Update to MCG discussion list policy on unpaid internships following member survey

There was some debate about whether unpaid internships that could be considered ‘unpaid jobs’ should be posted on the MCG’s discussion list back in May 2017. As a result, we ran a poll from May 28 to mid-June. While the language of the poll was a bit more strict than we tend to be, asking whether ‘Advertising for unpaid internships on the MCG mailing list should be’ permitted or forbidden, the results were clear.

Nick Clarey, who helped with the behind the scenes work along with Jessica Suess and Danny Birchall, kindly summarised the results:

There were:

  • 115 responses
  • 80.9% voted not to allow advertising for unpaid internships
  • 15.7% voted to allow advertising for unpaid internships
  • 3.5% voted “no opinion”

Nick also summarised the 34 comments:

  • Members were concerned that there was uncertainty about how terms were defined – what is an internship, what is a volunteer and how would a policy distinguish between them?
  • Members are strongly against professional work masquerading as internships
  • Some members (especially from smaller museums) are opposed to language in a policy which might suggest that asking for volunteers is somehow unethical
  • Members appear broadly of the mind that short-term unpaid internships (of the sort a student might do over a summer for example) are acceptable under clear guidelines

Accordingly, we have changed our discussion list policy following the vote. As a result of your votes and comments, the relevant line has changed from:

‘Job, paid internship and volunteer post advertisements are permitted.’


‘Job, paid internship and volunteer post advertisements are permitted. We believe that internships and volunteer roles can benefit the sector and individuals, but in order to support valuable diversity in the museum sector, internships offered should meet the Museums Association guidelines for internships. You may also wish to check your position description against UCL’s Internships, Work Experience and Volunteering Policy.’

We have used the MA’s guidelines as they are widely accepted, provide the definitions requested in comments, and will already have been through many rounds of discussion. As with any posts to the discussion list, we don’t moderate or ask to approve them in advance, but people can email us if they’re not sure if a post meets the guidelines.

(While I was at it, I also added the following sentence to the item about non-MCG conferences and events: ‘If your conference title contains an acronym, please spell it out so that people new to it have a sense of the topic’.)

If you ever need a refresher, the entire policy is at http://museumscomputergroup.org.uk/email-list/. Posts to the MCG’s discussion list reach 1700 subscribers, so it’s worth getting it right!

Mia Ridge, posting as Chair of the Museums Computer Group


Vote results: unpaid internships advertised on the MCG discussion list

The 34 anonymous comments made by voters were:

  • Unpaid internships favour those who can afford to take them. They are a detriment to the industry and MCG can help by not allowing their promotion over the service.
  • Not only should it be forbidden to advertise them, internships that are not about training people to understand what a job is about should be illegal. This post asked for someone to “lead” on building a digital archive. That is clearly not an internship position.
  • But only subject to stringent requirements, i.e. there’s a strong learning element to the post, it does not require prior knowledge or experience, and it’s comparatively short term; or it’s an offer to take placements which are part of formal courses. The NT post which provoked this discussion is beyond the pale as far as these criteria go; I’m absolutely behind the comments on the list about the ways internships limit access; but they can still be valuable opportunities if used positively and sensitively.
  • Unpaid “internships” (which are essentially unpaid jobs) undermine everyone working in the sector, and the principles of accessibility and diversity which museums and heritage organisations espouse.
  • Only allowed if part of a planned course (university or college) or scheme eg LUMEN scheme at Leicester University
  • http://www.keepvolunteeringvoluntary.net/
  • Thoroughly against them in the space – appreciate that in some contexts it can be an affordability issue but I think they naturally favour those that can afford it, and therefore acts to reduce diversity.
  • I think this is a really difficult one, because I know the value of volunteers and of short internship roles when trying to enter the sector, but the post in question clearly required someone with expertise already and wasn’t suitable for a free volunteer category.
  • The single instance being discussed is clearly an extreme case, requiring a high degree of knowledge and imposing significant responsibilities. Not all internships will make such demands and offer so little in return. I am unhappy that a blanket ban should be imposed, based on this one case.
  • Absolutely, and I commend you for pursuing this. Other jiscmail groups banned them some time ago (e.g ARCHIVES_NRA)
  • As has been mentioned by others, the use of unpaid internships undermines wages and serves to exclude those who can’t afford to work for free.
  • Thanks for cracking down in this. Would love to see concerted efforts across cultural/arts sectors
  • Unpaid internships are exploitative and do not promote equal opportunities. They have no place in the cultural heritage sector / the world. Thanks for opening this up for discussion / a vote!
  • Having worked for free for almost two years I can confirm that it is a privilege to be able to afford to do so. However, without it I would not get the skills and experience I needed to get a paid role. But if people are allowed to do this then those doing this will willingly exploit this opportunity and claim that they are providing skills and experience while in fact they are also getting free labour when those who deserve the job are not getting it
  • While agreeing that the particular internship was phrased rather more as an employment opportunity than a volunteering one, unpaid internships are volunteering by another name. Are we saying MCG members may not be volunteers? MCG is about museums and computing. It is not a trade union or similar ‘representative’ body.
  • Providing they are genuine opportunities for people to develop skills and knowledge, with a view to employment later.
  • Voting yes/no on a blanket ban is a bit Brexit referendum, is it not? A six month, part-time, unpaid ‘opportunity’ is clearly ridiculous, but this sector would grind to a halt without the work of volunteers, so it seems to me that there’s a spectrum of acceptability. However, that’s all irrelevant in this case as I’d actually rather the MCG list didn’t become yet another sodding job board. So although I’m fine with the concept of some unpaid internships, I don’t want any job ads on the MCG list. Therefore, forbidden.
  • I don’t think we (as the MCG subscribers) should encourage the practice of requesting people to work for free. Particularly as the type of work that would be advertised on MCG would be of a technical / skilled nature. If the work is worth doing then it is worth paying for.
  • As no two cases are alike it’s hard to find that cut-off between acceptable and not. And after all, it’s up to those reading it to decide if it’s for them or not, not decide on behalf of others. Slippery slope.
  • I feel there could be some latitude for very small organisations. But not for bigger organisations like the NT.
  • The advert submitted today was a disgusting example of expecting free labour to do what someone should be paid for. Shame on the National Trust for abusing its position in this way, and taking advantage of people simply hoping for a chance to gain employment. Sickening behaviour.
  • I do not see any issues in advertising unpaid internships. In my opinion these are great opportunities for a range of people, such as retired folks, young people looking for experience, someone looking to change careers, etc… As long as the minimum requirements for entry level work STILL ask for some sort of experience – unpaid internships have a place in communities like this one.
  • Strongly think it creates a more divided society – a Conservative mp actually tried to ban it but was filibustered by the repellant Philip Davies. As a sector we should be doing much better than this. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/plans-to-ban-unpaid-internship-blocked-in-commons-after-government-and-tory-backbenchers-speak-for-a7398801.html
  • It should be clearly stated that they are unpaid, and the reader can decide what to do. Whether organisations should be using unpaid positions is a completely separate question.
  • I’ve said forbidden but I think it depends really – if people are advertising <6 week placements I think that’s ok, but longer than that is less of a placement and more of a missed opportunity for someone else’s work.
  • Permitted where the internship adheres to pre-determined guidelines on what constitutes an ethical internship (eg length of time, expenses paid etc) and is not a direct replacement of a paid position
  • MCG should have clear statement on website, plus a practical guide to expected remuneration for roles requiring skill levels, i.e. banding.
  • How can you define the boundaries between work experience – internships – volunteering?
  • Unpaid internships are taking advantage of people who want to get experience to get paid formal work within the wider sector.
  • It should be advertised only and via social media *as well*.
  • Only unpaid internships that follow the MA guidelines should be permitted
  • Good lord, why is this an MCG matter? Just get rid of job-related messages all together. It’s bad enough that people can post paid positions here. I can learn something from even the most esoteric discussion, but any job posting must be of interest to such a tiny subset of the list that each one is surely a waste of all our time.
  • Although I agree that the ‘internship’ that prompted this discussion is inappropriate and definitely warranting of paid work, I do not feel that a blanket ban would be helpful. There are unpaid internships/ work experience that offer real benefits to the intern (usually of much shorter duration, and offering valuable training opportunities).
  • Only if max 1 or 2 months and for max 1 or 2 days a week
Posted in Uncategorized

Why attend Museums+Tech 2017?

MCG’s Museums+Tech 2017 will be held at the Imperial War Museum on November 3.

Eventbrite - MCG's Museums+Tech 2017

This year’s standard ticket price is £150, with a discounted rate of £120 for MCG members. Discounted early bird tickets save £25 off the members price but must be booked before September 3.

About the Museums+Tech 2017 Programme

This year’s conference brings together an eclectic and provocative group of speakers who will share practical lessons from their own experience and pose challenges to existing practice across the sector. You will come away from this year’s event both inspired and challenged, with a list of ideas to try in your own organisation.

You’ll learn how museums are using technologies like 3D printing to reach school groups and empower visually impaired visitors. You’ll be inspired by the innovative twists on existing technologies and agile experiments that organisations like Brighton’s Royal Pavilion & Museums, the National Maritime Museum and National Museums Scotland have tried. You’ll find out what happened when historic buildings experimented with chat bots, and hear about the latest in sound scenography. You’ll be provoked by discussions of fake news and the role of museums in a post-truth world. Finally, you’ll have a chance to reflect on digital literacy and organisational change.

Curious? View the full conference programme here.

Why attend?

Why join the friendly delegates at Museums+Tech 2017? You’ll have a great time, learn lots and meet fascinating people. But if you need to make the case to your boss, or include something in your professional development plan, here’s why we think Museums+Tech is an essential part of your museum learning this year…

Museums+Tech is for all professionals in the museums sector who work with, or are just curious about using digital technologies for the benefit of their organisations and audiences.

It’s an opportunity to hear what experts and peers across the sector (and outside) are doing, to identify opportunities for collaboration, and to meet colleagues working on similar projects, familiar with the same obstacles and opportunities.

MCG has been running events exploring technology in museums since 1982, and held the first UK Museums on the Web conference in 2001. Our events are put on for the sector, by the sector. Our conferences have a proven track record in highlighting best practice in digital cultural heritage, with engaging presentations and inspiring keynote speakers from within and beyond the sector. We believe that events should help delegates connect and learn from each other, and our code of conduct helps everyone get on with enjoying our events.

But don’t take our word for it – here’s what attendees said about MCG conferences in previous years

‘I have found the events MCG organise inspirational and a great way to network with the broader digital museums community’ – Jessica Suess

‘A full-on intense day, very rich in insights and amazing sharing of experiences…’ – Kasia Kwiatkowska

‘As long as technology moves as fast as Mercury, museums will need the MCG to help them catch up’ – Holly Parsons

We’ve also been known to get some amazing international keynote speakers that you rarely have a chance to hear speak in the UK. Our 2016 keynotes were Shelley Bernstein, previously of Brooklyn Museum and now Chief Experience Officer at the Barnes Foundation, talking about their wearable technologies for the first time, and Sebastian Deterding, an international designer of curiosity. Watch videos of last year’s talks on our YouTube channel.




Posted in UKMW

An update from the MCG Committee: Meet the committee

Following on from our last blog post, which re-introduced the MCG to you all, we thought we would go one step further and re-introduce the committee itself. You can find detailed profiles on each committee member on our website, through ‘The MCG Committee’ page. This blog post, however, should give you a brief introduction to some of the established, active committee members, as well as the new faces (including myself).

Dr Mia Ridge, MCG Chair

Mia is a Digital Curator at the British Library, where she supports innovative ways of exploring and accessing the Library’s collections. Mia’s PhD investigated the impact of digital technologies on historical research. She has also worked at the Science Museum, Museum of London and Melbourne Museum.

Katherine Biggs, Treasurer

Katherine took over the role of MCG Treasurer in 2016, having been MCG Secretary since 2014. As her day job she is the digital project manager for the new Exploration Wing at the National Maritime Museum, opening in 2018. Prior to this she worked across all six of Historic Royal Palaces’ sites, specialising in engaging audiences with culture and heritage through digital technology. This included large-scale, interactive 360 degree experiences at family festivals, a recent MOOC on the FutureLearn platform and app-based digital missions for children. Katherine also co-managed the British Museum’s Samsung Digital Discovery Centre and its digital learning programmes aimed at families and young audiences.

Jessica Suess, Secretary

Jess is the Digital Partnership Manager at Oxford University Museums and leads on digital and evaluation in the Museums Partnership Team.  The Partnership Team coordinates collaborative activity across the University’s four museums, often acting as a ‘guerrilla unit’ to identify and seize high impact opportunities. Jess’ particular interests are ‘in gallery’ digital engagement, accessibility challenges and audience segmentation.

Rebecca Atkinson

Rebecca is the online publications editor at the Museums Association. She edits the monthly online publication Museum Practice, writes for Museums Journal, and programmes the MA’s annual programme of one-day conferences as well as the early careers conference Moving On Up. She is also part of the MA’s Conference & Exhibition panel.

Martin Bazley

Following 7 years’ teaching and a year in publishing, Martin worked for 7 years as Online Projects Manager in the Learning Unit at the Science Museum, London and then for 3 years as E-Learning Officer at SEMLAC (later MLA South East). Often working with one or more associates, Martin undertakes a variety of projects for small, medium and large museums, archives and other heritage organisations and agencies, involving planning and development of digital projects such as websites and digital resources, user testing, audience research, evaluation and consultancy, always with a particular focus on making things work well for users and stakeholders. Martin is a regular presenter and he provides training on a range of topics including design, development and evaluation of online resources and learning opportunities based on digital technology within the cultural sector. He also acts as Mentor and Monitor for HLF digital projects.

Georgina Brooke

Georgina studied classics at St Hilda’s College, Oxford. Since graduating, she has pursued a career in digital – initially for agencies in Soho, London and Singapore, where she specialised from digital project management into digital content strategy and data analysis. On returning to the UK and to Oxford she worked for the University’s Public Affairs Directorate where she launched “research in conversation” – a series of interviews with academics from different disciplines looking at broadly interesting topics, such as how to live a happy life, what makes us human and our changing relationship with information. Georgina currently works at the Ashmolean Museum where she is in charge of relaunching the website in parallel with re-envisaging all the web content and introducing a culture of digital knowledge across the Museum administration.

Sarah Cole

Sarah is Director at TIME/IMAGE and ‘Creative Geek’ for the cultural heritage sector. As a creative consultant she does all sorts of stuff, from managing film archive digitisation for the British Council, to running pop-up exhibitions, to making an innovative geo-curation app for the British Library as Creative Entrepreneur-in-Residence. Sarah also has one foot firmly in video games, developing experimental VR projects and supporting playful events. She also makes brooches from CC-licensed historical artworks under the Badgical Kingdom brand.

Michael Guthrie

Michael is a founder of KnowledgeArc, a managed archive and content management service for the Galleries, Libraries, Archives, and Museum sector as well as institutional Open Access repositories for academic and NGO/IGO organisations. Previous to KnowledgeArc, Michael has been producing digital projects since 1996 in New York and the UK.

Dafydd James

Dafydd leads the New Media department at Amgueddfa Cymru — National Museum Wales, which is responsible for developing digital content for all seven national museums in Wales. After gaining a Physics degree and an MSc in Multimedia Engineering, Dafydd began work as e-Learning Officer based at St Fagans: National History Museum. He developed various websites, Learning resources and exhibition displays before moving to his current role as Head of New Media. Dafydd is currently responsible for coordinating the department’s activities and implementing the organisation’s strategic initiatives in digital media. He is chair of the Technology Strand for People Collection Wales and a Trustee for Audiences Wales.

Andrew Lewis

Andrew is Data and Insights Architect at the Natural History Museum London, where he leads on data strategy and architecture for business-intelligence insights. Previously, he was Digital Content Delivery Manager at the Victoria and Albert Museum, responsible for the technology and data integration used to deliver the V&A’s digital content on web and mobile. Before moving into the museum sector, he was responsible for developing online, physically-delivered and automated digital information services in public libraries.

Sarah Middle

Sarah is in the first year of a PhD at the Open University, looking at the integration of Linked Data resources with Humanities research, particularly in disciplines relating to the Ancient World. Before returning to study, Sarah worked in various academic library roles, most recently as Repository Manager at Cambridge University Library.

Brian Moss

Brian is a PhD. Candidate in the Department of Media, Culture & Heritage, formerly the International Centre for Culture & Heritage Studies (ICCHS) at Newcastle University. Brian’s primary area of interest is in Mobile Digital Interpretations (MDIs) in the outdoor heritage context, but this extends into areas such as digital interpretations for museum and gallery settings, location-based services, GIS and social media. He is particularly interested in the effective deployment of smartphone technology within the museum and heritage sector and the subsequent influence this has on the embodied sensuous experience.

Ina Pruegel

Ina leads, promotes and publicises the strategic development of the Cambridge University Museum’s digital capacity, to connect audiences with collections through digital technologies. She previously worked as Digital Project Manager at Historic Royal Palaces, where she developed digital products and learning experiences. Work included on-site apps, iBeacons, augmented reality, immersive story experiences, projections and 360 filming.

Tiana Tasich

In her long career spanning over 15 years of working at the intersection of culture and digital technologies, Tiana has worked with a range of cultural organisations including Tate, the Southbank Centre, and the Design Museum. Tiana is currently the interim Head of Digital, at The Royal Institution.

Alec Ward

Alec works for the London Museum Development team, based at the Museum of London. With his role as Museum Development Officer: Digital and Communications, Alec manages the Digital Futures training programme. Within the training programme he delivers and facilitates a number of different digital based courses for London’s museums, from social media strategy to filming and editing videos.

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Posted in Article

An update from the MCG Committee: Who we are

In the lead up to our November conference, Museums+Tech 2017, and our 35 year anniversary, we thought it would be as good a time as any to reaffirm our values. On our website’s ‘about page’, we describe ourselves as a “UK-based independent group for museum, gallery, cultural heritage and education professionals who work with or are interested in museum technology and digital heritage.” But what does that actually mean? And how does it help you, and the sector?

Who we are

At our core, the Museums Computer Group is a practitioner-led network, which is directed by a passionate volunteer committee. But you direct us too. By your work, your passion and your interests. Our membership is made up of a vast number of people, from all kinds of backgrounds, and that’s incredibly well reflected in both our JISCMail discussion list, and at our events. You bring up interesting topics and you highlight inspiring practice. You are smart, constructive and aren’t afraid to ask questions. You are the voice for technology in the sector.

What we do

That’s a voice that we, as a group, try to reflect, broadcast and advocate. We want to connect you to one another, and to the sector as a whole. We want to support you in your work and your interests. We want to help you develop your career by providing opportunities to learn and connect, and through discussions with government, sector funders and senior leaders. We aim to inspire you, and encourage you to inspire each other. In times of uncertainty, both economic and social, it’s more important than ever for us to do this. For the MCG to connect, support and inspire both you and the sector.

The discussions that we have, on and off-list, reflect that technology comes in all shapes and forms. From social media to 3D printing. From video walls to audio tours. The MCG is here to advocate for the better use of technology – not necessarily for the technology itself. That’s why the discussion list is such a fantastic place to share feedback and thoughts around technology and its applications. Around what has worked well, and what can be improved. This community is an incredibly valuable resource for the sector, and one of our main goals is to connect people to that community.

Where we’re going

We want to continue to position ourselves as a practice-led group. As a community for the sector’s technology-minded professionals. We want to continue to provide an open, friendly and welcoming environment for people to pose questions. To challenge the sector and to be creative within their own work. But most of all, we want people to feel able to share their successes and their failures, so that others can learn from their experiences.

At each Annual General Meeting, our members vote in new Committee members. In the coming months we’ll be re-introducing the committee to the community. We’ll tell you who we are, what we do and how we can help. If you want to get involved, we’ll be posting our usual call for committee nominations later in the year, and this year we’ll also be appointing a new Chair for the MCG at the November conference. These are important posts, so feel free to get in touch if you might be interested in joining our committee.

Until then, we want to thank you for your support of the MCG, and for your support of each other. We take pride in the fact that the Museums Computer Group is a connected community of friendly, passionate people. And we’d like to continue to support that for the foreseeable future.

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MCG’s Museums+Tech 2017 – first call for proposals

Museums+Tech 2017 will be held at the Imperial War Museum, London, on Friday 3 November 2017. This call for proposals closes at midnight (London time) on Sunday, 30 April 2017 Wednesday May 3rd (extended to allow for the bank holiday).

MCG’s Museums+Tech 2017: tech in a divided world

2017 is set to be a challenging year – personally, politically, economically and socially – as the Brexit referendum and international elections made long-standing divisions in society impossible to ignore. 2016 showed that what we know about the state of the world is affected by where we live, our education, and by how we get our news. Museums, too, operate in polarised societies. Our 2017 conference asks whether digital experiences, collections and exhibitions can help create a shared understanding of the world and maybe even heal some of the ruptures that emerged over the last decades.

What is the role of digital technologies and platforms, whether social media, mobile apps, websites, gallery guides, publications, podcasts, videos, or virtual or augmented reality experiences in a divided world? Can museums provide a shared space where those with a range of world views recognise themselves, or where the impact of the ‘filter bubble‘ may be reduced – and if so, can a digital experience have the same impact?

The MCG’s Museums+Tech 2017 conference seeks proposals for presentations addressing these issues. It’s time to celebrate good work, and share ideas for helping museums do better. We’re open to suggestions, but topics might include:

  • How your museum has responded to an external event that’s prompted new ideas for digital experiences or encounters with audiences
  • How your museum has focused on inclusivity and diverse audiences in its digital offering
  • The impact of the political climate on how you present your museum, and how digital technologies have made that easier or harder
  • Behind-the-scenes technical work and organisational change to help reach polarised audiences
  • Tips on applying for funding and working within a limited budget
  • Connecting different communities, e.g. inter-disciplinary work, through collaboration with local or international communities, libraries and archives, or non-heritage organisations and sectors
  • Lessons on creating empathy through digital experiences, perhaps from other sectors, virtual reality, etc
  • Demonstrating integrity in a ‘post-truth’ society or cutting through the noise on news or social media
  • The ability of digital platforms to unpack the ‘neutral’ museum voice and share a range of different perspectives
  • Using digital technologies to ‘break down the barriers’ of physical venues and exhibitions
  • Using digital technologies to connect visitors with each other
  • Bridging the digital divide
  • Reaching audiences that don’t think of themselves as museum visitors
  • Addressing falling (physical) visitor numbers
  • And a bonus topic: in 2017, the Museums Computer Group celebrates its 35th anniversary. How different are museums in 2017 from museums 1982 because of the technologies and practices developed since then (or even since 2007)?

About Museums+Tech 2017

The MCG’s annual conference attracts speakers and participants from some of the most innovative museums, agencies and university programmes in the world. We’re keen to hear from practitioners, researchers, funders, and those from related cultural heritage and technology sectors. All submitted papers will be reviewed by experts in the field.

The conference programme will include long and short presentations, and you can suggest a length to suit your topic in the proposal form below. Short presentations are a great way for you to share useful ideas that others in the sector can try. Longer presentations let you provide a more detailed exploration of a topic or project.

Our audiences love our mixture of old and new voices. We have a great track record in presenting a diverse range of speakers, and we’ve started a profit-sharing scheme in acknowledgement of the resources required to attend and present at events. We can also provide some bursaries for speakers who would benefit from assistance with funds for travel, childcare etc. Please also read our Guidance for Speakers before submitting your proposal. Our events have a code of conduct designed to help everyone enjoy the event.

Proposals deadline

This call for proposals closes at midnight (London time) on Sunday, 30 April 2017 Wednesday May 3rd (extended to allow for the bank holiday). Our international Programme Committee will review proposals over May and you should hear from us at the start of June. If you have any questions please email us.

Ready to share your stories? Fill in our Call for Proposals form https://goo.gl/forms/hlDg0eG0BH3CVvxs2.

Keynote Sebastien Deterding at MuseTech16

Posted in Events, UKMW
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