Update: Do you feel you fit into the profile below (and are you fluent in Dutch)? You might want to check out this internship/job opportunity at a new startup I’m involved in.
We’re looking for: People that help museums stay relevant in the 21st century. Job title: community manager, digital engagement officer, online marketeer, audience curator, hands-on project manager, educator (etc. etc.). Your profile: hmm…
In general, the debate on ‘21st century skills’ or – put differently – what we expect in terms of skills, attitudes, behaviour and knowledge from future colleagues is diverse and inspiring. In the museum-context, it might even be more complicated. Studying various reports of such skills (etc.), such as the excellent Museums, Libraries and 21st Century Skills (PDF) and a Dutch one by Kennisnet, most of the focus is on skills that help people design the future. Museums, obviously, and museum professionals also play an important role in maintaining the past. This duality is obvious in the ICOM definition:
A museum is a non-profit, permanent institution in the service of society and its development (‘future’), open to the public, which acquires, conserves, researches (‘past’), communicates and exhibits (‘future’) the tangible and intangible heritage of humanity and its environment for the purposes of education (‘future’), study (‘past’) and enjoyment (‘future’).
Note that I use ‘future’ and ‘past’ to make a distinction between the internal, traditional role of a museum and the outgoing, also-traditional-but-now-key-to-receiving-funds role that can be considered to focus on the future of the institution.
As museums realise they need to evolve in order to stay relevant, within them a continuous debate begins between the ‘past’ and the ‘future’. And, as much as the ‘traditional’ museum professionals need to be comfortable with the 21st century, the future professionals need to be comfortable with the traditional role of museums in society, which is probably why maybe the number 1 question I get from clients and at conferences is to help define a profile for the future museum professional. Read the rest of this entry »
A recent Pew Report (thanks for the link, Marco Derksen) about arts organisations and digital technologies among 1,244 organisations says ‘77% of respondents agree with the statement that the internet has “played a major role in broadening the boundaries of what is considered art.”’ 78% believes these technologies are “very important” for increasing audience engagement. 97% has a social media presence (and the stats go on). At the same time the Economist in an article on the online art market says, “It is hard to imagine that the internet could dislodge art galleries and institutions from their exalted status, sustained, to some extent, by exclusivity and elitism.”
To me, this sort of contradiction is a pretty good summary of the state of museum AD 2013. We’ve understood we need to change, we’ve changed (some more successfully than others) and we’re still a bit at loss about the bigger picture.
2012 has in many ways been a good year. Around the world (and also in my own little country) museums have launched smart websites and fun apps. My favourite development were those brave souls who put objects online to be 3D printed at home. I can’t back this up, but I’m sure never before have our collections been as accessible as they are right now. Plus, I’m noticing more and more organisations working together on innovative projects, sharing experiences and knowledge. My hopes for 2013 are high. Read the rest of this entry »
A participant in one of my workshops recently said, “Our job is about storytelling [...] and the best stories are told by people.” I certainly agree with the first part, storytelling is at the heart of most of our work. The second part, however… (To avoid chaos on my Twitter: I do believe people are the only ‘thing’ able to tell engaging stories and I don’t see algorithms taking over anywhere in the next 20 years, at least.)
One of the most powerful tools for (online) storytelling is without a doubt video. I often use video in my workshops to clarify key points or keep people focused. Although video is traditionally difficult and expensive to produce, I do think we shouldn’t neglect it in our (online) content strategy. One only has to look at Tate’s video channel, the wonderful Ship Song Project or the Troy Library video I shared earlier to understand video’s potential.
In recent years online video has gone way beyond the linear, 480p stuff that made stars of Rebecca Black and Carly Rae Jepsen. We can now automatically create interactive video’s with gaming elements that are fully embedded in the (social) web, for free! Five tools that might help kickstart your institution’s career in online video.
1. Mozilla’s Popcorn Maker
Without a doubt the most exciting innovation in online video is Mozilla’s Popcorn Maker. This super simple tool allows you to add photos, text, interactive elements and even real-time tweets to any (online) video. Simply look at this example TED video to discover the possibilities:
I’m in Sydney at the moment for a bunch of workshops and to contribute to Intercom 2012. My stay started well with a lunch meeting at the Australian Museum. Over sandwiches we discussed future digital trends and how to cope with them as an institution. On of the central ideas we discussed is what I like to refer to as ‘technology as a commodity’ (like water or electricity) or the disappearance of the interface*.
I believe we’re moving towards a world in which the interface between us and the world will disappear. At the moment mobile (and some watches) are about the smallest interface around and the trend is definitely that smaller is better. At a certain moment in the near future interfaces will be so small and so smart that they will have effectively disappeared. Nothing will separate us from the (technologically augmented) world around us: there will be no more inter, only face.
This is not an original thought and I’d love to give proper credit if I knew who was the first person to come up with this, but maybe it’s so obvious nobody really thought of it. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t discuss it, though, as it has impact on the way we do stuff in museums.
First of all, with all the world’s knowledge and information unconstrained by any interface, it will roam freely through our galleries and exhibitions, making it ever more important that we have a compelling narrative to get and keep the visitor’s attention. Of course, there’s opportunity in all this as well, as museums will be able to be the cabinets of curiosity of the (post) digital age. Read the rest of this entry »
Yesterday I gave two ‘interactive sessions’ in probably the most beautiful room I ever worked in. Wall-high Sol LeWitt murals and wide windows with a view over central Leuven formed the backdrop for a lively discussion on digital storytelling in cultural and heritage institutions on occasion of the Mediation in Transition conference in M-Leuven.
To address the most important issue first: there is no such thing as digital storytelling. There’s only storytelling in the digital age, and frankly speaking this isn’t much different from storytelling in the age of hunters, gatherers, dinosaurs and ICQ. This doesn’t mean it cannot be challenging to tell a story people react upon online. On any given moment, hundreds of stories are unfolding around you, on Facebook, Twitter, and in niche social spaces. Many of them are much more interesting than anything a museum can possibly offer, at least, in the right here right now (because Justin Bieber might have really died this time, and you don’t want to be the last person to retweet that, do you?).
So, how do you tell a story in the digital age that stands out, captures people’s attention and gets them to act, engage with your institution?
My favourite story for quite some time now and one I’ve been showing in workshops around the world is the story of the Troy public library. The surprising twists, genuine engagement and originality of the project are a constant source of inspiration for me and I can’t get enough of it, even after having heard and told the story many times.