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.