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Beyond the website - the Science Museum, plus bubbles, icebergs, and some challenges for your museum


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Beyond the website: the role of the internet at the Science Museum (plus bubbles, icebergs, and some challenges for your museum) …

Beyond the website: the role of the internet at the Science Museum (plus bubbles, icebergs, and some challenges for your museum)
A presentation at 'Social Media, Broadcasting & The Web', London

Published in: Technology, Education

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  • You seem like interesting people. I’d like to have conversations with you. IMHO – in my humble opinion. So now you know where I’m coming from.The best way to email me is via the form on
  • If you don’t believe me, look at lolcats or b3ta
  • Peer’s already talked about this (and blimey is it impressive)
  • If you don’t have good answers to these questions, why are you proposing this project?
  • What are the real benefits for your org of using social media? Find the rewards
  • Most of our content, research, staff, collections, objects, work, investment is hidden. Visitors only see the tiny tip of the iceberg.
  • Museums face challenges in funding, competition for audiences with other content providers – transparency helps turns visitors into supporters and supporters into advocates
  • An example
  • They’re not complicated, really, geeks just like to make them sound hard so they look smart. Trufax.
  • Now you know URL hacking! Try it at home.[This is a user-friendly explanation rather than a scientific truth]
  • Make sure you pop the bubbles still so that people don’t regroup around departmental or team lines
  • Make sure you pop the bubbles still so that people don’t regroup around departmental or team lines
  • Make sure you pop the bubbles still so that people don’t regroup around departmental or team lines
  • Make sure you pop the bubbles still so that people don’t regroup around departmental or team lines
  • Make sure you pop the bubbles still so that people don’t regroup around departmental or team lines
  • Transcript

    • 1. Beyond the website: the role of the internet at the Science Museum Mia Ridge, Lead Web Developer, Science Museum
    • 2. Beyond the website: the role of the internet at the Science Museum (plus bubbles, icebergs, and some challenges for your museum) Mia Ridge, Lead Web Developer, Science Museum
    • 3. Who? • I’m Mia • I work for the Science Museum • Notes will be online at, twitter @mia_out with comments or questions • IMHO: museums should be about delight, serendipity and answers that provoke more questions. Museums should also be committed to accessibility, transparency, curation, respecting and enabling expertise. Museum websites should turn each visitor into a ‘dinner party bore’ about one topic that inspires them
    • 4. Bubbles and icebergs • Your online presence isn’t just about what happens under your URL • Your ‘website’ is no longer neatly contained • The web has changed our audiences and changed their expectations about content and interactivity: mash-up, re-use, re-mix
    • 5. Who’s already talking to your audiences? • Explainers, attendants, front of house • Educators • Social media people Lucky them! They get to hear great stories, questions, challenges, suggestions, facts. But do those conversations find their way back into the organisation or do they stay in a bubble?
    • 6. 2009 Where is your online audience? “The ten most heavily used web brands account for 45% of total UK internet time. Facebook is the most heavily used web brand, accounting for 13 percent of all UK Internet time – or one in every eight minutes Communication and entertainment are central themes amongst most heavily used web brands”
    • 7. We’re taking our content to where people hang out
    • 8. Beyond your URL • Social media – questions for success • Pushing content out into the world (aka the acronym bit) – an experiment with mashups
    • 9. First questions for digital projects • What will it do for our audiences? • How can content be re-used? • Which existing technologies can we use? • How can infrastructure and resources be re-used? • How can we share our reflections on the lessons learned? • What happens afterwards?
    • 10. Social media • What kind of interaction is appropriate for your – technology – audiences – goals? • What organisational resources need to be in place to support true engagement?
    • 11. Example: ObjectWiki • Strong responses as memories, reminiscences, ‘living history’ accounts • Not much editing of ‘curatorial’ information – the basic facts and figures, interpretative or subject information • We’ll take this learning into our next collections projects
    • 12. Social media • How are you asking audiences to participate? – comment – conversation – challenge – contribute – create • Does your organisation really want to open up to interaction or is it lip service?
    • 13. Social media • Is risk ok? How can you alleviate it? • Can you use social media to improve internal communications? • How can you learn from project failures? • Understand the particular risks in social media and define your ‘exit strategy’ • Find the unique benefits in social media
    • 14. The Louvre is an iceberg
    • 15. The Louvre is an iceberg (so is your museum)
    • 16. Show your audiences all the good stuff that happens behind the scenes You can only fit so many people on a storeroom tour, but the web has unlimited capacity It’s a natural fit for social media Now is a good time for transparency – turn visitors into supporters, and supporters into advocates
    • 17. Dealing with the challenges • We can’t afford to build interfaces to meet every need – but we don’t need to if we make it possible for others to build interfaces with us • Inspiring examples, real success stories from users, sharing technical solutions help sector IT evangelisers • ‘Fail faster, succeed sooner’ – reward intelligent failure
    • 18. Running with the challenges • Re-thinking the museum microsite • Being brave about engagement with the public • Making internal data available to the public and asking them to re-mix it • Interesting challenges for project design, management, metrics
    • 19. The Cosmos & Culture mashup competition ‘celebrate cutting-edge astronomical technology alongside stunning objects from our world-class historical collections’
    • 20. Objectives • Make best use of the limited budget and staff time to get the highest impact web presence for Cosmos & Culture • Take advantage of infrastructure built for previous projects – demonstrate benefits internally
    • 21. Objectives • Experiment with new ways of making objects available via the web • Experiment with new ways of attracting user-generated content • Experiment with new forms of audience participation
    • 22. Why? • “The coolest thing to be done with your data will be thought of by someone else” – JISC CRIG • quot;The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyesquot; – Marcel Proust
    • 23. What do we have? • Lots of objects, lots of images • Lots of metadata about objects • Also interrelated records on people, places, dates, historical periods, events, subjects (topics, themes) – Who designed, invented, made, used, bought, owned, donated an object? When and where was it made, used, found? What’s related?
    • 24. What is a mashup? • Combines data from one or more sources or visualisation tools into a single integrated interface – takes existing information and shows it to you in a unique way • Wikipedia: ‘easy, fast integration, frequently done by access to open APIs and data sources to produce results that were not the original goal of the data owners’ • Mashups are part of the vernacular of the web
    • 25. Geo-located services
    • 26. Maps
    • 27. What is an API? • A way of accessing data directly • A ‘set of programming instructions and standards for accessing a Web-based software application’, a ‘machine-to- machine interface’ • An API is a user interface for developers. Usability is important.
    • 28. What is an API? • Easiest way: RESTful. • Change the URL, the content on the page changes: – postcode=SW72DD&area_size=l – a large area of planning applications around the Science Museum – postcode=EC2Y5HN&area_size=s – a small area of planning applications around the Museum of London
    • 29. How are mashups made? • Decide what you’re making – Maps, timelines, images, • Decide where your data is coming from – Our API will provide information about Cosmos and Culture objects – Google, Yahoo, Amazon, IBM etc provide APIs and data visualisation tools – Other public domain data sources? • Work out technical issues – do you have the programming, user experience, design expertise you need? What framework will you use? Where will you host it? Do you need to find team mates? • Start designing, programming, testing
    • 30. Organisational benefits for the mashup? • Possible big impact with small budget • Ties in with key Cosmos & Culture messages - astronomy is inspirational, amateur astronomers can still make important contributions • Provide our audiences with new visualisations and interpretative contexts for objects • New insights into our collection
    • 31. Developer benefits for the mashup? • Prizes! • Potentially huge audience • Learn or consolidate skills • An interface that gives them information they want, how they want it • Not sure you have all the skills? Meet potential team mates at ‘hack matching’ – like speed dating for project ideas
    • 32. Outcomes of the mashup? • This is the big question! • We know that it’s possible but we don’t know if it’ll work in this context • We think it could provide methods of exploring collections data that go far beyond the visitors’ initial query • We’re not sure how it will work • But it’ll be fun finding out
    • 33. Another experiment • An end to silos - lightweight partnerships with other museums through information sharing. Small pieces, loosely joined. • “is a wiki for sharing, discussing, arguing (nicely) over and hopefully coming to some common agreements on APIs and data schemas for museum collections. It's being led by the Science Museum, London, but we're interested in working with other museums in the UK or worldwide. ... this is about access to and re-use of cultural heritage data” • Open to contributions, questions, tests – join in!
    • 34. Innovation bubbles • Innovation is happening throughout your organisation • Do you know where? • What’s being done to encourage it?
    • 35. Pop the bubbles • Address the ‘left hand, right hand’ problem • Reality check projects, re-discover existing infrastructure, processes, content • Involve inter-disciplinary teams from the start of project planning and design • Active partners in exhibition and digital project design means better integration of gallery and online audience experiences
    • 36. Hold an internal mashup day • Pop internal bubbles - invite tech, curatorial, front of house, learning staff • Rediscover how smart, passionate and innovative your staff can be • Generate new ideas, community • Informal audit of organisational infrastructure, processes, content, re-use rights • Encourage staff to report back to their peers
    • 37. Too hard? • Try an unconference (think of it as a workshop where the participants suggest topics and lead sessions themselves) • Or hold informal ‘brown bag’ lunches to share ideas and solutions – find an empty meeting room, bring your lunch and ideas
    • 38. A challenge Has the web fundamentally changed your museum?
    • 39. A challenge Has the web fundamentally changed your museum? Why not? It’s changed the rest of the world
    • 40. Thank you for listening Slide credits: