creative pursuits and learning from other sectors including arts, academia, healthcare technology and makers. The case studies and examples of best practice only just scratch the surface of some of the stimulating and thoughtprovoking work that is happening in the sector. It is also clear that museums are operating in a dramatically and rapidly changing environment. New projects are coming on board all the time, and new spaces are opening out.
Our challenge throughout the duration of this project is to keep abreast of these developments, as a partnership to challenge professional practice, share our experiences and to maintain awareness of the multitude of opportunities and projects that exist and which are continuously being developed.
Jo-Anne Sunderland Bowe, Director, Heritec Limited, February 2016
museums need to look outside the sector to create partnerships and foster collaboration. Many of the case studies include partners from the academic community, communities of Makers and hackers, technology specialists, engineers, enthusiasts, and even healthcare providers.
it may seem obvious but regular communication is key to successful partnerships and relationship building. Unfortunately this is not always possible; people can be difficult to get hold of as they might have other priorities and not everyone uses the same means or methods of communication. Social media and digital communication apps have broken down some of the formality of language in communication, but is everyone in the partnership happy with using these methods?
to build successful partnerships you need to build successful relationships with the people you are working with. Relationship building takes time, as it can take time for stakeholders to get to know each other and to trust one each other. Be prepared for a bumpy ride.
Finding a common language
museums, visitors, and specialists all ‘speak’ different languages and sometimes it is difficult to find a common ground. Sometimes finding the common ground is a case of trial and error.
Challenging visitor perceptions
museums are increasingly willing to open their doors, to expose themselves to different methods of engagement and interpretation, but the visitors themselves do not always feel comfortable with this shift in the dynamic. It can take time to break down barriers.
Challenging the museum the value of working in collaboration with a visitor to co-create, to engage, to re-interpret is not always seen in the same way by all museum staff. Often curatorial staff can be reluctant to share ownership of collections with visitors, but increasingly the expertise of non-curatorial staff in understanding collections is being recognised.
who is taking ownership of the project? Who does the project belong to? Who is it for? Who owns the copyright? How are roles and responsibilities within the project being divided and understood ?
Collaborative projects create opportunities for new activities and programmes within the museum.
Reaching new audiences
museums want to reach out to new audiences, to build relationships with their local communities, and create a positive image of the museum. These new audiences might include young adults, the under 5s, the elderly or millennials (people born in the 21st century).
using technology carries risk. Equipment breaks down; the Internet
connection is slow; visitors’ smartphones are not using the most current operating system; the session is oversubscribed. Technology can be great when it works but disappointing when it fails. Managing expectations is key when using technology.
Finding the right tools for the job (and matching them to the audience)
a piece of equipment, which might seem easy to use for one person, can be complicated for another person. A piece of fabrication equipment might create fantastic results but be too time-consuming for an 8 year-old to sit and use. It is important to find the right tools for the job.
many of the projects presented have made use of open-source and free-touse software, encouraging the sharing of outputs. Maintaining focus and relevance (to collection) it is easy to get carried away and to lose focus.
working across different sectors brings new opportunities for funding for new activities, projects and initiatives.
good projects start with clear aims and outcomes. Give yourself time
for planning and assess the amount of resources (money, work force or equipment) you might need. Look at project management tools (e.g. SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time bound) when setting goals.
Time / timings
whatever happens, there never seems to be enough time, so be realistic when setting your goals for the project. If timings slip, what can be scaled back or delivered at a different time. Be realistic.
Being prepared for surprises
expect the unexpected, be open-minded and willing to adapt. Show flexibility and agility to move with the project.
look beyond the initial project or activity to understand how the work can be sustainable – through scaling up (or down), or working with different groups.