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,


LyndaK said...

I received this email from Joy Han after the lecture and I am posting it here as she raises some good points:
Dear Dr. Lynda: It was very exciting afternoon at Taipei Palace Museum literature hall with full audiences, all most from Fu-jen univ. museum students, in the room. I'm a aging volunteer workers over ten years until now at Taipei Palace Museum where I've learning many different level of growing. You were quoted "The Elephant an the Flea". I'm one of flea but I'll not flea away from the Elephant of the Taipei Palace Museum!

Thanks Joy.

LyndaK said...

Here's some fotos (for what they're worth!).