Fresh & New(er)

discussion of issues around digital media and museums by Seb Chan

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Five rules for museum content (via Amsterdam)

October 29th, 2009 by Seb Chan

I’m just back from presenting at the New Museum Lab event in Amsterdam run by the Nationaal Historisch Museum. My talk was titled ‘Digital Effects: Content, Communities and the Museum DNA’ and whilst I won’t be publishing the slides, one thing that seemed to be of interest to a lot of people was this simple list of ‘five rules’. So here it is reproduced.

Museum content, not limited to objects, should be:

1. Discoverable – it is where I am and where I look for it. This means putting content where visitors expect to find it which online means good SEO, folksonomies and smart keywords, and onsite in the galleries it means great exhibition design.

2. Meaningful – I can understand it. Plain English contextual notes and label text, scaffolded where needed and definitely with an appropriate cascade.

3. Responsive – to my interests, moods, location. Content should ideally be able to be personalised with tailored recommendations. Mood responsive? Take a look at the Brooklyn’s handheld project.

4. Useable/Shareable – I can pass it on and share. All content should be released under a license that allows at least non-commercial sharing. Museums are entirely in the social objects business – let’s actually encourage sociality.

5. Available in all three locations – online, onsite and offsite. That means on the the museum’s website, on other websites, in the galleries if it is popular, and if it has a relationship to the outside world it should also be discoverable there as well. The later relies on geo-locations marked in the world either physically or virtually.

Nothing too remarkable here for regular readers or people in the field but sometimes lists are useful. You’ve probably noticed that each of these rules revolve around the notion of visitor-centrism.

Tags: 4 Comments

  • Seb, I couldn’t agree more, apart from the fact you could probably strike the word “museum” from the title. All content should be these things, right?

    • Seb Chan

      @mike – of course this could apply to all content but there are specificities in the museum sector as to how we might collectively address some of the barriers to making these a reality. The museum sector (archives and libraries too) will have to have a particular take on certain barriers – for example, Copyright that may not be so readily applied or accepted elsewhere.

  • Hi Seb and thanks for this post.

    It is along the lines that we have been talking about – the idea of “write once, publish broadly, across a wide range of mediums”. I revisited that discussion we had on Museum 3.0 here and there’s also some good stuff there.

    I guess it’s about finding ways to streamline our jobs and and making the task of engaging audiences in inspriring ways wherever they are easy and efficient (and fun!). Web 2.0 is the tool that is now enabling serious discussions about organisational change.

  • Beth Harris

    Number one is definitely key – and more complicated than it sounds. Not just SEO, but good browsing menus, and most importantly a structure/framing device that helps put what you’re looking at in context.