Written by Rainer Mack. 

With apologies to A.A.Milne (and Pooh, whose idea I’m sure it was), this is our “Now then, here we are” post. It is our Introduction, our Hello World!, our Prolegomena to all the Legomena we hope this site will generate. And so, having cleared our throats, we can begin…

Somewhere up near the top of the screen it tells us that edgital, the name of this project, is dedicated to “talk at the edge of museum education and digital media.” Maybe we should start by parsing that phrase.

By museum education, we mean education as that is practiced in the museum context. Not just museums proper, but also aquaria, zoos, gardens, historic houses, and other such institutions. We mean the field, I suppose, though it might go by another name depending on where you are – interpretation, public programming, outreach.

By digital media, we mean information technology in the museum context. Not back-end IT, but the variegated world of digital media tools that reach out from the museum to its publics — a website, a spot on flickr or Pinterest, a mobile app. You know what we mean…though, hmm, actually one of the motivations for edgital is our concern that not enough museum practitioners DO know what we mean, or rather what digital media means. We all know what a website is. And many of us (albeit those on the better side of 40) are on Facebook, and may even actively tweet. But I’m not sure we all know what digital media really means in and for museums. That’s partly because it’s moving so fast, with new tools and applications being developed at what seems an ever-increasing pace. But it’s also – we think – because digital media is transformative. It’s changing what museums can do. Or – more to the point – it’s changing the broader social and cultural environment in which museums operate, and thereby changing what museums must do.

edgital is a collaborative project designed to support dialogue and creative thinking “at the edge” of these two fields. We mean at the leading edge, and edgy in the sense of being bold and not complacent. But more than this, we mean the shared edge of these two fields, the place where they meet to consider shared concerns. We’re persuaded that these shared concerns are deep, and fundamental to both fields. They range from the presentation and interpretation of content to the crafting of experience; from visitor outreach and engagement to the broader social role of museums. We’re persuaded, likewise, that practitioners in both fields can learn from one another, indeed must learn from one another in order to do the best work possible. Our hope is that edgital can help make that happen.

You can do your part by participating! This project is a conversation. Drop by and join in. Comment, contribute, share information and resources — talk!

5 thoughts on “Er-h’r’m!

  1. Dave Barr says:

    I’m someone (on the more experienced side of 40) who has worked in museums for decades and is convinced of the immense potential for digital media in museum education.

    I’m currently working with mobile app development and HTML5 responsive web design. Among other things, I think QR codes are one of the quickest and least expensive ways for museum educators to get up and running with digital media and BYOD (bring your own device) programs.

    QR codes can be deployed in museum galleries and exhibits for a day or a morning using temporary, removable labels. Together with mobile friendly web pages they can be used to implement (among others) a quiz, a scavenger hunt or a shared learning exercise. They can be used to increase accessibility for students and all visitors.

    For a few of my other thoughts on QR codes in museums, see here:
    and here:



    • Erin says:

      Hi Dave!

      Thanks for chiming in and with such great information – your articles are wonderful! Your advice on QR codes is very relevant for educators, especially those working in museums that don’t have a lot of in-house tech staff. I also followed links in your article to this great discussion on how to successfully use QR codes in a museum setting and was very impressed by the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis’ QR code efforts, especially their terrific explanatory labels for visitors on how to use the QR codes they provided. I think this is a key aspect of what educators bring to the technology discussion in museums – advocating for the visitors to make sure that technology is easy to use, and that it does something effective for the visitor: answers their questions, lets them contribute, gives them something to share amongst the group they are with.

      There does seem to be some skepticism in the museum field about QR codes, however – what do you think is the hesitation?


      • Erin says:

        I just found another great example of QR code use by the Chidlren’s Museum of Richmond! The article makes a great point that in a children’s museum, if things are going as they should, it’s too loud for a traditional video monitor to be an effective way to deliver content. But a QR code allows a parent to learn while their child is playing – the adult can keep one ear open, still hear the video. audio with an ear bud, and be mobile enough to not lose sight of their child. A very neat solution!


      • Dave Barr says:

        I’ve heard my share of negatives about QR codes too. Some think they are just ugly, but of course they can be made as attractive as any other graphic. Some don’t like their use by commercial interests, but I say the best thing for your visitors to use is something they can use elsewhere as well. The worst complaint I’ve heard is, “Well we posted one a outside a year ago and no-one used it.” Well, sure. If you’re not going to take the trouble to show your visitors what your mobile app is all about and how to use it, whose fault is it? Show me an expensive, purpose-built, dedicated mobile app for any institution that is treated with the same cavalier attitude, and I guarantee it will fail to be used as well.

        Educational use is particularly appropriate for QR codes because the teacher has the opportunity to lead everyone through the gentle process of recognition and use.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s