My Experience from Museums+Tech16 by Alice Rose

Even though ‘digital’ is not in my job title as a museum documentation assistant, I really wanted to attend the Museums Computer Group Museums+Tech conference.  My interest was sparked earlier in the year when I attended a seminar on digitisation which whet my appetite for the diverse range of applications of technology in all aspects of museum work.  I also feel that the digital world and technology is becoming increasingly important in society and will become a part of every job description, so felt it would be great for my own professional development.

Throughout the day I was inspired, developing ideas which I felt I could take back to my own workplace and utilise in upcoming projects and share with colleagues.  I think the key message I took home, which all the speakers touched on, was to take a user-focused approach based on demand.

Sebastien Deterding

‘Designing for Curiosity’ – Sebastien Deterding

Sebastien Deterding

The opening keynote speaker, Sebastien Deterding, delivered a light but insightful talk on ‘Designing for Curiosity’ which explored how to direct visitors to digital content through creating curiosity – a method which could be applied to physical museum exhibition spaces too.  His comparison to puzzle design through gradually revealing information as opposed to setting up a quiz provided an interesting perspective and a different approach.

Elaine MacIntyre, National Museums of Scotland

Elaine MacIntyre from National Museums of Scotland, provided an interesting case study showing how they improved their website with their new ‘explore’ section.  They adopted a user-focused approach, researching current users and their needs and analysing where their site was falling short.  They used this data to develop their new site which has increased users and dwell time on their collections site.

Rhiannon Looseley, Museum of London

The Museum of London ‘Fire! Fire!’ project, presented by Rhiannon Looseley, demonstrated how much can be achieved within a tight timeframe.  The objective was to create a one-stop resource for anyone wanting to learn about the Fire of London.  This included developing a new website, working with partner institutions to put collections relating to the Fire of London on the site.  In addition, they also developed a Fire of London Minecraft world.  Both aspects of the project highlighted challenges showing the need to be user-focused, strategic and realistic.  The take home message: having it done is better than perfect.  You can always add to it later.

Museum of London ‘Fire! Fire!’ Project – Rhiannon Looseley

Lucy Moore, Leeds Museum

Another highlight of the day was an enthusiastic and inspirational talk by Lucy Moore of Leeds Museums about creating an online interactive on a World War One theme.  The project demonstrates how a museum experience can be taken into the digital sphere.  Collections were at the core of the project, highlighting medals which are usually in store and not regularly accessible to the public.  The resource drew upon the diversity of stories and experiences associated with these objects as well as educating about the physicality of the object.  This in turn inspired users, where they could create their own digital medals and submit them to the museum.  This project succeeded in evoking an emotional connection between individuals, objects and the past.  Even more impressively, it evoked this in audiences thousands of miles away on the other side of the globe, showing the importance of digital in sharing our collections with the world.

Shelley Bernstein, The Barnes Foundation

The day closed with innovations at The Barnes FoundationShelley Bernstein explored issues faced on the ground in the museum, including access and diversity as well as practical issues (such as finding the front door!).  This led to an exploration of audio guides and whether they were fulfilling visitor needs.  This research showed a preference for short-form over long-form content, stimulating interactions in the gallery spaces and saving information for later.  So watch this space for their latest project!  The closing remarks of the day provided a good summary for the day: we should not do something for its own sake, but always do it to improve user experience.


Alice was one of our volunteers for Museums+Tech 2016 and you can read more from our volunteers here, here and here!


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‘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:

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:


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
  • 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: 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:


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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

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.

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@ukmcg on Twitter

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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