Research Question 4: Critical Challenges

What do you see as the key challenge(s) related to education and interpretation that museums will face during the next 5 years?

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  • Content production has failed to keep up with technology. Audiences expect to consume information whenever and wherever they want.Museums have been scurrying to repurpose information already created to try and meet demands. The challenge and the opportunity for museums is to stop for a moment and look at ways to meet the current demands for existing raw data and to look at research about the uses of media in multimodal learning in order to create real, valuable, interesting, and engaging content. While there is currently a lot of pressure on museums to acknowledge user-generated content, this does not preclude museum professionals continuing as content generators. [Carried forward from the 2010 Short List] - nik.honeysett nik.honeysett Aug 26, 2011 I think the key point is that a museum's core application, its collection management system, has failed to keep up with the requirement. Its data architecture is still based on the notion of a card catalogue, it doesn't provide an elegant or sophisticated authoring environment and it doesn't provide an elegant or sophisticated publishing (deployment) mechanisms. - marsha.semmel marsha.semmel Aug 30, 2011 - lynda.kelly lynda.kelly Aug 31, 2011 agree strongly with this! - jludden jludden Aug 31, 2011 Agree agree. And very strongly agree with the notion that the collections management system (and the calcified thinking that results from its archaic approach) is core to the problem. It is strange that we see website/mobile/app development as opportunities to build workable, standards-compliant CMSes, but still hold our nose and purchase some piece o' crap collections management system that already didn't do the job 10 years ago. - koven.smith koven.smith Aug 31, 2011 - sheila.carey sheila.carey Sep 1, 2011 Yes - collections management systems were designed based on the internal need for documenting a museum collection. What is needed now is more of a sophisticated CMS (as in Content Management System) integrated with the documentation system, which is still core to a number of functions. And it focuses our attention on the isolated objects and doesn't help us tell stories across objects in an easy way. I think the problem is also a lack of recognition that the publicn is not interested in OUR collection stories so much as it is interested in art, human creativity, history, inspiration, etc, The integrated data of the future Internet will work against this. Considering that museums are almost the definition of the long tail, we fail to create content and publish - but the technology Is only part of the problem. Museums hold too closely to ideas of authority and not admitting a mistake (confusing this with ideas of quality). In an era of iterative publishing museums and transparency about process, museums are still looking for the most definitive, authoritative account and taking years to produce it. - beth.harris beth.harris Sep 1, 2011 ...adding to the last post, I think that conceiving of museums primarily as buildings containing objects and then seeking to "document" and "explain" those objects is also part of the problem. Museums are about interactions (with objects, people, histories, experiences), and digital programs need to reflect the dynamic, experiential situations that museums are. I'm stating the obvious.... - Aug 26, 2011 - ed.rodley ed.rodley Aug 30, 2011 Yes! - koven.smith koven.smith Aug 31, 2011 yes! And the role of the curator needs to ship from being almost exclusively about the object to being about the communities that care about those objects and nurturing those. - beth.harris beth.harris Sep 1, 2011 I would like to support the above and add that our statistics show that our audiences prefer our exhibitions rather than our online collections - it seems that the visitors have a preference for curated ideas and self-contained packaging rather than a series of atomized objects (card catalogues) - susan.hazan susan.hazan Aug 28, 2011- lynda.kelly lynda.kelly Aug 31, 2011 Agree - our research has shown that kids want real things and a social experience and they'll just "Google it when they get home"! Yes! Yes! - herminia.din herminia.din Aug 31, 2011 I think that with tools like Google Goggles, as demonstrated with the Getty, there will be and should not be any reason, if you cant wait, to Google or Goggle right in the gallery. A primary implication here is that the museum control of authority, even within its bounds, is forever gone. Not that you couldnt google in the gallery before, but when it is point and shoot googling the temptation is even greater. This is from someone who has gotten quite used to his Beat this Price iPhone app and not hesitating to point and shoot any product bar code to learn more and comparison shop right there and then. - len.steinbach len.steinbach Sep 1, 2011 While I agree with the above comments, I think more people would prefer the digital experience if it were higher quality and more widespread. The production quality is simply behind other industries, but there is a lot of work being done and a lot of potential for museums to really get there.- Sam Sam Aug 30, 2011 The information architecture implied in the assertion that content should be available where ever and when ever it is wanted is not currently represented in core museum IT systems. This echos Nik's point above... however it goes beyond that too. Museums currently, do not design content that is also "context" aware. We might create a label for a wall in a gallery, or an audio file for a mobile tour, but do not consider that either of those media assets might be experienced in any physical or virtual context imaginable. To truly reuse content will require museums to be much smarter about the narratives we tell and the contextualizing information embedded in them - rob.stein rob.stein Aug 30, 2011 - ed.rodley ed.rodley Aug 30, 2011 - rob.lancefield rob.lancefield Aug 31, 2011 YES - marsha.semmel marsha.semmel Aug 30, 2011 Yes! - herminia.din herminia.din Aug 31, 2011 Agreed - len.steinbach len.steinbach Sep 1, 2011 - seema.rao seema.rao Aug 30, 2011 This is so true. Visitors want receive content to be deployed in ways that maximize the technology and instead receive tablet features that are basically static labels. Content creators are not thinking broadly about the context before creating their interpretation. I fear this is in part b/c of funding and time. But, what happens is that museums get the lowest common denominator. And, then to second Nik's point, the data architecture often doesn't lend itself to complicated authoring, publishing, and even conceptualizing ecosystems. A card catalog in will get you a simple card out. I worry that without basical infrastructural change about information, the interpretation community will find itself behind the eight-ball. Yes I am talking specifically about a content strategy here. Visitors, like all learners, want to see across content and understand how, for example, Matisse and van gogh have something to do with one another in the history of art - and the way it is now, unless someone did an exhibition about that with a sub site, you would never be able to learn that from our websites. We should start with a real content strategy that takes stock of all assets and deploy an extendable publishing framework (to Niks point) that allows for redeploying that content in a framework that allows content to be truly connected by categories. . - beth.harris beth.harris Sep 1, 2011
  • Thinking about Content and the move away from a print culture (relates to below about digital strategy and above about content production).Exhibitions - including their online presence are curated - and of course different than collection information (I realize I am stating the obvious here), but my point is that I think sometimes our websites feel more like a lot of discrete exhibition sub-sites (these can feel just as self-contained and isolated from related content as object pages), and collection pages (that read like Nik said, a card catalogue, with one object isolated from the next). When what we need to be creating is experiences through and across all that content for our audiences' interests - AND we should be doing in in concert with one another (across our institutions - that's what we would really be doing if we truly cared about what our audiences wanted - telling stories across our collections, and not just in the case of a temporary exhibition subsite). The Met's Timeline of Art History is a great example of creating and reusing content and synthesizing content, but it is not truly geared to a general audience. Museum sites that do have multimedia players lead viewers from one piece of content to another - with no sense of the relationships between them - everything exists in an isolated way. We can barely keep track of the content we're creating, and our visitors can't find the content we're creating easily on our websites - but there is also the reverse problem sometimes of not enough accessible web content being created because the focus is on scholarly publishing in a print exhibition catalogue. The deep expertise lies with the curators who need to work with education and digital media on creating accessible web content (multimedia, text, interactives, etc). We are not thinking through content production in a holistic way. This relates to the bullet below on the need for a digital strategy. In addition, museums hardly ever make sure of outside communities to help create content (thinking of myself here - it's true, but as both a founding editor of Smarthistory and as the Director of Digital Learning at the Museum of Modern Art, Smarthistory RARELY hears from museums who are interested in partnering with us, despite the fact that we have deep expertise and volunteer our services. Museums often isolate themselves. - beth.harris beth.harris Aug 29, 2011 - ed.rodley ed.rodley Aug 30, 2011 - koven.smith koven.smith Aug 31, 2011 Yes, even the most well meaning museum online experiences/assets are often isolated from the learning habits and favorite spots of learners. - marsha.semmel marsha.semmel Aug 30, 2011 Yes. Can we do anything to change this? - herminia.din herminia.din Aug 31, 2011 Very much agree. I wonder if we're already feeling somewhat stuck with "legacy" content and the challenge of overhauling what we already have while balancing all of the new content we're under pressure to put up as well--the exhibitions keep being churned out and time doesn't stop so we can rethink how to break down past silos. For example, the National Museum of American History has over 84 (!) discrete websites (mostly online exhibitions and collection groupings), all built with different look/feel, underlying code, intellectual framework, etc. And we're focused on how we can be more timely and relevant, posting new and more compelling kinds of content (today in history twitter feeds! short video! etc. etc.) that it seems impossible to convince anyone that we should rebuild what we already have, even if the user experience is highly fragmented and confusing. - dana.allen-greil dana.allen-greil Aug 31, 2011 One question that we urgently need to answer for ourselves is this is an exhibition sub site a marketing tool or an educational tool? If it's both, fine , but let's be really transparent about what we are doing. I think that will change the conversation. - beth.harris beth.harris Sep 1, 2011 - seema.rao seema.rao Aug 30, 2011 Ed, this is an interesting point. I think many museums preach to the converted. TOAH is a great example. I love it; read it; use it. But, I don't know many outside of the field who say, oh yeah, that's great. How would the TOAH be if it was completely planned and created by K-12 educators? or by the Met's visitors? Precisely! This is something we have been thinking about at MoMA - but FOR BOTH K-12 educators and informal learners - who are interested in art and art history and creativity but not academics. Too often teacher content - which is great for a wide audience - is written in a format only teachers can really use, and is silo'd in the museum's website. - beth.harris beth.harris Sep 1, 2011
  • Creating a digital strategy is critical for institutions today.Museums need to think about creating digital strategies for long-term institutional sustainability. Creating digital learning is only one part of a comprehensive digital strategy, which should also include e-marketing, e-philanthropy, revenue generation, digitization, digital preservation, and issues with regard to general technology infrastructure. Digital learning has linkages to many of these other areas of museum operation. -- I agree, as an ideal a comprehensive digital strategy would be a huge benefit to museums. The challenge is in encompassing all the elements across a potentially quite divided working situation of departments. Digital progression often relies on proactive individuals who develop ideas and practice in their own area, museums need to take a more overarching view and collaborate in the thinking around how a digital strategy can benefit all areas of museum operation - lorna.obrien lorna.obrien Aug 29, 2011 - sheila.carey sheila.carey Aug 30, 2011 I agree that digital strategies need to be thought out. I get the feeling that enough attention isn't paid to the issues around digital preservation.- rkvaron rkvaron Aug 30, 2011 Yes, yes, yes. A museum is a single physical space that many people simply cannot get to. Bringing the museum experience to life digitally means reaching a much broader audience.- Sam Sam Aug 30, 2011 I still believe that many museum leaders do not see a holistic digital (with the concomitant necessary investment of resources) as core to fulfilling the museum's mission. - marsha.semmel marsha.semmel Aug 30, 2011 Same as above ....- herminia.din herminia.din Aug 31, 2011 I disagree. Museums should create long-term strategies that use whatever the most appropriate tools and technologies happen to be to accomplish those strategies. Instead of encoding digital strategies that are something different, there is only one strategy... and many ways to accomplish it. Likewise, in my opinion, there is no digital strategy for online audiences that is or should be different than a larger strategy for ALL audiences of the museum. Technology has expanded the potential audiences beyond what they once were, but ghettoizing all-things-digital into separate strategies than those that are core to the museum ensures that they can never BE the core strategy of the museum. - rob.stein rob.stein Aug 30, 2011+1 - koven.smith koven.smith Aug 31, 2011 I totally agree. As long as it's seen as separate, it's expendable. I'd say that museums don't need a *digital* strategy, they need to move digital into the main strategy and out of the tech ghetto. - ed.rodley ed.rodley Aug 30, 2011 - seema.rao seema.rao Aug 30, 2011 for me, museums need to create an interpretation strategy, as Rob.Stein says, and then deploy as needed to accomplish their strategy. I actually think that the trap is that strategies focus on deployment rather than content, which results in less that successful digital offerings.--Agree with Rob that there is one strategy and like Seema's idea of "move digital into main strategy". But still to me Digital and all that it means (digitizing, facilitating interpretation, improving participatory experiences, reaching new audiences, mobile, social media, etc.) need to be dealt specifically. Of course integrated in the main strategy,but digital, today, still is unfamiliar territory for many museums, and it's being addressed in fragmentary portions, sometimes even contradictory and disorganised, so I do think a specific digital sub-strategy is needed. A Social media strategy, for example, I think is also specifically needed, although integrated in the general communication strategy. For many opening a FB profile or Tw account is as far as a a strategy means, when is absolutely not that. Goals, target audiences, project, measurement, etc are more important than the tools used, that we'll all agree I guess.The strategic thinking in general still needs to be encouraged in museums and the digital strategic thinking, at least today, even more. - conxa.roda conxa.roda Aug 31, 2011 and I forgot to mention, to me the "·digital strategy" is not just for the "online audiences"!:)) - conxa.roda conxa.roda Aug 31, 2011 I think the issue comes in when people get involved with digital strategy without really understanding what that even means. An overarching museum-wide strategy that the senior staff/board lays out that includes key goals can then be reinforced by particularly strategies of implementation within digital, social, etc. by those who are more actively involved in those areas—this would be a more effective way to get things done. - allegra.burnette allegra.burnette Sep 1, 2011 - lynda.kelly lynda.kelly Aug 31, 2011 Yes - we need to recognise that we are all content producers now and it's just the forms we publish in are varied and work differently for differnet audience segments Rob makes a compelling argument and I don't disagree in principle. However, in practice, there are many museums that are extremely poor at creating strategy or even simply identifying audiences beyond "the general public." I'm seeing a lot of digital teams--often because they are innovators pushing the organization ahead--being the ones on staff to make up audience targets as they go along and forge the strategic goals for the institution because there isn't something already in place for the whole organization. This is, of course, a challenge because it is happening in a vacuum and can't possibly take into account all of the analysis necessary for an overarching approach to funders, audiences, capacities, strengths, that a truly global strategy would consider. But does this mean that we shouldn't move ahead and try to craft strategy or target audiences with our digital programs? Certainly not. The egg is just coming before the chicken out of necessity. - dana.allen-greil dana.allen-greil Aug 31, 2011
  • Embracing change as a constant remains a challenge.Museums are, in general, conservative institutions and because of this, and a variety of other reasons, they often lag behind commercial entities and educational institutions in the adoption of new technologies. Money and staff resources are always cited as reasons for not participating, yet in general the reluctance has more to do with the fear of change. Adopting technologies may well enable museums to better accomplish their missions and serve their audiences but the community needs to become more flexible in its response to emerging trends. [Carried forward from the 2010 Short List]- holly holly Aug 25, 2011This has been exacerbated this year as iPads and tablets become more mainstream. I can't tell you how often I heard professionals at AAM Annual Meeting this year blithely saying "we need an app." -- Funny. And having asked a colleague of a Metropolitan Heritage Department what were they doing on social media he answered me "We have no time for this". -- Where is a long term planning on this? - herminia.din herminia.din Aug 31, 2011 - conxa.roda conxa.roda Aug 26, 2011 -- rapid/constant change is also something that needs addressing in funding terms – multiple year projects involving tech are less and less viable due to the rapid changes we are seeing. Some creative thought needs to be applied to project development over longer periods and appropriate (flexible?) funding methods to support them - lorna.obrien lorna.obrien Aug 30, 2011- rkvaron rkvaron Aug 30, 2011- seema.rao seema.rao Aug 30, 2011how much is this related to risk and failure? I think part of thing in museums is that funding is scarce. Without big R&D budgets and a chance to fail, it is difficult to innovate.- jludden jludden Aug 31, 2011 I agree. The problem is that museum directors will still be saying "we need an app" long after most of the world has moved on to some other modality. This is a key issue. I might also modify this somewhat to include lack of awareness of change as well. Often a resistance to recognize the world as it is (i.e., "most people don't trust Wikipedia") means that the discussion is not even about embracing change, but just about recognizing that change even exists.- koven.smith koven.smith Aug 31, 2011 A related challenge is figuring out how to disperse the workload for "technology" projects outside of a digital department. How can we decentralize and still maintain high quality standards? How can we convince content people to take on technical tasks? The center-edge model is an interesting concept to explore in thinking about ownership of digital projects across an institution, minimizing inefficiencies and empowering people on the edge to take initiative. See, for example: [ - dana.allen-greil dana.allen-greil Aug 31, 2011 Digital publishing needs to be enabled for educators - decentralizing while maintaining quality is a key challenge - digital as culture change across the organization.
  • Greater understanding of the relationships and synergies between onsite technology, offsite technology use, and online access to museum resources is needed.Many in museum administration still fail to grasp the notion that a virtual museum visitor is indeed a museum visitor and that our audiences have high expectations with regard to online access to services and information. It is often difficult enough for museums with scarce resources to serve their physical visitors and to keep audiences in their geographical region satisfied; the notion that museums must, in addition, provide information and services to the entire world is often too big a project to contemplate. Museums need help to better understand these mutable relationships. [Carried forward from the 2010 Short List] . . . . and we need to think about the onsite/offsite synergies even more in respect to visitors in our own regions, understanding the notions of 'onsite' and 'offsite' not as a dichotomy, but as a continuum that that technology creates, making it possible for a visitor from last week to access information about an exhibition while waiting in line for coffee on a workbreak -- is this person truly 'offsite' at that moment, or is this in fact an augmented reality moment in which the museum is reaching out to a committed visitor and drawing her/him virtually back inside its walls, even when miles away. - Aug 26, 2011- seema.rao seema.rao Aug 30, 2011wow, is this true. This is even more true as museums plan their aps. They are imagining aps for on-site visitors, and completely missing out on the visitors who will never visit.- jludden jludden Aug 31, 2011 agree. Also musuem professionals need to keep abreast of research on the changing digital patterns and habits of learners as well as such policy issues as the national broadband plan. Too often, museums operate in their own silos and miss opportunities to be more significant players in the broader community on-line and on-site learning arena. - marsha.semmel marsha.semmel Aug 30, 2011
  • Improving our ability to measure impact using new digital technologies is a critical need.Museums are good at traditional program evaluation, but determining the impact of new technologies on knowledge, attitudes, skills is more challenging, especially when museum educators are attempting to measure the success of technologies that are unfamiliar to them, are a part of the standard tool-kit to the digital native. In order to improve our ability to measure, we need to be willing to learn as well as to teach. [Carried forward from the 2010 Short List] I'd vote for this three times if I could! - ed.rodley ed.rodley Aug 30, 2011- seema.rao seema.rao Aug 30, 2011!!!!!!!!! -- - conxa.roda conxa.roda Aug 31, 2011
  • In many cases, museums may not have the necessary technical infrastructure in place to realize their vision for digital learning.In the United States alone there are close to 17,000 institutions that self-identify as museums; many of these institutions have few staff and fewer resources. While it is practically impossible not to recognize the value of digital learning in today’s connected world, the reality for museums is that the vast majority of institutions do not have the necessary technical infrastructure to successfully pursue goals for digital learning, and often have little time to dedicate to articulating, much less realizing their vision. Museums that do have resources may have to choose to reallocate funds from non-digital education efforts in order to implement the necessary technical infrastructure. [Carried forward from the 2010 Short List] I think this is a very serious problems that museums can work together to solve, also relying on some outside expertise, and communities of volunteers would help - beth.harris beth.harris Aug 29, 2011 So where have museums been in the competition for resources to support broadband expansion, the extension/expansion of the e-rate? - marsha.semmel marsha.semmel Aug 30, 2011
  • Museum educators do not have the training, resources or support to address the technological opportunities and challenges they face.There are very few examples of best practices for development of educational technology for museums and most progressive examples are being developed outside of the education departments. Professional development and training in how new technologies can be used to further interpretation goals and enhance visitor experiences is needed at all levels of museum education. Without this training the disconnect between museum education programs and the audiences they are intended to serve will increase and museums will be called upon to further justify their declining importance in the lives of students and teachers. [Carried forward from the 2010 Short List]- rkvaron rkvaron Aug 30, 2011- seema.rao seema.rao Aug 30, 2011interesting one. I do think that this actually should include not only museum educators, but also docents. I think in the near future, the docent corps around the country will be expected to deploy more and more technology, and keeping those volunteers current will be important. Yes, and this is also an opportunity for museums to demonstrate their value-added in digital literacy: how can and do museum educators help learners learn to recognize and analyze critically all types of "data" --including artifact-based information, works of art, historical information--that one comes across in a museum or online? Where are museum educators in developing programs that leverage such 21st century skills as visual literacy, digital literacy, problem solving, critical thinking? - marsha.semmel marsha.semmel Aug 30, 2011- lynda.kelly lynda.kelly Aug 31, 2011 I think many educators and curators fear the new tech and don't see it's value and dont give it a go. Many teachers are ahead of museums here in Oz: (We're repeating these workshops later this year) I often wonder why museums did not hire a museum educator to do ONLY digital interpretation and/or online programming. Why are we still debating the needs for technology training? - herminia.din herminia.din Aug 31, 2011
  • Operationalizing funding for technology projects is a critical challenge.The recent recession virtually brought to an end what had been a promising trend in museums allocating ongoing operational funds (as opposed to capital or project funds) for both experimental and ongoing technology projects. Museums need institutionalized strategic planning initiatives for technology infrastructure and technology-related projects, and information technology staff need better skills and opportunities to communicate the importance of a proper digital strategy. Open lines of communication and a common vocabulary might give administrators a clearer understanding of exactly what should be operationalized rather than left to project funds. [Carried forward from the 2010 Short List] - lorna.obrien lorna.obrien Aug 30, 2011 - rob.lancefield rob.lancefield Aug 31, 2011 - sheila.carey sheila.carey Sep 1, 2011 Yes. As long as funding for technology projects is 'project' based and not built into a strategic plan of sorts, this will be an issue in terms of re-use, repurposing, and long-term preservation. Agreed to the 10th power - len.steinbach len.steinbach Sep 1, 2011 Would add to this an increasing push to see if digital projects can bring in revenue or be self-sustaining. How do we balance mission/reach/marketing objectives with hard cold realities of the economy? - allegra.burnette allegra.burnette Sep 1, 2011
  • Integrating and recognizing technology role and contribution/benefit within Museum mission, values, and goals statement (this does not mean explicit use of technology terms in mission but rather assuring that Boards of Trustees and executive management recognize importance in terms of financial or mission return on investment)
  • The public perception of the value of copyright is diminishing.The challenge of providing the broadest possible access to content, without depriving artists, authors, and other content creators of their intellectual property and income, continues to be one of the largest issues faced by museums today. Creative Commons and other alternative forms of licensing are quickly becoming mainstream; new business models must be developed that take these forms of licensing into account. And to a large extent, these new business models depend on new content development strategies. [Carried forward from the 2010 Short List] I would formulate this idea differently: Challenge is that museums enter the "Open" attitude: to allow use and reuse of museum info, to release museum data to open platforms, to stimulate the generation of new knowledge beyond the museum control, etc. Working with (not against) Creative Commons, Wikimedia etc. Multiple cooperative projects are on their way already, much more will come. Museums are first to understand then align with Open phenomenon and trends to fulfil their social mission. - conxa.roda conxa.roda Aug 31, 2011 - lynda.kelly lynda.kelly Aug 31, 2011 Copyright and IP are often used as excuses by museums to do nothing. Public and private are blurred now. Kids today (and many adults too) believe everything is public unless they choose to make it private - this is a mind shift from many of the generations of those who work in museums (ie it's private until I choose to make it public")
  • We need to find ways to integrate visitor knowledge into exhibits and objects.We need to stop being afraid of user-generated content, and instead become knowledgeable consumers of information brought to us by our visitors. This is not to suggest that the visitor’s point of view always needs to be the primary point of view, but museum professionals do need to recognize that niche visitor groups and individuals can provide museums with insights that enrich our collections and enhance the interpretive value of an exhibit or objects from collections. The challenge is to provide effective mechanisms to allow for input, review, rankings, and appropriate dissemination of such content. [Carried forward from the 2010 Short List] I suspect that the idea of user generated content has become more pronounced and has raised its profile so that the new term 'crowd-sourcing' has become more popular in recognizing the impact of quantitative and qualitative input from visitors. There are now many examples of crowd-sourced interventions by the public and many different levels including fully crowd-sourced exhibitions - such as The Art of Video Games - susan.hazan susan.hazan Aug 28, 2011 - ed.rodley ed.rodley Aug 30, 2011- seema.rao seema.rao Aug 30, 2011this to me is the most critical of everything on this list. Visitors are yearning to participate, they are doing it everywhere else in their lives, and yet I haven't seen a good example of this implemented in a museum. - marsha.semmel marsha.semmel Aug 30, 2011 - lynda.kelly lynda.kelly Aug 31, 2011 agree with Marsha - we need to do some experiments, evaluate and share our findings. The "Pop Up Museum" concpet develoepd by Michelle del Carlo has some potential here I think: and
  • We should be doing more evaluation, and better, both qualitative and quantitative.Evaluation is critical and should be the starting point of every content/experience design process. Audience evaluation skills are fundamental to the museum profession and should be part of all of our toolkits and standard practices, and not something we do merely to secure funding. Good evaluation practices and meaningful metrics, agreed upon and broadly accepted by the museum community, will enable us to recognize and build upon successes, and learn from our mistakes and failures. [Carried forward from the 2010 Short List] ... ...adding to the last post, I agree that more evaluation is needed and would love to see new technologies and handhelds/smartphones in particular used to this end. We (and I'm guilty here, too) simply have not focused enough of our energy on inventing ways to take advantage of the opportunities for interacting with visitors via their own devices. I'm not so worried about formative evaluation of, say, a specific digital project (although supportive of that); rather, what I'm quite interested in is learning more about what's in visitors' heads concerning their visits, the shows they saw, the things they looked at , and what happened afterwards. I'm most interested in longitudinal studies that would track visitor experiences over time.- Aug 26, 2011 - nik.honeysett nik.honeysett Aug 29, 2011 Just adding my 2cents. As an observer of hiring in museums, I've seen more and more postings for senior museum tech vacancies explicitly calling out "decisions based on metrics" - an acknowledgment that the field is lacking here. - susan.chun susan.chun Sep 1, 2011 Museums have also not integrated recent ethnographic research and other studies of digital and e-learning habits (Mimi Ito, Project Tomorrow, National Ed Tech Plan, Joan Ganz Cooney Center, etc.) into their program planning. - marsha.semmel marsha.semmel Aug 30, 2011 - sheila.carey sheila.carey Aug 30, 2011 I'm also chiming in on the need for evaluation, and not just in a 'silo' like looking just at the web site or an app, but looking at the whole visitor experience online and onsite. - rkvaron rkvaron Aug 30, 2011 -- hear, hear - conxa.roda conxa.roda Aug 31, 2011 And in a really widely scoped way, having quantitative evaluation data to use along with data from other measurable aspects of museum practice can support aggregation of metrics to serve the field at large--and in turn, all museums' efforts to serve our publics. One current, kind of meta-level effort to collect and analyze some key metrics from many museums is AAM's Museum Benchmarking Online ( Interesting to think about how we might gather and treat multi-institutional collections of more qualitative data as well. - rob.lancefield rob.lancefield Aug 31, 2011 - lynda.kelly lynda.kelly Aug 31, 2011 Not only shoudl we be doing more research we need to be doing something about the research - ie listening and responding. Museums have been actively researching their visitors since 1916, yet still fail to provide visitor-centered experiences for them even now!
  • Challenge of staying current.Although the individuals who contribute to this dialogue and discussion are among those who have "kept up" with current trends, technologies, and services, many, perhaps the majority, museum professionals do not. They follow the same trends that the general public does and have about the same knowledge base—what's hyped in the media and available at WalMart and Best Buy. The task of attempting to keep up with what's possible is daunting and intimidating. Hence the reluctance of many in the museum field to address such matters as emerging technology, content shortfalls, operationalizing technology, and training deficiencies, as discussed above. The challenge will be for the few who follow the trends and try to keep up with emerging technologies to help their colleagues understand what's available and make decisions about what is appropriate, feasible, and essential for museums to stay current and relevant for their audiences.- david.dean david.dean Aug 30, 2011 I think that this challenge is also about the challenge of museums becoming "learning organizations' themselves and structuring their staffs, their ongoing professional development, and their work practices in ways that reflect the transformation of learning in our publics. - marsha.semmel marsha.semmel Aug 30, 2011 - susan.chun susan.chun Sep 1, 2011Yes. I think that the digital divide between museum professionals with an understanding of technology and its potential and those who see tech as a necessity that is someone else's problem continues to grow. And the problem is more insidious than you think--it's not just the curator who can't figure out how to sign into the Collections Management database or save a Word file, but also the development officer who doesn't have a basic level of familiarity with technology terminology and tools and therefore avoids approaching funders and patrons to support tech projects. Also on staying current: we're rapidly reaching the point where the professional activities conducted in museums, libraries, and archives is being erased, which means that our peers are as likely to be librarians, or web folks from performing arts organizations, or arts bloggers as other museum professionals. But this expanded circle of smart folks doing interesting things is headspinning. Hard to know how to prioritize the information chains that will allow us to keep current on the cutting edge.- susan.chun susan.chun Sep 1, 2011 - lynda.kelly lynda.kelly Aug 31, 2011 Leadership is needed at the top - what are Museum directors doing about this? How are museums structured to meet the ways visitors/users will engage with us in future? How is online/mobile etc written in to position descriptions? - lynda.kelly lynda.kelly Aug 31, 2011 Instead of specialist and dedicated digital educators/new media people it needs to be addressed in all of our jobs - 20% different, not 20% more. here's an example of tryingto address this problem: and also how we're intergating social media across the Musuem rather than keep it in web unit (as many places do): - lynda.kelly lynda.kelly Aug 31, 2011 We also have a philosophy of distributed content management across our Museum - any staff member can post, change content, comment on any page anywhere on our website. All that has to have happened is they need to be trained in web writing and CMS.
  • Economics versus museum fundings and interpretation/exhibition projects development
    As we keep having a hard time with economic issues in developing permanent conventional exhibitions, taking this hard time periods to think about and come up with answers for the short, mid- and long terms, we will find that the new technologies' pathway offers exciting solutions and even carry the institution way beyond these economic issues, especially thanks to the participation of visitors with their owned smart tools (phones, tablets, ipods, and others to come). From the inside, the new smart techs also offer strategic solutions for the actual running of institutions.- guy.deschenes guy.deschenes Aug 31, 2011 Relatedly, it seems far easier to gin up funds for one-off projects and the new shiny thing than to fund ongoing, incremental changes and additions to a long-term project. Similar to raising funds to pay the electric bill, museums must do a better job building endowments and operating funds for ongoing digital programs if we want to sustain our efforts over time in a be more cost-effective and strategic. - dana.allen-greil dana.allen-greil Aug 31, 2011