Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Digital World and Museums

This from Zahava Doering, Smithsonian: Hi! On a short fuse, I've been asked to identify museums that are using technology in INNOVATIVE ways to enhance, inform, and guide the visits of their visitors. I'm lost as to where to begin... I know that the Exploratorium is using RFIS technology, but... COULD YOU suggest places/people to call? THANKS, Zahava.

Zahava, it's hard to know where to start with this query but I'll try. I've looked at two things – those museums that I know of using technologies in their physical experiences, and those who are doing interesting things online that often intersect with the physical.

Regarding physical experiences, the Tech Museum of innovation uses technology called tech tags where (I think) visitors can tag exhibits and make their own website from that. The Churchill Museum has an extraordinary exhibit called Lifeline "... a fifteen metre-long interactive table, which dominates the Churchill Museum space. By using a simple touch-strip, visitors can access information from a computerised 'filing cabinet' of Churchill's life, divided into years, months, weeks and even days. The Lifeline
also refers to major national and world events in order to give a sense of the times in which Churchill lived"
. Launchball at the Science Museum got 1.3 million online visits before the physical gallery even opened and is a great example of converging physical and online visit experiences. The North East Regional Museums Hub in the UK have a nice set of resources and tours, called i like museums... that visitors can download before they visit and also contribute their own tours. Now that the International Spy Museum and Newseum have opened I would imagine they would have many interactives using technologies that you could ask them about. I was really impressed with the Newseum when I visited them several years ago and I'm sure the revamped one is even better. I'm sure there are also many other examples that I have missed.

When it comes to online experiences a good place to start is the Museums and the Web Best of the Web awards which list finalists and winners including the people's choice award voted by us. Another first resource is a blog post I did explaining Museums and Web 2.0 that gives examples of museums doing things in the digital world. So, as to others:

User tagging – steve.musuem project and Powerhouse Museum OPAC 2.0 project, with some blog posts documenting their experiences here.

Use of YouTube – 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.

Use of Flickr – the Powerhouse Museum recently joined the commons on Flickr with images from their collection. Picture Australia has involved a range of cultural institutions to contribute to an online images archive. There are many, many other museums using Flickr in interesting ways.

Facebook – I was impressed with the Canada Science and Technology Corporation who have been experimenting with Facebook for membership and feedback as reported at Museums and Web 2008. This is a conjunction between the physical and online worlds and I think has potential to grow even further. The ArtShare application on Facebook is another example of joining the physical and online (you may need to be a member of Facebook to use this link).

Blogs – the Town Hall Gallery blog from Melbourne is an easy way to keep people updated about its activities. The Walker Art Centre has a variety of blogs for a range of audiences. Again, there are now heaps of museums blogging – one that struck me was the Exploratorium Explainers who blog about their experiences and answer questions as well.

Educational programs online – the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum has an innovative way of involving teachers to provide online educational materials via their Educator Resource Centre.

Finally, anything that the Brooklyn Museum is doing is worth looking at.

Zahava, might also be a good idea to subscribe to a couple of blogs that are reporting on the digital world and museums. Two I've found useful are fresh + new(er) from Seb Chan at the Powerhouse Museum and Museum 2.0 from Nina Simon. You can also join us on the Museum 3.0 ning group where plenty of others are available to add their insights and wisdom to a wide range of topics and queries from members.

Best of luck with whatever it is you are doing!

1 comment:

Janet Carding said...

Great suggestions from Lynda. It is also worth thinking about the hand held device they use at the National Museum of Singapore. Very impressive delivery of the majority of the interpretation for the whole of their gallery on the history of Singapore