Inspirational technology

Thanks to our great speakers, we had an inspirational morning at the Digital technology for visitors workshop on 25th March.

Jonathan Wallis (@JonathanMuseum) started us off with an update on progress with implementation of Derby’s digital engagement strategy. Useful lessons and advice included:
• Following the purchase of 20 3G iPads, all staff now ‘do digital’
• Free public wifi is ‘essential’ and has revolutionised work at the museum
• Several suppliers have worked with the museum on new applications – eg on 3d printing – some without charge.
Derby’s now using Twitter to seek public suggestions for new galleries (@DMNature) and will be inviting visitors to ask questions about Joseph Wright’s work to inform development of gallery information. Link to Jonathan’s slides here.

Next, Spencer Clark from ATS Heritage (@ATS_Heritage) – who produced the award winning iGuides for Gainsborough Old Hall – showed us a range of museum guides. Talking about future plans, Spencer mentioned the company’s new updateable app – coming soon – and Bluetooth iBeacons. [In my view, these are the Next Great Thing for museums, following the Internet and Social Media. If you want to know more, have a look at the videos on Estimote’s Home page, scroll down for FAQs and then look at this blog post and video about a mobile app which uses iBeacons at Rubens House Museum in Antwerp.]

Already inspired, David Gerrard (@EpiphanyLboro) from the Centre for Information Management at Loughborough University then told us about his research into the use of social media to measure inspiration in museums. He presented lots of fascinating stats and diagrams from an analysis of Twitter networks built up around sites in the Derwent Valley. Dave will be adding his slides to his Slideshare page soon.

Finally, Cora Glasser from Glassball (@glassball_news) showed us some examples of digital art projects they’ve worked on. Cora showed us beautiful images and projections and inspirational ideas using a range of technologies – and set us up for some fascinating discussions over lunch.

Many thanks to our speakers and to DH Lawrence Heritage Bistro for the delicious buffet. I’ll add links to other speakers’ slides as I receive them.

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Sharing meeting with new digital technologies

The final meeting of the Digital programme will take place on 25th March at the DH Lawrence Heritage Centre in Eastwood. The morning will feature demonstrations and discussions on new digital technologies for museum visitors including tablet based guides, updateable apps and iBeacons. There will also be a report on recent research on the use of social media in museums.
Speakers will include:
• ATS Heritage who produce tablet based guides for museums (including Gainsborough Old Hall), listening posts etc. They will be talking about their new updateable app and iBeacons
• Glassball who will show us some examples of digital art projects using a range of technologies including projection, QR codes etc
• David Gerrard from Loughborough University who is researching museums’ use of social media and improving its effectiveness.

The afternoon will be a ‘sharing’ session for programme participants (only) to report on their digital action plans. Claire Browne will be there to hear participants’ views of the programme and to discuss future plans.

Contact us for more information.

Workshops at the Workhouse

Two workshops in one day at Southwell on Monday. I hope the delegates enjoyed the day as much as I did. Many thanks to our splendid speakers and brilliant hospitality from the Workhouse.

The morning session looked at how to improve – or prove – the impact of social media. Sarah Spurrier and Lynsey Woods from the Workhouse started us off with a first rate presentation showing how they work with some of their 210 volunteers to collect stories for Twitter and Facebook. Some great tips and a good discussion followed. I loved the idea of a ‘social media cauldron’. Download Sarah and Lynsey’s slides here.

Then Polly Stanley from Boston Guildhall showed us how she works with Boston Council’s IT department to measure usage of Twitter and their new website. For me, it goes to show that imaginative councils don’t ban Facebook etc: this one clearly enjoys working with the museum and supporting them on digital projects.

Next up was David Gerrard from Loughborough University. Dave has worked with museums and MLA in the past and is now researching methods to help museums use social media. He demonstrated a range of tools to help in marketing campaigns, several suggested by Culture24’s Let’s Get Real 2 research. All was underpinned by the message that we need to know what we want to achieve – and we need a plan for evaluating success – before we wade in. Link to Dave’s slides on Slideshare here.

In the afternoon, Jude Habib from Sound Delivery showed us how to create and share audio stories. We gained some great tips on different types of audio, how (and where) to interview, how to edit and how to share. Goodness, Jude makes it look easy! So good was her training that Sally from Mansfield Museum had, less than two days later, set up a new Audioboo account, recorded one of their young volunteers talking about a museum object, created a new volunteers Facebook page featuring their work – and promoted it all on Twitter ( @MMVolunteers ). Stunningly good. Jude’s slides are here, but I have not included the audio examples and links: let me/Jude know if you need any of these. Also see Sound Delivery’s excellent Social Media guidelines and the National Trust’s oral history deposit agreement.

I think we all agreed that a day was not enough for two such wide-ranging topics. But we’ve had great feedback, so I’m hoping MDEM might run something more next year.

Workshop dates

Participants in the Digital Strategies programme – and other East Midlands museums too – might want to keep 2nd December free. We’re running two workshops at the Workhouse at Southwell on that day: one on evaluation of the impact of social media and the other on creating and using audio for oral histories and visitors’ stories. More information soon…

On the subject of workshops, MODES User Association asked me to talk at their Annual Meeting last week on sharing collections information online. My talk was not in any way MODES specific: I showed a wide range of web and mobile sites and talked about the potential for using collections to build community and social media interaction. My slides are on Slideshare although I’m afraid they might not make much sense without my waffle… I’m considering using the talk as the basis for another Digital Strategies group workshop, so let me know if that appeals.

And finally: I shall be talking about digital asset management for the Collections programme on 16th December in Newark. Keep an eye on MDEM’s e-newsletters for booking information.

Collections and a cunning plan

Another first for me last week: Boston Guildhall. With a recent HLF funded re-display, the gallery features some impressive multimedia, including a 3D reconstruction of the Guildhall, video and audio and touchscreen kiosks.

They are also doing impressive stuff with Facebook and Twitter and Polly has a good understanding of how to link the two to build followers and promote the museum. This is underpinned by a very supportive IT department at Boston Council who are keen to get involved and have produced useful social media policy/guidelines.

Polly’s aims for the Digital Strategies programme are directed towards providing access to collections information. She wants to find out more about her options, add images to the museum’s object records and look into the possibility of income generation from print sales. As well as helping her with that, I’m thinking up a cunning plan to share her social media knowledge with the rest of the group… More anon.

Strategic and sustainable

More industrial history last week when I visited Sharpe’s Pottery Museum in Swadlincote in Derbyshire and Hough Mill in Swannington, just over the border in Leicestershire. Hough Mill has been restored by the very active, volunteer-run Swannington Heritage Trust who research, restore and maintain a number of historical sites around Swannington. Sharpe’s Pottery features a very impressive kiln (visible from around the town) and museum galleries; its comfortable café, meeting room and shop attract locals and are helping the museum to become a centre for community activities. Swannington is keen to expand its community links through a variety of innovative community projects and to define target audiences for digital services.

Both organisations are small and independent and both have achieved an enormous amount with few resources – in Swannington’s case, volunteers only. Both want to investigate options for digital gallery interactives featuring video and audio – and to make collections information available – and both are interested in developing their digital marketing and their understanding of social media. They are keen to attend training and learn from others in the group.

What struck me most about these two museums was their dedication and business sense. Both Ruth at Sharpe’s and Bis at Swannington want their plans to be strategic and sustainable. As with the other museums on the programme, they both want to concentrate on researching and implementing digital developments that others in their organisations can maintain long term.

Sharing experience

Two contrasting museums last week: the Workhouse at Southwell and Strutt’s North Mill at Belper. Different coverage of course: one social history, the other industrial. The Workhouse has the support of a large organisation (the National Trust), while Strutt’s North Mill is independent. And the Workhouse has dabbled in digital technology over the last few years, while the Mill is starting more or less from scratch.

But there are similarities too: both organisations want to know more about the potential of digital in galleries, particularly the use of tablets and video. The main cross-over, though, is in the development and support of volunteers: the Workhouse team wants to develop and deliver training in digital marketing, while North Mill’s main aim for the digital programme is to improve access to collections information, particularly for volunteers. The Workhouse team has huge experience with recruiting, training and managing volunteers and – best of all for this programme – they are happy to share their experience with other museums.

I’m now working on a proposal for a digital workshop at Southwell delivered partly by Workhouse staff. Watch this space…