‘Much more than just touchscreens and Facebook Live campaigns’ – Museums+Tech 2016 views from Jessica Davies

Jessica Davies, a #MuseTech16 volunteer, gives her thoughts from the event:

I was thrilled to be selected to attend the Museums+Tech conference this year, having just completed a Masters dissertation focusing on the value of online audiences and the role digital engagement plays for museums. The immense range of subjects, ideas and projects discussed by the fantastic speakers highlighted how broad digital technology within the museums sector really is. It is much more than just touchscreens and Facebook Live campaigns – advancements in the digital world have opened up so many opportunities for museums to share the stories of their collections.

From apps to interactive websites to geotagging; what became clear is that the ever developing world of digital is bringing evolving and exciting opportunities for museums to engage in new ways with their audiences. However, discussions amongst the delegates over lunch and via Twitter raised the reoccurring question of how museums incorporate these new technologies and programmes into their management and budgets. Smaller museums that are running on a shoe string and two members of staff can’t afford the time or resources to take on new initiatives. And while the ideas and desire may be there, the skills base, funding and time required to do it just can’t keep up.

It was therefore reassuring to hear from many speakers who have faced these predicaments and have managed to create solutions that work for their institutions. The positivity and determination of these stories suggests that while delivering large digital projects may often seem like a pipe dream, some clearly defined goals and a bit of clever thinking can make versions of these dreams come true.

Sarah Younas, Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums

Sarah Younas, TWAM

For me, one of the most insightful statements of the day came from Sarah Younas from Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums, who said, ‘Not every idea is a good idea but it is still ok to have an idea.’

Trial and error and concept testing were repeated themes of the day and beautifully summed up Sarah. Pursuing ideas and being willing to make mistakes and learn is something that Tyne and Wear are clearly doing very well and it shows in their successful digital work. Their collaborations with community members, non-digital staff and external experts shows they are testing new ideas and seeing where it takes them.

I think everyone left the conference with a new burst of energy to try new things and see where the digital world can take them and their online audiences. And I can’t wait to be involved in this progress – the future of digital in museums is looking exciting!

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Museums+Tech 2016 #musetech16 Recap

Report by Carmen Talbot, Assistant Curator – Historic Collections of Devon & Cornwall Police

Conference Storified by Jessica Suess

The theme for the Museums+Tech 2016 conference was ‘Sharing Our Stories’, but opening keynote speaker Sebastian Deterding, for me, really redefined the day as being about an exploration of curiosity (as well as offering the stand-out quote of the day: ‘information fudge-dump’). The conference was kicked off by MCG Chair Mia Ridge, who reflected on the friendliness and openness of the sector, which is embodied by all the willing information and experience sharing in the MCG JISCmail. Tom Scott from the Wellcome Trust presented the idea that we challenge our long-held notions of what a library is, and broaden it to ‘a place to discover, create and share ideas so that people can make meaning from knowledge’.

Sebastian Deterding

Keynote speaker Sebastian Deterding challenged listeners to consider the ‘curiosity gap’ when designing exhibitions or online content for museums. Looking at the example of the news website Upworthy, Sebastian explained how organisations could trigger either curiosity or fear by varying the level of unpredictability, relevance, solvability and safety in their content. Examples of work that gave the audience an enjoyable level of participation were quoted; Quest to Learn: Developing the School for Digital Kids and The Health Museum’s ‘Facing Mars’ exhibition, which presented the attendees with the same question on both entry and exit; would you go to Mars? Sebastian challenged us to ‘candy-wrap’ our content, allowing people to be curious as to what’s inside, rather than ‘fudge-dumping’ all the information out at once. The slides from Sebastian’s keynote can be found here: http://j.mp/musetech.

Elaine MacIntyre, NMS

Elaine McIntyre, National Museums of Scotland

The 11:45 Digital Storytelling (all female!) panel gave inspiring and honest accounts of their experiences in this area. Elaine McIntyre from National Museums Scotland explained how the organisation went from putting all of their web focus on the ‘Visit Us’ page, to investing in their ‘Explore’ online collections database. By conducting audience research and collection feedback, researching other platforms (e.g. BBC iWonder), the team could ensure the usability of the platform. Analytics now show that Explore visitors look at more pages on the website and stay on the site longer.

Rhiannon Loosely, Museum of London

Rhiannon Loosely presented the Museum of London’s Fire! Fire! exhibition bespoke website. This project included a children’s game, a Minecraft experience and a collections explorer; this in turn replaced an old schools/educational website that the museum had on the Great Fire of London. Rhiannon presented the challenges that the project team faced due to funding timescales, the necessity of strategic planning, and most importantly, the ability to let go of the notion that a deadline means everything must be perfect by this date.

Rosie Clarke, Culture24

Rosie Clarke of Culture24 presented the work of the Museums at Night programme, and the streamlining of their activities (‘they’ being, rather shockingly, only two staff members running the whole Museums at Night programme!) They wanted to ensure that they were directing their email marketing only to those who wanted it. To achieve this, they performed data cleanses and email list mergers, as well as asking existing mailing list members to opt in or out of interest topics and clarify if they were heritage sector workers or members of the public. The results? Mailing lists became smaller, but they generated more engagement. Rosie also detailed Museums at Night’s experiments with crowdfunding and website live chat, which have been successful but thrown up new questions.

Internet Archive

For those of us lucky enough (or maybe keen enough, as it was during lunch) to have had a tour of the Internet Archive, an interesting insight into the workings of the mass-digitisation of archives was offered. The Wellcome Collection was a fantastic venue for the event and those that didn’t take the Internet Archive tour might have used the lunch break to visit the Collection’s new ‘Bedlam: the asylum and beyond’ exhibition (on display until 15 January 2017).

Lightning Talks

At 14:00 we heard the session two Lightening Talks. These were short, concise talks that aimed to provoke (curiosity?) and stimulate discussion (look at #musetech16 to see this in action). These covered A/B testing to AI; Andrew Larking giving a shocking quote on the latter, ‘[AI can be] better at understanding humans than humans are’. The full list of lightening talks can be seen below:

  • Russell Dornan (@RussellDornan), Wellcome CollectionSleep Stories: crowdsourcing a patchwork of meaningful stories online and in person
  • Jason Evans (@WikiNLW), National Library of WalesSharing digital content with Wikimedia
  • Chloe Roberts (@chloerabbits), Wellcome CollectionAdaptive evolution with A/B testing
  • Anna Lowe (@_smartify), SMARTIFYAn Audioguide for the Digital Age
  • Sarah Cole (@poetic_places), TIME/IMAGE, Poetic PlacesMaking a geolocation app with little time, less money, and no coding
  • Andrew Larking (@Andrew_Larking), DeesonThe naked bot
  • James Lloyd, Ure Museum of Greek ArchaeologyObjects in the Round: photogrammetry for engagement and education


Owing to demand, there were two parallel sessions running at 15:15; Session 3a: Working in a Digital World and 3b: Working with Collections. As I work in a collection not yet open to the public, I attended the latter to gather inspiration on innovative ways of using our collection (influenced in no small part by a feeling of affinity with Lucy Moore’s ‘difficult’ collection). Speakers and notes from their talks are below.

  • Kate Noble, Sarah-Jane Harknett, Naomi Chapman, The University of Cambridge Museums, ‘It’s got to be easy to use’: collections based narratives in the classroom and how teachers use digital resources. The University of Cambridge Museums team outlined their consultation work with teachers and their discovery that many educators rely heavily on internet-sourced resources, use of a lot of audio and SMART boards (primary)/iPads (secondary). Teachers who took part in their research stated that they used Google to find supplementary content and generally only looked at the first page of results, or used TWINKL (teaching resources). Teachers want high quality images and videos that they can link in to lessons; but not hosted on YouTube, as many schools cannot access this.
  • Lucy Moore, Leeds Museums and GalleriesCreating an online interactive using a ‘difficult’ collection. Lucy presented how Leeds had utilised their collection of First World War medals to create interactives for all ages, including a create-your-own medal platform that had users from around the world. An Explorer platform for schools, created in consultation with teachers, was also produced.
  • Robert Cawston, National Museums ScotlandGenerating engagement: creating playful experiences with museum collections. Gen’ may be the cutest computer animated germ ever seen (or perhaps the only one?) National Museums Scotland used £40,000 Wellcome Trust funding to work with Aardman to create an interactive game using the museum’s biomedical collections; the Gen ‘blob’ gets continually sick and must be treated using digitised objects (like a site-specific Tamagotchi). Find out more and play Gen here: http://www.nms.ac.uk/explore/games/gen/.


Speakers for Session 3a: Working in a Digital World Chair: Mike Ellis

  • Martin Fell, York Museums TrustWikipedia projects aren’t built in a day – Roman coinage on Commons
  • Katharine Alston, Imperial War MuseumsUsing service design, dashboards and Trello in the trenches
  • Vahur Puik (@puik),Estonian Photographic Heritage SocietyThe hard work of crowdsourcing. The experience of Ajapaik.ee
  • Sarah Younas (@sarahyounas),Tyne & Wear Archives & MuseumsDigital as New, Authentic Museum Experiences


Shelley Bernstein, The Barnes Foundation

Shelley Bernstein, The Barnes Foundation

Rounding off the conference was the excellent Shelley Bernstein, Chief Experience Officer of The Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia, presenting ‘How to change the tyres on a moving truck’. Shelley detailed the expansion of her role from Director of Digital Initiatives to include Chief Experience Officer, and how she used behavioural observation to inform her early decisions in this new role. Faced with unique challenges of a new building that looks fantastic but confuses visitors, Shelley presented the interventions that took place in order to align the architect’s vision with the visitor’s expectation. Shelley also detailed the Barnes’ research into revitalising their audio tour (there are no interpretation panels on display, and no photos allowed), and their experiments with wearable tech (the day of the conference, Shelley published this piece on Medium about this journey). By observing visitors, they noticed that the people who came to the Barnes talk a lot in the exhibition space. Not only this, but with their traditional ‘headset’ audio tour, the further in to the galleries they went, the more likely visitors were to remove the headphones and start discussing the works. Moreover, visitors who didn’t use the audio tour were staying in the galleries longer (on average). Combining the restrictions of the space with this research, Barnes’ are looking at implementing a wearable solution in the form of a watch (instead of the more common multimedia audio guide presented on a handheld device). What Shelley highlighted in her work at both the Barnes Foundation and previous role at Brooklyn Museum was the absolute importance of designing for your user’s needs, and with your site in mind. Watch how visitors move through it, listen to the questions they ask.

Find out more about MCG’s Museums+Tech 2016 speakers.

Read abstracts for all the talks that took place on the day.

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Rosie Kliskey, Museums+Tech 2016 Volunteer, shares her experience

As part of Museums+Tech 2016 we had a number of people volunteer to assist us with running the event and helping to make it the success that it was. One of these volunteers, Rosie Kliskey, shares her experience with us:

This year was my first time visiting the Museums+Tech conference. A colleague passed on the details thinking it may be something I’d be interested in and boy was she right! I’m so glad that I made the trip all the way up from Penzance, Cornwall to experience this wonderful event. The number of new ideas and projects was inspiring and refreshing. It really gave me a motivational push to really think how a small museum like the one I work for, Helston Museum, could benefit from using creative technology ideas like those discussed over the day. I found all of the talks interesting, with subjects ranging from curiosity to photogrammetry, everything from the idea to the execution was discussed. These ideas particularly enthused me because I could see how even with a limited budget amazing things could be achieved.

Overall I found the whole day to be friendly and inviting especially as I attended the event only having previously met one other person who attended and met some great new people throughout the day. I have discussed the subjects and ideas shared at the conference with the rest of the staff at the museum (3 of us) and we have now decided that we should get a creative technology idea brewing to increase engagement with our collections and hopefully we can turn it into a successful project like the ones shared at the conference in the future!
Rosie assisted with photographing the event and you can view her images along with others from the day on the Flickr page: https://www.flickr.com/groups/museumscomputergroup/. If you have any photos from Museums+Tech 2016 why not share them with the group?

For more on the events of Museums+Tech 2016 check out the recap here: http://museumscomputergroup.org.uk/2016/10/23/museumstech-2016-happened/


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MCG’s Museums+Tech Conference 2016 – as it happened

The Museums Computer Group’s annual conference, rebranded as Museums+Tech, took place at the Wellcome Collection on 19 October 2016 and was attended by over 190 delegates from across the sector. Thanks to the MCG committee and volunteers who worked on all the tiny details that made the day work so well.

We had two inspirational keynotes, 10 informative presentations, 7 enlightening lightning talks, a lively Annual General Meeting and an exuberant drinks reception, complete with a magic photo booth!

Videos, twitter archive and event storify are below, and you can also:

Keynote: Sebastian Deterding, Designer & Researcher, ‘I wonder…? Designing for Curiosity

Session One: Digital Storytelling


Elaine McIntyre, National Museums Scotland, Behind ‘Explore’: how we rethought our approach to telling stories online

Rhiannon Looseley, Museum of London, Fire! Fire! A story told several ways

Rosie Clarke, Culture24, Answer me this! Questions and experiments

Session Two: Lightning Talks


Russell Dornan, Wellcome Collection, Sleep Stories: crowdsourcing a patchwork of meaningful stories online and in person


Jason Evans, National Library of Wales, sharing digital content with Wikimedia

Anna Lowe, SMARTIFY, An Audioguide for the Digital Age

Sarah Cole, TIME/IMAGE, Poetic Places: Making a geolocation app with little time, less money, and no coding

James Lloyd, Ure Museum of Greek Archaeology, Objects in the Round: photogrammetry for engagement and education

Session Three (a): Working in a Digital World


Martin Fell, York Museums Trust, Wikipedia projects aren’t built in a day – Roman coinage on Commons

Katherine Alston, Imperial War Museums, Using service design, dashboards and Trello in the trenches

Vahur Puik, Estonian Photographic Heritage Socity, The hard work of crowdsourcing. The experience of Ajapaik.ee

Museums+Tech 2017 twitter archive

Explore the twitter archive – who was tweeting on the day? There’s also a searchable version.

Explore the #MuseTech16 twitter archive

Museums+Tech 2017 storify

Finally check out the lively discussion on Twitter in the Storify below.

Posted in Event-Category, Events, UKMW

Proposal: replace formal ‘Spring’ regional events with informal events

The goal for distributed events

The MCG’s mission is to connect, support and inspire people working with technology in museums. Our goal in changing event formats is to achieve our mission by reaching more people so they can access the resources of the wider digital heritage community and create stronger local networks.

Working with locals means events can be adapted to suit the regional context. It also might give volunteers an opportunity to meet others, develop event management and marketing skills. More informal, shorter events should also allow the sector to discuss topical issues. Lots of topics are easier to discuss in person over a cup of tea (or something stronger) than on email, discussion lists or social media. We could work with other organisations or interest groups to discuss wider topics such as digital heritage, GLAMs or digital scholarship.

Measures of success for an individual event might include one or more of:

  • Five people attending
  • Someone who doesn’t formally have ‘digital’ in their job description or title attending
  • People making one or more new connections that will help them deal with a current issue
  • People using the event to learn about a new topic

Proposed formats

I’d like to propose that we experiment with distributed events instead, where we work with locals to run a smaller-scale, informal event under the MCG banner.

Specifically, this means that we’d support people in organising an event, but it’s up to them to run it.

We can help publicise events, host information on our website, find speakers, suggest topics, put some money into catering or room hire, pay the volunteer some recompense for their time and any expenses – but we expect that they would organise a venue, publicise it locally, and report on the event outcomes for our list/website.


The meetup format I’d like to try is based on Teacamp http://teacamp.info/about/; for more background, read Matt Jukes’ post about tthe format https://productforthepeople.xyz/a-minimal-viable-meet-up-be3e30b98f9. Teacamps start at 4pm and finish at 6pm, ‘allowing people who need to to get home at a sensible time and not really massively interrupting a work day’.

We might want to find a way to include guest speakers or special topics to make it more of a destination event, but I like how informal it sounds, the ease of venue management and the way it’s designed to fit into busy work/life schedules.

People in smaller museums may not think of their role as ‘digital’, so topics relevant to specific problems might work well for reaching people outside our existing circles.

Other possible formats

  • Tours of new/improved galleries
  • Demos of new/improved websites, apps
  • #drinkingaboutmuseums
  • Lunchtime meetings
  • Breakfast meetings
  • Meetups at or after other conferences, training days
  • Panels at other conferences
  • Partner with other events to host digital topics
  • Excursions to visit other museums, retail spaces, etc
  • ‘Fail camp’ / Failure Swapshop

To make logistics easier, we could buy a meetup.com membership and let people use it to manage meetups in different locations, to help make RSVPs or whatever easier, and maybe reach new people. We could also use eventbrite, or try each in different locations and see which works better.

What next?

Create an information page – who we are, why run an event with us, what each party agrees to do, how organising an event helps the organiser, etc, based on this document.

Pilot and evaluate it – ask for volunteers to run a regional event.

If you’re interested in organising an event, what further information would you need?

What you can do

If you’re interested in organising an event or would like to suggest a topic for one, get in touch.


The Museums Computer Group has been running two events a year for several years now. The annual Museums+Tech (formerly UKMW) conference in London usually has about 200-250 delegates, depending on the venue capacity. The Spring ‘regional’ event is always held outside of London, and is usually much smaller, with 40 to 80 delegates. Finding and liaising with a venue, putting together a programme, selling tickets and running the event currently have similar overheads. Both events usually have a call for papers, with a subsequent review by a programme committee leading to a full-day programme of sessions. The marketing and communications activity aimed at selling tickets to each event can be more difficult for regional events as it can be hard to find and reach local groups.

Both events can consume a lot of volunteer time and it can be difficult to manage other committee activities while these events are being organised. In general, committee member time can be extremely scarce, as people deal with deadlines at work, personal issues, parental leave, etc. If we can reduce the overhead for events, we would have more time for partnerships, advocacy and discussion with funders and governmental bodies, responses to white papers and other changes etc, to tackle systemic issues affecting the sector.

The regional events are appreciated by delegates, but as the number of delegates isn’t proportionate to the work required to organise and run the event, we’re looking to change the format of MCG’s regional events.

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@ukmcg on Twitter

on Twitter

The MCG is for technologists, curators, educators, marketers and more in and around museums. Posts and event news by Mia (Chair), Jess, and the Comms team

  • RT @wezitcamp: Has the BYOD approach failed museums? See what experts had to say during the last edition of @museweb #Digitalmuseum https://t.co/bvtyCJmihH
  • RT @museweb: What if all the museums could be found in one digital resource? Encyclopedia of Indian museums: https://t.co/8CY1JT9UBW #museweb
  • RT @anjacks0n: Related question: do any libraries or archives have their catalogues under version control? Or are they all big pil… https://t.co/hNcUnTiRG7
  • RT @Jisc: What would truly digital apprenticeships look like? We need your help to design a service - join us on 14 June… https://t.co/Zl6Q1uuRqs
  • RT @Piersj: Recruiting for a Lead Engineer / Developer managing the Museum's public facing digital experience inc website& apps https://t.co/ofZMxbtIUN