Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Changing platforms: creating effective digital content

As I've just mentioned in my previous blog where I've pasted my handout, I spoke this morning at the Museums Association conference called Changing platforms: creating effective digital content

I think that choosing the right people to work on your project and carrying out effective and thorough planning together at the start of your project are key elements of creating effective digital content.  I was talking, therefore, about the key people to think about including in your project, and the things that you and they need to consider when initiating an online learning project.

I could only stay for the morning unfortunately as I have things I need to get on with in work but there were a couple of things that I took away from this morning which I thought were worth mentioning here.

Vicki Porter from the Welcome Trust was chairing the event and I found her opening address really interesting.  It raised lots of points about how technology in museums has changed over the last 15-20 years.
One of the points that I wanted to raise myself this morning that needs to be considered at the start of an online learning project is 'why are we as an organisation providing this resource?'  It sounds like an obvious question but it prompted some really interesting discussions in a project I was working on recently about what we could bring to this kind of resource as a unique selling point.  Vicki pointed out in her opening talk this morning that the web has really changed museum's outlooks because it's made them be, rather than a single authoritative voice, part of a multiplicity of voices describing and writing about historical events in the public domain. This has made it imperative for museums to think carefully about our 'brand'/our identity and what we can provide that is unique.

Dave Patten from the Science Museum later alluded to a possible future model for museums where we move away from the big museum website and towards a model where museum content is distributed on lots of different websites.  This made me think back to the lecture I gave at Westminster University last week and the discussions we had about Wikipedia as a competitor to museum websites.  As I mentioned then, I think the the British Museum/Wikipedia project is really fascinating and potentially part of this new model that Dave describes.

The other thing that I wanted to mention from this morning came from Kevin Sumption at the National Maritime Museum who mentioned in his talk that the Mass Observation Archive are effectively crowd sourcing material for their archive.  I used some stuff from the Mass Observation Archive for my History MA dissertation on the French soldiers evacuated alongside the British from Dunkirk in 1940 (published in shortened form in History Today) but I had no idea they were still gathering information today.  For anyone who doesn't know, the website says that Mass Observation...

'specialises in material about everyday life in Britain. It contains papers generated by the original Mass Observation social research organisation (1937 to early 1950s), and newer material collected continuously since 1981. The Archive is in the care of the University of Sussex and is housed in the Library in Special Collections.'

Sadly they're currently only recruiting men from regions other than the south east which is a shame as I'd love to contribute! 

So this morning was yet another example of why I enjoy taking a little bit of time out of every day work (even just a morning) to hear other people talk about their work and remind myself why I chose to work in such a fascinating sector - thanks everyone!

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