Digital Media Projects For Small Museums


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This short presentation was part of a CERA sponsored workshop for small museums on technology as part of the CAM conference held March 2010. This presentation, given by Kelly Brisbois, Principal at My Storycatcher productions, is designed to inspire collaborative digital media projects with schools and museums.

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  • First of all, I would like to thank CERA for inviting me to participate as a presenter in their workshop on technology and small museums associated with this year’s CAM conference in San Jose. (By the way, CERA is the acronym for California Exhibition Resource Alliance, a nonprofit dedicated to traveling educational exhibits of all kinds throughout the state).
  • All of the digital media projects I’ve worked on involved a creative and collaborative process that usually led to unforeseen outcomes -- happily so, however. The process itself is important and requires us to look carefully at our ability to work well with others that are outside of our usual community of professionals. Good communication skills are essential (the listening side of communicating as well as the verbal side). In addition, the ability to be flexible in the creative process will serve you well as the important ideas behind every project manifest themselves. Foster a team dynamic that is inclusive and allows for multiple perspectives, and you will create something unexpectedly fantastic. Increase your ability to listen to and incorporate feedback from your peers, and you will create something lasting.
  • As we all strive to surpass the “freeze dried” versions of history, science and art, a thoughtful digital media project can bring to life the untold stories of your museum -- stories that demonstrate how challenges were overcome; stories that inspire creative thinking; and stories that connect us to each other. Science, art, and history are beautifully and cleanly packaged for museum exhibits, even when the subject matter itself is ugly. Scientists and artists in action are certain to be messy. As we all know, the history of any subject area is filled with a very untidy past. The past is full of blunders, mistakes and missed opportunities. The example I am providing here is from a collaborative digital media project that demonstrates the ability of digital storytelling to add more dimension to history, including its blunders. In this short documentary about the history of the North Western Pacific Raiload, the students I worked with wanted to include the story of the worst collision in NWP history in Ignacio, in the year 1910. Not only did they want to include this part of the history, they wanted to reenact it. I hope you will watch this Podcast which you will notice is in two parts. The collaborators on this project included: Producers -- MSA head of digital art and Marin History Museum’s Director of Education at the time (me!). Asset builders -- MHM’s Collection’s Manager located historic photographs related to the project; Student filmmakers filmed interviews with a local train historian and a resident who rode the trains; Novato High School Drama Department students created scripts and filmed two action scenes; MHM’s research librarian located articles and more photographs for the project. Local historian with expertise on the subject; Oral history interviewee ( a local resident); Musicians (local band provided their song about trains); Local costume shop. Time commitment: 3 to 8 hrs/week x 6 months Budget: Out-of-pocket was under $1000 and included material costs (video tape, etc.), costume rental fees, and website consultant’s time to add the website page and connect to the podcasts.
  • The MSA/MHM film debuted at a museum event that marked the closing of their most popular exhibit to-date and was entered into two film festivals in the student category. Both of these audiences were new to the museum. Keep in mind that if you want to use a digital media project with a live audience, it is important to create a high quality DVD for viewing on a large screen in addition to the compressed podcast file you are creating for your You Tube, Flickr, or other online viewing platforms. Project management is a must. I like using the strategies from the book titled “One Page Business Plan” so, although my project plans are detailed with weekly tasks that will lead to a successful completion of a project, they start out with a “one page plan” that is created with the whole team’s input. This way, we are all on the “same page” so to speak. If you don’t have a project management strategy, check it out at or get the book.
  • When working on a collaborative project with a school, whether it is a high school or college, it is essential that students take a leadership role at the beginning, which means taking time to establish good rapport with your team. I recommend working with a core team of 3 to 6 students and asking each student to identify their strengths and skills for the project so that each person is clear on his/her role and responsibility. Meeting at a set time once a week will help the project move forward and will give students a goal each week. As the project management plan is developed and written down, include the students’ input as you write down the goals, task assignments and deadlines. Then, go over the project plan as a team and talk about challenges that may come up and need to be anticipated so that the “rug isn’t pulled out from under you” with some unforeseen problem. I met with my team on Fridays so that they had a full school-week to work on their parts of the project, and sent email reminders a day or two ahead of key deadlines. Providing structure is very important, however being flexible is a must to survive! Successful projects with students are designed to get their ideas and skills applied to a “real world” outcome. If they feel that they don’t have a say in the creative development and are rather just getting instructions, it will be unlikely they will feel connected to the project and therefore committed to it. Good project management leads to team members who are energized and committed to the project.
  • Communicating ideas: Facilitate a discussion with your museum’s team about the important ideas behind your collection, exhibit, programs, etc. What ideas need to be more fully expressed? What ideas can be communicated best in a multi-media project? What are the compelling stories connected to your museum that have not been told yet? A terrific example of how ideas are expressed and built upon is at the Smithsonian’s Lemelson Center exhibit and website about American inventors. Education: 76% of K-12 educators are using digital media in their classrooms ( If your projects add meaning to a topic, and build a better understanding of it, teachers and students will utilize your website as a “go to” resource. Asset Building: Digital media projects can bring in more assets to your collection. Photographs are valuable assets for digital media projects as well as for exhibitions. Photographs that are linked to the stories from your museum’s community can be applied to community building programs online and onsite -- For example, photographs collected from a family photo album day can become part of a Flickr Commons or Flickr slideshow that you produce for your community’s viewing and input (with the proper permission, of course); In addition, if you include a selection of photographs for Google Images that link to your website, you will bring in an online audience far beyond the geographic region that your museum supports. All of these examples build your audience as well -- another important asset itself!
  • I hope your team will be “fearless” as well as thoughtful in their efforts to create digital media projects that are meaningful and collaborative, and I wish you the best of luck in your endeavors.
  • Digital Media Projects For Small Museums

    1. 1. <ul><li>Strategies for collaborative digital media projects that bring the stories of your museum to life. </li></ul>
    2. 2. What’s the big idea? <ul><li>Digital media projects, such as videos, or podcasts, that communicate an important story related to your museum can empower small museums to reach big audiences. </li></ul><ul><li>Like the foundation for a strong exhibit, the foundation for a strong digital media project is the idea, or ideas that are being communicated in it. </li></ul>
    3. 3. Hey . . . You got your chocolate in my peanut butter.
    4. 4. <ul><li>Webster’s Definition: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>To work jointly with others or together in an [intellectual] endeavor. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>To cooperate with an agency with which one is not immediately connected. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Your Definition: </li></ul><ul><li>Ask your colleagues what their definitions of “collaborative” means to each of them. Identify some of the negative points and then identify some of the positive points of collaboration. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Are there examples they can give of their own experiences with collaborative projects? What are some helpful tips each one can bring to your digital media project now? </li></ul></ul>Collaboration Defined
    5. 5. A collaborative digital media project example: <ul><li>Marin School of Art and Marin History Museum </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Trains of Marin Project: </li></ul></ul>
    6. 6. Increase and diversify your audience . . . <ul><li>Collaborative projects with schools, colleges or other cultural organizations bring in new audiences. </li></ul><ul><li>These projects are a “win-win” if they are managed well. Be sure to create a project plan with the entire team’s input. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>I like to use the One Page Business Plan approach to my project plans. The website with more info is: </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>www. </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>New audiences can bring in opportunities for new funding sources, so research those new possibilities. </li></ul>
    7. 7. Tips for working with students in digital media <ul><li>Give students a leadership role </li></ul><ul><li>Create a healthy structure that helps students know what to expect. </li></ul><ul><li>Meet on a set day and time each week. Showing up is 90% of getting the work done. </li></ul><ul><li>Good project management leads to a team that is both energized and committed to creating a valuable media project. </li></ul>
    8. 8. Set clear goals for your digital-media projects: <ul><li>Communicating Ideas </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Example: Documenting stories of invention: </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li> </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Educational projects that add meaning </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Example: Cross-cultural learning </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li> </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Asset building </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Example: Adding to your photo archives </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>A Red Cross Girl: Erna Torney’s Story </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li> </li></ul></ul></ul></ul>
    9. 9. Kelly P. Brisbois <ul><li>Principal and Creative Director at My Storycatcher Consulting: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Contact and website information: </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li> </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li> </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>[email_address] </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>415  515  5111 </li></ul></ul></ul>