Museums on the Web Recap

Last week Museums on the Web Conference (MW) was held here in New Mexico right across the Rio Grande in downtown Albuquerque. We were glad for its proximity, because not only would we not have to travel far (really no travel at all), we were also able to invite the conferences attendees to celebrate our new studio in Corrales, New Mexico. It was very hectic in the studio in the weeks leading up to the conference — there was a lot of prep work to do — so by the time saturday night rolled around we were able to have some fun, and we hope everyone else who attended our after conference party had fun as well.

I tried to attend as many sessions I could in between working the Ideum booth and helping out with a workshop that Jim put on. Overall I thought a lot of people are doing some interesting work (especially the “The Mystery of the X-Fishâ€? project — the design process and final product was right on target), but a few themes really resonated with me. One major overarching theme throughout the conference was increasing audience access to museums (their collections, educational initiatives, etc..) via the web or other technologies. Along these lines, in the opening plenary Jemima Rellie described museum web sites as a place to prepare visitors for a visit, extend the museum experience, and potentially replace the museum floor. I thought this was a good and succinct overview of the purpose of a museum website and reflects Ideum’s feeling that a museum website should be treated the same as the museum floor.

There was a lot of buzz about Web 2.0, its effects/meaning, and how to leverage the techniques/technologies. I attended the session on the Steve project, which dealt with ways to incorporate folksonomies — the ultimate Web 2.0 innovation — into museums. It was suggested that folksonomies not only can be used to enhance find-ability, but also can be used to elicit meaning and conversation. It’s about allowing the users/visitors to expressing their viewpoint which might be vastly different from the rigid taxonomy that of the collections — very interesting. This definitely ties into increasing access for your audience.

And speaking of your audience the most resonant theme for me was the call to increase our overall understanding of our audience from Rob Semper. Rob states in his paper, “Museums still do not really know who is out there browsing. Who is using museum on-line resources and why?â€? He continued this theme in his talk during the opening plenary by stating that we might be creating things on the web that simply might not be used. Rob further suggested that the commercial industry already has a good pulse on their audience and utilizes it to their advantage, so why shouldn’t we?

I missed the Best of The Web Awards, but I was pleased with the results, “Science Buzzâ€? won best overall website. If you haven’t seen it, it’s a cool site with some great content. Also be sure to check out the paper Jim presented at the conference covering Community Sites and Emerging Sociable Technologies. Overall, I had a great time at MW and we thank everyone who stopped by the Ideum booth for a chat and came to our party saturday night. We look forward to next year’s conference.

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