First – a huge thank you to Jim Richadson and his team for pulling off another amazing MuseumNext conference. Every year I say it’s the best and while I know it has to grow I worry that it’ll lose that special je ne sais quoi. Not a worry at all. Jim brought in Kala Preston as new Director of MuseumNext and between them they managed to create a very large-scale international museum conference with a familiar and home-y feel about it. THANK YOU! (And bring on MuseumNext USA at Indianapolis Museum of Art this September!)
I have to mention the people. From registration to closing talks – so many familiar AND new faces this year but what was brilliant to see was the connections. Yes the regulars talked to each other but ‘newbies’ we’re encouraged and folded into the conversation. I don’t recall seeing anyone stand by themselves for too long unless they wanted to. You don’t get that at any other conference the way MuseumNext manages to do it. It’s wonderful to watch from the side-lines and see so many new connections and relationship start at MuseumNext. The key is to keep the conversations going!
Big Thoughts: Museum missions need to be re-evaluated, which leads nicely to my second point that there is a transition from academia to emotive storytelling which is a huge leap in progress! Neither of these are a negative but I’m sure won’t go over well with majority of museum leaders. Time to be honest.
On Sharing: We need to talk more about scalability. This year MuseumNext had a brilliant line up of speakers with a lot of creative ideas. It’s now up to you to pick the threads out that relate to your venue and scale it to your needs. Also feel free to reach out to the speakers and delegates to see if there is something that can be worked out together.
Highlights and takeways for me:
Silvia Filippini-Fantoni from IMA kicked things off in the right direction speaking about the visitor centric approach being used for all their new exhibitions. While I usually am anti-numbers, anti-evaluation I do love this approach of evaluating and implementing action along the way. I spent time at the IMA and could really see the positive changes this approach has made to ALL staff!
Matt Caines, Editor, Guardian Cultural Professional Network was amazing as Chair for the first keynote panel talk. While the stellar line up was incredible I felt having a chaired panel kick off MuseumNext was a genius idea. We got a flavour for the tone of the conference from that talk. The questions related to Future of Museums were balanced and targeted questions that addressed larger topics. It was good to hear how each panellist responded.
I was honoured to be asked to chair the Digital Showcase . Jake Barton spoke about Local Projects for 9/11 Memorial to Cooper Hewitt. This is where the bigger issue of academia to emotive was most obvious to me. Ursulla Zeller from Alimentarium explained their choice to use cross & trans-media discussion while Luc Meier captivating talk on prototyping had me hook on the large scale approach being used with the Under One Roof Project.
Tuesday morning kicked off with a powerful line up chaired by Silvia Filippini-Fantoni for Digital Links with the Community. First speaker was the one and only incredibly inspiring Shelley Bernstein from Brooklyn Museum – I’m such an unashamed fan girl of Shelley and wasn’t disappointed in her sharing of the new initiative to empower visitors with real time ‘ask a curator’ to changing of the floor plans to encourage less steps from entering door to meeting art.
I wasn’t the only fan of Shelly:
Benjamin Benita, International coordinator of #MuseumWeek said about Shelley: Ask experience of the Brooklyn museum just blew me away. I was picturing myself going for a visit with friends and thinking “well, we are going to OUR museum and not to THE museum”. Not only their iBeacon + App successes into implying visitors, but also simple things like giving an iMessages address so people can send message with tool they already know.
Right after Shelley, the Southbank Centre crew spoke on their Glass Box – something I have gushed about since experiencing it in London last September. At the time Southbank was hosting Web We Want Festival together with Sir Tim Berners-Lee. Rob Gethen Smith and his team recognize their own website was in need of an update and in the spirit of the festival decided to be open and transparent on their question to find out what ‘Open Web’ means. Genius!
I then had the privilege of facilitating the Wearable Tech in Museums session with a bunch of people I can’t wait to work with again. For our session, we knew it needed to be less talk, more hands on. Each spoke for 5 minutes and then we went to town providing a (hopefully) good experience with bio-metrics, sensory, Oculus Rift, Google Cardboard, Google Glass, Pebble watch and more. The session was sponsored by Antenna Lab who were brilliant to work with.
Quotes from Wearable Tech Team about MuseumNext:
Ryan Dodge, Social Media Coordinator, Royal Ontario Museum: As a #MuseumNext rookie I wasn’t sure what to expect, although I was prepared to have my mind blown. I attended for the sessions but also to network and speak on our wearbletech experiments at the Royal Ontario Museum. Throughout the conference I met some amazing people, had fantastic conversations and shared some of my knowledge in the hopes it would benefit my colleagues.
Gawain Morrison, CEO Sensum Co.: “I had been looking forward to MuseumNext for some time. From the moment that Jim had introduced us to Mar & Mark (& Ryan & Sam) I knew it was going to be a good one. It was great to meet gently brilliant minds changing the world one museum at a time .. And a few other noisier folks doing it one tweet at a time. It will be really interesting to see how the museum sector, gallery and theatre sector adopts wearables because it’s more ready than many industries due to its huge wish to engage with its audiences.”
Mark Macleod, Head of Infirmary Museum “Conferences are tiring, what with the early starts, constant talking and meeting new people and then the socialising – way outside my comfort zone. MuseumNext isn’t like other conferences because the community is so darn friendly and filled with ambitious, informed and enthusiastic professionals. I was lucky enough to meet people from Manilla, Tokyo and Hay and all were energised by the talks on tech, strategy, websites and even keeping staff happy. My favourite talks encompassed museum ideas and research like Falk’s work on museum visitors along with public surveys and data to show what has been the impact of more visitor and staff involvement in decision making. Indianapolis Museum of Art kicked off a great stream of presentations which included Stephen Feber’s projection of museum collections becoming more accessible than the traditional 8-10%. Shelley Bernstein always gives great presentations and makes her organisation’s complex problems appear easy to follow and solve. Yet you know her and the team at Brooklyn have devoted huge energy and thinking to achieve it. A brilliant conference as always and a chance to make new links, friends and see new ideas of where the museum sector is heading in next few years”
On Friends: I couldn’t do a write up without mentioning a few special people. First: to every single person who came up and introduced themselves to me and was so patient when I hope I didn’t insult them by knowing what their name looked like but not sounded like. It was wonderful putting on-screen names to faces 🙂
My flat-mates Silvia & Mark – thank you for taking turns in being the carer. I finally figured out where our flat was on the last day. Loved our chats and conversations and knowing I’m not the only workaholic in the house. See you both in MuseumNext USA!
Ben Benita, Ryan Dodge, Gawain Morrison, Mark MacLeod, Silvia Filippni-Fantoni, Sam Billington, Tim Powell, John Shelvin, Ben Templeton, CogApp, Antenna Lab and the other crew who has provided me with many many good memories of Geneva and MuseumNext
And of course Jim Richardson for putting up / believing in me from the start.
SAVE THE DATE: September 26th 2015 is the first MuseumNext USA at Indianapolis Museum of Art! Call for papers is now open until May 24th! The theme is Inclusive Museum. IMA is a creative forward thinking museum which doesn’t think outside the box, they are creating their own shape! This is definitely one not to miss!
Links to other write ups: