By Nicole Friedman

MCG hosted a one-day workshop on the topic of Digital Projects (Event Agenda & Presentation slides), with speakers from various parts of the GLAM sector. It was a fantastic opportunity to hear about the challenges that institutions are facing, as well as what they are doing to overcome obstacles (mostly that of limited resources, whether they be people or financial).

Martin Fell from York Museums Trust (who delivered the venue welcome) started off the day speaking to the group about some things they are doing at the trust including creating dynamic training documentation, training current staff in digitization processes (for example, bringing in photographers to hold training), and giving curators more free reign to develop digital projects to help streamline the process.  It was encouraging to hear early on about an organization finding a way to use the resources they had to develop their digital projects.

Story arc of a digital project

Charlotte Sexton’s story arc of a digital project

Charlotte Sexton, independent consultant & former President of the Museum Computer Network (MCN), delivered the keynote (slides can be viewed here). A few memorable excerpts from her talk (“the launch is just one of your milestones”, “balance ambition with realism”, and “be risk aware rather than risk averse”) seemed so simplistic, however, they are pieces of advice often not followed. Sexton also addressed issues concerning different types of staff involved digital projects – her explanations on the types of actors and pitfalls associated with them can be found in her slides (she hit the nail on the head with these descriptions).

The sessions during the day were a mix of project presentations, tips and tricks, and even a presentation from a consulting company. I greatly enjoyed hearing about a project called “Traveller’s Tails” presented by Lucy Yates and Chris King. They spoke on multi-museum collaboration and the issues they encountered along the way. The project was a very interesting example of an exhibition that need to be developed for museums with a range of different teams and technical capacities.

A few thoughts after the workshop:

  • How much code sharing/collaboration is happening between institutions (not just through sites like github, but through personal contacts, etc.);
  • With an increasing number of digital projects being incorporated into traditional exhibitions, how do we realistically get current staff trained so that the bulk of the work doesn’t fall on the IT/digital team (and furthermore, what happens to institutions without IT/digital teams — or with only one or two staff members who performs such duties);
  • At some point, are we going to be dependent on the user/visitor having a certain level of technology (a certain model of phone, etc.) in order to fully interact with the exhibits?

I’m extremely interested to hear more about collaboration in the sector. Though there are many conferences and workshops, professional networks, and websites (such as github) that foster communication between sector professionals, I feel that there is room for improvement when it comes to helping out our colleagues at different institutions (especially as technical know-how is concerned). I especially see the need for more cross-country sharing, which is a necessity for those working in smaller countries or those with a smaller GLAM sector.