Interlopers, Underdogs & Innovation

Personal Impressions from Museums and the Web 2014

It’s been over a month since Museums and the Web and I already shared a post on it. I collected tweets and storified them to capture the collective takeaways from each of the sessions. I have not written about my own impressions yet, maybe because I needed to let them marinate. Maybe also because I’ve started a new job and life is incredibly busy!

It’s actually useful to think about what has stuck with me and why. So here, in stream of consciousness style of Jack Kerouac, are my personal impressions from Museums and the Web 2014.

Poll of Where Digital Positions Sit in Museums at Museums and the Web Conference. Personal photo by Mairin Kerr.

Poll of Where Digital Positions Sit in Museums at Museums and the Web Conference. Personal photo by Mairin Kerr.

The Interlopers Report

My first MW was a couple years ago in 2012. In that short time the crowd at MW changed immensely. I come from a museum education background and at the 2012 conference it really felt like there were very few people at the conference like me. My fellow museum educator, Dr. Rainer Mack described this eloquently in The Interlopers Report. In his report Rainer wished that more educators would attend in the future and that technology would be part of all of our roles (not jealously guarded by one group or nervously trivialized by another). Rainer, your wish has come true. There were SO MANY educators at the 2014 conference. Plus there were representatives of all areas of museum work. Technology has infiltrated all of our jobs; we have all been converted by the digital evangelists of 2012.

I highly recommend reading Rainer’s report not just to see how far we’ve come in incorporating digital media throughout the museum but also why the mentality of people who work with new technology is so important for all museum workers.

Google is helping the little guy

Google Cultural Institute has been travelling to large museums and digitizing their masterpieces. But what about small ones? They are now opening up the tools they used on the larger museums to smaller galleries and artists. You can apply for access and when approved you can upload images, video, and street view imagery. You also get access to tools that allow you to compare images and use their powerful zoom-in feature. Read Google’s Blog Post announcement for more info.

I heard a lot of people say how they enjoyed hearing about these really amazing projects at large museums (or medium ones who received massive grants) but that they really wish to see what cool things smaller museums (with small budgets) can do. Not surprisingly Google is ahead of the curve on this – giving us tools to help small museums do cool stuff.

New Innovative Apps

These prove that museum apps don’t have to be boring. I will probably devote a post to them later but for now here’s a taster – a list of the apps we were all talking about at MW

Speaker tents ready to be taken to sessions at MW 2014. Personal Photo by Mairin Kerr.

Speaker tents ready to be taken to sessions at MW 2014. Personal Photo by Mairin Kerr.

1)      Hearst Castle app by Guidekick

This app tracks your movement and tells you when there are objects near you with audio or video about them. Developed by four recent Cal Poly graduates, it’s one of the few museum apps using location based services to push content to visitors as they wander the site. This app is not just cutting edge for museums, it’s received validation outside of the museum world – it was rated by Apple as the best new travel app.

2)      Touch Van Gogh

The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam created this app to share the artist’s studio practice. This app let’s us all do what we want to, but know we shoudn’t – touch paintings. Once touched, the paintings reveal secrets such as the fact that some were made on recycled canvases with other paintings underneath them, or that the pigments have discoloured over time and were originally much brighter.

3)      Art Lens

What does the Cleveland Museum of Art’s app not do? Augmented reality, wifi triangulation to deliver local content, pre-loaded tours and the ability to make and share your own, updated top ten lists from curators and visitors….And it comes preloaded on iPads you can borrow from the museum if you don’t want to download it onto your own iPad or iPhone.  No wonder it won the Best Mobile category of MW’s Best of the Web Awards. But does it do too much? Does everything work? How are people using it? Questions to look into.

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