Quite poetically, after being prevented from attending the AMAGA 2021 Conference in Canberra due to the latest COVID restrictions, I needed to quickly adapt my presentation on adapting programming to digital formats, into a Zoom presentation. Delivering remotely from home to a room full of in-person attendees listening to otherwise physical presentations was an odd experience. But thanks to our newly honed skills in flexibly adapting to sudden change, Lynda Kelly and I were able to make it work.
I presented on the development of the website We The Makers CREATE – an interactive platform to learn and share for all ages. This project was in response to the cancellation of a major festival of events planned for the Museum for our We The Makers exhibition. I’ve previously written about the development of the digital exhibition and CREATE as a sister website.
A program festival was going to print when we shut our doors and went home. In a short time we needed to adapt the programs to digital experiences. Family events became stop motion videos for craft activities: such as weaving a friendship bracelet and making pom poms. Public workshops with local artists became Inspiration At Home: short videos to inspire making at home using fabric with crafts such as furoshiki and Karen weaving. Masterclasses with established artists became online courses in Slow Stitching, Natural Dying, Repurposed Fashion and Recycled Jewelry. And a public exhibition of handmade wearables became an online gallery.
To make this happen during lockdown was not easy. I was posting vlogging kits to artists in their homes, assisting with transferring and editing large video files, developing consistent branding without being able to control the content. The artists, however, were adaptable, resilient and willing to give it a try. Supporting them, both financially and technically, was critical.
I highlighted some of the success and learnings from the project. Successes included: audience reach, engagement with and support for artists, partnerships with other organisations to share content, selecting methods to overcome technical limitations (eg. stop motion) and a public platform for sharing. Learnings from the project included: negotiating intellectual property for the artists, creating meaningful and attractive experiences amongst a flood of digital experiences (ie. online events coinciding with digital fatigue at the end of lockdowns) and creating an easy user experience.
Ultimately the project was a golden opportunity for the Museum, and for me professionally, to test our ideas and push our boundaries, developing new digital skills and reaching new audiences that would not have happened with the physical events.