Tag Archives: museums

developer museums

You can't win the prize if you don't enter the raffle

I love winning a prize so when I saw an opportunity to win a Scholarship to attend SXSW2014 Interactive   it was definitely worth a go.

ImmediaTag.com were offering the opportunity for a museum professional to attend SXSW Interactive, if you haven’t heard of SXSW (South by South West) its a big conference held in Austin Texas, originally just music but has grown to embrace Film and Interactive media.

SXSW Interactive is where cutting edge technology and start ups demonstrate their new ideas and products,hoping to get noticed to secure funding or create buzz to bring their product to the wider public.

So when I found out about the chance to win a pass to go I jumped at it.  There were 4 passes been given away in two draws.  I had missed the first draw but could still enter the second.

There was a little bit more to it than just entering into the draw. I had to answer three questions.  The first was to describe my role in the museum.  For this I talked about how I work with other departments,creative agencies and developers to deliver New Media into our galleries and exhibitions.

Second was to explain why I would like to attend SXSW Interactive. On this i talked about how I am really engrossed in the museum world but trying really hard to learn all about how digital media and technology can be used in museums but also it is important to look around outside of museums at new ideas and ways of thinking.

Finally I had to think up an idea for a mobile app,this had to be completely new and not implemented anywhere else.   Rather than briefly describe itm, here is what I wrote in full:

I see a lot of people taking photos of our objects especially in the galleries that have the large objects, the aeroplanes,cars,space rockets. There are already plenty of social apps to share and tag these photos so that people can see them. What the social  photo sharing apps don’t do is connect the shared photos with the museum content.  

What I am proposing is an app that  has two modes of operation.

In the first mode  to be used in the museum, the app will be an augmented reality mode, it will recognise objects and display both photos that have been shared by other people and information about the object. The information will primarily be the museum written information but can also pull in from other sources such as Wikipedia, tagged tweets from visitors  or others as applicable.

Other features would also be possible,  take your own photo to share back for other people, tweet a comment or do a facebook ‘like’.

The second mode is designed for use outside of the  museum, working slightly different to the in museum mode,  and is intended to engage visitors with the collection before they visit.  It would start by presenting the potential visitor with an ‘official’ high quality photograph of an exhibit that a user can select they can then see the photographs that the gallery visitors have taken, see what people are tweeting about the object and again read the information written by the  museum and other sources.

Interesting things could be done to connect the pre-visit with the visit modes such as allow users to create trails for other to follow, or by measuring the number of tweets or photographs about an object create heat maps to allow potential visitors to see what other people are interested in.


From after answering those questions my application would be vetted and if suitable I would be entered into the draw. From the first round approx 40 people entered and about 10 of the applications were rejected.

At this point if you are probably expecting me to say I was entered into the draw,won the pass and will be attending SXSW Interactive. Sadly no. I passed two rounds of vetting and was into the draw but my name didn’t get pulled out of the hat. It was worth doing just to be challenged to think up an idea for a mobile app. Getting through the vetting gave me confidence that if something like that came up again it would be worth giving it ago and you never know next time I might get lucky.

life stuff museums thoughts

Cuts,Cuts and more cuts

So today you may have seen stories like this one

Science Museum Group says cuts put museums at risk and http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2013/jun/05/science-museum-northern-outposts-threat-closure  Both of which seem pretty fair and well balanced but there have also been articles like this one:  Outrage as iconic Northern museums face closure to save London Science Museum   With comments in it like “Insane that a London based organisation may be allowed to destroy 3 magnificent Northern Treasures.” and ““Something like 90 per cent of the funding for art galleries and museums goes into London already. It’s an extraordinary amount.”

Last Financial year visitors to the Science museum passed the 3 million mark for the first time ,Numbers are also up at Museum of Science and Industry, and the Railway Museum. Yet as the article on the BBC and guardian sites and the interview with the Director Ian Blatchford says the money from Government has been cut and is likely to be cut even more.  So the Science museum as a group  has been doing more with less.

Before I started work at the Science Museum I never realised how much thought and hard work goes into all the new exhibits and how much hard work there is that never gets seen by the public.

I work in an office with Content developers who are real Proper Scientists whose job is to turn difficult Scientific and technical concepts into  short passages of  text and images that won’t bore or overwhelm the visitors but hopefully will give them a much better understanding of this crazy world we live in, the technology that impacts our lives and what makes our own bodies work.

The New Media Department that I work in helps the content developers and  Curators bring to life ideas and concepts that can’t be expressed in words and picture alone by getting creative and as I said in a previous post Bringing the Rainbow but never forgetting the message.

Then all of the exhibits we install have to be kept operational and safe by our A.V and mechanical maintenance  teams and as the museum is open 10am - 6pm 364 days a year plus many days we open later and for that is no mean feat.

So this is the point that it gets political, Sorry.  The Science museum isn’t going to be closed down to save money as it is controlled by an act of parliment The 1983 National heritage act which sets out what the Board of Trustees must do so without changing that, which I can imagine would be massively complex and messy and would be a such a bad P.R move for the government I can’t imagine that even David Cameron would be stupid enough to do that.

However I get the feeling that the Government knows this and also knows that the other museums are located in the North of England, an area of which the Conservatives don’t have a good historical record of giving a stuff about.

So I really hope that people in Manchester,Bradford and York aren’t thinking that the Science Museum in London is some evil entity intent on destroying their museums because it is nothing like that.  People who work in Museums love museums, its not a competition thing, no other museum benefits if one closes.  I don’t know what will happen if the Government spending cuts go through, I don’t know if I will still have a job or what the effects will be in our office,the Science museum London or the group as a whole but I do know one thing and that is the reason for the possible cuts aren’t down to decisions made in South Kensington but decision made in Westminster.