@MarDixon Passionate about culture. Champion for the next generation of Cultural visitors. Defender of Libraries. Digital, Wearable Tech Enthusiast. Sharing knowledge. Troublemaker and/or advocate, depending on what you need.
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    August 31st, 2016mardixonCulture, International

    Participation

    It’s a word we tend to use a lot but never really define as we also spend a lot of time pretending to think like the ‘user’ or ‘visitor’ – mapping out ways for the them to see the exhibition/collection with a sprinkle of ‘entertaining’ activities.

    However, us humans, we’re a funny lot. We don’t always behave as we’re expected. That could be due to translation (language barriers), rebelliousness (raises hand), miscommunication or boredom. Actually, feel free to insert your reason as I’m sure I haven’t covered them all.

    As someone fortunate enough to travel internationally and to visit a lot of museums, art galleries, national houses/parks, I get to see a lot of different ways the sector tries to interact with the visitors. Traditionally, we often see:

    • Family Backpacks
    • Maps
    • Audio Guides
    • Trails
    • Signage

    There are more but that’s to give you an idea. (Signage is one of the biggest areas I feel we are failing. Often walking through the front door is a big step but the journey to the front of house or reception is not always as obvious as we like to believe but we’ll leave that for another post.)

    anthropologyI love a bit of anthropology in a museum. Sometimes I’ll stand outside with my headphones in giving the impression I’m waiting for someone. Than I’ll go inside and continue to have my headphones on as I wander around – basically I am listening in on conversations but they don’t know that. It’s amazing how people will talk freely when they don’t think anyone is listening…

    A typical scenario is a family (of various size, for this I also mean grandparents, friends with kids, etc) that enter and try to figure out where the starting point is. Or a map. In fairness to museums, often there are wonderful Front of House that try to assist and breakdown any barriers but it’s often the family that are feeling to awkward to ask for help.

    The HAM Way

    When I was in Helsinki I noticed Helsinki Art Museum (HAM) had post-it notes for visitors to take when they enter. They were in the middle of the room on a standalone pedestal (and yes there are front of house people there also).  No barriers, no awkwardness.  People knew to go and take one.  They were also in 4 languages (Finnish, Russian, Chinese and English as they are the top visitors).

    It was such a genius concept on it’s own but the notes are so clever I had to share! I’m sure HAM wouldn’t mind anyone using these ideas (always best to credit them) or better yet – reach out to them and tell them how awesome they are!

    ham all notes

    ham don't look at the artworkDon’t Look at the Art Works: Look at the frames of the artworks. What would an artwork look like if the frames were different? Or if you’d take the frame off completely? Is the frame part of the piece of not? Read the rest of this entry »

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    August 15th, 2016mardixonCulture, International, Tech

    IMG_3696Something I’ve been thinking about lately is stories.  No not intellectual novels (although I do love a good book!) but stories on Snapchat and Instagram.  I’m the first to admit I’m not a strong Snapchat user but Instagram I get.

    However, since Instagram brought out Stories I’ve been trying to get my head around why… I mean yes I know it’s trying to compete with Snapchat but why do platforms feel the need to morph into it’s ‘competition’ instead of just letting it be? [Edit to add this article Snapchat is acquiring mobile search app Vurb for $110M+  Aug 15]

    I took to Twitter, Facebook and Instagram today to ask the simple question:

    What are your thoughts on @instagram Stories vs @Snapchat Stories? Do you use either? Trying to get more of an idea about them. Which do you prefer and why? #socialmedia

    Read the rest of this entry »

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    August 12th, 2016mardixonCulture, International, Tech

    Thank you to Adrienne Luce, Digital Engagement for the Getty Museum, for sharing this guest blog after posting about her experience on Facebook.  

    On Monday April 4, 2016 the Getty Center hosted its annual College Night event. Two Getty interns, Abby Keene and Ashley Medina, were on hand to help with the event. A few hours before the festivities began, Abby suggested that we try a Facebook Live broadcast and I thought, why not. So The Getty Museum’s first foray into the world of Facebook Live was completely spontaneous and done without any advance planning.

    Screen Shot 2016-08-12 at 16.09.26Our interns press the “Go Live” button and just like that we were broadcasting live from the Getty Center. The first Facebook Live video was a short 6-minute clip. After the broadcast was done, our Getty interns show me the stats. We had reached more than 30,000 Facebook feeds and the broadcast generated 258 reactions, comments and shares . Amazed by these impressive figures we decided to do more. Next up, our interns did a Facebook Live broadcast, about 7 minutes in length of one of our Museum educators talking about Van Gogh’s “Irises”. After the broadcast was finished, we saw that our reach had doubled. This time the broadcast reached 58,000+ Facebook feeds and had 1,429 reactions, comments and shares. We did a few more broadcasts from Getty College Night with each one, the numbers amazed us and we quickly realized the potential of this powerful platform. Read the rest of this entry »

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    July 21st, 2016mardixonCulture, International

    First, thank you to everyone who took part in #QueerMuseum on July 20th. It’s a topic that has been on my radar for a while and when asked to run it (by the lovely folks at @QueeringMuseum – follow them!) I felt now was the right time. Why? Well since starting CultureThemes, the world has progress in so many ways.

    My first time with a related exhibition was back in 2011 at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery with Matt Smith’s QueerMuseum exhibition. I admit, I didn’t know what it was about at first, I just remember Lucifer in green carnations and the WOW factor it had. Then I found out more and was so impressed with how Matt put on a Queer exhibition by selecting items in the collection that have always been on display.

    Last month was Gay Pride so July seemed the perfect time to run #QueerMuseum. Leeds had just ran a LGBT exhibition, BMAG has been a supporter and other museums had run LGBT exhibitions in the past so knew there’d be content.

    As always, I tried to leave interpretation to the sharer:

    Pride 2016 saw many museums take place (especially in London where the Museums Association (MA) team joined a host of other museum, archive and heritage professions to march at the London Pride parade)

    The idea, as ever, is open.

    • Have you had a LGBTQ+ exhibition or talk?
    • Do you feel there is something in your collection you feel could be #QueerMuseum related?
    • Are you part of a group is part of LGBTQ+ that wants to do more with museums and art galleries?
    • Or maybe you take Matt Smith’s approach and find ideas in a collection and explain why it looks like it could be in a #QueerMuseum exhibition.

    Read the rest of this entry »

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    July 11th, 2016mardixonCulture, International, Tech

    Well this was a weekend and ½ – I thought most of the social media world would be consumed with sports – either Euro2016, Wimbledon or Grand Prix – but then I started seeing lots of PokemonGo sharing.

    Wait, what?

    Pokemon for those that don’t remember are characters from the 1985 tv show. As a Muppet Fan, I don’t judge those who are older and still in love with characters from their youth.

    This morning I asked:

    How long before museums feel they have to hop on the #PokemonGO bandwagon? 🙂

    UPDATE July 15:

    • Privacy issues have been resolved
    • It’s now available in the UK
    • It’s bringing new people to historic sites (I personally know this as heard young people -teens- walking around my historic town saying they never knew Bridgnorth had so much history!),
    • Museums are still trying to engage without being creepy
    • Everyone is trying to research why PokemonGo is so hot (my answer:  right timing, right place – AR tech is there -ok a little buggy- Pokemon is a great storyline and those who grew up with it are now at that ‘it’s cool again stage’ [as a Muppet fan I can totally relate!].
    • Some visitors are complaining but they are the ones that hate MuseumSelfie and other fun so no sympathy here 🙂
    • This is going to have other museums look to AR for solutions and I’m not convinced they should right now – at least not on their own (for their own app)
    • Martha Henson is doing a great round up of post – see here
    • You can now add a request stop (and presumably take a site off?) – see here
    • Now available in Italy, Spain and Portugal! 

    PokemonGo is the number one app and even though it’s not officially available (only in US, Australia & New Zealand) but other countries have managed work arounds (aren’t we’re a  clever society). [Edit to add: rumours are UK will be available this week.] [UPDATE IT’S AVAILABLE IN UK and boy do we know it!]

    My original question about museums using PokemanGO still goes unanswered. For me, I feel if your collection is relevant then yes! But please please please don’t force a fad into your museum if your visitors won’t appreciate it. There is a difference between jumping on a bandwagon and being ahead of a trend – know the difference.  But do know the faster the bubble grows the harder it will burst (aka security and stranger danger concerns coming up now.) 

    Should all museums do this? Of course not! This is almost tailored made for some museums though and by all means they should jump on the fun and go! Or be more like VAM and ask your visitors what they want:

    Pokémon just did museums a huge favor (maybe) from VAM

    Pokémon just did museums a huge favor (maybe) from VAM

    Is your collection right for this?  Would your visitors mind? Do you normally cater to families, young people?  The public can smell if you’re doing this for legit reasons or just to be in the media.  Please do encourage PokemonGo if you or your visitors finds one though!

    Credit: Brooklyn Museum Instagram

    Credit: Brooklyn Museum Instagram

    Just don’t be one of these museums if you’re going to do it:

    Not sure who to credit with this but thank you!

    Not sure who to credit with this but thank you!

    I’ll probably add more to this as this grow, but for now, I’ll leave you with this:

    When you’re thinking about adding PokemonGO to your museum or venue, remember you might find yourself explaining why the app is asking for a lot of permissions (camera, all contacts, etc). It’s all relevant to the game of course but people are more astute with permissions these days. (It’s more for demographics than stalking but still.) [Credit: Pokemon Go wants to catch (almost) all your permissions]

    Edit to add: I already mentioned the security which seems to be growing as a concern.  As the app is only available in NZ, Australia and US other countries are downloading the app … in creative ways.  Before as there have been reports of malware on several. 

    Additionally, be sure you’re aware of what you’re clicking when you give the app privacy permissions – it’s quite a lot! 

    And not that it’s totally relevant to museums and PokemonGo, but I just loved the title of this article:

    The numbers prove it: People would rather catch Pokémon than catch a date

    Screen Shot 2016-07-11 at 11.15.11

     

    Edit to add:

    Said I would update and remarkable how much can happen in one day!

    Additionally there has been a lot of discussion on museums finding PokemonGo in their venues – that is great!  My concern isn’t about museums having fun (and if you know anything about me you shouldn’t have asked that) but that some will look into how to force this hot news to fit a remit that just isn’t the museums personality.

    What are your thoughts? 

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    June 15th, 2016mardixonCulture, International

    munmuseoI’m back from Helsinki where I was invited by Creativity, Culture and Education (CCE) to help produce and oversee an intense week-long framework for young people in Helsinki to take over 6 specific museums.

    The concept:

    Young people think up new ways of working #munmuseo events 

    Young people between 16-20 years of age and art museums in Helsinki will be working together to find new ways for the youngsters to embrace  the art museums´ artistic content and facilities.

    The establishments involved are  Amos Anderson Art Museum, Ateneum Art Museum, Design Museum, HAM Helsinki Art Museum, Kunsthalle Helsinki, Sinebrychoff Art Museum, thirty youngsters employed by the City of Helsinki  and six  youth workers coaching the youngsters. The munmuseo project run by the City of Helsinki Youth Department co-operation of the British Creativity, Culture and Education organization.  Read the rest of this entry »

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    June 13th, 2016mardixonCulture, Personal

    ‘But museums are free!’  I hear you say. 

    Yes, but many nationals and mostly in London (with exceptions). I live in lovely Shropshire where the story is very different. And my experience is the same in many rural areas.

    While this has been a topic for quite awhile the recent decision by the Field Museum in Chicago has made the topic come to light again.

    Why don’t museums/galleries give free entrance to local people?

    museums_free-for-allThis is a question I kept asking when Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery opened in April 2014 after being closed for 5 years for renovations and costing £10.7 million (£200,000 more than originally budgeted and delayed by 3 years) and then (after tax payers monies contributing to the renovation) they had the gall to charge an entrance fee – something they had said they would not do when asking for votes of approval.

    Read the rest of this entry »

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    May 24th, 2016mardixonCulture, International, Tech

    IMG_0448On May 19th I hosted the New Technology stream at Museums and Heritage Show. The stream was hosted by Collider Case (which is amazing btw!) and consisted of a variety of great speakers (of course!) from Belfast, England and Paris sharing their experience with new technology that the sector could/should know about :

    Museums and bus stops: breaking down barriers
    Something new and different is happening in Paris – people waiting at bus stops are getting free wifi to play games about the museums local to that stop. CuturO’Game is successfully hooking visitors in with collections-related games, opening up new worlds to new audiences. Find out how it’s working and how you can use this tech to support and promote your own museum. – Aube Lebel, CEO, Clicmuse, Engage with Culture

    IMG_047221st century interpretation in a 19th century museum
    The Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge offers one of the finest art and artefacts collections in the UK. As part of their bicentenary celebrations they commissioned a new digital guide, with Acoustiguide, to help visitors explore the museum. We will explore the challenges and successes of this exciting project. – Julie Dawson, Head of Conservation, The Fitzwilliam Museum and Caitlin Bain, Sales; Marketing Manager and Louisa Matthews, Managing Director, Acoustiguide

    IMG_0466Scaleable Tech
    Many of the challenges of adopting and piloting new technology apply to museums of all sizes. Finding the balance between new, interesting and innovative against solid, reliable and dependable technology can be difficult and potentially risky. How can we test and evaluate new products and services without compromising on the quality of experience we deliver to our visitors. – Will Robinson, Creative Technologist, British Museum and Catherine Jones, New Media Engineer, Science Museum Read the rest of this entry »

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    April 25th, 2016mardixonCulture, International

    IMG_9355MuseumNext was held in Dublin 18-20 of April. A few of us decided to make the most of our first time in Dublin and arrived on the Saturday to start exploring early. We weren’t the only ones!

    Highly recommend Guinness Storehouse tour which is more of an experience through history.  But lets get to MuseumNext. Monday April 18th we all registered. This is the best time for me as I get to see many MuseumNext friends I haven’t seen for a year. I signed up to join a tour but missed it and instead went to:

    A Spirited History at National Gallery of Ireland which had representatives from Guinness, Jamison company and another archivist. Having visited Guinness Storehouse it was fascinating to see the balance of teaching the story through the archive and providing an experience for the general public (20% of people who come to Guinness Storehouse have never tried it), the point was they have a brand name people know and recognize and through the Storehouse have to share the story and not let those people down who come for another reason (adverts etc).

    IMG_9295In the evening, Mark Macleod and I hosted the Networking for First Timers at the Little Museum of Dublin. The venue was perfect and it was great that non-first timers knew they were more than welcomed to attend.

    Afterwards we all went over to the Irish Museum of Modern Art for tours and wonderful conversations. Read the rest of this entry »

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    April 24th, 2016mardixonCulture, International
    A ban on pencils … the V&A now forbids sketching in its temporary exhibitions. Photograph: Oliver Wainwright/Guardian

    Credit Photograph: Oliver Wainwright/Guardian

    Ok, I’m sure everyone at this point saw the sign with the article ”No sketching’: V&A signs betray everything the museum stands for‘ by Oliver Wainwright

    I was with Mark Macleod (from The Infirmary Museum) and Silvia Filippini Fantoni (from the IMA) when Silvia first saw the picture but held off on sharing it until I read the article. I then tweeted it.

    And the storm was started. (See Storify here.)

    First of all, as Oliver probably wanted, it was total click bait worth title but honestly many of the people responding didn’t read the whole article. I soon spent my day almost defending the Victoria and Albert as it turns out, it’s not the WHOLE of V&A being asked not to sketch, but instead a temporary exhibition.

    Read the rest of this entry »

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