Museums Australia Conference – Reflections from Day 3

Back at the Heath Ledger Theatre in Perth for Day 3, the program began with some very different keynotes. Firstly Andrea Witcomb discussed, from quite a philosophical platform, how immersive or interactive approaches provide reflective opportunities to build empathy of challenging topics.  Andrea used the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe in Berlin as an example of a good reflective space.  She argued that these spaces are important because: visitors need the provision of some vantage point to question their own relationship to the topic.  Andrea compared these reflective spaces to role-play experiences putting the visitor in the victims place, which she thought easily became a farce and did not allow for an emotional transition.  I felt however, that it was comparing a very good immersive space example to an average role-play example.  I don’t believe it means we should dismiss role play out of hand – especially in the case of children visitors.

Then came a fantastic (in both delivery and content) talk by Susan Cross from TellTale.  Susan introduced the idea of interpretelling– using great story telling for effective interpretation.  She talked about the power of stories, that they are contagious.  The features Susan suggested good interpretelling should have were: look for interesting characters (all stories have characters), include drama/action, a cracking beginning, a good ending, using language consciously and carefully, good pace, emotion, suspense, mystery, revelation, tone, set people thinking (don’t have to tie up every loose end), dilemmas and debates.  Good interpretellers should: respond to their audience and have mastery of their content.  Susan ended by challenging us to tell the hard stories – if those stories are not told we cannot really understand the site we are visiting.

In the parallel sessions I attended more discussions on the online and social media topics.  Geoff Barker talked about the possibilities for museums in the virtual environment.  He gave some examples of organisations are using online tools in an effective way: ZocDoc, Ponoko, Galaxy Zoo, HistoryPin, Europeana and Neptune Canada.  Geoff also talked about the future of online content, outlining how the content is decreasingly within the control of institutions.  There is so much content out there, Geoff suggested that we should first check if what we want to include is already out there, and if it is we need to be able to justify why we would replicate it.  He also said that current static pages are an issue, we need to develop connections with other museums and focus on content.

Michael Harvey from the Australian Museum gave an introduction to their approach to social media.  He talked about some of their success stories, including Mr Blobby.  Michael also outlined the strategic approach they took with limited funds:

  • define an aim and deliver our mission
  • increase the reach, influence and relevance
  • create ambassadors
  • personalise interaction
  • encourage and grow communities – shared interests
  • Define our working principles: engagement is part of our job, drive engagement across all platforms, find where we ‘fit’ in the social media landscape, listen, respect and respond – be where people are, create once – publish lots!

Michael outlined the Museum’s management approach of using ‘community managers’ – five staff members from a range of areas across the museum who spend an hour a week on the social media accounts, plus another person worked in a coordinator role.  They found that having multiple voices from different areas added diversity and interest to their social media outputs.  You can read more about their approach on their Web2U blog.

Next Michelle Stevenson from Museum Victoria talked about their Online Collection development.  Michelle said that the core work involved in digitising, uploading, contextualising and responding to users has effectively created an online museum.  She talked about the positive impact of digitising their collections: extending their reach, learning more about the collections and developing relationships with users.  The challenge, Michelle said, was for curators to deliberately let go of their control on how objects are used and discussed – visitors still find the authority of the museums voice useful, but they want to add their own voices and stories.

The next session was when Jan Croggon and I presented about Sovereign Hill’s Burke and Wills project.  We also listened to a presentation about a very interesting project to create an online database of the history of performance in Australia – it is an events-focussed site called AusStage.  Plus another presentation by Geoff Barker about Cloud Tools and suggestions for how organisations can use them.  There is more information on his Wiki.

Finally for the day I attended a fun and lively Pecha Kucha session by Laura Miles on the unexpected in museums and a session by Claire Savage on The Eight Steps to Creating Memorable Visitor Experiences.  Claire’s recommended steps were to encourage us to focus on the whole visitor experience: 1. invitation, 2. welcome, 3. orientation, 4. comfort, 5. communication, 6. using the senses, 7. evaluation and 8. finale.  It was a good reminder to put yourself in the visitors shoes and think of what will make them happy and comfortable, and therefore, engaged!

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2 responses to “Museums Australia Conference – Reflections from Day 3

  1. Pingback: Museums Australia Victoria Conference – 29 March | Thornypebble's Pond

  2. Pingback: Education in Museums | Thornypebble's Pond

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