Like so many conferences, a number of really interesting ideas and concerns took shape during Museums and the Web Asia in Melbourne and this post is an attempt to tease out and test those I found most pertinent. The highlights for me were learning about the Singaporean context from Angelita Teo, Director of the National Museum of Singapore, the panel discussion between three incredibly passionate museum executives about organisational change, and the concluding key note presentation from George Oates, Director, Good, Form & Spectacle. These three very different presentations all seemed to take issue with the idea of a museum for the 21st Century and in particular, what a museum needs to be of the 21st Century. A collection? A community? CRM? Oh my, oh my…
Museum executives, Timothy Hart (Museum Victoria), Seb Chan (ACMI), Janet Carding, (TMAG) were panelists for the plenary session titled: ‘Lessons learned on taking your organisation on a voyage of discovery…’. The discussion touched on the concept of risk appetite which in this particular context was described as the risk to an organisation’s reputation of inaction. The discussion moved onto the related issue of capacity building and the challenge for museums to attract and retain expert staff given the fierce competition in other industries who can afford to pay higher salaries. The panel seemed to agree that for a museum to appeal to talented people, it must present unparalleled opportunities that are at once ambitious, as they are aspirational, that would otherwise not exist in other industries. This particular theme – capacity building and/or risk appetite – is explored further in Janet Carding’s article ‘Changing Museums‘ in Medium.
On day three, Courtney Johnston, Director of the Dowse Art Museum reflected on her experiences at three different museums in the United States where digital initiatives were developed for, and integrated into the physical space, in other words, site-specific. In short, none were perfect but given the small number of pioneering museums in this space, shouldn’t we be asking ourselves what we might do differently? What lessons can we learn from these pioneers? What impact have these initiatives had on the museum ecosystem? And what are the risks – both threats and opportunities – involved in such an undertaking?
I’ve chosen to zoom in on the areas which resonated with me. I work in a team called Governance and Reporting and our job is to lead the development of QAGOMA’s Strategic and Operational plans and report on our progress against the objectives laid out in these plans. Occasionally this necessitates some blue-sky thinking. This is why I loved learning about ‘What’s in the library?‘ a collaborative project between the Wellcome Library and Good, Form & Spectacle, to develop several prototype views of the entire library catalogue. The project had four main themes: Scope of the Collection, Show The Things, Context vs Catalogue Data, and Scalability, with one week dedicated to each theme. George Oates explained that visually prototyping the collection in different ways was interesting for all kinds of quirky reasons, but also offers an alternative way of thinking about collections and their cultural value, opening up new fields of enquiry. It also throws into question the authority of the institution – where is it located if not in the moment of selection, acquisition and even at the point of MARC1 entry?