UK Museums on the Web 2013: ‘Power to the People’ Session details

This page has presentations from sessions at UKMW13, held at Tate Modern. London, 15 November 2013

Chair’s Opening notes for Museums on the Web 2013: ‘Power to the people’.

Opening Keynote

Lessons the Guardian has learnt about community engagement online

Hannah Freeman, Guardian Community coordinator for culture

Full session details for the Museums Computer Group’s annual Museums on the Web conference, at Tate Modern on 15 November 2013. The theme for UKMW13 is ‘Power to the people’.

First Rule: Talking about Computer Club

Jesse Alter and Simon Delafond, Imperial War Museums (IWM)

In May 2013, the Digital Media team at IWM launched Computer Club, a museum-wide initiative to provide a space for IWM staff to get hands-on experience with technology with the aims of raising digital literacy within the organisation. A programme of sessions was developed, and several sessions later, the response from staff has been enthusiastic. But the exercise has not been without its challenges. From finding the appropriate resources to working with staff with different levels of digital exposure, some of the difficulties the team has faced have been surprising, frustrating and eye-opening.

This paper will examine the practicalities and realities of running a programme like Computer Club in a museum setting. It will focus on the challenges faced by the Digital Media team and how these issues were resolved. The paper will also look at the staff response to Computer Club and how effective such a programme could be for improving digital literacy within a museum, and will offer advice for those looking to start similar programmes in their organisations.

The power of Flickr Commons

Nicole Cama, Australian National Maritime Museum

This paper explores how one powerful online community has embraced the Australian National Maritime Museum’s collection and spent hours of their own time researching, identifying, labelling, tagging and commenting on our collection data. That community can be found on Flickr Commons, and I believe that their participation and engagement is changing the role not just of the curator, but also of the museum.

As museum professionals engaging with online audiences, what challenges are we facing? How can we redefine our role to fit with the ever-changing digital world? The nature of my role as a Curatorial Assistant and administrator of the museum’s Flickr Commons page is sometimes more in line with an investigative journalist. As users point me in the right direction, I explore those parts of the collection previously neglected to extract the stories. In a sense, one of the most extraordinary elements to this kind of participatory history is its cyclical nature. We share the collection online, our users come back with their own research and expertise, we validate it with our own research and produce stories about the collection we never knew existed. These citizen historians are breathing new life into our collections.

Ten Most Wanted: Hunting down missing information about cultural artefacts

Marcus Winter, University of Brighton; Susan Lambert, Arts University Bournemouth; Phil Blume, Adaptive Technologies

Ten Most Wanted develops a game-based approach to crowdsourcing certain aspects of curatorial research, including the discovery and verification of previously undocumented facts about collection items. Rather than presenting artefacts as removed from people’s lives and explained only by experts, it encourages players of the game to find out and tell experts what they know about the artefacts and why this knowledge is important.

The project explores the viability of collaborative investigative games as a vehicle to crowdsource complex tasks. It addresses shared challenges across the arts sector, such as sustaining audience engagement over longer periods, verifying and integrating user contributions with professionally curated content and acknowledging the copyright of contributors without blocking future re-use of contributions.

While focusing in first place on plastic artefacts in the Museum of Design in Plastic’s (MoDiP) collections, the approach and methodology are equally applicable to other contexts, such as identifying people and places in painted and photographic images or recording public narratives around historic buildings and monuments. The paper reports on developments and interim findings from the project and gives an outlook on future work.

Lightning talks session

Jane Finnis, Culture24 – Let’s Get Real.
James Morley- GathrIt, a prototype toolset to enable discovery, crowdsourcing and sharing across cultural collections
Sarah Saunders, Electric Lane- Attribution – the scandal of lost images on the web
Marcus Winter, University of Brighton- Social Object Labels
Franziska Mucha, Historisches Museum Frankfurt – Frankfurt Now! an interactive city mode


Using algorithms and people to put a large radio archive on the web

Tristan Ferne, BBC Research & Development

One of the major challenges of a big digitisation project is you simply swap out an under-used physical archive for its digital equivalent. Without easy ways to navigate the data there’s no way for your users to get to the bits they want. We recently worked with the BBC World Service to generate metadata for their radio archive, 50,000 programmes from over 45 years. First using algorithms to generate “good enough” topics to put the archive online and then using crowd-sourcing to improve the data.

Throughout 2013 we have been running this experiment to crowdsource improvements to the metadata that we automatically created. At people can search and browse for programmes, listen to them, correct and add new topics.

We will describe how we went about this and what we’ve learnt with this massive online multimedia archive – about understanding audio, automatically generating topics and crowdsourcing improvements to the data.

Tristan has blogged his notes at Or…”how we put the BBC World Service radio archive online using machines and crowdsourcing”.

‘A great place: a lawless hole with rancid drinks and reckless drunks…’ Multiple voices, multiple memories: Public history-making and activist archivism in online popular music archives.

Paul Long, Birmingham Music Archive / Birmingham City University

This paper suggests that new popular music histories and community music archives are emerging in online sites of practice. Created, curated, and populated by public history makers and activist archivists, these sites, I argue, challenge the traditional gatekeepers of popular music heritage and dominant popular music historiography.

I explore the role of music itself in such sites, where it is present and absent, otherwise evoked in discussion, the posting of user generated ephemera and narratives of associated cultures of consumption.

The practices I explore raise questions about the nature of the music archive, of history and heritage. I’ll explore how, alongside the collection and sharing of music and associated artifacts, the archive is manifest in the nature of the collective memory forged in online interactions which involves an ongoing negotiating and working through of the significance of venues, individuals, bands and moments of personal and shared pasts.

This paper will ask if such grassroots practices can help inform traditional museum approaches to user generated materials and audience building and ask what can grassroots organisations learn from professional museum and archival staff.


Crowdsourcing a Community Collection (and the After Effects)

Kate Lindsay, Alun Edwards & Ylva Berglund-Prytz, University of Oxford

As the Centenary of the First World War approaches a plethora of projects and activities have begun to engage the public in the nation’s remembrance and commemorations. Many of these involve the collection of memories and experiences of the War passed down through families and across communities. Since 2008, the University of Oxford has harnessed the power of digital technologies to facilitate the collection of First World War memories and artefacts through an innovative community collection model, combining online and face to face engagement to crowdsource digital collections of items held in homes of the public, previously hidden from researchers and from heritage. Through The Great War Archive (Jisc-funded) and Europeana 1914-1918 (EU funding) we have worked with museums and communities across Europe to collect over 60,000 digital items ranging from oral histories, photographs and memorabilia to unpublished memoirs, diaries, maps and letters. All are released under an open license for reuse worldwide, forming a rich collection of primary source material. This paper presents the Oxford Community Collection Model, its challenges, its enablers, and takes a closer look at the value of community collections in providing rich sites of exchange between academics, the heritage sector and the wider public.

IT buddies, virtual volunteers and super-users: Building an online community for Britain from Above

Sandra Brauer, English Heritage

This paper outlines the process of creating a sustainable online community for This online archive of historic aerial photographs combines open collections access with elements of crowd sourcing and social engagement. Britain from Above is a four year Heritage Lottery funded partnership project between English Heritage and the Royal Commissions on the Ancient and Historic Monuments of Scotland and Wales.

The project explores the strengths and weaknesses of the different approaches to building a committed and sustainable user base beyond the lifetime of the project through recruiting ‘virtual volunteers’ who populate the website with memories and personal photographs and provide essential information for the cataloguing process through identifying unlocated photographs. These approaches include traditional museum education and outreach work such as hands-on IT sessions for the digitally excluded, a mix of face to face and website based interaction to build relationships with ‘super-users’ as well as approaches solely using social media to reach out to new audiences.

The paper also addresses challenges arising from working with HLF guidelines and projected project outcomes in the first major partnership of this kind. The latter includes the partners’ policies and processes on social media and marketing, use of IT, collections management and managing volunteers.

Diaries of the First World War: Citizen history on the Western Front

Jim O’Donnell (Oxford University) and Luke Smith (Imperial War Museum)

The War Office records held by the National Archives include daily war diaries compiled by all the British Army units serving on the Western Front 1914-18. These archives comprise approximately 1.5 million pages of written diaries, orders, maps and records. Building on the success of high-profile citizen science projects such as Galaxy Zoo, Planet Hunters and Old Weather, the Imperial War Museum has partnered with the Zooniverse, at Oxford University, to build a citizen history platform that will transcribe these papers and uncover the stories held within the diaries. We will describe the design and development of the diary interface, results from preliminary testing with Zooniverse citizen scientists and talk about our experiences of building a large-scale citizen history project.