Passionate about culture. Champion for the next generation of Cultural visitors. Defender of Libraries. Glass Explorer. Digital and Tech Enthusiast. Sharing knowledge. Troublemaker and/or advocate, depending on what you need.
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    January 21st, 2015mardixonCulture, International
    First and foremost, a massive thank you to everyone who took part in #MuseumSelfie.  ALL credit and an incredible heart-felt thank you to all the social media managers (or related title) that encouraged and inspired their visitors to take part.  Without you, the hashtag would not have been successful.

    #museumselfieI’d like to thank each and everyone person who had fun and got involved with #MuseumSelfie day 2015.  The number one question I get is why do I do it? The response: because majority of the public globally enjoy it.  Going from the stats ran by Sree Sreenivasan and Kulturkonsorten there was A LOT of people/museums taking part.

    The coverage and messages received have been overwhelming positive with a dash of negativity (see HyperAllergic who labels me ‘the official ringleader of this vast criminal enterprise’ that is #MuseumSelfie).  CNN coverage was lovely as they actually took the time to call and interview me.

    Although some say that social media is ‘old technology’ it still works to reach communities and visitors.  I find it interesting that although social media has been around for years, many forget that new people sign up every day and we need to ensure that we provide platforms for them to join in and experience the fun.  These hashtags gives museums excuses to sway a tad outside their policy of 2 tweets a day and majority have said the response is overwhelmingly positive as far as numbers going up.

    If someone said to me 2-3 years ago that the Director of Boston Museum of Fine Art would be taking a selfie of himself and sharing it on Twitter, I would have laughed. Did I hope things like this would happen?  Of course – did I think it would, of course not.  Goes to prove it never hurts to dream big.
    Screen Shot 2015-01-25 at 13.22.53

    I started my day posting this message:

    ‪#‎MuseumSelfie‬ Day
    a) yes it’s a thing.
    b) it helps get non-traditional visitors to museums
    c) It’s a bit of fun – who cares that it’s not a ‘true’ selfie. Are they smiling & enjoying it? Good.
    d) This will not solve any problems, stop analysing it.
    e) Just enjoy it or mute it but don’t complain, it’s one day.
    f) The tag is #MuseumSelfie but if you use ‪#‎MuseumSelfieDay‬ or make up your own, it’s all good. No one will scorn you.
    g) Just get involved.
    Read the rest of this entry »

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    January 19th, 2015mardixonCulture

    IMG_8194Recently I went to Worcester to attend a Dementia and Tech talk at the university.  As the talk wasn’t until 4 I decided to catch a morning train and make a day out of sight-seeing.  As soon as I got off the train, I decided I would let the ‘tourist signs’ choose my fate.

    First decision was made when I saw Worcester Museum and Art Gallery to the right. I started taking pictures before I even stepped foot in as the building itself is so gorgeous.  

    IMG_8196Walking in, I was in awe of the architecture.  As my eyes gazed up, I noticed colorful signage of the steps telling me the art gallery, museum and cafe were upstairs.  Like a moth to a flame I headed upstairs.

    In the first room I was impressed with the World War I exhibition.  Yes there are a lot of them out there right now but please take the time to see a few of them as each of them are personalised stories of local people and their sacrifice.  I started to take pictures and asked the attendants for the twitter id.  They were more than pleased to have me tweet and share. 

    (Yes, I thought he was tweeting...)

    (Yes, I thought he was tweeting…)

    I headed to the other room which had fantastic museum mannequins.  I immediately knew I wanted to try to take a few selfies for MuseumSelfie day and also to share them on #MuseumMannequin tumblr.  However, the attendant in that room told me I had to fill out a form.  Ok, not a big deal.  A tad old fashion but I’m not going to judge.  When I started to read the form (which I will admit I normally never do) there were two particular words that jumped out at me:  morality obligated.  To my photos.  Read the rest of this entry »

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    December 22nd, 2014mardixonCulture, International, Tech

    First a definition: Museums also including art galleries, national trust, estates, etc. Second a statement:  No one has money.  Funding, worldwide is an issue. 

    thefutureIn the last week I’ve been repeating myself regarding museums, funding, tech, etc. so felt it might be worth a quick post to link to when the discussion is brought up again (probably sooner rather than later … sadly).

    Museums, as a global sector, are incredible at sharing. We all know this – whether it’s curators sharing their knowledge or the digital/tech team sharing their know-how – there are articles after articles of fascinating and brilliant case studies.

    The sector also loves to share their opinion – and for this I’m talking about admission fees but really the topic could be how to run social media, tech equipment that is best or how to display for maximum response. I even said that most of the wow-factor of sharing at a conference has been removed because everyone blogs/talks/shares about it before the conference (however, the ability to talk to the people one-to-one is a main reason to attend so conferences still do have a place!).

    The point: We have to stop assuming we can paint all museums with the same brush. PLEASE.

    Each collection, each mission, each town/city/county/state/country is unique. There is no one solution that will match everyone so lets stop with this pedestal mentality of glorifying one case study or report over another. Lets learn from them, lets pick them a part to rebuild to purpose-fit for another museum but lets stop with this train of thought that because X is doing it it has to be the only way.

    What the public love about museums is their individuality so why are we trying to put a mass-market approach to solutions? Digital and tech might be great for some museums (see Cooper Hewitt and Museo Prado) but not for all (see John Soane Museum). Admission fees might work for some museums (see Met) but not for all (see most nationals in UK).

    We’re a creative industry – lets remember this when striving to make impact with the public. There is an ethos to learning that I’ve always taught my daughter:
    a) use the resources around you.
    b) take what you need to learn and throw the rest back – it’ll still be there should you need it.

    Museums should take the learning from these wonderful case studies but not try to mimic or feel the need to copy. And please, stop comparing. A solution for one does not equate an answer for another.

    Lets celebrate our individuality while growing strong as a sector and lets make 2015 the year of positive Museum stories! 

    PS One last plug about #MuseumSelfie day on January 21 2015.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

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    December 15th, 2014mardixonCulture, International, Personal

    This post is a combination of a ‘year in review’ and a ‘brain dump of thoughts’.  It’s a good and positive – well that’s how I see it, I’m sure one or two might find a fault or two and that’ ok!

    #MuseumSelfie & Other World Trending Things
    AskACurator-until_Sept14-lowresYes, I realize the irony of this but who knew it was going to be so popular?  It’s been requested that I run it again so mark your calendar for January 21 2015! There was A LOT of press about going viral.  And recently had a shoutout in this New York Times article.  Follow @CultureThemes and @MuseumSelfieDay

    On the same page, see #AskACurator, #MuseumWeek & #LoveTheatre which also went world trending and will be repeated again in 2015.  Never under-estimate the importance of social media in this fast pace digital/tech world. Read the rest of this entry »

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    November 29th, 2014mardixonCulture

    happy-or-notToday I survived shopping (it’s ‘Brown Saturday’ if that is actually a name). I’m always interested in seeing how retail and other sectors deal with customers/visitors/audience. Also asking: Why do people visit one place and not another? What makes the visit enjoyable/horrible? What can museums learn from retail/other sectors?

    In one store, I noticed they had a customer service stand by the exit.  This one grabbed my attention mainly because the only other place I seen this type of stand has been at Heathrow airport.  On the stand are several variants of faces, from happy to sad and to facilitate the meaning of each, they are color coded (green happy, red mad/sad).

    As I hid away near the exit willing my family to hurry up, I noticed that some people walked right by it with no attention to it at all, others just smacked their hand in an almost random motion while others used it to express ‘How their service was today’.

    One family in particular was having a complex day with the toddler being extremely active, mom getting tired of running after the child and dad getting frustrated with his wait in the queue.  When they left, the dad hit RED aggressively at least 3 times. I then noticed the manager walk up and have a word.

    No, I didn’t listen in …. but I did have a word with the manager after as I noticed how the tense and clearly fed up family actually left with a smile after the 2 minute conversation.

    Was the stand manned or was it pot luck seeing them?
    Manager: Just happened to see it, mainly because he was so forceful with the red button!

    What made you install this feedback?
    We’re always looking to get feedback from our customers but it’s not always possible. This is a non-intrusive way.

    How is it working out?
    We’re running in the low 90%’s give or take. We haven’t had it long but are happy with the response.

    Does it matter that you don’t know why they choose good or bad? Or if it’s a child hitting it?
    Not at all – this is a guesstimate/gauge, not hard numbers. We can look internally and learn lessons.  For example, we know some days will me more negative if we’re out of stock on some items.

    I liked the way you spoke to the customers, any chance of having this manned in a non-creepy stalking way?
    We would love to but that family were complaining because we don’t have enough staff on the floor or on the tills. Not for lack of trying!

    So over all, do you feel this is a good system to get passive feedback?

    I wonder if a similar system was put in place at exits to culture ventures what type of feedback they’d received. It’s certainly easier to respond to then filling out a form, and less intimidating but it lacks depth.

    What are your thoughts?

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    November 16th, 2014mardixonCulture, International

    #LoveTheatre (1)#LoveTheatre Day is this Wednesday, November 19th.  While many know of my advocacy work with museums, art galleries and tech, this one theme has confused people as I never speak about theatres.

    It was right after AskACurator Day in September when I was chatting with Matt Caines from Guardian Cultural Professional Network. He mentioned theatres were going to be going through a rough patch.  I immediately said ‘What can we (CultureThemes) do to help?’  I suggested I could run a #LoveTheatre Day to give people a chance to talk about their love of theatre.  Matt said he was willing to support it.  Great!

    IMG_6588Next up was to convince TwitterUK to support the initiative.  I worked with them on the incredibly popular #MuseumWeek initiative so thought they would be up for it.  Not only were they very supportive, they even offer to help with running a webinar for theatres that might not be used to Twitter as a platform.

    The three of us met up and worked out how to go about making the day painless for the theatres while exciting for the public.

    Now it might seem unlikely that someone who hasn’t been to many productions would be involved in this initiative but to me theatres and museums/galleries are very similar. Both have the stigmatism  (right or wrong) of only being for ‘certain people’.  I’m just going to use the word elitism and get it over with.  It’s not right, but that is how the general public sees it and you really can’t tell everyone they’re wrong.

    _DSC0240You can, however, prove that there is a spark in everyone for theatre (or museums) but giving them a platform to share their memory or something they saw/did while at a production or even better, involved in one.

    Taking this concept, Matt, TwitterUK and I devised a day-long program that we hope will allow everyone at some point to get involved.

    How #LoveTheatre Day Works

    Throughout the day, we encourage everyone to tweet using #LoveTheatre and say why they love theatres.  This is open for the general public of course but I want people who have been (or are in) am dram productions to also tweet.  I also asked museums and galleries to share their collection that is theatre related and publishers to share books related to theatres.

    During the day, we have 3 sub-hashtags:

    #BackStage (10am-12pm) will offer audiences and other arts professionals a glimpse into how a production comes together in the weeks and months leading up to the big night.

    • #AskATheatre (3-5pm) will offer a unique opportunity for theatre aficionados and aspiring actors to hear first-hand from the individuals and groups that make the magic happen.

    • #Showtime (7-10pm) will give those who can’t make it to a theatre the chance to sit in the “virtual stalls” to experience the a performance, or several, via Twitter.

    The most important message for me is, like museums, theatres do SO much within their community that goes un-noticed.  With further cuts looming, lets highlight all the brilliant work that is done outside of the 2 hours show.  Theatres worldwide work with kids, teens, adults and older generation. The community outreach is amazing. I personally know that Wolverhampton Grand Theatre works with Wolverhampton College creative arts department – not just with performing art students but with music, sound and lighting technicians.  They offer £5 tickets to students. They run workshop for others who want to get involved with drama but can’t commit to a full production.

    This has turned into an international event with theatres in Prague, US, Canada, Chile and more signing up. Just proves how many worldwide #LoveTheatre!  See full list here

    Let’s make November 19th #LoveTheatre a Day for everyone to remember! 

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    November 11th, 2014mardixonCulture, International
    Credit: Ludvig

    Credit: Ludvig

    This year, MuseomixUK was held at the forward thinking Derby Silk Mill.  (For background information see this post).  Our community was extremely strong, building on our first MuseomixUK at Ironbridge Gorge Museum last year.

    All teams used Tumblr this year with Google Glass to document their progress. Have a look at our main Tumblr to find pictures and info on all the teams.

    A message to our Community:

    Thank you.  We asked a lot of everyone and you did not disappoint!
    A MuseomixUK weekend is very demanding.  The beginning is unknown (and sometimes the end isn’t that much clearer!), you don’t always know the venue, your fellow team mates or what is to be achieved, but you trust us to guide you through this complex web of ‘demands’ to create something that we as a community then critique you and your team on. Not. Easy.

    tumblr_nes3elQzxC1tj32n4o1_1280BUT YOU DID IT!

    And you truly need to be proud of yourself for that.  You took a concept and idea on Friday morning at 11am and made a working prototype by Sunday at 4pm.  That is simply A-MAZ-ING.  And you did it all by collaborating, communicating, sharing, bonding, cooperating, adjusting, uniting (sometimes arguing), eating, drinking and overall working very very hard.   All this in one weekend.

    MuseomixUK 2014 Emotion Boxes Standardised Graph

    MuseomixUK 2014 Emotion Boxes Standardised Graph

    The hours were long and hard but we hope you felt it was worth it.  The intention was not to break you (despite the accusations by some, many ok, most) but to give you an experience that will inspire you after you left.  The prototypes you all created are innovative and truly superb, but they are in essence a bi-product of your journey.  And it’s that journey that makes the weekend so worthwhile.

    I hope that although you all arrived with immense talents (knowledge, creativity, skills and energy) that you left with something also; whether it be a gem of an idea you’ll look to develop later, or simply a new friend you will collaborate with in the future. It’s the people within this community that are exciting and eclectic, and bringing you all together proves just how much can be achieved by you all.

    Well done, and thank you again. Please take a few moments to fill out our surveyWe will be arranging a series of workshops and meetups throughout the year and am looking to take things in a different direction so please make sure you’re on our mail list or following our social media channels.

    Now is the time for work to begin on 2015 and EVERYONE is invited to help shape how it goes! 

    Credit: Ludvig

    Credit: Ludvig

    I need to thank everyone in Orga and Derby Museum for being so supportive.  Massive thank you also to our incredibly patient Fab Lab and Tech Shop crew without whom we’d all be lost!  And to Hannah and Rosie – your morale building videos and pep talks were the shot of laughter we needed!   Which leads me to our film crew, Francois and Carl who managed to do all the creation and editing of the films on a very tight schedule! A very personal thank you to our community for respecting our 2 minutes of silence on Sunday.  It was incredibly moving how everyone, even those from other countries, came together to show our respect.

    And to end with, I’m sharing a few of the things people said they learned:

    I Learned:

    • that people that are most different complement better on a team and make the whole project more fantastic.
    • the Future of the museums can be built over a weekend.
    • not to rush in making things in order to work quicker in the end!
    • diplomacy and observation.
    • to trust everyone with their individual bits of the projects. Also learned skills I didn’t think I was any good at!
    • to work and collaborate with an heterogeneous group; the importance of communication, transparency and flexibility in order to develop a successful project.
    • technology for technologies sake is pointless, it’s ideas that matter.
    • the importance of saying STOP! (sometimes)
    • teamwork, teamwork, teamwork!
    • that technical skills may not be as far out of reach as I thought.
    • it’s awesome to see all the technology and to know that (with the right team) literally everything is possible (even for museums with no resources or no budget!)
    • to be patient.
    • Mar is Off her head.
    • my pure motivation is coffee.
    • a lot can be done in a short time.
    • arty types can inspire me.
    • to trim videos into loops!
    • laser cutters are the coolest thing ever!
    • patience is PRIME – the simple solution is best.
    • not necessarily a team player.

    One last thank you to all of our sponsors and our Artist in Residence Sally Thompson!




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    November 5th, 2014mardixonCulture, International, Tech

    Last week I attended the Europeana Annual General Meeting at the Museo de El Prado in Madrid. I recently became a member of Europeana Network, a community of experts (organised and run by the Europeana Foundation) working in the field of digital heritage and united by a common mission to expand and improve access to Europe’s cultural digital heritage. For those of you who do not know, Europeana is Europe’s digital platform for cultural heritage, which collects and provides online access to more than 30 million digitised items from libraries, archives, audio-visual collections and museums across Europe.

    Participants at the Europeana AGM Conference in Madrid – Europeana (CC-BY-SA) 

    Participants at the Europeana AGM Conference in Madrid – Europeana (CC-BY-SA)

    I utilised my time at Europeana’s conference as more of a fact-finding mission. I have always been supporting Europeana for years now, but truth be told, I do not exactly know what they do (other than to say ‘good things’). I cannot say that I am wiser after the conference, but what I can say is that Europeana is a progressive body that is moving the cultural heritage sector in a positive, open and forward-thinking direction.

    The most significant part of the conference was hearing about the alpha release of the Europeana Statistics Dashboard – a new service from Europeana that is led by Neil Bates. This Statistics Dashboard seems to be a real ‘win win’ for both Europeana and participating institutions. As long as your organisation is providing data to Europeana, you will be provided with access to this dashboard that includes traffic and usage statistics related to the collections that you have made available via the Europeana.eu website. The dashboard also visualises overall traffic and usage on the Europeana.eu website together with the how many digital objects are available from Europe’s memory institutions, where they come from and how they are licensed.

    Screenshot of the Europeana Statistics Dashboard (alpha version)

    Screenshot of the Europeana Statistics Dashboard (alpha version)

    Eventually there are plans to include statistics outside of the Europeana.eu website via APIs, so for example impressions of their partners’ collections on social media and Wikipedia. If Europeana do this right, I think this could potentially become the ‘go to’ place for institutions that are looking to consolidate statistics related to their collections and measure the impact of making their collections available via not only Europeana, but also the likes of Facebook and Wikimedia Commons.

    I spoke to Neil and he agreed to answer a few questions:

    Q: Why a Statistics Dashboard for Europeana?

    Aside from publishing and visualising the key statistics that we report on a regular basis, we want our partners to be able to easily obtain statistics related to their collection. That is why we have developed the dashboard so that it provides them with an overview of their collection in Europeana, together with how many views it generated, where they came from, and which of the digital objects in are the most popular. For example, last year the collections that our partners made available via Europeana generated over 18 million views on the Europeana.eu website. Until now partners were not able to easily obtain stats on how many of those views were related to their collection. Through the dashboard and with the use of the Europeana and Google Analytics APIs we are now able to automatically generate reports for them.

    Q: What are the benefits of the Statistics Dashboard?

    The Europeana Statistics Dashboard has been developed to act as a space where partners, researchers, stakeholders and anyone interested in Europeana can interact and re-use the statistics coming out of our websites and services. Fundamentally we want the statistics dashboard to be a tool where you are able to see how Europeana has grown and evolved over time. Also it is enabling us to be transparent in our reporting, because until now our statistics and metrics have been locked up in formatted documents, now we are liberating this data, visualising it and making it embeddable and re-useable for all.

    Q: What work is needed from the museum?

    If they have already made their collection available via Europeana, they simply need to contact us and we will generate their report within the dashboard. If they are not yet providing data to Europeana, first they will need to become a data provider. More information available via http://pro.europeana.eu/provide-data

    If you have any questions related to Europeana and their new statistics dashboard, you can contact Neil directly @nbates86 or neil.bates@europeana.eu.

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    October 31st, 2014mardixonPersonal

    IMG_6023I’m currently in Madrid for Europeana conference and a few meetings.  Yesterday I went to Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum (highly recommend!) when disaster happen – I dropped my iphone on the hard floor which sent a lovely spider crack through the screen.  This was made even worse when the screen didn’t work.

    I was due at Europeana conference in half hour so couldn’t really worry about it – until I realize I had no idea how to get anywhere without the information stored on my phone… including how to locate my AirB&B flat! I’m not afraid to say I starting to worry.

    Leaving Europeana after the speakers, I headed straight to Apple Store. I look the directions up on my laptop before leaving wifi area and managed to make it almost the whole way, stopping at a hotel to guide me the last of the way.  Now I’m starting to realize how hard life without CityMapper really is.

    When I reached the Apple Store I explained the situation and how I was in Madrid until Saturday but have no idea how to get to my flat or access the information as I stored it on my phone (some such as flight and Stansted Express were text to me).

    I was told they had no appointments and I could use their Macbooks to locate another store.  I went to the Macbook and soon noticed all were in Spanish.  I fumbled my way through and thought I located another Apple store but couldn’t be sure so asked another Apple employee to help.  It was at this point I was told the nearest store is half hour away … by train!  I pleaded for an emergency appointment as I was in a different country by myself and couldn’t get to my flat or anything.

    There was apparently nothing they could do and no offer of options for me were provided.  Thanks.

    IMG_6090My only option was to try and figure out where my flat was (I couldn’t remember the address to look up).  As I was walking around aimlessly, I ran into a very tiny mobile place selling second hand phones and covers.  I went in trying not to cry and asked if they knew where I could get my phone fixed – waiting for him to say he doesn’t speak English.

    The very kind spoke incredible English and said ‘I can help!’  I almost cried from joy!  He took my information, tested a few things and said come back in an hour.  I said I had nowhere to go, he said ‘if you get lost, we’re open until 11 but I will stay.’

    IMG_6089In that moment it was everything not to hug this stranger!

    Even better when I returned to a fixed phone, him and his colleague helped me with a new sim card (don’t ask).  They made sure I was happy and everything working before I left the store.

    Complete opposite of Apple.   I never caught their names but they restored my faith in humanity.

    And I found my flat :-)


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    October 14th, 2014mardixonCulture, International, Personal, Tech

    keep-calm-and-if-you-want-my-advice-pay-for-itFor the past few years I have been non-stop learning and sharing internationally. I’ve set up multiple participatory events both on and offline and I’m pretty sure if I did a shout out for people who had a collaboration through these events lots of hands would go up. I love that this happens.

    What I don’t love is people assuming they can use my ideas or ask me for advice without offering money for what I offer. Or people who ask me to use my contacts/network to introduce them to people without offering me a ‘finders’ fee. Especially when these people are in paid positions and connecting to make more money.

    Whether it be a ‘quick coffee’ (which I’ve actually had to pay for many of times as they don’t put their hand in their pockets) to review a proposal, or a ‘quick email’ to see if I have suggestions on how to help with a campaign – no one ever follows up with ‘How much will this cost?’

    Read the rest of this entry »

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