ON THE ROAD – Sharing Museum Ideas

by Suzanne Francis-Brown

One stop on the road this month was the world of Museum Ideas – via the annual Museum ID conference held this year at the Science Museum in London, titled: The Future of Museums in the Era of Participatory Culture.

The best part of the conference was the opportunity was to sit back and listen to a range of other museum professionals present aspects of their work that overlap in small or big ways with the work we’re doing at the UWI Museum. I’m including the programme to show the range of the presentations.

Issues of engagement with communities were heavily present, and while several people acknowledged the importance of social media, this was generally put in its place – as a facilitator, not an end in itself. Indeed JiaJia Fei who is Director of Digital at the Jewish Museum of New York talked about prioritizing among the infinite ways of going on the Web; urged an integrated strategy; and noted the importance of measuring and reporting impact.

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It was great to meet and link with some of the presenters, including Jennifer Scott, Director of the http://www.hullhousemuseum.org in Chicago, USA, who talked about using history to engage the community and extending citizenry through museums. This museum, which is far more activist than its historic house label might suggest, is presently focusing on voting in America in the context of participation and exclusion.

The connection of museums with research and investigation, including through links with universities, emerged in more than one presentation. Ken Arnold, Creative Director of the Medical Museion in Copenhagen (http://www.museion.ku.dk/our-heritage/history/ ) said that the “bond between universities and museums is perhaps one of the strongest places where new investigation can come out…”

There were also presentations focused on community engagement in collection, on gallery chats as a means of pulling in audiences, on collecting oral testimony as an adjunct to collecting artifacts – all approaches that resonated with what we’ve been doing; all offering useful experiences.

Another great element of the Museum ID experience was that the organizers offered a pre-conference workshop – this year on aspects of digital strategy and interpretation. In many museums, visitors are offered audio guides or some other form of interpretation that helps them navigate through the exhibition(s) and often provides additional information or other forms of enriched offerings. Participants were offered a look into a range of such offerings, as well as some ideas on how to approach decision-making in such cases. So, for instance, we got to navigate the digital offerings developed by a company called Imagineear for the current Rolling Stones: Exhibitionism exhibition and for the London Stadium and West Ham Football Club tour.

Definitely worth the time!

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