Moving outside our web-site
It's always interesting at conferences like Museums & The Web how individuals seem to be independently moving the in the same direction. Dafydd mentioned the Brooklyn Museum's Graffiti Mural which is a really nice example of how gallery spaces and online spaces can be combined to provide an experience for everybody.
There's also a distinction developing between a museum's web-site and a museum's online presence. In the past, if you spread your wings outside your own site, it was to pay a tourism or web-links site to promote your museum, and I think it was mostly a fruitless venture. A lot of the teams here have actively participating on a new generation of participatory sites like MySpace, Facebook, Flickr, Digg, YouTube and the community of museum bloggers (the 'blog-o-sphere'). The audience for these sites tends to be a little different to the average web-site visitor looking for opening times or driving directions.
Actively participating in online communities - leaving comments, flagging up related links, and linking to others - can be one of the big drivers for people to come to your site. If you can get this community talking to the people standing in the exhibitions, you can build a much stronger community than museums have ever had before, and reach a wider variety of people too.
The web 2.0 workshop yesterday allowed us to see how some of the world's leading institutions are connecting to social networks to gain new audiences.
Jeff Gates from the Smithsonian explained how they had assembled a blog team, and developed an online identity (Eye Level) that has gained popularity. I was quite suprised at the workflow involved with posting a blog - but happy to see that even a heavliy moderated blog can be successful.
Shelley Bernstein and Nicole Caruth from Brooklyn Museum showed some very interesting uses of social networking sites like Flickr. I was particularly impressed with their 'Graffiti Mural' project where people leave tags or comments on the wall, and track the progress of the wall on Flickr - check it out here. You can even upload pictures of exhisting Graffiti. They are really blurring the line between visitors that are physical and virtual - I look forward to visiting them in NYC.
Finally there was an enjoyable presentation by Mike Ellis from the Science Museum (UK). Out of the many valid comments Mike made (ranging from bureaucratic to technical), the point of 'start doing' was the main message that came through.
On the right track?
From our tour of San Francisco both Chris and I were quite relieved that other Museums were using similar technology to Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales. Web based delivery of in-gallery digital media seems to be quite popular, and our custom built content management system allows us to roll out responsibility for some services to selected editors.
The new gallery at St Fagans, Oriel 1, uses web-based technology for most of its applications. This means that most of the audio-visual content is quite flexible and can be accessed across networks. It's a bit of a testing ground for us!
Blogging at Museums & The Web 2007
It's now Dafydd and I's second day at the Museums & The Web conference, and appropriately today's workshop was on blogging. It was hosted by the web team at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. They've been running a series of blogs for quite some time, and it's grown from the first few 'new media' entries into the most popular part of their website, and one of the best museum blogs on the net. We're looking forward to meeting them next week and seeing more of what they do.
It was interesting to hear how their blogs have evolved in that time - I think the only way for us to make this area as engaging for people as possible is to keep posting, listen to your feedback (we'll introduce better mechanisms for this soon) and let it happen. What you read now is not the corporate tone, or perhaps what you'll read here in 2 years time.
Another striking difference from the rest of the site is how our blog entries are not directly translated into both Welsh and English, but are presented simply as they're written. It's a personal, off-the-cuff medium and I feel this is in the right spirit. We welcome your feedback on this.
In later posts, I'll talk a bit about how we work with bilingual content and our own Content Management System (CMS). This will be a major consideration as we take our blogging further.
Tour of San Francisco Museums
As part of our Museums and the Web conference, Chris and I had a tour of some of the museums of San Francisco. We visited the SF MoMA (Museum of Modern Art), the de Young Museum, and the Exploratorium.
The SF MoMA had a concept similar to Oriel 1's (St Fagans' new Belonging exhibition) 'Read and Reveal' - these were called 'Learning Lounges', which included computer workstations (with a custom made user interface to access all online materials), books, and graphics on the walls and panels. Both Chris and myself liked the design of the Flash-based user interface.
At the de Young Museum we had a chance to try out their PDA based tour developed by Antenna Audio. The interface was robust and easy to use. They also showed their digital signage system - which was a Flash display accessing the Museum's web-based CMS (Content Management System).
Then finally we went to the Exploratorium, which was similar to Techniquest - but they had an array of web feeds and microsites within their massive 17,000 page (I think!) web site.
The conference continues tomorrow with pre-conference workshops, and we are attending the blogging workshop presented by staff from the Walker Art Center, in Minneapolis which we are visiting next week.