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Got Tech? How Small-town museums and historical sites can go digital

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Community pillars and repositories of history and memory, many museums are struggling the face of an ever evolving technological landscape. Consultants for local museums have commented that small museums “lack all of the new technology platforms” and as a result these museums will “most likely fall further behind the industry and become less relevant to the intended audience.” By looking at recent digital initiatives from across the country, this panel will highlight ways in which museums can use this opportunity to not only jump on the digital bandwagon, but also reach a new and larger audience.

The Smithsonian Institution, the Center for Public History + Digital Humanities, and the Florida Humanities Council are a few of the national and statewide institutions that are partnering with small town museums and historic sites through new digital initiatives. We will discuss twenty-first century solutions for museums and historic sites by examining interactive experiences that explore how we can leverage current collections/resources and thus highlight the pivotal role these institutions can play within the larger community.

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Got Tech? How Small-town museums and historical sites can go digital

  1. 1. Museums and the Web 2015 / Chicago, IL Got Tech? How Small-town museums and historical sites can go digital Friday, April 10, 2015 Brad Baer / brad@bluecadet.com / @bluecadet Carol Harsh / harshc@si.edu / @museumonmainst. J. Mark Souther / m.souther@csuohio.edu / @cphdh Jennifer Synder / jsnyder@flahum.org / @callicolone #SmallMuseumsBigIdeas
  2. 2. Consultants for local museums have commented that small museums “lack all of the new technology platforms” and as a result these museums within 3-5 years most small museums will “likely fall further behind the industry and become less relevant to the intended audience.”
  3. 3. Our goal today is to show big opportunities for small museums
  4. 4. Why does the technology have to be high quality?
  5. 5. “We don’t have the money to do this.”
  6. 6. “We don’t have the budget for fancy hardware.”
  7. 7. “How do we even know if this will work?”
  8. 8. EARLY PROOF OF CONCEPT QUALITY ASSURANCE TESTING IN-GALLERY EXPERIENCE
  9. 9. “Can digital help expand the experience?”
  10. 10. “We don’t have the staff to maintain the interactives.”
  11. 11. Great stories always trump new technology
  12. 12. C I T Y O F B E T H L E H E M / B E T H E L E H E M , PA Hoover Mason Trestle
  13. 13. “These stacks tell my family’s story in a way that no person ever could.”
  14. 14. C A R O L H A R S H / S M I T H S O N I A N I N S T I T I O N Local as National J. M A R K S O U T H E R / C S U Local as Global J E N N I F E R S N Y D E R / F H C Local as State
  15. 15. C A R O L H A R S H / S M I T H S O N I A N I N S T I T I O N Local as National
  16. 16. Museum on Main Street (MoMS) is an exhibition based humanities project that is national in scope, but at the heart, celebrates local history and culture. Partnering with state humanities councils, SITES develops exhibitions custom designed for small town museums, libraries, and other cultural organizations.
  17. 17. • Produce for Victory: Posters on the American Home Front • Barn Again! Celebrating an American Icon • Yesterday’s Tomorrows: Past Visions of the American Future • Key Ingredients: America By Food • Between Fences • New Harmonies: Celebrating American Roots Music • Journey Stories • The Way We Worked • Hometown Teams: How Sports Shape America 20 Years of MoMS Exhibitions
  18. 18. Museum on Main Street • Celebrates, explores, and deepens understanding of our shared American experience • Engages community in local history and public humanities • Inspires local stories, shared memories, and celebration of local heritage • Illuminates indomitable innovative spirit of Main Street America
  19. 19. Stories From Main Street
 
 A story collecting initiative about life in small town America (app and website) 
 
 Use technology to engage students in their own history and culture in under-resourced rural communities hosting MoMS exhibitions. Student “curators” develop digital interpretive projects that localize the content of the MoMS exhibitions. • Students gain deeper understanding about local history and culture • Improve student 21st century skills (creativity, critical thinking, civic and media literacy, technology and research skills) • Bridge gap between students and local cultural organizations • Create connections between generations and across diverse local communities
  20. 20. • 1 in 4 Americans live in small towns • Rural communities may have limited access to cultural resources • Small town museums comprise half of all museums in the United States Since 1994, over 1300 community-based cultural organizations in 48 states have welcomed the Smithsonian to town! Museums in Small-town American
  21. 21. Profile of Small Museums Community-based museums connect people to the place they call home • Typically less than 4 full time staff and lots of active volunteers • Most staff are between 50 – 65 years old • Without dedicated gallery for changing exhibits – can accommodate exhibitions that are 600-800 square feet • No loading docks; few have elevators • Crates must fit in a single door and weigh less than 300 pounds Local history can be deeply meaningful to a community  
  22. 22. MoMS Technology Survey Survey sent to 580 small museums that have hosted MoMS exhibitions in past 6 years (31% response rate) Use of Technology in Exhibitions • 92% have internet access at the facility • 72% have Wi-Fi capability in their exhibition gallery • Comfort level high with use of technology in exhibitions: video monitors (86%), audio listening stations (84%), tablets (70%), touch tables (65%), and computers (61%) • With an easy upload of video and audio files, 68% likely to contribute local content to a Smithsonian exhibition • 78% willing to help us pilot a new technology initiative that uses web-based content in digital interactive components with in a traveling exhibition Social Media • 97% participate in social media • 56% report moderate activity at least once each week • 99% use Facebook
  23. 23. Water Matters technology initiatives: • Story collecting - MoMS new My Water app (video, audio, text, photos) • Educational – Digital Badging Project • Local content contribution – Florida Humanities Council • Project website – gateway for Smithsonian water resources as well as a repository for original content generated by students and the general public
  24. 24. J. M A R K S O U T H E R / C S U Local as Global
  25. 25. Cleveland Historical website and apps • Collaboratively curated • Low cost, high impact • Clear, standards-based sourcing • Cross promotion • Extensible to standalone projects http://clevelandhistorical.org
  26. 26. Curating Kisumu: Adapting Mobile Humanities 
 Interpretation in East Africa
 • Working with Maseno University in Kisumu, Kenya to 
 build, adapt, study, and sustain a humanities-based 
 mobile app initiative in East Africa • Challenges: Technology, Sources, Buy-in, Audience, Sustainability
  27. 27. J E N N I F E R S N Y D E R / F H C Local as State
  28. 28. 39
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  35. 35. 47
  36. 36. 49
  37. 37. 50
  38. 38. 51
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  41. 41. 56
  42. 42. 57 Initial States 2 prototypes - Bartow, St. Petersburg, Fl March 5 - soft launch/user testing • 93 “active sessions” • Average of 7 clicks • 2:44 average time per “session”
  43. 43. 1. Urgent need for tech in small museums. 2. Small museums have the capacity and the desire for digital interactives. 3. Local content matters! 4. Small engaging interactives drive attendance. 5. Existing, well-used, open-source tools are usually the best. 6. Tailor your project to your audience and your constraints as an institution. 7. Don’t expect a one-time investment of money and time. Sustainability is a must. Also content sustainability. 8. Nontraditional partnerships. 9. Share digital assets and resources with other small museums for a larger impact. 10. Karaoke is key. G O T T E C H ? Top 10 Takeaways
  44. 44. Museums and the Web 2015 / Chicago, IL Thanks for attending. Friday, April 10, 2015 Brad Baer / brad@bluecadet.com / @bluecadet Carol Harsh / harshc@si.edu / @museumsonmainst. J. Mark Souther / m.souther@csuohio.edu / @cphdh Jennifer Synder / jsnyder@flahum.org / @callicolone #SmallMuseumsBigIdeas

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