By Maribel Hidalgo Urbaneja

I made the decision to attend the MCG spring event based on my personal and professional curiosity about sustainability in digital projects, more specifically in relation to the subject of my PhD thesis: online exhibitions and publications. In the last months I also started to hear more frequently about sustainability in museums and digital humanities projects. The Johns Hopkins University Program in Digital Curation for example published a report on the Summit on Digital Curation in Art Museums and Martha Henson blogged about ‘Stop wasting money on digital projects if you aren’t prepared to promote them properly.’ The presentations at the event helped me to expand my vision of sustainability and rethink my views on digital publishing, audience research and user experience research. It highlighted that long-term digital sustainability is a goal that every cultural organisation, regardless of size, shares.

Charlotte Sexton's keynote at our last event

Charlotte Sexton delivers the keynote address

Almost every speaker covered a practice or issue I somehow was familiar with. Charlotte Sexton, the keynote speaker, provided a well-balanced overview of project production and all its associated components. The talk addressed areas such as management and how it should be considered in terms of sustainability, openness and accessibility of standards and much more. The rest of the talks covered some of these elements more in depth.

I found the presentation by Graham Davies, from the National Museum of Wales, particularly interesting as he described their smart approach to Google Analytics and users’ feedback to improve and sustain the museum website over time. Whilst, the study presented by Ivan Teage, from the Natural History Museum, shed some light about the production, sharing of documentation and maintenance of technologies in museums, offering some solutions for quite common problems in museums.

Gareth Beale, in relation to The DiNAR project, offered their thoughts about re-usability of software platforms and assets. As developing an open source publishing platform is becoming common practice for museums, it never occurred to me that open source could be beneficial for sustainability as well. The final debate about whether it is good or not to externalise services while developing a project was a highly relevant and good closing point.