What’s Now, What’s Next, What’s Within your Budget


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Oonagh Murphy, University of Ulster
This talk will demonstrate how museums can carry out innovative R&D on a shoestring budget and how museums can adopt and adapt successful models of best practice in a scalable manner. Based around 4 key trends, the presentation will provide delegates with actionable ideas to make their museums more innovative over night.

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  • A Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Travel fellowship provided me with the opportunity to research how top New York museums, such as The Met, MoMA and Guggenheim, are using digital technologies to engage with audiences in these challenging times. The aim of the trip was to identify transferable practices that could help shape emerging museum practice in Northern Ireland. Through my research I had become increasingly interested in how small museums are tackling the dilemma of responding to audiences who no longer want to solely read and listen, but influenced by an increasingly social web 2.0 world, want to participate, challenge, engage and enter into a conversation during their visit.The aim of my research was not about copying what these cultural giants do but instead learning from them and adopting and adapting successful models of practice
  • While in New York I visited nearly 30 cultural institutions and interviewed a range of staff from directors of digital departments to those working in education and staff development. From these interviews I discovered that the museums that really understand digital culture are those that are not simply developing projects for today, but are also researching and developing how to use emerging technologies in the future, both short and long term. The key to success it seems is an organisational culture that values and recognises the solid foundations of the past, the successes of the present and possibilities that the future offers.
  • Embracing contemporary culture to develop new audiences: Collections provide us with a unique link to the past, but to be interesting to the average visitor, they must also provide a link to the present. Visitors want to know how a museum and its collection are relevant to them today.Case study:MoMA PS1‘Warm Up’ is a series of outdoor music events held every Saturday in July and August, which has been running for 15 years and is a key fundraiser for MoMA PS1. More than simply a big party that happens in the museum courtyard, it helps the museum to fulfil its institutional mission, the events drive social media buzz, prompt online engagement and encourage repeat visits. This is a great example of a project that is not digital in itself but the social nature of the events drives digital engagement and thus the events have a secondary online audience. Visitors have an extended interaction as after they leave many use Facebook and Twitter to post and look at photos and discussions. The social media buzz this event generates is unique, and for MoMA it is priceless.
  • • A place for experimentation and innovation by visitors: New technologies are beginning to shift the way visitors are learning. A new model of collaborative learning is beginning to emerge. While museum educators continue to teach visitors about the museum’s collection, increasingly museum visitors themselves are providing museums with new ways to view their collections
  • • Peer learning, collaboration and networking: Agile thinking and practices are somewhat at odds with museum culture, as they have a reputation for being slow, often bureaucratic institutions. I was excited to see a range of digital education, marketing, collections and web teams tackle this legacy of bureaucracy by forming their own informal professional skill-sharing networks. These networks can be divided into three categories: informal events, conferences and social networks.
  • • The museum as an innovative, agile, mission-led institution: It was clear that museums in New York are investing in the future. The old argument “If we put everything online people won’t visit” has been blown out of the water and many museums in New York now recognise that to succeed now and in the future they must develop a culture of research and development that responds to, challenges and works with contemporary and technological advancements.
  • Its not about copying what these cultural giants do but instead learning from them and adopting and adapting successful models of practice
  • Newark MuseumNewark Museum has created a ‘Makerspace’ in one if its classrooms. It contains cutting-edge technology, such as 3D printers, and is used as a design hub for school groups. In the first Makerspace programme a group of children from a local school visited the museum twice a week over the course of a term. They developed their own computer games inspired by the museum’s collection, and using a 3D printer, printed controllers and through basic electronics they created functioning buttons to play their game. In this ground-breaking programme both the museum and the students involved had a steep learning curve, as together they tested out what was possible with the time and technology available. To fill a skills gap the museum brought in a freelance teacher, but they are now looking to train up their own Makerspace facilitators. Staff reported a strong relationship with students, and the museum now hopes to build on this to encourage these students to continue to visit, and use the museum’s collection to inspire them to develop their new skills.
  • It has never been easier to join the conversation. Museum staff from all around the world can engage with each other online through blogs and social media channels. When budgets are tight it can be difficult to attend conferences in person, but you can still join the conversation and learn from the conference back channel.
  • Innovative agile – is a bigger demand and more difficult to do – but if you can embrace contemporary culture, use your building as a creative hub, and facilitate peer learning then you are one step closer
  • After examining approaches to digital engagement across a broad spectrum of museums in New York I identified four key digital engagement trends:
  • What’s Now, What’s Next, What’s Within your Budget

    1. 1. What’s now?What’s next?What’swithin yourbudget?Oonagh Murphy @OonaghTweetsUniversity of Ulster
    2. 2. Lessons from New York1. Identify digital engagement trends2. Identify how small museums can adopt andadapt successful models of digitalengagement@OonaghTweets
    3. 3. 4 Key Trends >>@OonaghTweets
    4. 4. Embracing Contemporary CultureKeyTrend1@OonaghTweets
    5. 5. Using their buildings as creative hubs forexperimentation and innovation byvisitorsKeyTrend2Image: CC Makerbot on Flickr@OonaghTweets
    6. 6. Facilitating peer learning, collaborationand networking amongst staffKeyTrend3@OonaghTweets
    7. 7. innovative, agile, mission lead institutionsKeyTrend4@OonaghTweets
    8. 8. Don’t be intimidated by ‘bigmuseums’ work with them and learnfrom them...@OonaghTweets
    9. 9. The aim of my research was not to simplysuggest that small museums should copywhat these cultural giants do but insteadto explore what the museum sector as awhole can learn from them and identifyhow smaller museums could adopt andadapt successful models of practiceLet look at how these trends could be adapted toinfluence digital practice in small museums >>>>
    10. 10. Embrace Digital Culture Like MoMAKeyTrend1@OonaghTweets
    11. 11. Experiment and Innovate like The Met(or Newark Museum)KeyTrend2@OonaghTweets
    12. 12. The Newark Museum operates, as it has since its founding, in the publictrust as a museum of service, and a leader in connecting objects and ideasto the needs and wishes of its constituencies. We believe that our art andscience collections have the power to educate, inspire and transformindividuals of all ages, and the local, regional, national and internationalcommunities that we serve.In the words of founding Director John Cotton Dana,"A good museum attracts, entertains, arouses curiosity,leads to questioning—and thus promotes learning."We need to ensure that we are R&D’ing with the view tofurthering the mission of our museum
    13. 13. peer learning, collaboration andnetworking amongst staffKeyTrend3
    14. 14. innovative, agile, mission lead institutionsKeyTrend4@OonaghTweets
    15. 15. 1. Embrace Contemporary Culture2. Use your building as a creative hubfor experimentation and innovationby and with your visitors3. Facilitate and encourage peerlearning, collaboration and networkingamongst staffSmall changes can make a big impact3stepstosuccess@OonaghTweets
    16. 16. Digital technology provides museums with theopportunity to develop and create an engaged visitorbase, one that acknowledges that their local museumis a unique, valuable and relevant cultural institutionThe key to digital success is an organisational culturethat values and recognises the solid foundations ofthe past, the successes of the present and possibilitiesthat the future offers.
    17. 17. strategy and vision are as importantif not more so than the resources youhave available@OonaghTweets
    18. 18. Small StepsCan Make a BigImpact@OonaghTweets
    19. 19. Oonagh Murphy@OonaghTweetsOonaghmurphy.comHello@oonaghmurphy.comMuseums and Digital Engagement: A NewYork Perspective – http://bit.ly/P6dKqI