infrastructure with other partners
  • Demonstrate public value (plus two others I didn't get down in time)

But with funding restrictions and a new regulatory regime meant the project didn't go ahead – what a bummer! Good talk tho.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

INTERCOM musings Part 4

Today’s the busy day for me chairing the morning plenary (including managing a scary video-conference thingy!) and giving a paper, so won’t be able to blog much. Also just realised that the paper I’m giving is not only unrelated to the conference theme but that I will be speaking a language that many people may not understand, resulting in a somewhat minor panic attack! Not helped by me not having a watch to actually time the speakers... I think it must be time for me to be getting back home!
Anyway, my talk was based on the paper Angelina and I gave at Museums and the Web 2008, so you can download it from there.

INTERCOM musings Part 3

Had a lovely breakfast in the redwood forest, although a bit cold it was still a great venue. Once we got back to the conference had the first plenary session.
Russell Staiff (UWS) The Challenges of Cross-Cultural Translation in an Age of Global Travel:
* Dilemmas when dealing with interface between tourism and heritage sites
* Chinese tourists are on the rise, they have visited 132 countries, 34.2 million Chinese travelled OS in 2006
* Tourism and museum/heritage places have become entangled entities – both positive and negative effects, it’s a complex relationship
* Destinations and itineraries: heritage sites get put on itineraries by others not the site itself (e.g. in the guidebooks), you suddenly become on the itinerary whether you want to or not – both in print and on the web and museums usually get prominent mentioned [although this is somewhat different for Sydney as seen as more of an outdoor city with a few icons]
* Work of sociologist John Urry on mobilities: are symptomatic of our modern social lives
* Need to understand the complexity of the cultural encounter, enormity of translating cultural knowledge to those who do not share the primary cultural affiliation of the place
* Examples given of Buddha Si Chum, Sukhothai World Heritage site and Michelangelo’s David: if you come from the west the former needs as much cultural translation as David would to an Asian tourist.
* Most Westerners get their cultural knowledge from Lonely Planet
* Discussed translation theory as way to think about what meanings tourists are making at these sites. Often we just literally translate the texts which can be unsatisfying. Therefore they tried a visual form of signage rather than reading dense texts. However still as one-way exchange couched in art history model
* Tourists are having a ‘wow’ experience but not one that they can comprehend! Despite the fact they don’t understand the experience they are still incredibly satisfied with their experience
* Appiah – Cosmopolitanism book, looked at making cultural differences legible rather than illegible by looking at shared values based on local, lived experiences of all humans, looking at commonalities
* Build content across what we all share
* The future of cross-cultural translation lies with digital technologies
Great and provocative paper Russell.

Fascinating session in the afternoon called Dark and Dangerous Tourism. Didn’t take many notes as my computer ran out of battery but have had a chance to reflect on what was discussed. Four speakers talked about museums/places that dealt with the Holocaust and slavery as well as museums in Cambodia and Colombia. We heard many facts and figures on visitation and visitors which got me thinking about a quote I quite like – “it’s not how many people visit museums but how valuable are their visits”. I hadn’t really heard anything from these sessions that looked at what visitors’ were experiencing and indeed even anything that looked at the front-end and visitors’ needs when visiting these often difficult and inaccessible places. Our research has found that visitors want museums to be more controversial and a bit out there as long as they have the capacity to comment and engage in a two-way conversation. The common thread here is the shared human stories and spirit that Russell talked about and I couldn’t help but think that taking a visitor-centred approach in this session may have added to what the speakers were saying. Anyway, here’s the link to Paul Williams’ book that I promised to post – Memorial Museums: The Global Rush to Commemorate Atrocities.

We then gave our session on visitor research and tourism. My paper will go on the INTERCOM conference website at some stage. It seemed to go quite well, given that we’d all had a 7am start we didn’t get out of the room until 6pm! I also managed to get in my two cents worth by quoting my hero Benjamin Gilman...

The long day was capped off with a lovely dinner, good food and an excellent NZ pinot. (oh, and the company was OK too!).

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

INTERCOM conference musings Part 2

After a rather extraordinary and moving welcome (and a very interesting and eventful journey to finally arrive in Rotorua!) we got straight into the conference theme museums, tourism, visitor experience.

Cheryll Sotheran spoke about the destination museum and national brand:

  • Move from mass-market model of 20th century to consumer niche market model of 21st century – a holistic environment where economic, social and cultural are intertwined and interdependent
  • Trends: decline of dominance of Western economies and rise of new Asian economies, with new kinds of values; move from a production to a consumption model which is market and values-driven
  • Innovative-driven production providing services and products to values-driven markets
  • What are these values? Sustainability, health and wellness, respect for authenticity, respect for culture and climate change
  • We shod be providing experiences that have integrity and authenticity, that are memorable, have a narrative approach using innovative technologies with a welcoming customer service ethos
  • Need to think about the new tourism demographic – demanding and needs-driven
  • Does hyper reality make objects obsolete [not according to our research – they can work together in my view]

What should we be doing:

  • Explore and understand technologies that exploit the gap between virtual and physical
  • Play an active and leading role in world affairs especially in areas of sustainability, climate change and social equity
  • No more 'business as usual for same old audiences', need to think more widely offering range of tailored experiences to a range of niche audiences
  • Museums need to collaborate, while still retaining their strong individual brands but an underlying sharing of resources, identify meta-narratives and perhaps a value-based regional offer using themes rather than physical locality?

Thanks Cheryll for a really inspiring opening address.

Then had a fun hook-up via videoconference to Dennis Barry who designed the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the International Spy Museum. He discussed For profit business models for museums:

  • Chose Washington for the International Spy Museum as it is a great tourist destination, 100,000 spies work there, chose site off the Mall as felt they could get tourists there
  • Need to establish credibility in the world of espionage through creating an amazing board of experts and specialists
  • A $40 million USD project
  • Bought the iconic objects of their subject matter (mostly from the KGB who had a great collection of CIA and MI5 material!)
  • A 750,000/year, $20 entry fee in city where almost others museums free, store is a huge success, 2 restaurants (museum owns and operates these), frequented by celebrities, voted one of top ten museums in Washington
  • Feels you need to have a substantial marketing budget and long lead campaign. They had a lead of 18 months with stories in many, many magazines as well as usual media outlets of TV and news
  • Produces 20% profit/year [so it can be done] and 4 million visitors so far
  • Had to do lots of business cases and lobbying, realising they needed 400,000 visitors/year to break even – used private investors as no banks would lend to them and they have got their money back several times

Lessons from the 'for profit' museum sector to the non-profit – carefully picked topic, great location, great Board (and staff too I guess) and great objects interpreted in exciting and engaging ways with access to real people, while still keeping the exhibitions fresh and new.

The afternoon session was really hard to choose which to attend. A range of papers from across 11 countries demonstrates the diversity of the offer so I won't blog this but encourage you to go to the INTERCOM conference website to read the abstracts (and eventually the papers Greg hopes!).

INTERCOM conference musings Part 1

On the way to the INTERCOM conference dropped in on the folks from Auckland Art Gallery and gave a talk: What does the "visitor experience" mean for museums in a Web 2.0 world?, which I am also giving at the conference. We had a great discussion and they really got me thinking about the following:

  • How do we integrate online with physical experiences? We talked lots about whether we provide web-based information within an exhibition or even within spaces in the museum. We also discussed the potential of mobile technologies, which is one area I'm particularly interested in as I think it is one we need to keep an eye on. I'm imagining in the future that this will be a way we can provide layered information for visitors, whether they download it direct from the web as they're in the exhibition (through using something like QR codes for example) or access it when they get home. We also need to be aware of people's attitudes to their mobile devices, as an earlier study we did at the Australian Museum (Educational websites) found that students in particular did not want to download what they saw as primarily "educational" material on to their personal phones/iPods etc.
  • Who are the audiences we should be targeting? Although I reported on our studies with young people aged 18-30 and students aged 12-18 I still feel strongly that the segment we should be focussing on is older audiences. While the young are visitors of the future, I think the older demographic is both easier to reach, are interested in museums and have the propensity to be further engaged with museums as both online and physical visitors. We found this from our older persons study (where we targeted those aged 65+) but I would now focus on those aged 35+ who have young families/grandchildren or are cultural consumers. The other group I feel passionately about are audiences with disabilities who are looking for places that are interesting, welcoming and accessible and who are also positively disposed to the arts.

Anyway, thanks for having me and here's the links I promised:

Ciao for now,

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Museum Learning Talk at Powerhouse Museum

Gave a talk at the Powerhouse Museum (PHM) today as part of their talks after noon seminar series. Was great to get back to the doctorate and remember why I got interested in this topic in the first place. My slides have been uploaded to Slideshare and chapters of the thesis are online here.

I co-presented with Helen Whitty from the PHM who gave a talk a titled Public programs: Snake oil merchants or Museum professional? Helen is always a great speaker and some points I took from her talk were:

  • Experience of the museum not just the exhibitions
  • 'Public programs are the links between the museum and its audience' (MacLulich, 1994)
  • Look at not what the public program is but what it does – for example is it a destination event; a signature program; a fixed/ongoing program linked to permanent exhibition; or special programs linked to temporary exhibitions?
  • Penfold, an early PHM Director, in 1939 was scathing about museums as 'dead places' and suggested museums should move to retail practices – he suggested that visitors should leave a museum having 'bought' something
  • What do the public actually want from a museum? Helen spoke about findings from a PHM study which found that half of those surveyed wanted 'learning' and half wanted 'pleasure' in their leisure time
  • Perceived dichotomy between education and entertainment is now an old framework, it's now about how we approach our learners and about putting our visitors at the centre (hear-hear Helen!! That's what I found in my research too)

All in all a good session and thanks for organising it Rita and Jana.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

From Taipei, Part 3

Final day of the trip was Monday when I gave two papers:

  • The Role and Development of the Australian Museum Audience Research Centre discussing how the Australian Museum Audience Research Centre was developed using a series of evaluation studies as examples
  • How to be a professional audience researcher using a large evaluation of a Museum exhibition to illustrate how to do audience research

These papers can be found here on my Audience Research wiki.

Here are the other links I promised:

  • Museum professional development and training in Australia: my notes about this talk are here and the PowerPoint slides are online here
  • Older Audiences and Museums publication can be downloaded from the website here
  • Telling Lives exhibition: where visitors could video-tape their response to an exhibition which were then uploaded to YouTube (Inthink, it's been awhile since I looked here
  • Museum 3.0 social network: feel free to join up, ask questions and contribute to discsusions

Finally, thought I'd repeat a quote from my favourite audience researcher, Benjamin Gilman, as we started and finished the day with him:

To fulfil its complete purpose as a show, a museum must do the needful in both ways. It must arrange its contents so that they can be looked at; but also help its average visitors to know what they mean. It must at once install its contents and see to their interpretation. (1918, quoted in Black, 2005).

It's all so simple really...

Anyway, overall a successful trip and looking forward to working together a lot more in the future. Thanks for your hospitality and the poster (which I almost left at Hong Kong airport!) was truly awesome – I'll try find somewhere appropriate to hang it in my new office.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

From Taipei, Part 2

Spent a really interesting morning on Saturday with Wanchen' s students from the Fu Jen Catholic University. Their task was to read an evaluation report I had sent them, comment on it and raise questions. They did a really good job, considering that some of the reports were rather complex and long! The questions they raised came under the following categories (which I think I'll use when reorganising my website as part of the general Museum website rebuild project).

Planning an evaluation:

  • Working with those who commissioned the evaluation (for example, exhibition project teams, program managers, other staff and specialists)
  • Understanding the content of the program to be evaluated
  • Developing the evaluation questions – what do we already know and what are the gaps?
  • Determining the target audience
  • Designing the method

Undertaking the evaluation:

  • Different methods (questionnaires, online surveys, focus groups, in-depth interviews, tracking, observations)
  • Sampling – how to maximise sample based on target audience; determining the sample size; maximising response rates
  • Working with consultants

Analysing results/writing the report:

  • How to write reports that people will read (for example, layering information, including Executive summaries)
  • Mixture of text and facts/figures
  • Identifying what it all means

Applying the findings:

  • How to get findings accepted
  • How to use the findings in planning future programs
  • Engaging and involving staff in the evaluation (below are points from one of my Monday papers):
    • Include staff in planning the evaluation
    • Involve staff in the data gathering phases – attend focus groups, conduct surveys, undertake observations
    • Work through the findings together – the final report should never be a surprise
    • Include staff in debriefs – and have an open discussion at the debrief about what the findings mean both for the current exhibition/program and for future projects
    • Have an objective third-party undertake evaluation if findings may be of a sensitive or controversial nature, or when you need specialist skills
    • Use current organisational communication systems to publicise findings in usable ways
    • Use new media to disseminate information (for example make films or use sound bytes)

The session was a great and I thank you all for having me. Ended the day with visits to the Longshan Temple, Red Theatre Tea House and an awesome vegetarian restaurant including music, magic and kung-fu performances – thanks Tzu-yu, Yider and Cookie. (Oh, and also managed to buy myself a pair of nice brown boots for $41AUD!!)

Saturday, November 08, 2008

From Taipei, Part 1

Spending a few days in Taipei at the kind invitation of Dr Wanchen Liu, Director of the Graduate Institute of Museum Studies, Fu Jen Catholic University. The main objective is to talk to museum staff and students about audience research and trends in museums.

My first paper, Museum professional development and training in Australia, seemed to go quite well. The slides can be found here and I'll just quickly post some of the main points of my talk (with acknowledgement to Dr Jennifer Barrett, Museum Studies, University of Sydney).

  • There are a range of competencies for museum staff identified through COMPT (AAM) and ICTOP (ICOM)
  • COMPT note that: the "… education of museum professionals must enable them to meet current challenges and anticipate future needs of very complex organisations subject to ongoing, rapid change"
  • A good summary of tertiary courses available in Australia prepared by Museum Gallery Services Queensland can be found here
  • Weil (1990) noted that majority of museum staff with 'responsible positions' never had formal training in museology; sector is diverse; new types of museums mean need new types of skills and experiences needed; changing role of curator as no longer the single 'authoritative' voice
  • MacLeod (2001) suggested a "community of practice" approach is needed between museums, practitioners, universities and scholars to share resources, knowledge and expertise
  • Challenges facing museums: funding and sustainability; collections; change in role and authority of museums; globalisation; competition (for people's time and attention); climate change and staffing (attracting younger people as employees, Gen X and Gen Y attitudes to workplace and the ageing workforce, especially in capturing their knowledge and skills
  • The 'new (or not-so-new!) museology' (Vergo, 1989) looked at demystifying museums to reveal how they construct knowledge, while acknowledging the important role of the visitor
  • Worth revisiting the new museology in the 21st century as the imperatives of making money, being visitor-focussed, increased competition for leisure dollar and, in particular, Web 2.0 and social media mean that those museums who aren't becoming more open in their practices and engaging their various communities will become irrelevant
  • People are able to get information anywhere they want: '36% of online Americans consult Wikipedia ... [it is] is far more popular among the well-educated' (Pew Internet Report, April 2007)
  • "Web 2.0 puts users and not the organisation at the centre of the equation. This is threatening, but also exciting in that it has the potential to lead to richer content, a more personal experience." Ellis & Kelly, April, 2007)
  • My research has shown that that those who visit museums are more likely to engage with Web 2.0 tools that provide two-way interaction, such as blogs, wikis, tagging, discussion boards/forums – how are our professional development and training courses designed to meet these new and emerging forms of communication??

How might we be working in the future? Charles Handy, The Elephant and the Flea (2001):

  • Need to think about the business you are in: for museums I think it is generating and communicating knowledge and information in a variety of ways (physical sites, online, publications) through two-way interaction with a range of stakeholders
  • Workers increasingly want to believe in what they are doing
  • New models of organisations based on the information economy
  • Organisations will consist of elephants: those who are part of a structured organisation and have a defined role within it, supported by an increasing amount of fleas: workers who flit in and out of an organisation, mostly specialist skills based who are contracted by elephants. Fleas have an intense commitment to the project, not necessarily the organisation
  • Ageing, yet healthy, workforce mean there will be many more fleas available in the future
  • Gurteen (2006) Knowledge Workers: useful way to think about skills needed for the 21st century museum worker (I have blogged about this here)

What does this mean for museum professional development and training in the future?

  • Increasingly, museum workers are taking professional development into their own hands through social networking sites such as Museum 3.0 (now with over 400 members globally) and Facebook groups (for example Museum Professionals Unite Across Facebook; Learning in Museums and Galleries and Museums in the Digital age, to name just a few)
  • Who, then, is responsible for providing training and professional development?
  • Who's voice is being heard – scholars? practitioners? researchers?
  • Where are people getting information? Increasingly through online sources and less through journals and books?? For example there are now over 270 blogs listed on – many of these are written by professionals/practitioners working in areas such as management, audience research, Web 2.0 and digital media, as well as general museum practice.

Museology 2.0:

  • Need to train workers to be flexible, agile and respond to change, as well as in finding creative solutions to solve problems
  • Recognise that museums need to be sustainable in funding, resources and infrastructure, and in working with their communities
  • A Web 2.0 mindset means two-way interaction, importance of networks and sharing. Recognise different ways of thinking –those under 25 years of age think everything on their computer is public unless they choose to make it private, whereas those over 25 think everything on their computer private unless they choose to make public
  • Building community through using visitor voice; visitors as partners; not teacher-student model but museum as facilitator; community contributes and has a life of its own; issue of shared authority
  • Scope/quality of information and interaction – what does this mean for our institutions?
  • ?How well-equipped are professional development programs in Australia (and indeed globally) to meet these challenges and to train/develop knowledge workers of the future?

The diagram below shows these ideas as a diagram and I am still playing around with it so any comments are welcome!

More soon,

Friday, October 24, 2008

What I’m up to...

Susan Tonkin, Convenor of the Museums Australia Evaluation and Visitor Research Special Interest Group, has emailed me to ask what I'm up to. Well, thought I may as well post it for all to see.

This year have been flat out focusing on evaluation a number of different activities. We did an awesome project with the Australian Museum Eureka Prizes, comprised of a sponsor evaluation, survey of past prize winners and survey of voters in the People's Choice Awards. This culminated in a series of workshops to have a good look at the program and see where it could go. I experimented with a new way of presenting some of the findings and you can view the video I made here (yes, it's a bit lame but I did say it was an experiment!). Actually have been doing lots of online experimentation and you can read about some of my efforts on a social networking site I have established called Museum 3.0 – it's a wonderful place to meet others, ask questions and generally hang out. Look forward to seeing some of you there.

The Museum has finally opened its two new exhibitions Dinosaurs and Surviving Australia. Have been deep in summative evaluation mode for these and again have tried using online methods to engage visitors and get their feedback (as well as usual surveys, focus groups and observations). For those of you on Facebook you could have a look at the fan pages for the exhibitions to get an idea of what I'm up to. One of the lessons I've been learning is that online methods of documenting feedback have changed the dynamic between visitor and researcher through giving them an equal voice. An example of this is our work with NOVA Employment. NOVA is a Disability Employment Agency, funded by the Australian Government. They are a supported employment program offering specialist job seeking assistance and post-placement support, primarily working with young people who have an Intellectual Disability and are likely to require on-going help to stay in work. A group of trainees aged 16-21 years and their job coaches have made four visits to the Museum since 2005. The purposes of the visits were to:

  • give feedback to the Museum on specific exhibitions (Whodunit; How to Make a Monster and Dinosaur Unearthed, Dinosaurs) from the perspective of those with intellectual disabilities
  • develop skills in the young people to feel confident in visiting a museum and in giving their feedback and advice
  • provide both the young people and their job coaches an enjoyable, social experience that will encourage them to return.

In May of this year 28 trainees and six job coaches visited the Museum to provide feedback about Dinosaurs. This was a new intake of trainees, so the idea was to meet and introduce them to the Museum overall, as well as visit the exhibition and build a new relationship. Members of the Museum's Project Team also attended the visit and debrief session. The difference this time was that during the debrief I had the Museum's Dinosaurs fan page on screen and posted their feedback live to it. What I found was that they wanted me to attribute their comments to them by using their name. They found it exciting that not only was I posting their feedback live to the internet, I even posted the things that they didn't like about the exhibition for all the world to see. As mentioned before this is an empowering process for visitors, and one that I have been repeating with similar results with other audiences. Will keep you posted.

On another note have been working really hard with Fiona Cameron and assorted folks at the University of Western Sydney on the Hot Science Global Citizens ARC Linkage grant. It's very exciting and more will be revealed as we get further into the project. It's been great to work again with Carolyn Meehan from Museum Victoria on this too and I was reminded about how her skills in survey development are truly outstanding. Fiona and I also got some good news – we received a book contract for an edited work called Hot Topics, Public Culture, Museums so that will also keep us busy.

Finally, I now have a wonderful new temporary twelve month role here and a fancy new title: Head of Australian Museum Eureka Prizes, Web and Audience Research. My focus will be on steering the Eureka prizes through their 20th Anniversary next year, overseeing the rebuild of the Museum's new website (we're pretty much starting from scratch so it's a massive project) plus doing the usual suite of audience research stuff for a range of planned exhibitions and programs. I've been blessed with an awesome team of managers and staff in each of these areas and look forward to working together with them in the months ahead.

I'll also be hitting the road visiting colleagues in Taipei and attending the INTERCOM conference in Rotorua in November so my blog posting may be a tad slow over the next few months (well, maybe not as bad as it has been so far). I realise I have a bit of a backlog of posts to do but rest assured they will be done.

Look forward to seeing you assorted evaluation and museum folks in Newcastle next year and catching up with you all then. I'll be bringing Karen Knutson with me, and I'm hoping she has a better sense of direction than I do so that we actually arrive on time and at the right venue!

Best wishes everyone and don't forget to register for the Transformations in Cultural and Scientific Communication conference.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

If the Museum was a person ...

This year we have been working with a group of Year 7 boys (aged 12-13) from an inner city high school who have been working with the Museum as part of an Australian Quality Teaching Grant to trial cross-curriculum units of work. They have also been giving us feedback about our new exhibitions. In the project wrap-up they were asked to imagine the type of person the Museum is and this is what they said:

  • If the Museum were a person, it would have been around 200 years old. Also it would have huge brain containing all of the evidence about dinosaurs and animals. This person would have a huge heart because it also helps people discover or learn something they haven't seen or heard before. It is a female, because not everything smart can be a man. It tells us about things we didn't know existed.
  • It would be an historian because it's mainly about things from many years ago.
  • It would be a very nice person and smart to tell people about the world and it is very old.
  • If the Museum were a person it would be wise and know a lot about the past. It would be an outgoing person because it always lets people in.
  • It will be a famous kind because the museum is famous and it is a bit like a castle because of its shape. He is a good actor because the museum has a lot of different things. He knows a lot of information because the Museum is full of information.
  • I think if the museum was a person he/she would be old and full of knowledge. I think this, because of all the exhibits in the museum are full of the knowledge and the museum looks very old.
  • If the Museum was a person it would be a palaeontologist because the museum is full of dinosaurs.
  • Old Grandpa. Knows a lot about history and what happened around the world. Nice, funny and smart.
  • Smart, interesting, lots of stories to tell. Funny, bad at sport. Nice
  • It would be a very knowledgeable person, because it has loads of information about the past.
  • I think it would be a massive brick monster because it is huge and has a lot of bricks in the building. But it tells a lot of stories.

Don't know about you but I find this rather inspiring!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Vivid/Heartbeat Trends Presentation 25 September

Went to this great session today organised for clients by market research consultants Heartbeat Trends and Vivid. The session was looking at trends based on both quantitative and qualitative research. Here are my notes.

Heartbeat Trends What's Next Study:

  • Gen X and Gen Y are different – can't speak to them all the same
  • Kidfluence: Gen X often lumped together but in reality are very different, by 2011 most couples will not have children
  • Better to divide those with kids and those without – as are vastly different, cannot target both using the same strategy
  • Glass wall dividing work and family will break as employers need to recognise that their male workers are active fathers
  • Division between work and family life is striking fatheres and they are starting to think more like mothers in regards to kids, esp. when at work
  • Little Emperors: people say they want big families, but what they want to provide means they really can only have one child and therefore this new generatioon will be even more spoiled. Single child families are on the rise, these kids will be a more driven, confident and empowered generation than today's kids. Current Gen Y will be nothing compared to little emperors! I want it and I want it now
  • Future of health: discontent with healthcare system, expectation that they will be treated straight away – no waiting
  • Future food: a lot more people are growing their own food in order to feel connected to the earth, accessible gardens will be on the rise, local green grocers – people are really thinking about where food comes from and where food does not come from
  • Green is good: everyone doing something and all have inconsistencies in their behaviour, the water issue has galvanised Australians, parents are the most passionate of all and want to instil in their kids responsible behaviour and understanding
  • Most people are doing something, e.g. 66% of Victorian households are composting and vast majority of Australians are recycling, people can name what they're doing, however are they really? The next study will look at actual behaviour

Heartbeat Trends Gen Y Living Needs Study:

  • Live in a very secular society
  • Affiliation beyond inner circle – adults (Boomers etc) fear that language is being lost and the way Gen Y communicates is not real communication. For Gen Y it's about true communication in different forms. Need to remember that language has always and is always changing and will continue to do so
  • E-filliation: Gen Y have affiliation 24/7 and is borderless, are emotionally powerful relationships, less guarded and more open in communication as won't see them face-to-face so feel comfortable doing this. Works in active and passive ways, in passive way remind Gen y that they are affiliated, confirmation that someone cares even if just a text message notification. It is quantity not quality that counts
  • Easy friendships, online connections
  • Questing (philanthropy) behaviour, armchair activism, support social issues
  • Status: influence of American culture, look at change in the TV show 90201 – when it was on 10 (??) years ago it was an aspirational show, now it seems we can all live like that now; Gen Y a conspicuous generation, a move away from Australians egalitarian value – more hedonistic
  • Release: an antidote, explosive release –vent frustrations and lose control. The "Soprano Syndrome" – kind of cool with a great lifestyle. They can be quite violnet
  • What are their media choices?? Are pushing the boundaries to extremes. They love programs that push buttons on social sensitivities (Family Guy, South Park are examples of this)
  • Constantly change and they are are masters of change

Heartbeat Trends New Women Clutterbuster Study:

  • What is cutting through all the advertising for women?
  • Let your guard down: women are sceptical about claims and very savvy and don't take it as face value. They love catalogues, therefore should be more magazine-like, women find them a compelling medium and soemthing they take ythe tim to read, are doing these behaviours online at where you can search and compare catalogues, they want to beat retailers at their own game
  • Engage in permission marketing: Brand Power® style is what they want
  • News sells – if you have genuine news they will listen, cut to the chase (don't like Zoot Review® ads for example as not "authentic")
  • Advice from a friend – word of mouth is a powerful influence on women, they now regard Sally from Brand Power® as dependable advice, not pushing and likeable, friendly, approachable (Lesson: choose a celebrity this way – someone that people feel if you run across them in the street they'll stop for a chat. They like nice people)
  • Drop their guard when they are not the obvious target for the ad
  • Love seeing active and involved men in advertising
  • Family time: let go and make us laugh, ads should show us having fun as families and being together
  • Family life is seldom perfect and should be shown as such in ads, women like to see "aspirational reality", need to show the mess, like to see stuff-ups and imperfections. The IKEA and Cottee's cordial ads were cited as good examples of this
  • Inclusivity: single parents are the biggest minority in Australia and they turn off when seeing the "perfect family" in ads as it's not them
  • Moral compass: they have strong moral values. However, don't want TV junk food ads banned as they see managing that issue as their role as mothers, the one area they did want looked at was over-sexualisation of children and body image

And that's when I had to leave – fantastic session guys!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Museums Australia (Victoria) Education Conference 17 September

Attended one day of this three day event. Was really good and here are my notes.

Brett McLennan, ACMI, the twitch response:

  • works actively and with agility – rapid feedback
  • students and young people adapting to notion of fast response – they still have different learning styles, but are all processing small bits of information rapidly
  • a sound byte generation – don't necessarily go deeper into content
  • need to build programs that combine twitch response and the heavy lifting mode – to dive more deeply into what's there and apply that knowledge back to other areas
  • dealing with new generation 'readers', they expect/demand:
    • dynamic immersive experiences
    • texts that enable them to be innovative and creative
    • immediate feedback – including opportune for engagement and debate
    • this challenge faced by all generations not only this one
    • they network differently to what has gone before – Facebook, Bebo and MySpace are good examples of this

Angelina Russo, Social Media and Cultural Institutions, Engagement, Experience, Environment, Evaluation:

  • today's museums are opening up more to audiences and recognising that museums are social experiences
  • participation often on the museum's terms
  • sites where people are already talking about you on blogs, wikis, podcasts, videos etc uploading their own content and are seen by the world
  • peer networks, e.g. Amazon
  • discussed the Engaging Social Media research project
  • Distributed innovation and co-creation – paradigm shift for museums, but not necessarily a new idea or way of working
  • Value networks
  • Future?
    • Connecting cultural experiences with boarder experience economies
    • Creating new knowledge and networks which support co-creation
    • Evaluating the experience – socially, culturally and economically

My paper – in the interests of climate change and reducing consumption I re-purposed our Museums and the Web 2008 paper so have a look at that...

Education programs sharing session

Benalla Art Gallery, DEECD and Hume Region – program that any teacher can facilitate back in the in school, inquiry-based and critical thinking skills, encourage them to think more deeply about artworks in creating their response drawing on a large knowledge base. Used Intel thinking tools, online graphic organiser sites. Sounded like a great program and reminded me how wonderfully creative, imaginative and clever young people are. Impressed with the way the project drew on materials across a range of museums and galleries and using a wiki as a way to organise and disseminate the information for teachers and students. Finished with a great quote form the subject of the artist Sir Edward 'Weary' Dunlop I have a conviction that it's only when you are put at full stretch that you can realise your full potential. How true!

SA Maritime Museum outreach program, Treasures of the Sea – an audio trail designed to promote key messages of the Maritime Museum and engage students with new technologies. I'm constantly inspired by people that are a section of one person and doing cool things for their audiences.

Queensland Museum Teachers-in-Residence program – seconded teachers programs are a good way forward. Talked about getting the QM website more interactive and compliant. QM education staff role to work with senior curators to understand what they're doing and then present information in engaging ways for students. Discussed three programs Mangrove Challenge; Refugee Stories and the Disease Detective. Liked the way that David explained how the staff all learned about this web stuff together – they weren't experts in technology but experts on pedagogy. Good one David!

Paul Howard Experiences at TATE Modern – development of an online community grid that tapped into an already existing community. Wanted also to extend audience reach beyond the physical site and develop new audiences. Talked about the benefits of doing stuff online through being able to re-visit the site and for curators t be able to adapt collections and material to suit the evolving needs of the group.

Ice e-mystery, TMAG – looking at ways to bring content to people who can't get to Antarctica, give interesting work and ideas to students that done normally have that access that is based on science and developing literacy skills. Also about promoting international collaboration and understanding. Connected the physical and online environments by encouraging them to visit TMAG exhibition. Another inspiring story of museum staff working creatively with little or no resource using free tools available on the web (in this case Wordpress) and seeking funding from different sources.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Models of Museum Visiting

This question from Ido Beja, Haifa University (via Facebook!): My name is Ido, I'm a student from Haifa University, and I'm doing some research about visitors in museums with hope to build a system for groups of visitors in museums based on group modeling. I saw the abstract of your article "Developing a model of museum visiting" - can you please sent me hard copy of the article?

Hi Ido, I did indeed write a paper on this topic in 2001, presenting it at a Museums Australia conference in Canberra. Basically the study involved a series of exit surveys conducted from November 1999 to January 2001 with visitors to the Australian Museum, Sydney. Questions were designed to see what factors identified from the literature influenced reasons given for visiting museums and galleries generally, and the Australian Museum in particular. 413 visitors were asked to rate eleven indicators on a 5-point Likert-scale, with 1 being low and 5 high. From both looking at the data and a literature review I developed a model of museum visiting which included the following five highest rating factors (in order):

  • experiencing something new
  • entertainment
  • learning
  • the interests of children/family
  • doing something worthwhile in leisure

There was not much discrimination between factors based on the relatively small variation between standard deviations (from 1.04 to 1.51), which suggested to me that these are probably the main drivers for visitors to museums.

The model I proposed is below. This is further explained in the paper you asked about, which I have posted on my Audience Research wiki (go down the page to find it).

I haven't re-looked at this for awhile now so be interested in any feedback.


Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Museum Studies Programs in Australia

This from Tzu Yu Chiu, Taipei: Another thing is that I am also researching the related training programmes designed for museum professional and wonders whether I could find those from the related organisations or associations in Australia. I might start from your blog and hope figure out some information we want on some websites.

Since you are kind enough to start with my blog Tzu Yu though I'd better actually post something! Here's the courses I know of in Australia:

Good luck in your search!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Museum Members Programs and Web 2.0

Have been chatting away with the Manager of Australian Museum Members. They want to dip their toes into the wonderful world of social media. I was going to send them these links by email but thought it better to share them with all. Kate, you will also have to take the plunge and join Facebook to view some of these links!

  • The Canada Science and Technology Corporation have been experimenting with Facebook for membership and feedback as reported at Museums and Web 2008
  • A range of museums reported on their YouTube experiences at the recent Museums and the Web conference and the paper – Beyond Launch, Museum Videos on YouTube - is well worth a read and might give you some ideas about what your intern could do for you
    This paper by Shelley Bernstein from the Brooklyn Museum about their Web 2.0 experiences is a good overview of the state of play as they are by far doing the most in this area
  • Town Hall Gallery – they seem to run their programming via the web using a blog and an active Facebook group
  • Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery (TMAG) – they have a nice Facebook page and the TMAGgots is pretty cool too

Kate, also check out the Australian Museum Eureka Prize fan page – I am (and will continue to) upload sound files to the site of people's experiences which is what you seem to want to do for your events. I can show you how to do this pretty easily, now that my intern Vanessa, worked it all out for us. We are using this as a test case to log the time it takes and also how people actually found out about the site (beyond just mine and Ruth's friend that is!) - so far, so good.

Just sending you that meeting request now...

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Educational websites

Barbara Piscitelli was asking me about useful websites for museum and gallery education.


Barbara – you'll see here I selected mostly gallery websites as I know that's your interest.

Online educational resources:

I know this is only a taste – it's a huge web world out there, the trick is to subscribe to a few things rather than a lot. To that end, for those folks who don't already know – we have a large online network called Museum 3.0 with over 240 members. Feel free to sign up and continue these conversations – we're having a discussion about education on there right now! It's the one-stop shop for all things museum and gallery-related.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Exhibitions about pets

This question from Susan Sedgwick, Historic Houses Trust: Hi Lynda, thank for taking the time to talk with me today. As I mentioned, the Historic Houses Trust is developing an exhibition Tails of the city: Sydney's passion for pets on the history of Sydneysiders and their pets to be shown at the Museum of Sydney from 13 December 2008 until 22 March 2009. Consequently I would be very interested to view any 'Dogs' audience research material that you can share and which might be relevant.

Hi Susan – we did some forward planning research several years ago now for a potential exhibition called It's a dog's life. We found that this topic really polarised audiences – you're either a dog person or you're not. The topic had very strong appeal for dog lovers and hopeful dog owners; then there are those who actively don't like dogs and there are others who are ambivalent. Parents also feared that an exhibition like this would fuel their childrens' interest, increasing pressure to get a dog when they don't understand the big commitment to owning one. Those that were interested had many questions and topic suggestions:

  • What do dogs see?
  • What can they hear?
  • How does their sense of smell work?
  • Explain their strange habits
  • Explore their intelligence and psychology – how do their 'minds' work?
  • Life from a dog's point of view
  • See what they're capable of (working dogs, tricks, behaviour)

Ultimately, for the dog lovers they wanted to explore the human-dog relationship. They expected the overall mood of the exhibition to be light-hearted and humorous as dogs are quite amusing. However, when compared with the other topics we tested (such as ants, deep ocean, bog people) they felt it could give them nothing new, they are very familiar so what could the exhibition bring that was new? Finally, they thought the best thing about dogs is live dogs, so what else could make it exciting?

Susan, you have an interesting conundrum and much food for thought – it is a person's ingoing attitudes to pets that will largely determine their reactions to the exhibition. Personally, I dislike pets intensely and couldn't think of a more boring topic for an exhibition – but then I'm not your target audience (sorry all you pet lovers out there...)! By the way, the National Archives of Australia did a travelling exhibition about working animals called It's a Dog's Life! Animals in the Public Service and they may have done some evaluation on that – don't know who to contact there anymore though.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Open Government: Future Trends

Went to this great talk/discussion on Friday with the folks from Cisco and assorted others. Richard Allan, the Director of Government Affairs, Cisco UK, spoke about his experiences and where open government is and may be going in the UK. The major points/links I took from his talk were:

  • Using screen scraping tools to re-purpose government data – this is how TheyWorkForYou started, using already available data in a more user-friendly format. Interestingly UK MPs now link to this site from their own websites as it's become so useful. There is an Australian version of this in Beta – check it out at OpenAustralia. Richard also gave other examples of people developing tools that use other sites, such as the LA Public Library feeding off Amazon so that you can run a tool while searching a book on Amazon to see if the public library has it instead. Richard stated that these types of applications are developed as people (often activists) aren't satisfied with what is available so go off and create their own portals and apps.
  • Directionlessgovernment website – scapes both the "official" government portal and Google to demonstrate who gives better search results (try searching on pensions as Richard demonstrated and see what it returns!)
  • Governments should provide re-usable data, not websites – this is something we have been talking about at the Museum with our website rebuild – seeing it as a platform for others to use and re-purpose rather than a static website of information from Museum to user.
  • UK Civil Service online participation guidelines – these are really straightforward and sensible (note I used the directionless site and got straight there using the Google link not the UK gov portal link!). We've has some discussions on this issue in the museum sector, so great to see these, which will help our museum in particular as we're developing something similar for staff here.
  • Other sites: netmums a large online information and sharing network; ratemycop where you can search for and upload information about police officers (love their tagline You have the right to remain informed!).

Here's the links I promised to send to people – seems easier to post them here for all to share:

  • Museums and Web Paper I co-authored reporting on several Museum studies of online behaviour, has data from an survey I did about what Australians were doing online and the qualitative follow-up studies
  • Our Dinosaurs Fan page on Facebook – this is where I uploaded the feedback I was getting from two groups we were working with
  • Thoughts on web trends post
  • Paper about museums using Facebook to communicate with their members
  • Paper summarising the Brooklyn Museum's approach to social media and the web
  • Frankie Roberto's paper where he gathered museum data via an FOI request and re-purposed it – Richard, Frankie is a cool guy and worth talking to when you get back home. Frankie works at the Science Museum and his blog is useful too
  • Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery's (TMAG) Facebook page and TMAGgots group – just a small taste of what's out there in the museums and Facebook world
  • The World Without Oil Alternate Rality Game (ARG): this game involved 1800 signed up players and 60000 observers and used collective imagining, storytelling and real-life simulations in response to a fictional, but plausible, event, namely, an oil shock. Responses provided useful insight into oil policy and oil use and the game was a stimulus for changed actions in the 'real' world lives of participants.

Thanks Martin and Cisco – I really enjoyed myself.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Measuring impact of museums

This from Elena Starkova in Russia: Dear Lynda, I am conducting a research on measurement the attitudes of local population towards new museum in Perm, Russia. I would like to know what do people think about the new museum, its project and conception, what do they believe in, are they in favour or not of building a new museum. Here is the website of architectural competition and the concept of the museum. I decided to use a questionnaire to measure attitudes. I read your paper for Intercom Conference 2006, called "Measuring the impact of museums on their communities: The role of the 21st century museum" and I found it very related to my research. At this moment I am looking for a good valid instrument for measurement such as questionnaire or technique for measurement the attitudes for visitors/non-visitors towards museum especially new museum that I can apply for me case. I would really appreciate if you send me the questionnaires that you used for conducting a research about measuring the impact of the museums on community. Also, if there are some other researches you made on related topics and if you have any scales that I can apply for my research and make a valid and reliable questionnaire. Best regards,

Best regards to you too Elena. Your project sounds really exciting. That paper from the INTERCOM conference is online – I have a whole section on my wiki called impact of museums with papers and links. I will send you some questionnaires separately. Also you could refer to the recent blog post in response to a question from TMAG about getting public response to redevelopment plans – that may be an easier way to get quick feedback. Perhaps you'll need to do both – that is, measure attitudes towards having a new museum through a quantitative survey and finding out what it should be though a more qualitative approach.

One word of caution Elena. I don't know what the funding situation is like in Russia but too often in Australia new museums are created and opened with much ceremony, however there is usually little or no budget or thought given to actually running them on a day-to-day basis so they often fail!

Best of luck Elena and please keep us updated about your progress.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Getting public response to redevelopment plans


Do you know what ROM asked people on their feedback comment cards? If not, do you know someone there that I can contact? Thanks - Marian

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Older audiences and museums

This from Willy Tseng: Dear Sir / Madam : My name is Willy. I am a graduate student from Taiwan. I am making a study of museology. I have a question should like to ask the Australian Museum. It is an aging population society . In Australian Museum , no matter in exhibition, education or research, What does the museum do to answer this phenomenon ? Thank you.

Thanks Willy. Older audiences have long been of interest to several of us at the Museum. In 2002 we did a comprehensive study, Energised, engaged, everywhere: older audience and museums that looked at this very issue. Since then we have been programming for this group through tours and special events. I have also been noticing the shift in our regular demographics, especially recently with the opening of our new Dinosaur exhibition, with grandparents bringing their grandchildren. As we now plan for our new learning spaces older visitor are ones we are keen to target.

The best example of a museum/gallery thinking about this group is the National Gallery of Ireland – they had a conference Lifelong learning in museums and galleries focussing on creativity in older people which was really awesome. There is a publication but I can't find it on their website – I suggest you contact Dr Marie Bourke, Keeper of Education there and request a copy of the conference proceedings, they're really good. The paper I gave, Creating meaningful experiences for adults tailored to their expectations and learning styles can be found on my wiki ( go down the page a bit). I also did blog post about it too.

Good luck with your research Willy.

Musings on organisational change and Gordon Ramsay

Been thinking a bit about this recently after Elaine Gurian sent me something to read, and as we have just completed our corporate planning cycle. Now, I do need to confess that I've become even more addicted to Gordon Ramsay and thinking about his approach to change management (knowing that I've now probably alienated half my readership – sorry 'bout that!) and I think there are many lessons for organisational change buried among the F words! Here's some of my thoughts.

It's about the customer – I lamented in the provocative paper at the Museum Australia Futures Forum about the lack of attention to the needs of visitors, particularly to the physical and showed examples of photographs taken by Benjamin Gilman in 1916 and of visitors to museums in 2006! Our users/stakeholders/visitors (whoever they may be and wherever they are) need to be at our core. Although this is in no way a new idea I believe we still constantly need to be reminded of it.

Get out there and sell yourself to your local constituents – after all, they're the ones with the potential to be your most loyal customers and your best advocates.

Be passionate about what you do – many examples I've seen in Ramsay's shows where he really does force both owners and staff to question their passion and commitment. I remember one study we did back in around 1998 where we found that staff on project teams who were most passionate about what they were doing, engaged and interested produced exhibitions that had better learning outcomes for visitors. Something for us all to ponder on I think.

Taste your food constantly and eat in your own restaurant – how many times do we get out on the floor and taste our products? How many times do we go to our websites and other online content areas and see what people are doing and how they feel about it?

Keep it simple – Ramsay attempts to overhaul menus using a clever combination of simple, seasonal ingredients that make sense within that particular location. From my doctoral work I found that visitors wanted to get both simple and interesting facts they can tell others at a dinner party and/or a deeply moving experience that changes the way they see themselves and their world. Keping a focus on the museum's strengths in terms of content, collections and knowledge - sticking to the knitting - is the competitive advantage we have.

Have high standards for back-of-house – we all want to eat in a restaurant with a clean kitchen, but how much do we really notice what's going on in our public spaces (both physical and virtual)? I'm not only thinking about physical issues here, but high standards in things like data management, collection processes and database systems. This was one of the key lessons I took from this year's Museums and the Web conference especially in relation to online collection access and sharing across our institutions.

Be bold and take risks – how many times does Ramsey challenge the staff (especially the younger and less experienced ones I noticed) to take a risk and try something different? The key point for us in museums is to take risks and be prepared to fail sometimes and be pleasantly surprised at other times. Our work around controversial and challenging topics has shown that visitors want museums to be more challenging and provocative, and can be very forgiving too.

Just as Mal Booth drew on lessons from chamber orchestras in his provocative paper at the Futures Forum and what that means for digitisation in museums, a deeper lesson from that example I think is about creating harmony – bringing all the ingredients (or players) together to share a common purpose. As Elaine reminds us it was Stephen Weil in 1999 who talked about museums not "being about something but being for someone".

There are further ideas about organisational change and museums in relation to implementing Web 2.0 from a paper called Museum 3.0: organisational change and social media I gave at the Social Media and Cultural Communication Conference held in February this year for those that may be vaguely interested.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Beth Kanter talk @ PHM 23 May 2008

Went to this talk today by hosted by Seb Chan at the Powerhouse Museum. Beth runs a blog How NonProfits can use social media among many, many other things.

My notes from the talk and discussion:

Web enables connections with people around topics they are interested in.

Talked us through an interesting example of using Twitter to get some responses to a specific question about travelling to Oz and what phones to use

Also talked about video blogging

It's all about connectedness and the global brain – a 50 years transition that we're in the middle of

Here comes everybody book: talks about implications for social change and renegotiating social contracts

We are all still experimenting – no secret formula yet, sooner you get on and learn and experiment the further ahead you'll be

People are making decisions through their social networks (their friends) – this is how many in younger generations are making their decisions

It's not about the list, it's about the networks – you have a network and everyone n your network has a network and so on

Neilsenbuzzmetrics report looked at where the trust factor is – recommendations from consumers were the number one source people trust (this includes things like writing on your Facebook wall!)

Younger people have reference for communicating through social networks – and they don't necessarily see that work colleagues and the way they talk to their friends is any different

Information comes to me, I don't go and find it (Russ also talked about this as pushing content to people not pulling them in)

Read rates of e-newsletters are pretty low at around 30% - it's all about pushing through, need to find other methods

Need to think about audiences as fans – need to cultivate your fans who don't see one show but will come to you again and again

Beth talked though a fundraising example using social networks – question was how can I use a range of social media tools to raise money? For the Sharing Foundation campaign sought opinions for audience/readers as well as identifying those who were evangelists for the cause and could take it up.

Strategy – make it personal (psychology of influence) not institutional

What about being just one person? Look at the ladder of engagement of givers – instigators, evangelists, donors, spreaders, happy bystanders (each of these varies by participation type and involvement)

The personal fundraiser does the network weaving

Tell a personalised story rather than statistics about an anonymous many

Relationship building using those people that you already know and their networks

Rewards and reciprocity (people will treat you as they have been treated)

Need to give your fans the viral tools to spread the message

Birthday Flickr project remix example – used as a test for people on Flickr to remix fotos and prize was $50 donated to cause of their choice

There will be a special interest group out there about you and your content that you can leverage

Timing is critical – make it close to the opening of the exhibit for example

Important message – let go, you lose control but you gain a lot

Takes time – don't get immediate results, might take several experiments before you leverage a network

How do we gather our evangelists? Museums are still using traditional methods to broadcast to them

Brought up Nina Simon's blog post about how much time Web 2.0 takes which was worth revisiting

Showed David Wilcox changing power relationships slide – a change from top down to bottom up

The long tail of Facebook post – donation base small but reach is very large, frogloop care2 as an example of how to optimise online fundraising

Groundswell by Li and Bernoff – Seb has reviewed this book on fresh+new(er)

Overall, a really worthwhile session – Beth posted an interview with me to her blog too (umm, don't look at the foto!!). Also interesting to see that the PHM staff have the same questions and worries that Australian Museum staff have too – more work for Seb and I to do I fear!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Challenging topics

I got this request via the VSG discussion list: Dear Colleagues, We have just put up the Hard Rain exhibition in the zoo. The exhibition is a United Nations Environment Programme partnered exhibition that graphically illustrates our collision with nature and defines the major environmental issues of the 21st Century. Some of the images may be disturbing for our visitors and this is quite a departure for zoo culture. We really feel we should do some audience research on this and wondered if anyone in VSG could recommend a tried and trusted methodology, other than questionnaires which we don't want to do. We'd prefer unobtrusive observations and recording reactions, including conversations. But how to reliably classify and analyse? Many thanks, Maggie Esson.

Hi Maggie and congrats on what looks like an interesting exhibition. You're not alone in putting up controversial issues in an exhibition and certainly our research for the Exhibitions as Contested Sites project has found that visitors want to engage with museums on difficult and controversial topics. I don't think you should discount doing a survey/questionnaire – we have done several for quite disturbing exhibitions, for example death – the last taboo and Body Art, and got fantastic and thoughtful responses, and visitors were glad to be asked. For the Body Art exhibition we also had a large comments book where visitors posted their reactions which worked really well and we got some stunning answers. The power of this, of course, is that visitors also responded to others' comments.

As to recording and analysing conversations there is a whole book dedicated to this very subject (Leinhardt, Crowley and Knutson, 2002). I did a review of this in Chapter 3 of my thesis which can be found on my wiki (p.104-107), along with a section on observations (p.107-110). There has been some work using video-capture technology recording visitors' reactions to an exhibition on slavery which were subsequently published on YouTube, as well as in the exhibition. We had a discussion about this a long time ago on my blog which has various links to the project.

Good luck Maggie. My advice is to not worry at all about asking visitors to respond –you'll find, not only that they really want to do so, but that their responses will amaze and inspire.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Museum I’d Like

From Brenda Siemers: Hello! I am a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee (U.S.) and am completing a thesis on teen programs in museums. I came across a blog that mentions the project called "The Museum I'd Like to Know". Is this a published study, and if so, how can I obtain a copy of it? It sounds very interesting! Thanks for your help!

Hi Brenda. The Museum I'd like study was conducted by Professor Susan Groundwater Smith for the Australian Museum in 2003 with a range of school students who were let loose in the Museum with disposable cameras. They were asked to take photographs of things that helped and hindered their learning, make a poster out of their images and present to the Museum. We wrote a paper for the British Educational Research Association conference and since I get so many requests for this have uploaded the conference paper to my audience research wiki and the presentation slides to my SlideShare site. Images of the students' boards are also online at my Flickr site, although they're a bit hard to see you get the gist of what they were saying, especially when read in conjunction with the paper.

Good luck with your thesis Brenda, feel free to share any findings with our community who are keenly interested in this topic.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Museums Australia Futures Forum May 2008

Quite a morning with the six provocative papers and some comments from Frank regarding his attendance at the 2020 Summit and recent travels. Some points across the board that I took away:

  • People will make decisions based on the information they have available now – not on what could be made available (i.e. people don't know what it is we don't have)
  • Museums need to be more innovative and look at government departments that have problems our collections could help solve/add value to (e.g. climate change; genetic resources; potential in cultural collections in mapping cultural landscapes across Australia)
  • We need to use our own websites but travel across the web – using the already available places where people already visit online (Flickr, YouTube, etc). Made the point that we tour our exhibitions to physical sites – we also need to tour the web
  • We aren't in the innovation landscape
  • 'We have a broader attention span and a shorter absorption time'
  • 'Gymnastic minds of today's audiences – we can and do jump around!
  • Rip, mix and burn experiences

    rip – take your favourite stuff

    mix – mix them up

    burn – publish!

  • How do we devise systematic strategies to engender creativity?
  • Practice-led research?
  • Research methods are needed that can cope with complexity and mess

In the afternoon I joined the Learning for Life group which had an interesting discussions about how we link learning and museums in people's minds and what we would ask Minister Garrett for. They liked some of the points I made in my provocative paper about unsexy audiences and moving beyond the entertainment/learning/education debate, as well as catering for people in their own place and time.

I then went to the Digitisation group and got hold of Seb's final points about the challenges for museums in this area:

  • Not a technical issue
  • Need to prioritise digitisation for high volume public access
  • Obtaining maximal rights and permissions
  • Letting go of sole ownership, embracing connectedness
  • Aligning strategies with audiences
  • Asserting brand value as interpretation and engagement, not raw content
  • The web as centre, not peripheral to the organisation

[BTW these points are ©Seb Chan under strict copyright orders from him!! Right you are there Seb!]

This was followed by a rather spirited discussion... and then the ICOM Australia AGM, including the launch of our new website.

Friday, May 16, 2008

What does lifelong learning mean for museums in a Web 2.0 world?

Here's background to the provocative paper I'm giving at the Museum Australia Futures Forum event in Canberra next week as part of the Learning for Life group.

In 1918 Benjamin Gilman's work, Museum Ideals of Purpose and Method, was published by the Museum of Fine Arts Boston. In one essay first published in 1916 Gilman Writes: '... an inordinate amount of physical effort is demanded of the ideal visitor by the present methods in which we offer most objects to his inspection. ... Indeed, we may even go further and claim that in some proportion of the objects put on public view in every museum the qualities for which they are shown are rendered wholly invisible by the way they are shown. They are so placed and in such lighting that it is a physical impossibility by any exertion of limb or eye to descry the particular characteristics to which they owe their selection for show.' (p.252).

Gilman illustrated his work with a series of photographs depicting the "ideal visitor" interacting with a series of showcases and in quite uncomfortable physical positions. I have images of visitors to many exhibitions in exactly the same positions! What has changed?

In 1901 the then Secretary of the Smithsonian, Samuel P. Langley, appointed himself Honorary Curator of the Children's Room as he felt that museums should be doing more for children. In a letter to himself accepting the position he wrote: 'The Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution has been pleased to confer upon me the honourable but arduous duties of the care of the Children's Room. He has at his service so many men learned in natural history that I do not know why he has chosen me, who knows so little about it, unless perhaps it's because these gentlemen may possibility not be also learned in the ways of children, for whom this little room is meant. It has been my purpose to deserve his confidence, and to carry out what I believe to be his intention, by identifying myself with the interests of my young clients. Speaking, therefore, on their behalf and as one of them, I should say that we never have a fair chance in museums. We cannot see things on the top shelves, which only grown-up people are tall enough to look into, and most of the things we can see and would like to know about have Latin words on them which we cannot understand: some things we do not care for at all, and other things which look entertaining have nothing on them to tell us what they are about. ... We think there is nothing in the world more entertaining than birds, animals, and live things; and next to these is our interest in the same things, even though they are not alive; and next to this the same things, even though they are not alive; and next to this is to read about them. All of us care about them and some of us hope to care for them all our lives long. We are not very much interested in Latin names, and however much they may mean to grown-up people, we do not want to have our entertainment spoiled by it being a lesson.' (quoted in Skramstad, 1999, p.113-114).

We still hear today from museum folk who despair at having children running loose in our exhibitions, and we still have many exhibitions that are not designed for them, despite having content that they are keenly interested in.

Valerie Beer's 1987 Curator paper, Great Expectations: do museums know what visitors are doing?, found that museum staff consistently over-estimated the time visitors would spend in an exhibition and that staff don't expect visitors to read labels. She also found evidence that: 'Variety, not quantity, appears to be key.' (p.213). Beer also mentioned that often we assume that it is the visitors' behaviour that needs to be changed, and suggested that we '... examine our assumptions that visitor behaviour should be changed' (p.213). How many times have we sat in project team meetings where we talk about how we are going to direct the visitor's experience toward what we want to tell them, not what they would like to experience and know about?

Mike Ellis and Brian Kelly in their paper, Web 2.0: How to Stop Thinking and Start Doing: Addressing Organisational Barriers, stated 'Web 2.0 puts users and not the organisation at the centre of the equation. This is threatening, but also exciting in that it has the potential to lead to richer content, a more personal experience'. The lines between the web and other forms of learning are blurring and will need to be carefully considered by museums when thinking about what lifelong learning really means.

My provocative paper at the Futures Forum will address these issues and more – I'll post my notes after I give the talk otherwise no one will turn up to hear me!