Archive Page 2

The Museum of the 21st Century

LSE Arts and Thames and Hudson 60th anniversay discussion
The Museum of the 21st Century
Tuesday 7th July 2009

There was quite a buzz at the London School of Economics. The auditorium was packed; close to 500 people to hear the director of the British Museum Neil MacGregor and director of Tate, Nicholas Serota discuss the roles of collections in the 21st century. This was one of many 60th anniversary year events by publishers Thames and Hudson and was run in conjunction with London School of Economics Arts.
John Wilson from the BBC chaired the session. I wish to thank the organisers for securing me a pass to this event.

John Wilson chaired an entertaining and seamless conversation, ensuring that the big issues of the day were discussed and that the human side of the most powerful museum directors in the UK was on view. The highlights were clear – both directors have a firm grip on the realities of audience participation, global relevance, political recognition, cultural guardianship, trusteeship and future relationships. Their commitment to the museum as a learning space and one where knowledge is shared was evident. The both recognised a historic ‘imperfect relationship’ between curators and audiences and agreed that this was an important area, ripe for transformation.

The best jokes of the evening:

It’s good to see the director of the British Museum before he’s lost his marbles!
(LSE rep whose name I didn’t catch)

Parliament is seathing with closet aesthetes! (Neil MacGregor)

Some highlights on the musings of the future of the museum:

On audience engagement…The future of the museum may be rooted in the buildings they occupy but it will address audiences across the world and will be a place where people across the world will have a conversation. Those institutions which take up this notion fastest and furthest will be the ones which have the authority in the future.

On THOSE marbles…
Yesterday’s debate was about whether another country should have objects in their collections. The greater argument is, how do London and Greece ensure that some of these objects can be seen in China, Africa etc.

On travelling collections…Transformations in the notion of trusteeship, making this a reality is imperative. Beginning with professional world of trust, collections and expertise should be available to others around the world. Working to ensure that collections are seen, shared, discussed in Asia, Africa, South America. Museums are unique in being able to build these international communities where publics can engage in culture.

On changing roles of authorship…One of the great things that is happening is that major collections are putting as much as possible online available for download free of charge for academic purpose. This has completely transformed the way that drawings can be studied. There is a question about the duty of museum to be guarantor about what it believes to be authority.

The challenge is to what extent do museums wish to remain authors or to become publishers. Authority of institution can be used and provide a platform for international conversation. In 10-15 yrs we will have curators who will effectively be commissioning editors but will have to make a distinction between what we say and what others who use our platform to say things about themselves. The future has to be
museum as publisher and broadcaster.

On museum as educator…
The museum is the first open university and institutions are all trying to work out more ways of engaging audiences with expertise from within the institution. The big question is how to use electronic methods to enable more people to learn. It was agreed that a diminishing proportion of audiences would be those who visit the galleries themselves; the growing challenge would to look for online capacity and encourage curatorial teams to work there as much as they do in the galleries.

On transformations in cultural communication…We have had an imperfect relationship between the curator and our audience. Now is the time to extend this. There is a great need to reinterpret the museum in non-eurocentric way. This includes making collection material available in non-european languages; encouraging and learning about interpretation from a non-eurocentric perspective.

On the media…
The relationship between the media and museums has transformed: there was a time when museum news only appeared in the arts pages, it is now often in the news section. Arts are now an issue.

On The Plinth
It’s Twitter art!

Below is a potted summary of the event. Please note that this is not a word-for-word transcript but a potted summary! To hear to full podcast please visit:

JW- You’ve both been in the job since the late 80s, why are you still here?
NMG
The daily opportunity of being alone with some of the greatest objects in the world. Reminds you that what may be worrying you is fairly minor in the long history of things
The pleasure of viewing numbers of people who come through the doors; being able to engage with them, enjoy them – nothing beats that! It is the great voyeur’s pleasure being the director.
Nowhere else in the world offers what is possible with collections and publics as what London offers.
With free entry, the relationship between public and collection is transformed making it an infinitely more exciting job

NS
No-one has offered me a better job.
Museums sit within society in a very different place to what they do in USA.
Rewards of working with so many different kinds of people.
An extraordinary challenge.
Working closely with artists is a powerful strength of the institution.

JW: Black clouds are gathering do you feel the reaper?
NS
Because of the strength of public appreciation and engagement we will come through. It will be more difficult for politicians to cut money to museums in the 21st century as it was in the 20th century.
The experiment in the 90s (charging entrance fees) strengthened the position of museums

NMG
It’s possible but what’s changed is the way in which people use the collections.
People do now use collection to address the world and themselves, to become a real part of the consciousness of us in this country.

NS
They may have thought more in those terms n the 1820s-30s.

NMG
That’s why this country is so different. The National Gallery is in Trafalgar Square because it was thought that residents of the East End and the West End could walk to the gallery and mix.
This19th century language and has returned to centre stage.

JW: Are we living in more enlightened times in terms of attitudes to culture?
NS
Marginally. It is more difficult to cut grants but is still difficult to name 5 politicians who could be effective secretaries of the state;

NMG
Parliament is seathing with closet aesthetes!
There are no ministers in the cabinet with this responsibility when they were appointed.
Coverage of museums in press has completely transformed. It used to be tucked away in arts papers and is now frequently in the news. Arts are an issue now.

JW What is the best argument to take to politicians?
NS
The museum is a repository of world knowledge and has a place in civic society.

NMG
The world in 1987: on the whole Britain gave impression that we were in denial of the contemporary, every politician is aware that if you want a young public to take their place they need to see what is being made across the world.

JW: How do you see the role of nationhood and museums?
NMG
Museums have a role to play in fostering international relations
The place to start is in London. There has been a huge change since the war. London is a city of diasporas, unique – a city where the world lives; where different cultural traditions coexist and survive. That is the extraordinary excitement of living in London. Collections reflect that phenomena. Divisions between home and abroad don’t make sense any longer. There is a false polarity. Because of our imperial history, we are a unique world resource which together, represents the world. We try to make a reality of the notion of trusteeship – collections and expertise should be available to others around the world. Museums uniquely can do this in building international communities. This starts as professional world of trust and then can reach millions of people across the world. The government’s response has been 1million pounds to work overseas, recognising that collections are so important that they must be funded to operate overseas.

NS
Until 2000, The Tate felt comfortable with representing international and contemporary art from UK and Nth America. Now we represent more widely; not to a great extent but this has changed the institution, creating partnerships and relationships with museums around the world. The most defensible position in the world is to look out rather than in. There was a recognition that we weren’t recognising quality and significance of work in other parts of the world.

JW: Can culture make inroads around the world?
NMG
Exchanges are important b/c its extraordinarily hard for us to grasp how various world views are seen by different cultures. Friendships can survive the political chills.

NS
We have a broader view of the world; museums are in there for the long term

JW: Is the case for museums fading?
The basic argument hasn’t changed. The value of having a collection is that it is a place where the world can look at the whole world. It is a question of whether you believe in shared human culture or whether you want to define this in national terms. All enlightenment institutions are concerned with shared human culture. It is a question of how you see a cultural inheritance and a definition of a national self. This is a key question for the world. Whatever else has happened in the world we can no longer live in simple national identities.

The Greek government considers the removal (of the marbles) illegal and so they haven’t had these discussions. There has been a politicisation of culture. It was a great insight of British parliament to separate museums from government, in that way, trustees could not be subject to political directions. It depoliticized museums.

NS
Many people take enormous pleasure from seeing work in different contexts. If you could only see British art in Britain the world would be a different place.

JW: Do you ever wonder about the marbles?
MNG
No, because the key question is; was it proper for them to be removed? There is no question it was legal as you couldn’t move them without the support of the power of the day. But that is not the point, rather it is what happened when they were removed. When they came to London they were displayed at a height where people could see them. This is the purpose of a great museum; to enable huge numbers of people to examine closely what they wouldn’t have been able to previously.

JW: What have been most significant artistic developments?
NS
Note: here the discussion focused on what I think was public reaction to artistic intervention in the demolishment of a house. As I was unfamiliar with the case (and the people next to me chose that moment to talk, I couldn’t get the gist of Nick’s response other than: the Tate doesn’t do market testing on exhibitions. They rely on the conviction that these are the artists whose works should be viewed

NMG
Note: too much chat again so potted understanding!
The reality is that collections would be shared across the UK. This is the reality of public ownership. The Plinth (current exhibition in Trafalgar Square) raises the question of what public sculpture is, what sort we want. Thanks to competitions, there is a huge range of public who think about what is on a plinth and is in some measure, their decision.

NS
Symbollically says something about the generation of today.

NMG
It’s twitter art!

JW: What is the role of art and culture for 2012 Olympics?
NS
It needs good ideas that build on what is happening in institutions rather than short events.

NMG
It’s a great opportunity to build on what is already there, if politicians can agree that the world already exists in the collections. We already have a world cultural festival the cultural Olympiad is already there.

Authenticity and what it means to our audiences

Lydia Johnson recently posted a thought-provoking piece at http://westmuse.wordpress.com/ entitled ‘The A word’. It discusses the rise of authenticity in discussions at AAM this year. While I didn’t get a chance to be there, I wonder whether anyone was talking about Pine and Gilmore’s recent book: Authenticity: What Consumers Really Want

One of the points Pine and Gilmore make is that while audiences crave authentic experiences, in our contemporary times, we cannot assume they will equate them to the cultural sector. They suggest that we need to re-imagine our audiences and ask ourselves ‘why’ they would want to connect with us and indeed, what it is that we offer that is valuable in this age of instant access. As contentious as some of their ideas may be, I think it is incredibly valuable to genuinely ask ourselves what someone who isn’t in the cultural sector might get from connecting with us. Pine and Gilmore suggest that in re-imagining our audiences, we need to explore new partnerships and relationships with and through them.

I would add that it is broader than social media. While this gives us the tools to connect, the value of participation and the expectations of new associations are deeper and more serious concerns. I consider this to be an exciting time to be in the sector – a time when transformations in governance and guardianship have the potential to establish notions of authenticity for future, not just past or existing audiences.

Cultural Learning

I’m preparing a presentation for the Online education collaborations fro national cultural institutions meeting in Canberra tomorrow and I came across this report: Get It: The Power of Cultural Learning. The report was released this week and Bridget Mackenzie wrote a very interesting post on it. The crux of the report revolves around the recognition of culture within informal learning as a crucial and often neglected component of both the education and cultural agendas. Both the report and Bridget’s commentary are well worth a read!

When social media and formal learning collide…

The other morning (I can’t remember which one now – timezone changes and all) I had a new experience in relation to research dissemination and teaching. I was invited to develop a guest blog post for the University of Manchester’s digital heritage course blog site
Having (re) experienced the late night US lack of internet connectivity, I eventually managed to send the blog post to Kostas Arvanitis and set myself up for the skype conversation to follow. It was an interesting experience. The students had been discussing the blog post in their class and towards the end of the session Kostas rang me on Skype and asked me some questions which had arisen during the session. With a poor connection and no sense of who was in the audience, I basically did a radio interview wondering how much was actually being sent down the skype line (often poor at the best of times). After we were cut off mid-way we tried again and successfully finished the session. I appreciated the opportunity to discuss some of my most recent ponderings on the shift from cultural to value networks and look forward to further discussion on the course blog.
In hindsight it was a tough session, particularly with the poor line. Even so, it’s a format I’d like to explore more fully. The blog post has posed some more questions which I will be exploring there and elsewhere. Thanks to Kostas and the students. I do hope we can do it again!

Here at Museums and the Web 2009

I’m here at Museums and the Web in Indianapolis. Seb Chan and I delivered the Planning for Social Media Workshop yesterday. The slides can be viewed on the M&W site later today. I’ve been summarizing this morning’s session. Thanks to some killer jet lag I can’t promise to be awake for the afternoon session. You can follow the twitter feed at #mw2009. If you would like to follow me (when I’m awake) or to comment on this blog post, it would be great to do so either here or on Twitter. I’m artech05.

Opening Plenary
Maxwell Anderson, The Melvin & Bren Simon Director and CEO, Indianapolis Museum of Art
Moving from Virtual to Visceral

It is imperative to make behind the scenes available to audiences before and after visits.

Finding ways to keep volunteers engaged is a worthwhile effort

Exhibitions are curator’s conceits. They are only one way of communicating museum programs.

Looking and learning are only part of what visitors do: they also park, shop, eat. Museum needs to be sensitive to the whole visitation experience

Choice and opportunity are critical to visitation

Viewing art is analogous to watching drag racing – moments of viewing

Experiential environments can be compromised by excessive orientation

Virtual solutions as simulacrum- do we become caught up in our own obsession with technology?

Take our visitors to the movies rather than just show them the credits

Telling stories is the key issue

Wetting our appetites online

Urges us to maintain educational mandate of the museum rather than commercial intrusions

Encouraging voyeurism- how did this come to pass? Take cue from television appetite for behind the scenes

Allow audiences to see themselves in the narratives we deliver – an empathetic response

Present museum statistics online

Could steve project change the language of art criticism?

We should allow tagging to influence our decisions

Artbabble.org – not just enjoyment but incrementally, these recordings can become part of visual record

Visual traditions are not owned by curators

Most of what we acquire in museums is accidental- donors etc.

Flickr Commons – how long will it be around. Make sure we have something sustainable in-house

Look for experiential hooks – what makes visitation meaningful to audiences

Encourages push-back to ‘big banana’ curators
Serendipity is so much part of accessioning

Be reflective of what matters, not just what can be measured

Next steps…
More engagement
Not just access

Non visitor is such an important part of museum program- making a case online is experiential substitute for being onsite

Museum visitation can be transformative. Build intergenerational experience of museum visitation

manderson@imamuseum.org

Organisational Change
Chair Mia Ridge, Science Museum UK

Organisational Change for the On-line World: Steering the Good Ship Museum Victoria
Tim Hart and David Methven

In sourcing model – build capability in-house
How do we bring the organization along in the change?
How should we change our work practices? What are the key objectives?

At Museum Victoria an online strategy was created from information logic map
Drivers, objectives, benefits, changes

Organisation wanted ownership of their processes

Online planning group
Framework
Schedule
ICT restructure

Online planning group
Endorses projects
Ensures adequate resources and schedules

Framework
Understands online
Works and manages
Evaluates
Establishes measures of success

Online experiences
Information
Participation
Relationship

Collectish – organise and share yr collection
Connect with other collections. Result of the recognition that relationships are part of the new agenda and core business of the museum.

Down to Earth: Social Media and Institutional Change
Vincent de Keijzer and Patricia Deiser

Make use of audience participation

What will benefit staff? How do you seduce them?
Start talking to people inside museum- create online platform for internal discussion

Continuous access to cultural heritage project
Ideas, proposals, projects, experiments

“It must be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to plan, more doubtful of success nor more dangerous to manage than the creation of a new system. For the initiator has the enmity of all who profit by the preservation of the old institution and merely lukewarm defenders in those who would gain by the new one.” Nicolo Machiavelli

Who benefits most from the solution to the problem? Make them the project leader

Next steps…
Build the community from within the organisation

After the Heroism, Collaboration: Developing an Inter-Departmental Interpretive Goals Process at SFMOMA
Stephanie Pau and Peter Samis

Organising learning and mobile space

Creativity within IT team could be better utilised if folded into broader processes

Curators provide outline of interpretive goals of project

246 and counting
Architecture and design exhibition showcasing current acquisitions

The art of participation
The artist describes his silent sonata: “It seems idiotic but that’s what I did”

Frida Kahlo
Reaching out to new audiences

Evaluations showed that audiences were interested in
Artists own voice
Art curators and critics
Not so interested in other visitors voices

Tap on artwork and hear about the work – very popular

Mobile content via cell phone very problematic
Expensive for travelers
Wireless is intermittent
Dialing into content creates barriers

Next steps…
Promote with museum wide strategy

Thanks to Mia Ridge for chairing the session.

Look Who’s Talking -Conference Session 2

This session was premised on the notion that audiences now have the ability to express their own thoughts about their engagement with cultural resources in very public ways. The questions posed to each of the speakers included:
– Interpretation – is it at all relative nowadays? What is the value of expert knowledge?
– Where to next? – using social networking to disseminate views and experiences
– How do we encourage young people to see the value of their cultural participation?
-How can cultural organisations apply web 2.0 tools authentically and therefore in a way that sustains the interest and loyalty of an online community?
Here are some thoughts from our three speakers:

Shelley Bernstein
Shelley spoke about the processes involved in developing the ‘Click’ exhibition at Brooklyn Museum. The exhibition was based on ideas which came from the seminal book ‘The Wisdom of Crowds’ by James Surowiecki. Audiences were able to comment on art works which would be included in both the online and eventually, the onsite exhibition. Yet the way the feedback systems were established, participants were not able to see others’ responses thereby limiting crowd influence. As some twitterers suggested, the provided a challenge to the audience as it was clear that the exhibition development faze was not truly ‘web 2.0’. Even so, as one twitterer suggested, the cloud structure of images and the release of fuzzy data made for an extremely interesting project. The project demonstrated the convergence of physical and online visits and provided ideas of how those interested in capturing visual images, whether professional or amateur, engaged in the process.

Click
Wisdom of Crowds
Other Resources
Art Info

Thanks to Brett McLennan and Lynda Kelly for diligently twittering extra resources during this session!

Sebastian Chan
Seb only had 100 slides today and he managed to fit them into his allocated 15 minutes with his usual flair!! He described the Powerhouse online presence suggesting that there was a general movement from websites to web presence – one which demonstrated impact in the general community. As one of our twitterer’s suggested, visitors share their experiences of museums in spite of what the organisation does and Seb concurred, suggesting that there was a need to see what was really useful and to sift out the noise. A couple of important points underpinned Seb’s talk, importantly:
– allow people to BROWSE rather than search;
– allow people to contribute & help with collection information

There was a suggestion that bureaucracy doesn’t’ make web 2.0 initiatives safer, the social rules or community monitors do. Another important point both Seb and Shelley made was that museums can’t afford to outsource their learning when it comes to new tools for engaging with audiences. In the end, passing social media project to interns or short term partners ensures that the organisation doesn’t develop internal, sustainable knowledge – a recipe for future disasters I think!

Other resources
Example of visitor engagement from Australian Museum visit via Flickr

Vivienne Waller
Vivienne presented an entertaining piece on the relationship between Google and Libraries.
She began by suggesting that the relationship had developed over four stages:
– Romance – where libraries and google seemed to have everything in common
– Reality check – where the differences began to appeare
– Reaslisation that the two players wanted different things
– Regaining a separate sense of self – negotiating their boundaries.

The first stage was premised on the idea that google organised the world’s information and made it universally accessible and useful while libraries ensured access to information for all. Cracks started to appear when the integrity of search results began to be questioned. At the same time, digitisation grew exponentially and increasingly, there was a sense of a lack of public control.
At this point there was the realisation that Google’s omnipresence – from calendar to health, finance, street views, world maps etc. signified that Google wanted something very different from public libraries – Google wanted to organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful! Public Libraries on theother hand were dedicated to ensuring access to information for all.
In the final stage of the relationship, there was an appreciation the difference between from and content of information. Additionally, we had come to understand what could be lost in the translation to digital services.

References included:
Picasa Web
Orkut
Ask Now
along with a plethora of google products including: Google Maps, Streetview, Health, Wishlist, News and Finance!

Culture 2.0 – Conference summary

Following a successful, highly entertaining and (dare I say it) educational conference, I’ve been at a slight loss as to how to communicate it to those who weren’t there. In time, we will place the recordings online and I’ll upload images to the museum3.0. I’ve also got the twitter feed which is an invaluable record of the issues as they were addressed. So, in an effort to create a comprehensive, useful document, I’ll be uploading reflections on each of the speakers along with the websites they discussed in their presentations. I’ll do this over the next week as, from experience, I know that faced with an entire conference full of links and ideas, chances are, we don’t get the time to go through them properly.

I was delighted with the quality and diversity of the speakers. There is a certain leap of faith that occurs between establishing conference themes, sourcing the speakers and then wondering whether your internal organisational structures will mean anything to anyone else!!! This was most definately the case with the Culture 2.0 session. I knew why I’d invited Graham Durant and Colin McLeod to speak in the same session.

I was convinced that although they were speaking from different realms, their common interest – capturing and maintaining an audience – would mean that they could speak to the issues of the session in provocative ways. The underlying principle was that cultural and commerical organisations are now no longer just using the same tools (marketing, exhibition, events) etc. they’re occupying the same spaces (Facebook, YouTube) etc. Few of us, organisations and individuals included can hide behind the ivory tower for much longer. In academia we’ve had to get used to being more public (had you told me I would be writing in this way 5 years ago, I’d have had a few unpublishable comments to make!) But, as we see the value in new technologies, we tend to use them. I for one, haven’t washed clothes by hand for a good thirty years! But I digress… So with that as the preamble, here are summaries of their presentations:

Professor Graham Durant
Graham’s insightful and thoughtful presentation focused on the evolution of co-creation and its potential impact on cultural communication. Some of the main points included:
-cocreation enables people working together wherever they are
-we need to get used to living in a beta world – adapting to change as issues arise
-we can use our institutional web presence to communicate & reach audiences and once there, we need to develop culturally appropriate content
-we need to experiment with new partners
-we need to go where our audience is rather than wait for them to come to us

Graham questioned why museums weren’t, for the most part, placing more emphasis on shifting their resources to meet the new demands of changing audience expectation. As a Director a highly successful Science Centre, it was telling to hear his thoughts on resource management and future needs. Questacon has a growing presence in social networking spaces including a YouTube channel. The presentation was developed using Michelangelo’s ‘Creation of Adam’ as the background image. Details of the painting were used to emphasize particular points – a delightful detail which contextualised the complexity of the case within an historical understanding of both aesthetic and economic concerns.

Graham’s mix of historical reference and contemporary issues was, in itself, a metaphor for the great challenges which the sector faces. The knowledge sector is built on 19th century ideas of enlightenment through civic education and Graham’s presentation suggested that fundamental shifts in communication – from one way to co-creative, wer a necessary part of the evolution of the institution. His summary slide described some of the reasons the sector might choose to participate in social networks and discussed some of the downfalls of that participation. Judging by the the trememdous initiatves which Questacon is involved in, I would suggest that Graham has found a way of balancing these complex issues!

Teen and Social Media Pew Internet Report

Quetacon YouTube Channel

World Community Grid

Science Squad

Dr Colin McLeod
At first (as documented by the Twitter feed and subsequent blog feedback) it appeared that some audience members were questioning what the General Manager, Marketing, Communications and Public Affairs at the Australian Football League was doing, speaking about Culture 2.0.

The crux of Colin’s presentation was the need to be clear about the value that can be brought to experiences, events and partnerships when exploring social media. As the largest sporting body in the country with close to a million participants from AusKick (entry level football education) through the clubs to the national league, the organisation needs to maintain its focus – so how might they connect with cultural content and what place does social media have in their business plan? His main points included:
-social media allows AFL to connect with fans in ways that engages them,allows audiences to express themselves and AFL learns from this process
– AFL needs to keep engaged and stay relevant – social media is a constant challenge for them
– AFL likes social media as it challenges way they think about engagement & participation, making the old new again through new connections
– Social media questions the values the AFL want to share and how they want to engage with community

Colin described a project AFL had undertaken in conjunction with researchers from Queensland University of Technology ( Dr Mark Pennings) and Swinburne University (me). This project linked the AFL with State Library of Victoria and Melbourne Cricket Club through the development of two online exhibitions which discussed the origins of Australian Football (1848 – 1898). The sites were linked to a ning site where viewers could become active participants, sharing their knowledge, stories, images and objects with a broader community. Colin emphasised that in such partnerships, the value came from enabling the audience to share their stories and to connect to content within the library.

Colin also discussed the power of social networking in relation to supporting sporting endeavours and building communities. He used the ‘My Football Club’ example, ‘the world’s first and only web-community owned football club’. In 2008, the online community purchased the Kent based, Ebbsfleet United football club for £600,000. Three months later Ebbsfleet united won the FA Trophy at Wembley. Colin used this example to illustrate the power of shared values and community engagement.

In his closing statements, Colin told us that he’d been asked to speak about a great many things in his time, but never about culture – and for this he was thankful!

Australian Football 150 years

Australian Football’s Origins – Interactive Exhibition

Australian Football’s Origins – social network ning site

My Football Club

Couch Surfing


About us

This blog examines social media, cultural institutions and digital participation. It's based on the research projects Engaging with Social Media in Museums and New Literacy, New Audiences. Regular contributors are Angelina Russo, Lynda Kelly and Seb Chan

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