(updated 29/12/06 with streaming media of all presentations)
Jim Spadaccini from Ideum has blogged extensively about the NDF and the presentations so I’m just going to add a few comments of my own rather than recap the whole event.
Jim started proceedings with the opening keynote address that gave a broad overview of how museums are adapting and implementing the core ideas of web 2.0. It was a dynamic presentation and offered a lot of food for thought for the audience and there was an audible gasp when he posed the problem of “if you don’t then they will” – referring to the plethora of ‘intelligent design’/Creationism web 2.0-enabled sites. Jim focussed on the easy to do things – museum blogging and its continuing rise – as well as what smaller organisations without web or IT teams can do, namely colonise existing sites and services. Although this can be problematic, Jim made a strong case for doing so when appropriate, especially for organisations targetting youth audiences. He used the example of the LA Museum of Contemporary Art’s MySpace page which taps into the existing audience for their night-time musical activities which are barely visible on their main website. It is not surprising that amongst their featured ‘friends’ are Z-Trip and Crystal Method. The lure to these existing social networks and online communities is that they represent, on the whole, a demographic that is otherwise absent from many museum websites. Further, the more particular communities such as MySpace with their walled garden approach monpolise the times and attention of this demographic, the less opportunity there is for other sites.
Sometimes, as with a photographic collection from the Maxwell Museum, Ideum has found technical solutions in existing services. The project with the Maxwell uses Flickr and their open API to store and present images in a way that would have been well beyond the project budget for such a small museum. Ideum has built a Flickr mashup to complete the project. Interestingly, even before the project launches, but because they have started seeding the photographic collection images to Flickr, other Flickr users have already been discovering the collection and interacting with it, commenting and recommending. In so doing, Ideum has managed not only to solve the issue of a limited project budget, but also reached out to a large community of users through the solution (Flickr) that otherwise would have been unlikely to have come across the finished site at Maxwell.
Jim cautioned that out of every hundred 2.0 startups perhaps as few as 2 will survive – and if you make the wrong choice then your data will disappear when they do.
I’ve had the good fortune to spend some considerable time with Jim whilst in NZ, over the fine cakes, hot chocolates and coffee of Wellington – discussing the world of museums and technology. We are conducting a joint survey on museum blogging (more on that shortly) but most interestingly he has been pushing the idea of museum widgets. Jim is a strong advocate of museum widgets and Ideum has been a pioneer in the museum world. Widgets are micro-applications that can run on desktops and on web pages, and simply provide a browser-less interface to data. These can be very simple – Ideum’s solar image of the day widget draws in an image from NASA; or an RSS feed – or they can be far more complicated including micro-games. Ideum’s current work with widgets has seen over 100,000 downloads and substantial referring traffic from important catalogue sites such as Apple’s widget gallery. Whilst some widgets are little more than gimmicks, others provide extremely useful or interesting services. The Rijiksmuseum in Amsterdam has had an ‘image of the day’ widget on their site for a long time now and it is one of the most popular widgets on the scene. Any museum or collection could and probably should be emulating them – if only for exposure.
Day two opened with Toby Travis from the V&A. It has also been great to meet Toby – one off two developers at the V&A. Their online work often seems buried on their site and tends to surface only around promotional activities. There have been some fascinating projects around user-generated content at the V&A and many have had developed communities beyond the expectations of the museum. So much so that later in the year they will be launching a MyGallery-style site which will allow users to aggregate their own and others’ user-generated content from the V&A site into a Flickr-style interface. I’ll be very interested to see how much this is used. Jim covers Toby’s talk in detail in his blog posts.
Also on day two, Joanna Ransom from the Horowhenua Library Trust presented on their Kete project. This is really amazing stuff – an open source community cultural wiki built from the community upwards. It was very inspiring and I think there is a lot to be said for this approach. That it has been done on the smell of an oily rag, and done so well is a testament to the trust they have from their community. The site launches publically in March 2007 and when completed will seriously challenge similar projects set up by infinitely larger organisations and companies. This is perhaps on of the first broadsides in Community 2.0.
My presentation on emerging technologies and the Powerhouse Museum’s collection database, along with all the others is streamable from the NDF.
Apologies for the lack of photos – I had intended to finish my presentation with a pic of the audience taken form the stage but foolishly left my camera on the table!
Thank you to Te Papa and the NDF team for making this event possible. It really was a marvellous gathering, full of interesting people (about 400!) from the NZ museums, libraries, archives and galleries sector, and with high calibre presentations from all involved. New Zealand is very forward thinking and proactive holding this event annually.