The Museums Computer Group held its annual UK Museums on the Web conference at the British Museum on 26 October 2015. Our theme for UKMW15 was ‘Bridging Gaps, Making Connections’.

panaoramic scene of conference attendees

Networking at MCG annual conference 2015 “Bridging gaps, Making connections” at the British Museum

UKMW15 looked at how Digital technology is everywhere in museums today, and digital expertise spreads throughout museums, from marketing and social media through gallery interactives to online catalogues.

Digital can offer value to cultural heritage organisations and their publics. The conference theme asked questions about:

  • are we in danger of either missing the gaps in value, or becoming complacent and failing to make new connections?
  • Is digital technology creating distance between museums and less tech-savvy audiences?
  • Are there gaps between our digital departments and the rest of our organisations?
  • Is there a gulf between the increasingly commercial nature of social media and cultural needs?
  • How can we make connections with other (dis)similar organisations and avoid reinventing wheels?
  • What don’t we talk about when we talk about museum technology?

Details of sessions from UKMW15 ‘Bridging Gaps, Making Connections’


Chair: Shelley Mannion, British Museum
Cassie Williams, Royal Institution – Building an audience on YouTube – lessons learned from managing the Royal Institute’s channel

Sharing your content where your audience is has many benefits, but to make a success of it you need to embrace the norms of the platform and develop a content strategy that both meets the expectation of your new-found audiences, and fits your organisational vision and capacity. Cassie shares her experiences of growing the Royal Institution’s YouTube channel, sharing lessons on navigating the space between audience desires and organisational voice.

Alison Clague, Leicestershire County CouncilClick; Connect; Curate; Create
As digital occupies an increasingly central role in museum activity, organisations face the challenge of bridging the gap between their existing knowledge and capacity and their aspirations for utilising digital to enhance audience engagement with the collections. Alison shares some of the learning from the Click; Connect; Curate; Create project which aimed to identify the best tools and technology for enhancing digital access for Leicestershire County Council.


Scott Billings and Ted Koterwas, Oxford University MuseumsHidden Museum: utilising digital to connect collections, content and people

The proliferation of mobile devices offers museums new opportunities to deliver ‘hidden’ content – bridging the space between the collection on display, knowledge about the collections held by the museums, and members of the public. The challenge for museums is to ensure that we use these notoriously ‘heads down’ devices to deliver ‘heads up’ engagement with the collections on display. Scott and Ted share insights from a series of recent projects across Oxford University Museums.



12.00-12.40 PROVOCATIONS

Chair: Andrew Lewis, V&A

Richard Light (Independent), “Museums: the home of unlinked data”

Andrew Richardson (University of Sunderland), “The Gap as a Creative Space: Reflections of a Creative Technologist? Artist? Designer?”

Russell Dornan (Wellcome Collection), “Don’t cross the streams! How we broke all the rules with #MuseumInstaSwap”

Mark Pajak (Bristol Museums), “Trials and tribulations of digital signage at Bristol Museums Galleries and Archives”

Katherine Biggs (Historic Royal Palaces), “Pop-up palaces to create connections. How can you build connections with audiences too far away to visit your sites? Take your sites to them of course!”


14.00-14.30 KEYNOTE John Coburn, Digital Programmes Manager, Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums

Finding space for the experiment: digital collaboration and their influence on the museum

John is Digital Programmes Manager at Tyne and Wear Archives & Museums with a responsibility for digital projects that explore the role and public value of museums and their collections. John has worked in the cultural heritage sector for over 10 years managing a range of innovative projects that have engaged audiences and inspired communities from the wider arts and technology world to reuse collections and re-imagine the museum experience.




Chair: Anra Kennedy, Culture2

Kathleen McIlvenna, Institute of Historic Research and Raphael Chanay, Natural History MuseumPutting People at the Centre of Collaboration: MuseomixUK case study

Initiatives like MuseomixUK encourage collaboration across sector boundaries and between digital and non-digital experts. A melting pot for new ideas and prototypes, the main impact of events like this is the human experience, allowing participants to develop new skills, challenge traditional ways of thinking and increase in confidence. Kathleen will share insights from MuseumixUK 2014 at Derby Silk Mill.

Fiona Talbott and Karen Brookfield, Heritage Lottery FundAre heritage organisations embracing digital? The state of digital technology in Heritage Lottery Funded projects

Based on recent research into how heritage organisations are using digital media to promote access, Fiona will explore both how digital ambitions are being achieved within HLF funded projects, and how they are targeting their outputs for audiences. Fiona aims to challenge what we mean by quality digital output and what are perceived as the organisational barriers to creating them




Chair: Bridget McKenzie, Flow Associates

Juno Rae, British MuseumNew digital learning initiatives for family and teen visitors at the British Museum

As part of the digital learning programme at the British Museum, the Samsung Digital Discovery Centre provides digital experiences for family and teen visitors to enhance their exploration, engagement with and response to the collection. In her talk Juno will share how they identify gaps in their provision, and how they try to build digital initiatives from elsewhere in the museum into the programme.

Rebecca Sinker, Natasha Bonnelame and Camille Gajewski, TateTate, Khan Academy and the Pathways to Digital Learning

With the arrival of Google Analytics, cultural heritage organisations have a significant amount of data available to them to help them understand their online audiences, but how can they make sense of that data and use it to understand the digital learner, their pathways and motivations? This talk will share insights from a partnership between Tate and the Khan Academy to tackle this challenge.


Gail Boyle FSA, Bristol Museums, Galleries and Archives – Revealing ‘The Hidden Museum’

Gail shared share lessons learned from a recently completed Digital R&D Fund for the Arts collaborative research project which created and tested a mobile application for family and group visitors that made use of iBeacons. A key concern the Bristol project team hoped to address was that such applications often promote more interaction with the mobile device itself rather than direct engagement with each other, the museum or collections.



Given our theme this year, we’re trying something more participatory than a closing keynote. Invited respondents will give their impressions of the day’s papers, followed by an invitation for attendees to share their questions and comments on ‘bridging gaps and making connections’.

Our invited respondents are Gillian Greaves (Arts Council England), Joseph Padfield (The National Gallery), Kim Plowright (@mildlydiverting) and Ben Templeton (Preloaded) – and you!




UKMW15 Programme Committee (in alphabetical order): Claire Ross (Durham University), Gillian Greaves (Arts Council England), Jenny Kidd (Cardiff University), Jessica Suess (Oxford University Museums), John Stack (Science Museum Group), Kim Plowright (Mildly Diverting), Matthew Cock (Vocal Eyes), Rachel Coldicutt (Friday), Sara Wajid (National Maritime Museum), Sharna Jackson (Hopster), Suse Cairns (Baltimore Museum of Art), Zak Mensah (Bristol Museums, Galleries & Archives).