Friday, November 17, 2006

Visitor experience and technology in the Getty Center.

I was recently pointed toward the podcast of Dave Cronin's presentation at this year's Ideas Conference (the slides and podcast can be found here), Art for the public: supporting a visitor-directed museum experience. Cronin works for Cooper, a consulting company brought in to develop and implement new technologies to enhance visitor experience to the Getty Center art museum in LA; the podcast was essentially a presentation of this as a case study, and was a very interesting listen.

They redeveloped the computer 'kiosk' system, replaced audioguides with handhelds, and integrated it all with the Getty Center's website. They fed a lot of visitor experience data into the development of this, which is a fantastic way to make sure the technologies you're putting in are going to work for the visitors, rather than dumping technologies in and trying to make the visitors use and enjoy it. What I liked about their approach to developing this stuff was that it wasn't all just about education/information about what was in galleries, but also about wayfinding and orientation in the museum. I like that mix of practical and educational info.

I also found the way they examined the visitors interesting - they looked at the varying levels of art knowledge people have, the things they might be interested in when viewing a piece (i.e materials or artist, or subject etc), the different ways people learn in museums, as well as attitudes to the use of technology in museums. It's a nice broad approach that informs the development of the technology they were looking to install - and it's valuable visitor information for the museum to use in the future. Out of their visitor research the group came up with "Personas" - or "Archetypal user models based on behavior patterns observed during research" - which Cronin states are design models and not statistical realities. I like the idea of this - rather than a strict statistical demographic group, it's more informed by statistics and research and actual visitor observation to get down to sorts of individuals - which, while painted with broad brushes, are probably more useful than large demographically based groups. As well as including visitors, they had a docent persona - what a great idea! I think a lot of museum administrators try so hard to provide for their visitors that they tend to forget their employees are important to consider when planning exhibitions/new technologies/programs/activities etc.

The stuff that Cooper ended up producing sounds terrific - full of information (of varying forms) - and accessible in the 3 different ways. I had a look at the slides, and the appearance of them is quite good, too (for something that could've been too complicated to present) - the handheld looks particularly awesome! After using something like that in Te Papa in Wellington (they were testing the technology), it's awesome to see it being integrated into museums as a valid guide tool. The Getty's been terrifically lucky in who they chose as consultants, because I think Cooper are really clued in as far as where you can go with this sort of technology for visitors in museums now. I would love to see my museum go anywhere even NEAR having these sorts of things on offer for visitors - we don't even have proper guide booklets, let alone tours or audioguides! Wishful thinking.. Anyhow - if you're interested in hearing about research and development with regard to museum visitors, I highly recommend giving this a listen!


[News] Proposed merger for Austrailan Museum and Powerhouse Museum

Museum merger sparks international concern (ABC Science News)
It appears as if the NSW Government is looking to integrate the Australian and Powerhouse museums under one board, and at a "functional" level - basically, to try and save the government some money. As someone who's visited both these museums enough times, it's simple for me to recognise this is a bad idea from not only a visitor's perspective but also a behind-the-scenes perspective. Looking at the responses in the article linked above, it seems like the major concern is the possible loss of scientific research at the Australian Museum (in addition to people being concerned that a merger just wouldn't work because of the different histories of the museums and their vastly different collections). I've visited both museums a number of times, not only when I was growing up, but also in recent memory. While it's true that the AM could benefit from the quality and turnover that the PM displays, I don't think that this would be a result of the two museums merging - rather, that existing resources would have to be shared and stretched, more than likely not improving the AM's chances at all.

I visited both museum's websites to take a look at their vision statements and whatnot - here's what they are currently:

Australian Museum
Our Purpose
To inspire the exploration of nature and cultures.

Our Vision
A beautiful and sustainable natural world with vibrant and diverse cultures.

Our Values
As the Australian Museum, we strive to embody distinctly Australian values and qualities. We seek to be:

* egalitarian and fair minded
* willing to use humour and not take ourselves too seriously
* inquisitive and explorative
* creative
* outgoing
* respectful of the rights of others

Powerhouse Museum
The Powerhouse Museum develops collections and presents exhibitions and programs that explore science, design and history for the people of New South Wales and beyond.

The Powerhouse will further its reputation as a museum that celebrates human creativity and innovation in ways that engage, inform and inspire diverse audiences.

The Museum believes in engaging its diverse audiences, promoting scholarship and presenting its collections and programs in ways that captivate the intellect and challenge the human spirit to excel. We place high value on nurturing the abilities of staff and volunteers, and fostering community partnerships.

On the whole, I don't think their values differ too much - they're worded a little differently but are in the same spirit. However, when you compare the purpose/mission and the vision statements it's apparant that it would take a restructure of one or both museums to have a merger work at an even basic level. These are the things that inform the way the museum operates and what it provides and does - the Australian Museum is a very typical natural history/anthropology type museum while the Powerhouse has a focus on society, design and physical, rather than biological, sciences. What I gather the government is doing my proposing a merger is aiming at downsizing the amount of staff and operational costs - I doubt that the spirit and aims of both museums would be untouched and uncompromised.

If there's a positive way for this merger to happen, i'd love to see it. However, these are two large museums with niche research and exhibition objectives - I don't think a plan for unified board and operational structure is taking this into account. It'll be very interesting to see where this goes - and if it does happen, how they'll manage it practically.


Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Thoughts on museum appearances.

I'm not entirely sure about the point/structure of this. However, I did need to dump these thoughts and I also definitely needed to kick myself in the pants and get back into thinking about this sort of stuff and recording it in this medium.

During my lunchtime break I went for a walk along the river here, where the boardwalk looks up into the development site of the renovated State Library of Queensland, and the new Gallery of Modern Art. It looks amazing, and classy. It makes the old Art Gallery and Museum buildings look like embarrassing blocks of cement. Which.. they are. Up until recently it was sort of easy to ignore how dated the buildings in the cultural centre look, because there wasn't anything newer in the vicinity to compare it to. Then the front of the museum had a big glass entrance and new foyer tacked on, which sort of looks like someone putting a blonde wig on a pitbull. But the GOMA/SLQ development is going to really unbalance everything. Don't get me wrong, both are fantastic.. but it's really going to be a downer coming into the Museum from over in the new section of the precinct, once it's finished.

The QM really is unfortunate with its drab building. Perhaps it wouldn't be so bad to be in an older building if the style was more in the way of the Australian Museum, for instance. I think the outside of a Museum does a lot to attract or repel crowds - despite the fact we're always told not to judge a book by its cover, a lovely open glass building will always look more interesting, evocative and draw more people in than a square lump of cement. Although, this could be just painting the museum-going public with a very broad brush. Many people will come to a museum regardless of its looks if they are really interested in the subject/content, if they are desperate for somewhere to take their kids, if they just love going to museums no matter what, etc & etc. I do see the influence a museum's structure has on visitors, though, and while it might not turn people away the majority of the time, I do believe it colours their perceptions and recollections of their visit/s. For instance, I love the aesthetic and layout of the Melbourne Museum and it greatly heightens my enjoyment every time I visit. And despite their similar outward appearances, I actually enjoy visiting the Queensland Art Gallery moreso than the Queensland Museum because their internal spaces are utilised differently, and the lighting in the Art Gallery means you feel less like you're skulking around inside a cardboard box.

But, as drab and embarrassing as the outside (and some of the inside!) of the QM can be, we're fortunate as a museum institution. Regardless of any gripes I may have about anything here, we're lucky to have what we do. We have an operating budget, temperature regulated storage areas, proper storage and packing materials, reasonably well-maintained (if slightly out of date) display areas, security, visitor assistance staff, computers, phones, etc etc. There are many small museums in Australia and the Pacific region that don't have decent enough buildings, let alone the money or staff to maintain them. A lot of Pacific Islands museums with collections that rely on temperature regulation for their preservation are in poor conditions because air conditioners are broken or non-existent. Collections might often have parts stolen, and displays be vastly out of date or even have sections missing.

There is a broad spectrum when you look at the state of museums the world over. They range from small to large, well-funded to struggling, interesting to poorly themed - but I think it's terrific to have them all, regardless of how they look. I'm happy my Museum exisits, and hope it continues to (and hopefully thrive!) for years to come, regardless of how boring it looks when you see it from the other side of the street. My wistful stares at the new museum up the river will continue until December, until I can see whether or not the gorgeous new space they have is being used satisfactorily.


Friday, August 11, 2006


I've started volunteering in the cultural heritage collection area of the QM on my free afternoon a week. I've only put in a couple of afternoons so far but it's good, and as of next month i'll be taking a very slight cut in hours on my regular job so I can spend a whole day in the collection area upstairs helping out. This is all to try and stop my brain getting rusty, and keep up a little experience-wise in that area; my lack of hands-on is what seems to have held me back in getting work this year.

So i'm helping out on what's a "long-term" project, so I can hopefully see it through til it's finished. The basic aim is to try and organise and consolidate some of the storage area in the Australian indigenous section, so they can free up space that'll allow for acquisitions in the future (which have pretty much stagnated at the moment). One of the people who was involved in the move of the collections into the new Melbourne Museum is now our senior collection management person, and has helped with the organisation a little - and a lot of the ideas are very similar to what's in place in the Melbourne Museum (custom size boxes etc). So far i've spent a lot of time installing runners in the compactus units, which shallow metal drawers are being put into, and moving items from temporary storage in cardboard boxes into these drawers. Yesterday I was looking over some of the items (i'm working on the twine/rope/cord collection) with the senior curator, and we noticed there were a few things missing or in the wrong order. So i'm doing a small inventory to label the drawers properly, and to make sure there's space for the missing objects once they're (hopefully) located.

I'm happy to be back pottering around with collections again. The sort of stuff i'm doing reminds me of when I was first volunteering out at the UQ Anthro Museum. But it's good experience for now, even if it won't lead to paid work. I need as much recent experience int his sort of thing as I can so my resume doesn't look as sad and tired as it does currently, in the hopes it won't take me too long to find a reasonable museum job when I head to the UK.


Thursday, August 10, 2006

Museums Australia Conference writeup #4

Finally, the last of my notes. Oof!


Keynote: Museums Empowering Communities.

Community and Connection: Localism in a Globalized Culture - Robert Archibald
Having investigated the widespread dissolution of place and the resulting rupture of community, Dr. Archibald will discuss the fundamental need for an attachment to place and how people are looking for permanence and reality in a virtual world. Although our instant communication, rapid travel, and the Internet culture has its dangers and drawbacks, these technologies also mean more choices about how we live, which leads back to the human desire for a connection in the earth and the past. Dr. Archibald sees an increasingly positive reaction to the pervasive sense of placelessness and will discuss several hopeful examples as well as discuss the role of museums in the building and rebuilding of community.

* Much of St Louis city was demolished after WW2, and the materials recycled elsewhere. This has disconnected a lot of people from their city/history of place.
* Stories are embedded in place, lives embodied there.
* “Memories are like lichen or coral” – they must attach somewhere.
* When we become inseparable from place, we are home, where we finally belong.
* We cannot act in the interest of a place unless we care for it; we can’t belong somewhere just by turning up.
* Does place matter at all anymore? It would be foolish to think that we could own parts of the earth, considering how long it’s been here pre-civilisation.
* Change is inevitable, however we can guide it.
* People seek close knit situations in which to connect.
* Museums are crucial in keeping/saving local distinctiveness.
* Museums aren’t absolute authorities; they foster dialogue, build up communities, provide a place for connecting.
* Museums can allow communities to create stories; these stories can build bridges, and look at the past and future.
* Humans are no longer isolated in space and time. We become more interdependent and interconnected each minute.
* Tribalism and nationalism won’t do; each human has responsibility to every other.
* Museums can be primary venues for global conversation.
* We must dispose of the idea of ownership of cultural heritage and that it can be bought and sold.
* Stop focusing so much on our difference, but look at what we share.
* Museums and governments must aim to stop one group dominating/owning cultural material.
* Can there be compromise between the need to conserve cultural material and respect for cultural traits?

[Wouldn’t the forced sharing of everything about a culture as if it’s every human’s right to know sort of eliminate what makes cultural identity important and unique?]

Culture Intersections - Binghui Huangfu
I believe that human beings do require cultural connection. I also believe that the fundamentals of how we derive those connections has both changed and is now in continuing state of change. When we talk about ‘cultural displacement’ we need to be careful of how we are applying this term. Whilst it is fair to say that more people these days live outside of their cultures of origin this is certainly not more than a small percentage of the world’s population. So to talk of a need for geographic connection really is only to speak of that minute proportion of the world’s population that is in a position to be affected. If we assume that those people capable of experiencing dislocation represent an avant garde of future human direction then we must consider both the individual and global impacts of that movement. I intend to use my own experience and that of numerous colleagues to examine how we take “root” culture with us and how these cultural connections are both changed and enhanced by a new context. In essence how cultures communicate and evolve.

* The way we build community in Australia is really based on/influenced by the political climate.
* Australian community and Australian government are inextricably linked.
* “Asian Traffic” exhibition: when travelled, local curators and artists took park
* Fear of difference is fragmenting communities.

Community Healing: The Gallery as Palliative Space - John Kirkman
Having participated in the development and presentation of a range of exhibition projects investigating events of historic and community trauma, John Kirkman will discuss how curatorial process and
exhibition presentation can assist and involve communities in assuaging personal and collective grief.

* From djamu Gallery – Australian Museum
* The tension between intention of a project (contemporary indigenous culture and art) and the place/space (colonial links, customs house building)
* Input from the artist as part of a community rather than from a curatorial perspective
* Gallery/museum ownership of objects versus community access/ownership.

Concurrent Session 15A: Exhibition Critique
Dandiiri Maiwar: The Insider Story…and Our Responses
The Exhibition Critique has become one of the most popular sessions at annual museum Conferences around the world. The session is an opportunity for us to look at our exhibition practices and production in a forum together. We can hear the perspectives of our professional colleagues who created the exhibition; the coordinator, the curator, designer or educator and what happened to achieve the end result. Then we can consider the responses of the exhibition ‘critiquers’;
what they saw, felt, understood and enjoyed about the exhibition. This year the exhibition under discussion is Dandiiri Maiwar, the new gallery at the Queensland Museum and the new ATSI Cultures Centre.
The Developers Panel Kevin O’Brien, Designer, Thom Blake,
Curator; Trish Barnard, Collection Manager
The Critiquers Panel Bill Seager, Curator; Glenn Ferguson,
Exhibition Manager; Alison Page, Designer

The first panel was from the development perspective. Kevin (architect) spoke of creating the space for the cultural centre. He put an emphasis on the entry/”resource centre” area as a public space, and the circles/drums and open access collections as more focused.
Trish (curator) spoke on the research behind the project, and the distinct emphasis on community consultation. (And not only this, but feedback from QMATSIC saying they wanted to focus not just on history, but also contemporary life and culture.) It gave the QM a rare opportunity to expose parts of the collection to the community by taking photos of objects out into the field, and get feedback and information from communities. The process of research and field work led to an overabundance of stories and information – which is something that can work to our advantage if we wish to keep the exhibition fresh and cycle stories/information through them. Trish also spoke about the open access collection allowing a degree of transparency with regard to curatorial and exhibition techniques; my personal feeling is that this isn’t being realised as fully as it should be, with a complete lack of information about anything other than object provenance/type.
Tom Blake (consultant curator) a little on the practical issues the team faced in development (for example, limitations of space and negotiating the overabundance of material gathered) as well as other issues like political agendas, the different perspectives of each researcher, and QM Board/QMATSIC expectations.

The critique panel presented as a whole rather than each person going in turn – most of these comments are general unless I’ve noted otherwise.
- Wayfaring issues: not a lot of visual cues to direct towards the centre, especially coming off the escalators or out of the lift; the glimpses you get from somewhere like the 2nd floor foyer are interesting, but no help for direction. Alison felt the placement and location of the centre as a whole is terrible.
- Entry video is very informative, explains the title ‘Dandiiri Maiwar’ to the visitor and provides a comforting initiation. Bill noted it was terrific to have the contemporary feel to it.
The desk area as you enter is not explained satisfactorily, and there is a feeling you want to engage with someone, but there’s nobody there. Bill noted it was a good, open space that could be used for interaction.
- “Drums”: positive about the layout, and how it fosters a non-linear circulation through the exhibition (Glen noting this allows the visitor to piece together their own narrative); there is a sense of overlay of the past and present of QLD indigenous communities. Glen praised the method of displaying the objects and being able to see them from 360º. Bill spoke at length on this aspect of the centre, noting the stories were strong, and all had relevance for today, showing that indigenous culture is not isolated. Both Bill and Alison felt the selection/mix of objects was good. Glen mentioned the kid’s trail, saying the positioning of it focuses too finely on the kids and prohibits parent/adult connection with the material. Alison was positive about the use of circles as a space, as it is overarching in Australian indigenous culture.
- Wall of Queenslanders: good, but a little hidden.
- Multimedia: good content, but a little noisy at times, and the noise levels as a whole in the centre are too much. (I personally think this is just because of noise spillover from the rest of the museum, especially the foyer)
- Open access collection: Alison had a negative reaction to this because it really just looks like a compactus, stuff just thrown together, whereas the drums single items out. She said it’s great to see what some of the items in the collection look like, but what do they all mean?
- Overall: Bill felt there was little transparency and no curatorial voice, and felt there was information needed on the formation/history of the collections. Alison felt the modern contemporary look and layout really helped go against stereotypes of indigenous culture as being static and historic. She also mentioned there is a need to create a space for urban indigenous people to connect within the centre, and a need for transparency of the development process.

Concurrent Session 13B: Museum Learning

Assessing the Impact of Museums in their Local Community: a pilot study - Lynda Kelly
Museums and other cultural institutions are expected to demonstrate the impact they have within their local communities. Several models of impact have been developed in Europe and the United States (Falk, 2000; Garnett, 2002; Hooper-Greenhill, 2004; Persson, 2000). To date, there has been minimal research into impact within the Australian museums sector (Scott, 2003), and little on mapping audiences to regional, specialist and local museums (Scott and Kelly 2004, 2005). Yet across all levels of government there is an increasing imperative to show the impact and value cultural organisations have in their local communities. This paper reports on a pilot project, funded by the University of Technology, Sydney; the Australian Museum; the NSW Ministry for the Arts; and Museums Galleries NSW, that developed and tested methodologies for evaluating the range of impacts museums have within their local communities. A case study approach was adopted using a mix of qualitative and quantitative data gathered at three sites in NSW—a south coast museum; an Aboriginal Keeping Place in northern NSW and a metropolitan museum in Sydney. This paper focuses on results from the quantitative stage of the study—a survey with 294 local residents across the three local areas. Questions assessed people’s views of the importance of museums in their local area; their actual behaviour regarding visiting and supporting museums; and predicting behaviour in terms of
willingness to provide resources (money and time) to their local museum.

* Why examine this issue?
- Increased number of museums
- Need to demonstrate value
- Little previous assessment of impact
- Move from economic models to looking at social/cultural/educational benefits

* Questions: what is the impact, and how can it be measured?

* What is impact?
- Changes that occur as a result of museums/museum activity
- Individual and community levels
- Social/cultural impact

* 3 museums used in case study (small volunteer managed/keeping place/metropolitan museum)
* Quantitative
- Look at individual and community social/economic/cultural aspects
- Findings
1) Social benefits evident when museum is the conduit to the community
2) Integration into community
3) Expression of local culture
4) Develop skills and provide social interaction
5) Economic benefits important
6) Community divisions lead to unclear goals – need clearer focus

Museum Visitors’ Expectations and Approaches to Learning - Jan Packer
Research in formal education settings has identified certain dimensions of individual difference that characterise the ways in which people approach a learning situation. For example, when presented with a learning task, students might adopt a mastery orientation which focuses on mastering the task and improving themselves; or a performance orientation which focuses on proving their ability and competing with others. These patterns do not reflect differences in ability, but they do have a major influence on the way students approach learning and the learning outcomes they attain. Attributes of the learning environment have been found to influence the type of approach students adopt. In the same way, if relevant dimensions can be identified to characterise learning approaches in informal settings such as museums, it will enhance our understanding of the process of free-choice learning, provide information on what visitors want from a museum visit, and pave the way for future research to identify the conditions under which learning is likely to be facilitated. This paper will explore several dimensions on which visitors’ approaches to free-choice learning might be classified. These include an individual vs social approach to learning; a deep vs surface approach; a purpose-driven vs curiosity-driven approach; a focus on learning outcomes vs a focus on learning processes; and a motivational factors approach. Descriptive statistics will be presented for each dimension, in order to provide some indication of their prevalence among museum visitors. (Statistics are based on questionnaire data collected from 150 adult visitors to the Queensland Museum.) Regression analyses will be used to explore which dimensions best predict both cognitive and affective learning outcomes.

* Approaches to learning in formal settings – 2 main things: performance (to prove themselves) or mastery goals (for learn further and improve).
* Not really easy to transfer this into museums
* Approaches in informal settings are more useful to understand free choice learning and exhibitions

* QM study
- Do visitors take curiosity or purpose driven approach to learning (see Rounds 2004/2006)? Curiosity driven – meander haphazardly, looking for shallow, wide information. (75% majority)
- Surface or deep approaches to learning? (60% no pref)
- Focus on outcomes or process of learning? (89% majority for process)
- Learning or non-learning motivations? (63% majority for learning)

* Sciencentre study: Individual (more time reading text) or social (more time interacting with friends/exhibits) approach?
* Potential for categorising visitors – individual versus social, learning versus non-learning.
* Majority come from a learning “experience” more than anything specific; value the process itself. Some also come from non-learning needs.
* What can we do about this? Help them understand their own approaches to become aware of their visits.


Friday, July 28, 2006

Museums Australia Conference writeup #3


Image, Place, and the Future of Museums - Emily Sano
The boom in new museum construction, expansion, and renovation projects that peaked in the decade of the 1990’s shows little sign of slowing down. These projects have offered museums the opportunity to rethink their priorities and programs, and forge new visions of what they can become. This talk will examine the new Asian Art Museum at the San Fransisco Civic Center as an example of the kind of transformation we hoped to achieve in opening our new facility in 2003. The points to be covered are:
– Reasons to move out of Golden Gate Park
– The construction challenge
– New focus on collection galleries
– New education and public programs
– Budget challenges
– Public response
Despite a positive reception upon opening three years ago, the operational reality for the Asian Art Museum going forward looks diffi cult, and a new strategy is needed for the museum to survive and flourish. The museum has undertaken a strategic planning effort to address a new business plan for the next five years. Controversial examples of new museums raise interesting questions of value, cost, and public satisfaction. The talk will conclude with an examination of criticisms raised about the Museum of Modern Art in New York in an article in the New Republic magazine of February, 2006.

* Museum moved to Civic Centre in San Francisco – a library converted to a museum. Library space doesn’t equal museum space; the conversion was difficult, long (1966 – 2003) and expensive ($180 million US all up).
* Public art museum: their aims are collection care, education, reaching the Asian community.
* Culturally, no “Asia” exists – it’s a geographic term. The museum’s aim is to show the cultural differences and similarities through art.
* Special exhibitions tend to focus on classical/traditional art.
* Essential for a museum like this to have a conservation team with broad skills (dealing with a variety of objects like paintings, ceramics, etc)
* They have mixed funding: 1/3 public contribution, 1/3 city funding (this is always dropping), 1/3 earned income (from the shop, holding functions, etc)
* They need to build new and stronger audiences

Publications mentioned: “Arriverderci Moma” by Jed Perl – Feb 2006 New Republic Magazine)

Citing the City: Museum Architecture, Mapping,and the Tourist Gaze - Naomi Stead (Paper available here)
Nearly ten years after the opening of the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, the so-called ‘Bilbao effect’ has been widely discussed amongst museum professionals, governments, and architects alike.
Within this broad discourse, much attention has been paid to the role of spectacular or iconic architecture in city branding, the promotion of cultural tourism, and the revitalisation of depressed urban centres. What has been less discussed is the way that architectural tourism itself serves to constitute the city as a kind of ‘museum’ of sights, spectacles, and objects, to be consumed by the tourist gaze. In this way, the tourist serves to reconstitute and re-map the city as a series of spatial urban artefacts, landmarks, and souvenirs, to be ‘collected’ in the experience of the city. In examining this notion, the paper will discuss the role of museums in shaping a cultural space and visitor experience, and the significance of museums within a broader urban fabric and milieu.

* Perl’s article: Attack on curatorial vision, and that it is tourist-friendly/”dumbed down”, and a poor view of the director
* Museum buildings transcending their purpose: the building becomes something of its own.
* Tourist maps – museums as landmarks, museum buildings as markers
* Iconic architecture makes the promotion of a museum easier
* The idea of the city as a museum, full of buildings-as-artefacts

Cultural Connections— The Queensland Gallery of Modern Art - Lindsay Clare (Paper available here)
Whilst the museum creates opportunities for multifarious cultural connections the character of the architecture can respond to the spirit of place and provide a framework to enrich visitor experience.
The theme of connection, physically and culturally, has been explored and developed, resulting in a building that responds to its function in a clear and uncomplicated manner: a building that interacts with its south east Queensland location. The building is simultaneously inward focused (art) and outward looking (city).

* “White boxes” (museums/galleries) as open and inviting versus “black boxes” (cinemas) as dark and intimate.

Stories, Identity, Ritual and Place – Alison Page (Paper available here)
A simple ring of rocks once marked a place of ritual and storytelling and is a symbol of a traditional culture in Australia. The land around it too has a story of it creation and holds clues to the identity of the people who occupied it. The places remain but what happens to the stories, the ritual and the identity of people? Like the ring of rocks, a museum is a place where stories are told, people come together and identities survive. This is the context for the creation of new Indigenous places of significance within museums, which continue to play an important role in expressing the identities of people from places whose stories we have yet to hear. The complexities of expressing the contemporary culture of Aboriginal people with spiritual potency will be discussed in the creation of a permanent Indigenous Gallery at the Powerhouse Museum, Sydney called Bayagul (speak up).
Engaging people in a collection of cultural stories is the premise behind a travelling exhibition named Our Place, which has been designed to be like a nomadic Aboriginal camp, inviting people in to experience both traditional and contemporary Indigenous culture. Exhibitions can play a significant role in preserving culture but must also accept the responsibility of expressing its continuity. Questions remain as to how continuity is sustained and what role museums play for remote communities.

* Museums as both keeping places and gathering places
* The process is part of the story; there is not a lot of transparency in the process of museum curation/exhibition design, little insight into what goes on behind the scenes.
* It is possible to achieve protocol and connection with people in exhibition content
* Bayagul exhibition – celebrates Indigenous participation in modern art, and challenges stereotypes of indigenous art
* Sense of “reward” – the way that things are revealed in the exhibition, and “hidden” artefacts means that you get more out of spending longer in the exhibition
* Partnerships with community must be active and involved and allow input from the community.
* Connecting with communities during the process of developing exhibitions can create deeper meanings..

Cultural Places for a New Demographic - Sir Peter Hall (Paper available here)
New demographic is a term, still almost unrecognised in academia, that has recently come into recent currency in marketing. The underlying idea is that new markets are constantly emerging through a combination of demographic and lifestyle changes, and that sellers of goods and services must keep up with them in order to compete and finally to survive. Thus, an international market analysis company like Experian uses GIS routines to combine a variety of different data—census and postcode geographies, including electoral data, credit applications and court judgements by postcode—to subdivide populations into a bewildering variety of groups and subgroups or “Tribes” which often have only a very indirect relationship to the conventional socio-economic groups or classes which still form the mainstay of Census and other official statistical sources. These “Groups” carry names like Symbols of Success, Happy Families, Suburban Comfort, Ties of Community, Urban Intelligence, Welfare Borderline, Municipal Dependency, Blue Collar Enterprise, Twilight Subsistence, Grey Perspectives and Rural Isolation. They further divide into a bewildering variety of 61 “Types” ranked by wealth, ranging from “Corporate Chieftains” at the top to “Tower Block Living” at the bottom. These “Tribes”, located minutely by neighbourhood on maps, are then analysed to give clues to almost all aspects of behaviour, from purchases of consumer durables to voting patterns in elections. Almost every large consumer-oriented organisation uses such neighbourhood classifications as a key element in retail planning, target marketing, and customer management. They are likely to prove equally relevant in the planning of new cultural facilities and the reshaping of existing ones to meet new patterns of demand.

* “New demographic”: the emergence of new socio-economic groups that are defined partly by income, and partly by lifestyle
* MOSAIC – demographic profiling
* “DEMOS” study 2005 outcomes
- Different lifestyles use urban spaces in different ways – sometimes compatible, sometimes not.
- Urban spaces: conventional and unconventional
- Come up with types (of behaviour and of uses of space)
- Best public spaces are those that welcome different groups; must be co-produced with users
- Can’t just lay down a space and expect it to work
- Local authorities should conduct “public experience audits”
* Growth of pop culture has led to a merging of retail/entertainment
* Creative industries are becoming an urban economic base
* There are three kinds of innovation: one important one is the marriage of art and technology; culturally- Technologically Innovative Cities
* Next innovative wave – digitalisation, and the internet as basic infrastructure
* 3 kinds of cities:
- Established metropoles
- Favoured sunbelt cities
- Renaissance cities (reinventing, converting, looking for a new role)
* Cultural cities: part of the new urban tourism. There is competition between cities – if there’s too many players it’s all the same. Must build active creativity.
* Learning from creative cities:
- Passive vs active creativity
- Urban quality
- Cities can lever themselves upward
- Creative planning

Mobile Culture - Jeff Jones
Mobile and web technologies have become a ubiquitous part of the everyday lives of most young people as they increasingly play a vital role for social communications. However, mobile technologies have the potential to intervene in much more complex place-based relationships resulting in more dynamic experiences. This has interesting consequences for establishing connections between young people in cultural spaces that are concerned with the visual and intellectual relationships between people, place and artefact. Integrating mobile and web technologies provides a capacity to link people to artefacts in both physical and digital environments that are so naturally inhabited by young people. Interaction Design is an emerging field made up of many different discipline perspectives that enable us to exploit the common uses of mobile technology and certain features of video games to make place-based cultural experiences more dynamic.
A key issue for cultural centres is to make sure that new methods of engagement do not overlook the potential for content and technology to contribute to sustainable connections with young people. Equally important is the need to mitigate against the tendency to be preoccupied with the newness of the technology and its commercial possibilities. This discussion will provide details of how the interaction design process can be used to reveal social, temporal, spatial and cultural dynamics in order to design better visitor experiences.

* People have more control over their information and technology now
* How does our technology change our relationships with the places we go/interact in?
* Issues for museums: how do you integrate place/artefacts/content (web/mobile)?
* Mobility means being on location
* Participant observation helps understand what people are after in experiences
* “Convergence” of communication
* On-demand services have measurable impacts on visitor experience

The Cultural Frontline of the Sea Change Phenomenon - Virginia Rigney (Paper available here).
The notion of the sea change phenomenon that describes the shifting demographics of people from metropolitan areas to seaside communities has now entered common understanding—we have
TV shows, a Sea Change Task Force and a barrage of statistics and writing on the topic. The sexiness of the topic is wearing thin for councils struggling to meet strains on roads, water and health care and there is also growing awareness of a rise in social dysfunction and conflict in these communities. What is less understood is the potential and the need for cultural spaces as part of this new infrastructure picture. The Gold Coast is the oldest and fastest growing of the sea change destinations and our experiences offer insights into the new kinds of cultural models required for communities undergoing dynamic change.

* Public space (galleries etc) as inclusive and welcome; input into social capital, helps serve the need of people to connect
* Museum representative of place and community through the collection (in this case, Gold Coast surf/beach culture)
* Hard to travel exhibitions that are so focused on a local community like this
* Wonderful buildings for museums are not enough, on their own. What’s inside counts.
* No public gallery or city museum in the Gold Coast area. Very little cultural support.

Which Demographic? A Social Geography of Cultural Spaces in the City - Chris Gibson
Demography and social mapping are increasingly relevant to cultural promoters, museum and gallery directors and grass-roots arts organisations interested in identifying new markets, reaching new audiences, and reflecting the desires and concerns of local communities. Demographic topics have founded much debate, especially since the emergence of popular theories of the ‘creative class’ (a social segment attributed for much of the growth of creative industries, arts patronage, and inward migration and investment to cities) and their impacts on cities. This paper asks a key question of museums in light of this: to what extent ought cultural institutions hook their futures onto courting particular demographic groups perceived to be key to urban change, or who have important economic power? I will briefl y discuss statistics on recent demographic changes in Australian cities and regions, to argue a case for widening discussions of demography, museums and the arts beyond the much-touted ‘creative class’.

* “The Rise of the Creative Class” (Florida 2002): Key to urban transformations, investment, migration.
* New demography should be part of a chain of critical planning and reflection, not dominate it.

Concurrent Session 9A – Interpretive Space

Striking a Balance: Multiple Perspectives on Constructing Interpretive Space - Meighan Katz and David Priddle
An architect and an historian walk into a bar…they begin to talk about the construction of cultural space. The result is this exploration of ‘constructing space’, how should museums balance philosophy and practicalities when creating museum and exhibition space? What role does stimulating and well delivered design philosophy play in interpretation? Is interpretive design ever as important in a decision as function? How is a museum’s raw material such as historical sources translated into affective and interesting gallery design? How far can curators and designers collaboratively “push the envelope” and still engage audiences? Is design sense developed over time through environment and education, affecting what children and adults consider to be stimulating design? We aim to explore how constructed space is used to encourage audiences to ask questions, how it affects issues such as curatorial transparency and voice and for whom the space is constructed. Perhaps most importantly we discuss how audiences read space and whether the understanding of space is a challenge for which museums need to seek collaborations with other educational institutions. This paper originates in our respective Master of Arts research and out of informal discussions at the 2005 MA Conference. It seeks to combine our backgrounds in architecture and history with our curatorial experience.

* Information can be obscured with “overdesign”
* “Dichotomy of program” exists between art museums and artefact museums (Susanna Sirefman)
* Postmodern thought applies to both curation and architecture
* We should look at art museums for guidance in creating engaging spaces. Given a better space, designers don’t have to waste time transforming poor space, and can focus on the exhibition itself instead.

Body Hits: The Dynamics of Kinespherics and Interpretation in Current Museum Displays - Kit Messham-Muir (Paper available here).
This paper explores the importance of spatial dynamics in object interpretation in museums; particularly, it examines how the positioning of objects in relation to visitors profoundly influences the meanings and interpretations of the object. Current museum theory and practice mainly emphasizes the social and cultural contexts of objects; from the academic field of artefact analysis to the practicalities of significance assessment, we recognize the importance of narrative surrounding objects. With this emphasis on narrative, interpretation tends to utilize museum texts to provide conceptual frameworks for objects. Objects do remain important for most museums, but when it comes to their interpretation they tend to remain inactive, at the eye-of-the-storm, while interpretation happens around it. Objects can, however, have an active and pivotal function in how museums interpret them. And, importantly, that interpretation can be dynamic, even uncertain and provocative. When we encounter objects we do so within spatial relationships that are charged with meaning.
But, just as the meanings of objects are not fixed within time, neither are they fixed within space. From moment to moment, as we move within the space of an object, engage them within the kinespheric space of our bodies, our perceptions alter its meanings for us. This paper examines current examples from museums in Australia and overseas, in which the dynamics of kinespherics inform the interpretation of the objects, and reveals an emerging trend in museum practice.

* Simulacra; simulate, rather than feel.
* Objects themselves convey physical information that’s very separate to didactic information
* Touching an object gives so much information – not just cognitive, but situated in interpretive framework and the physical character of the piece
* Physical engagement is non-linear
* We move around objects and engage with them in space; touch is only one aspect of this.
* “Kinesphere” is our lived space, our personal space, the space we feel physically and emotionally.
* Physical encounters are meaningful because of conveyed meaning, by what we feel, “encountered signs”
* Communication using objects is not just cognitive but also affective
* Intense moments are what drag us in.

Concurrent Session 6A: Indigenous Interests

Discovering Indigenous Intangible Culture in Canada and the USA - Lori Richardson
I have recently been awarded a Churchill Fellowship to undertake a research project into Indigenous Intangible Culture. My project will be to research the ways in which Indigenous Intangible Cultural
Heritage is identified, collected, exhibited and preserved. My travel will include visits to, the National Museum of the American Indian (Washington DC, USA), the Canadian Museum of Civilization (Ottawa, Canada), the Head-Smashed-in Buffalo Jump Interpretative Centre (Alberta, Canada), various community museums and cultural centres in Albuquerque and Santa Fe (New Mexico, USA) and the Bishop Museum (Honolulu, Hawaii). I am specifically looking at the use of Indigenous language within the museums/cultural centres, storage and access to collections and Indigenous interaction with the museums. My research includes meetings with Museum directors, evaluation, public program and curatorial staff.

- $300 million for the museum (specifically designed storage areas)
- Community curators: information, stories etc provided by members of the community.
- Storage space facilitates communities interacting with objects. [No gloves used! Eek.] Large drawers with objects in boxes – little movement for the objects.
- Community conservation, renewal of objects – concern for authenticity/history of objects (similar to issues with rock art here)
- “Head Smashed In” Buffalo jump (Blackfoot)
- Native front of house staff as well as director and board
- Not just the location of the museums, but also consultation with community
- Public programs are prolific
- There is a need for a National Museum of ATSI culture in Australia, instead of being part of NMA. (This was a Keating promise for the ’92 election; Mulvany saw the idea of separation as cultural apartheid.)

(Google – “Lori Richardson” Churchill)

Concurrent Session 7B: Virtual Assets

Show off Your Assets: Victoria’s Cultural Broadband Network - Jonny Brownbill
The Victorian Government funded Cultural Broadband Network (CBN) is a technology-based tool that will connect major Victorian cultural institutions and provide Victorians, Australians and audiences worldwide with sophisticated access to their cultural content. The CBN will enable participating organisations to work effectively and efficiently with each other in the creation and delivery of programs that incorporate their collections, research and information functions. The CBN project has collaboratively developed standards, templates and metadata required to bring together collection, icon and story information from Victorian cultural organisations. Funding of “Digikits” for loan to community-based cultural organisations will enable them to digitise key components of their collections for inclusion in CBN programs. The CBN project will integrate and make available its content via other Victorian Government networking initiatives to metro and regional audiences, including education (SmartOne) and public libraries (VICNET). A wide range of CBN programs are already underway—this paper will report on their progress and provide a particular focus on community engagement opportunities, especially in regional areas as well as a snapshot of future developments.

* Cultural broadband network – functions:
- Online access to resources (rather than pare down for the web, develop something big and broad, then add to it for physical space)
- Collaborative content development
- Deliver programming to/from regional areas
- Facilitate shared corporate systems and services
- Work with other industries

* Content projects: online exhibitions/events?
* How can you measure if it’s all working/reaching an audience?

Creating and Maintaining Communities of Interest in the Museum - Angelina Russo
How can the museum act as a proactive leader in the development of communities of interest? The Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum (CHNDM) a Smithsonian Institution) in New York has developed two outreach programs which capture target audiences to build sustainable professional networks. CHNDM offers models for the successful development of communities of interest, in this case, educators and designers in the development of strategies for cultural content development and educational resources. The programs draw on the design collection and develop invaluable community knowledge in relation to design practice. At the heart of each program is the museum’s impetus to enable scholarly debate regarding the future of the sector. This talk is informed by a recent Smithsonian Fellowship which included the development of a strategic method for networking design professionals to each other, the museum and the wider community and the development of a strategy for building national educational networks and creating alumni within the design community.

* Digital cultural communication builds a relationship between the cultural institution and the community
* Creative Commons/Intellectual property

Online or Virtually so? Cultural Spaces Created for Children through Online Museums - Robbie Johnston (Paper available here).
Most online museum resources are provided by large well resourced institutions. Small regional institutions face particular challenges which this study aims to address. This paper outlines research exploring the pedagogical orientation of online and virtual museum sites developed for children. Through detailed study of the literature and of web sites developed by historical museums, the research seeks to identify lessons that can be learned by smaller institutions with a view to gaining greater recognition. By identifying critical features of participatory e-space, this research aims to contribute to electronic information flows from rural and regional Australia as well as from large urban centres. The paper also comments on and critiques the potential for online museums to promote unbounded communities of learning and enquiry as well as social inclusion. The uptake of online technologies is adding to debates about the pedagogic role of museums and their potential to fulfil their mission of greater visitor participation and involvement in learning through online interfaces. With the advent of digital technologies, it is argued that museums are taking a lead among institutions with an interest in promoting lifelong learning. Accordingly, there has been a proliferation of research exploring the development of online and onsite learning interfaces that are developed for children and adolescents.
There is considerable interest among educators in learning from online museums. Rethinking the role of museums in consideration of constructivist theories of learning and of changing views of knowledge has allowed the museum to move beyond an “institutional space of enclosure” and seek to promote greater social inclusion through participation in unbounded communities of learning. Through a detailed analysis of several museum web sites, this paper comments on the web contents that are available for children and contributes to understanding of what marks this rapidly evolving cultural space.

* Planning for kid’s learning:
- Tends to avoid contentious topics, perpetuating sanitised views of the past
- Fear of representation of difference
* How can the past be represented and be engaging without becoming homogenous?
* Soja (1996) – “The Third Space”; 3 dimensions of viewing space:
- Actual
- Representational
- Contested
* “Spaces of enclosure” – constraint through institutional learning
* Links to other stories, and people’s specific stories are important
* Create a vastly enhanced cultural space by not isolating certain websites/web projects from other stories etc.


Monday, July 24, 2006

Museums Australia Conference writeup #2


Keynote address: Indigenous People and Cities - Jackie Huggins (Paper available here).
Forty years ago next week, a referendum was passed that allowed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to be counted as Australian citizens. This year, another national census will be held and although the counting of Indigenous Australians is fraught with difficulty, unprecedented numbers of us will raise our hands in cities and towns across the country. The vast majority of us are young, a fair proportion live in cities and despite the fact that more of us will report higher incomes and loftier professions, too many Indigenous Australians remain on the fringes of urban life. Four decades on from the 1967 referendum in which a remarkable 91 percent of Australians voted YES for Aboriginal citizenship, communities of today must use what they have learned, through failures and some success, to take the next step in reconciliation. Achievement hinges on national teamwork, identifying what works, and backing it on the basis of Indigenous aspiration and evaluation. The objective can be simple: closing the 20 year gap in life expectancy between Indigenous and non-Indigenous children.
The solution is complex only in that involves all sectors of the Australian community, and that our commitment to it must be long term. But life is too short to put it off any longer.

* Museums should be telling the stories of the referendum, using the objects etc that have been collection with regard to the campaigning. The stories are worth telling and re-telling to aid reconciliation, and the stories give renewed meaning to indigenous citizenship.
* There are many strong people whose names are unknown outside of their own communities, despite their activism and efforts during the time of referendum.
* Suggests that next year a project be started aiming for the 50th anniversary with things like story trails between museums, recognition of significant sites and objects, and a real trail to follow – regions to weave their trails together, which would then map together over the nation.
* Use these opportunities to trigger thoughts about and conversations with our collections.

Exclusion Zones: Urban Indigenous People in Unfriendly, Built Environments – Samuel Wagan Watson
Since its inception in 1825 the city of Brisbane, capital of the Smart State, has been a problematic environment for Indigenous Australians to navigate. From the hanging of a prominent tribal resistance leader in ‘colonial-period’ Post Offi ce Square, to the death in custody of a young, talented song-man and dancer in the 1990’s, and now onto the new ‘Move-on’ laws enforced upon the Indigenous people in the city at present…the dysfunctional patterns of progress prevail. Although the local government has strategies which acknowledge the ‘inclusion’ of people in arts and cultural practices, why do the ghosts of ‘exclusion’ linger and prevail?

* Boundary streets in Brisbane
* No metropolitan areas in Australia were planned as a meeting place for all cultures; they were forced upon indigenous groups
* Indigenous models of land rights are being taken on by East Germans and also the Sami in Norway.
* Important to consider the past of Brisbane when looking to the future.

(Publications mentioned: “Bound in Bitumen” and “Last Exit to Brisbane”)

Finding Country - Kevin O’Brien
In acknowledging Jackie Huggins’ paper I find myself gazing directly at the tension between Indigenous Australia and the idea of the City. What contributes to this tension? To take Brisbane as an example, what are the references to Aboriginal culture (and people) within the urban fabric? It is easy to mount an emotive argument that demands action, but what precisely is the action in this construct? How do I feel about these issues as an Indigenous person versus what can I do as an architect? As a member of MERRIMA design our work strives to make architectural places in an idea of Country rather than as a derivative component of any specific city. It is this approach that now informs an observation about our cities, one where the Australian landscape supports an initial layer of Aboriginal culture, overlaid by a separate layer of European culture. The challenge for our cities is to find those architectural possibilities that connect all three.

* The sense of place is paradoxical; there are points of connection and difference.
* How can you incorporate a sense of Australian culture as a construct? How can you bring multiple histories together in place?

* 3 scales:
- Acknowledgment of people and place
- Architecture attempting to engage; places specifically designed for cultures
- Public art
(the last two using urban spaces)

* Designing in and around indigenous spaces rather than over them is something that should be considered when developing urban spaces.

Keynote address – Interpreting Cities - Tim Evans. (Paper available here)
Tim will provide a brief understanding of his role as Project Manager of the National Museums of Liverpool project, the history of Liverpool and the client organisation. The objective of his paper is to:
– Convey the vision and mission for the New Museum of Liverpool
– Provide an understanding of its future role in the city community and the local, national and international visitor experience
– Discuss the fundamentals—what will make it a radical Urban History museum
– Outline the key risks, pragmatic realities and issues that have been/will have to be addressed to deliver the project
– Review the organisation and process that has evolved to develop the vision, content and design.
– Illustrate where we have got to and how the design delivers the vision.

* The fundamentals of the new museum – history, location, money
* There are about 8 national museums in Liverpool, including the Museum of Liverpool life.
* The vision is simple: a “wondrous place”
* Aim is to provide for Liverpool’s community as well as visitors; to be a portal for the city. Want to be a “radical urban history museum”

* At the moment, the approach doesn’t see the need for 100% of proposed exhibitions to be finished for day 1. The idea is to phase things in over a few years after the bare minimum in the beginning. [Would visitors be happy with this though? Wouldn’t it seem half-baked and non-committed?]
* Aims for the exhibitions include: accessibility/touchable stuff; Beatles; football; Tale of Two Cities (savoury/unsavoury sides of Liverpool); testimonies from Liverpool community; “Community Pods” small exhibition spaces [not unlike Te Papa]; avenues for feedback from visitors.

Lost and Found in the Museum of Collective Memory – Peter Emmett
Are there fresh metaphors to interpret the shifting dynamics rather than fixed development of cities? How can museums represent the lost voices of those who have been excluded from the city biography of firsts and greats? And how can we engage in conversations across time and place to nourish the collective memory that sustains the dynamics and diversity of cities?

* Archaeological displays “in situ” give the idea that modern metropolitan areas are built on deep history
* Cities and museums should be places of memory
* There seems to be too much focus on identity (and difference) rather than urbanity (and being).

Interpreting Cities: Brief Suggestions for Actively Engaging Visitors and Residents with the Cityscape - Roy Ballantyne
In response to Tim Evans’ discussion regarding work currently being undertaken to design and establish the New Museum of Liverpool, brief suggestions are made regarding the way in which interpretive experiences can facilitate the achievement of the ‘planning group vision’ by engaging visitors and residents in learning experiences within the ‘living’ cityscape. In particular, themed interpretive trails (both guided and unguided) are advocated as a useful method of designing ‘powerful’ free-choice learning experiences supporting messages and reinforcing learning gained from exhibits within the museum. Practical examples are given to illustrate how these can be designed and delivered.

* The interpretation of cities tends to focus on the past and on heritage more than emerging environments.
* How can you draw visitors in to the interpretation of cities that encompasses past/future?
* Interpretive trails should ideally encourage perception of the urban environment, and to boost their ‘urban literacy’
- They shouldn’t just itemise and label, provide historical blurbs
- Arthur Percival (1979) writes on successful urban trails – focus the senses, tell the truth, look for links with the past and future.
* Interpreters who try to work neutrally in a value-free zone will not engage visitors
* Trail examples – focus on senses; look at conservation areas; focus on problem areas; investigate patterning
* The way visitors are actively engages in trails in important. Involve them with:
- higher order thinking
- problem-based learning
- empowerment
- active citizenship
- environmental investigation
- reflection
* Don’t’ contain visitor experience just within buildings, take them out into the urban landscape

Gone in an Instant? Museums and History - Kay Saunders
This paper addresses the issue of the viability of representing important historical events within a museum context. Specific attention will be directed towards the Russian communities’ experiences in Australia in the period 1917 to 1961. The Red Flag Riots and the deportation of Russians living in Brisbane in 1919 and the internment of Father Valentine Antonieff, the priest in charge of the Russian Orthodox Church in Brisbane in 1942, events all contained within the area of South Brisbane, permit an interrogation of events of global significance within a defined geographic area. These events are difficult to display in a museum lending themselves far more sympathetically to an archives or library exhibition. In contrast the crowning of Chinese born White Russian refugee, Tania Verstak as Miss Australia 1961 was a landmark event in Australia, heralding a new attitude to multiculturalism. By utilizing her extensive collection in the National Museum, the parameters of debasement concerned with core British identity, ethnicity, politics, celebrity and Australia’s international reputation can be evaluated in some depth.

* Many events in Brisbane history have been forgotten to history and archives, and the streets now feel so different.
* How could we have been at the centre of particular world events (re: her example of the Bolsheviks) which have all but been forgotten?
* We need artefacts, not just documents, to tell stories in museums (even though there’s so much information and so many stories in the documents – they need to be accompanied)
* Stories of people/events reflect cities – how can you get across the complexity of these things, however?

Concurrent Session 1A: Vital Cities and Belonging

Local Heritage and Cultural Vitality - Melissa Hayes and Richard Holt
At a local government level the policy context that applies to a municipality can influence and shape the way heritage is considered. At the City of Port Phillip, where a commitment to ‘cultural vitality’ means heritage is recognised and valued as critical in framing what the community is, some innovative and collaborative approaches to the collecting and dissemination of stories and the preservation of community artefacts have emerged. While dedicated heritage and curatorial staff generate much of this activity the policy context results in projects demonstrating a strong appreciation for heritage values across the organisation. Thus the importance of understanding where the community has come from is not a primarily academic exercise to the organisation but is woven into the fabric of public administration in the City.

* Council of Port Phillip (Melbourne) - 90,000 people, oldest of the municipalities.
* “Icon Study” allows the council manage significant places
* Port Phillip “museum without walls” – with no museum building, they can look at getting stud out into venues and presenting it to the community in different ways. For example, the Baths exhibition at St Kilda (put together with input from community); situated within the context of foreshore history.
* Council understands and recognises places of culture/heritage (a good and sometimes rare thing for most councils); all bids for development money must consider culture and heritage of the area.
* There is quite a lot of consultation with the cultural management sections of council for certain ‘products’.
* An “Urban History Centre” is under development, which will hopefully be of use but no encroach on using other venues as they have been. This centre will be used as a space for community, and to facilitate understanding between groups.

Beyond the Garden Walls: Greening Cities and Cultivating Communities - Janelle Hatherly
Large government-funded cultural institutions have a mandate to serve the entire state or nation, not just those who visit their spaces and collections. The Botanic Gardens Trust in Sydney has a commitment to take its expertise and programs ‘beyond the garden walls’ to enrich the life of our cities and regional centres, serve the broader community and green the urban environment. To this end the Trust joined forces with the NSW Department of Housing to establish a state-wide program called Community Greening. This program facilitates communal gardening on wasted public land and in housing estates, schools and churches. Through this program, disadvantaged groups in our society, including residents of public housing and local school communities in urban and regional NSW take ownership of their surroundings, connect with plants, learn new skills and make friends with people from a diversity of backgrounds. The program also involves the participation of several local and state government bodies and benefits from contributions-in-kind from industry and the commercial sector.
Beyond greening the urban landscape, community gardening builds social cohesion and develops community networks. People who might never visit botanic gardens are given the opportunity to gain an understanding of plants, recycling and sustainable horticultural practices. However there are challenges involved in establishing community gardens and empowering individuals and neighbourhoods. This presentation will examine the role of botanic gardens in the urban environment, not only as a cultural space but as a catalyst for social change and community building.

* Current attitudes (in general) are so urbanised that we are “nature blind” and very removed from green spaces. Botanic gardens can allow “measured access” to nature.
* Botanic gardens are museums with collections both inside and outside. There is a big challenge to educate and raise awareness of this, as well as living with/managing nature.
* There are 2024 botanic gardens worldwide.
* There is a pressing need for botanic gardens to be involved at a local level in their area.
* There are great physical and mental benefits in proximity to parks/botanic gardens. “Healthy parks, healthy people” programs. Community gardens, to help people connect with each other and green spaces.
* Sydney Botanic Gardens reach out State-wide with education programs; “Community Greening”
- Help develop the gardens that communities want
- Gives people something meaningful to do, somewhere to meet, skills to learn
- Successful for urban renewal

There is a Pottery in our Street: Cities and Belonging - Jacqueline Healey
This paper explores the role of small metropolitan galleries and museums in creating a sense of belonging in their communities. Despite limited resources and facilities these galleries and museums are able to engage at a grass roots level that teases out a myriad of connections with the local community. The labyrinths of cultural organisations that map our cities outside their epicentres create intense layered experiences that are difficult to replicate in larger state and national cultural organisations. Through the case study of the development of the exhibition Premier Pottery Preston and its tour to regional centres I will support this premise. Bundoora Homestead Art Centre (the public gallery for the City of Darebin) charter is to develop exhibitions that reflect the cultural and artistic heritage of the City of Darebin. The catalogue and touring exhibition Gumnuts and Glazes: The Story and Art of Premier Pottery, Preston 1929-1956 paid tribute to a remarkable pottery that emerged from Preston in the heart of the City of Darebin in the midst of the depression in the late 1920’s. A group of unemployed potters established their own business and created a range of ceramics called Remued ware that became an icon of Australian ceramics. The process of researching the exhibition was undertaken in the community where the pottery existed. It brought together the families that contributed to the pottery. While the exhibition was on display members of the public, some who had worked in or lived near the pottery came to share their memories. Such a gathering of community could only have happened in the heartland of where the pottery had existed. As streetscapes change and buildings are redeveloped or replaced, the past life of an area may disappear in a generation. This project documented the life of the Premier Pottery Preston in Oakover Road bringing to life the cultural and artistic legacies of that era to the community.

* The BHAC is trying to create a vibrant community by creating connections to neighbourhoods.
* What is distinctive about local gallery exhibitions – accessibility, connectedness, belonging; creating local connections as a result of the process of developing an exhibition.
* The community wanted the exhibition done locally, and held locally. There was a strong input from families involved who have heritage in that area, and connections to the pottery.

Concurrent Session 4B: Creative Access to the Digital Space

New Literacy, New Audiences - Angelina Russo and Jerry Watkins
How can Australian cultural institutions use creative media technologies to create new audience experiences? This major Australian Research Council research project has brought together an expert group of strategists and technologists from some of Australia’s leading cultural institutions. This group is examining the challenges and opportunities presented by the evolution of ‘information literacy’ in their audiences, brought about by the widespread uptake of internet, games and mobile technologies.
New Literacy, New Audiences examines how both information literacy and creative media technologies can be used to reconfigure relations between the institution, the communities it serves and its wider audience. The project will inform a model for effective digital content distribution, and in so doing will advance national research priorities for smart information use and the promotion of innovation culture.

* New audiences are gained through multi-platform distribution; selective content distribution to targeted audience segments across multiple communication platforms

* One-way knowledge transfer:
Source --> Content --> Platform --> Segment
--> Web platform expands available segments
--> Multiplatform extends further (more content available through the multi platforms, and more segments available – niches, harder to reach people)

* Online – there is an appeal to youth, hopefully engaging them for lifelong learning.
* One model of multiplatform distribution of cultural experience is the Australia Zoo site. This site appeals to pre/post visit or those unable to visit at all.
* New literacy – skills required to produce and consume digital media; co-creative media (interactive communication), feedback, no longer one-way communication.
* Co-creative media projects engage community and produce new cultural content
* Examples: ACMI memory grid, QLD stories Workshop, NMA broadcast studio

Making Connections: Telling the Story of Artefacts Online - Steven Decosta (
Capturing the spirit of an artefact and illustrating it online presents a number of challenges. Not least of which is the difficulty of harnessing this forum to communicate an artefact’s cultural, historical and aesthetic value in a relevant and diversely understandable context— How do you tell its story online?
A number of existing online spaces will be reviewed to give a broad overview of approaches that can be taken in the telling of these stories. Focusing on aspects of the online experience that communicate a sense of value for the user will reveal any commonalities between these approaches. This paper suggests that to communicate the value of an artefact to an online user the virtual space must inspire a personal connection between the artefact and the individual. The lesson for curators of online exhibits is to provide opportunities for people with diverse learning styles and educational backgrounds to make such connections.

* Approach: What are the stories to be/that can be told? How can we structure stories? How can we expand stories?
* Methods
- Reconstruction
- Thematic overview
- Embedded info
- Contextual overlay

* Making connections
- Think hard about intention
- Provide context that works online
- Provide content
* Ensure you make a meaningful connection.

Manhua Wonderlands Exhibition and Education Project (State Library of Queensland in partnership with MAAP (Multimedia Arts Asia Pacific) - Kath Kerswell
2005 celebrated the Queensland Centenary of Women’s Suffrage and also marked the 40th anniversary of Indigenous People’s gaining the right to vote in Queensland. The Queensland
Government’s Office for Women initiated historical resources through its website and encouraged participation by organisations across the state. The theme developed for the year was “Celebrate the past, claim the future”. The State Library of Queensland administered a program of events during 2005 which responded to historical, contemporary and futurist perspectives on the topic:- What We Want—an historical exhibition featuring material drawn from the John Oxley Library including political cartoons from 100 years ago. This small exhibition was displayed at Cannon Hill and is currently touring regional libraries and museums. Sufferance: women’s artists’ books an exhibition featuring the work of eleven artists who were invited to research the State Library’s collections and commissioned to produce artist’s books which address these issues from a contemporary perspective. Locus voci: a place of voices featured new media works by young women which comment on the lack of voice traditionally afforded to women by their representation in mainstream film. The publication Mending Matters included commissioned works from writers who were encouraged to envisage futurist scenarios from diverse perspectives. The HERizons Symposium stimulated debate on issues raised
by artists and writers contributing to the yearly program. What We Want documented an historical perspective on events of 100 years ago drawn from traditional news media and published historical references held in the State Library’s collections. This exhibition represented a response which could be considered typical of Government celebratory interpretations which re-present historical material in a didactic format drawn from published sources. The other projects gathered responses in “non-traditional forms”, such as visual art and fiction, which challenged the “authoritative” perspective of historical accounts in published material and mainstream media. Many of the artists and writers responses address the enduring difficulties which continue to be experienced by women in their domestic, personal and working lives.

* This project was developed by and for young people, and exhibited in real/virtual spaces. Made use of mobile multimedia lab, DVD zines.
* Multimedia artforms and new forms of literacy are being combined for this project.
* Creating, presenting and reflecting on the work are some of the most important things.

Ah, I shouldn't have left writing this stuff up for so long. My notes are so vague!


Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Museums Australia Conference writeup #1

Okay, so it's been a bajillion years (well, a couple of months). I figured I should type up my notes. All still in point form. My brain can't do much else. Here's Sunday! The rest of the week when I get through it. Slowly.


Hidden Gems: Creative Industries in Rural Economies - Kate Oakley
The urban environment has been the focus of much creative industries policy development—as cities from Bilbao to Shanghai have fought to re-brand themselves as ’creative cities.’ But what opportunities do these developments offer to smaller towns and rural areas? Lacking the scale of urban economies and with dispersed population and thin markets, what can rural areas do to create ‘local buzz’? What is the role of public cultural institutions such as museums and galleries? And how do we ensure that such developments are sustainable and do not just benefit wealthy incomers? This paper will draw on recent research to try and answer some of these questions.

- Rural economies
* New rural economy is about innovation and diversification
* There’s a fast growth in creative industry.
* There is an effort to stop the ‘brain drain’ of creative people moving away from rural areas
* Creative people can be of input to other industries

- Creative infrastructure
* Bringing the cultural and creative together (making of milieu)
* It’s important to create links between creative and other industries so they can foster each other
* Connect cultural institutions to the broader economy

- Joining in
* Cultural institutions don’t just exist in their sphere, but in the greater spheres of leisure etc; they are unique, but should be considered within these other spheres.
* Museums to develop social bonds, to include people
* People make places; don’t make the mistake of breaking people down into “kinds of publics”/demographics, but thinking of “one public” sometimes

- Opportunities
* Low entry barriers in some sub-sectors
* Digital technologies can help to connect (‘borrowing scale’ in dispersed networks)
* Quality of life attracts creative practitioners

- Challenges
* Creative industries are seen as urban
* Low visibility reinforces the isolation
* Consumer base is dispersed

(Publications mentioned: “Renaissance in the Regions: a new vision for England's museums”)

When a Place Means Something, It Matters: Adding Value Off the Main Road - Sam Ham (Paper available here)
Remote museums have an opportunity and obligation to interpret stories that unfolded in the actual places where they occurred. But to capitalise on the advantages of proximity and authenticity, remote museums must see their function not as information givers but rather as facilitators of profound meaning. When visitors are provoked to think deeply about some aspect of local heritage, they make connections that put the place in very personal perspective. In this view of interpretation, we attempt not simply to impart colourful facts to visitors, but to connect them to things that are symbolically
significant to the visitors. When such connections are made, Regional & Remote museums achieve their highest aim, and in the process, add value to the experiential product they offer.

* Small museums have the advantage of proximity and authenticity, as well as heightened visitor curiosity.
* Meanings are the main impact you can have on people. Meanings are the not the result, but the experience. Experience is nothing more than what we think, 100% subjective. Every visitor will have a different experience, even in the same physical environment. [I like this idea, but for the madness it brings to exhibition development. But yeah, you can’t really pretend to know what people are going to think coming out of a museum can you?]
* Remote museums must be facilitators of profound meaning.
* Didactic evaluation looks at the retention of facts – not always the best way to look at the success of a museum. Perhaps museums should look at the success levels of provoking people to think (i.e. experience)
* Learning created by the learner themselves (constructivist view of knowledge). If visitors leave thinking and having their own thoughts, if they’ve been provoked – then that’s successful.

* Anthropological studies – “Numen seeking” (Numen-beckoning from gods). In the 50s, Rudolph Otto introduced the idea in a religious way. In the every day experience, it means we’re provoked to thought – the main points of this are intense engagement, sense of self, loss of time movement. (See also Cameron/Gatewood 2000 study).

* Visceral reactions to places and material culture; Numen seekers want to be provoked and moved, to be connected.

* Provide insights; instill empathy in visitors, give them personal stories.

Audience questions:
“How can you avoid manipulating visitors”?
By simply providing information/experience, we are manipulating. Where do you draw the line? Trust your own ethics.

“What about people going in cold to museums?”
It’s not just pre-conditioned/converted, regular museum-goers we want to aim at, but everyone with a range of interest/knowledge. Meaning-making is possible with them all.

Sustaining and Invigorating the Regional and Remote – respondents
Why Do Some Towns Thrive While Others Languish? - Ian Plowman (Paper available here)
Eight Queensland country towns participated in the research. It is the people and their attributes that make a difference. Net inflows bring diversity of ideas and experiences. The least innovative towns have net outflows, and it is the most innovative people that leave. The more innovative towns are also differentiated by younger average age, higher levels of education, and greater frequency of overseas travel, all sources for new ideas. They also have higher home ownership and a much higher level of distributed leadership and civic responsibility broadly shared.

* We all have mobility choices – who moves where and why?
* Towns with more leaders had less innovation.
* More innovative towns had people coming into their population
* Creative people have higher levels of mobility, and crave supportive environments.
* Creative vitality thrives in atmospheres of tolerance, talent and technology
* Humans are naturally conservative, which makes tolerance hard to find.
* Leadership often prohibits the opportunity to gain civic experience
* People make the place.

- Innovation
* What makes up innovation? Availability of professional/semi-professional people; change of leadership; quality of communication.
* Is innovation contagious? Yes, but diminishingly so. A very small part of a population innovates, you have another smallish part who pay attention to this and feed out to the rest of the community.
* Innovation is dangerous when the environment is stable, but necessary when the environment is changing.
(Publications mentioned: “Rise of the Creative Class” by Florida, UQ Press.)

DillyBags, Digital Stories and Dreaming Festivals: The Modern Day Hunter Gatherers - Debra Bennet
Retrieval of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts and Cultural practices, which acknowledge the wisdom and richness of the past, contribute to present day community and cultural development.
Acknowledgement of the changes and impacts to Indigenous communities, through colonisation and subsequent waves of migrant and foreign tourist arrivals on our shores, has highlighted the resilience, and resourcefulness of Indigenous People. The reshaping and refining of age-old traditions and inventiveness to evolve new tools and ways of working in many communities, are keys to social, political, economic and environmental diversity and sustainability.

* There is a need for representation and self-determination for Indigenous people in the media, to connect with and tell stories – to access stories and tell them in their own words.
* Move toward academic and political fields
* Cultural tourism important to share
* Telling out into communities

Significance Assessment and Community Identity: What’s Happening in Regional Queensland - Deborah Tranter (Paper available here)
Cultural heritage collecting was a phenomenon in regional Queensland throughout the 1970s. It was a reflection of communities harking back to the good old days and a response to its residents’perception that it was losing its identity. Fast forward to 2006—what is the current state of cultural heritage collecting and collections in these communities? This paper will discuss the work of the Museum Resource Centre Network in Queensland and its new strategic direction involving state-wide thematic mapping and significance assessment projects. It will highlight the partnerships with local government and the role of collections in forging community identity in the 21st Century.

* Regional Services
- Provide support for collecting organisations
- Lifelong learning (constructivist model)

* Engaging people on a personal level is important for regional museums.

* Are regional communities better or worse off with museums? What part of our museums are important? (collections, people, etc?)

* “Hidden heritage” report

* Mapping collections over QLD (197 so far)
* Significance assessment
* No collecting happening now (do we need the shift to start collecting again?)
* Inviting the community into the museum. Don’t forget people + institutions and focus only on collections.

* The shift (for more collecting etc) at Cobb + Co – is this innovation during a stable time, a dangerous move? Or was it a natural option?

R&R Skill Session 6
TITLE Engaging Community: acting on intentions
This skill session will provide a stimulating environment
in which participants can discuss and reflect on:
– how museums work with communities
– how museums reach their communities
– the mutual benefits between communities and museums
– do museums exist within the community or alongside it.
The session also aims to provide an environment where participants can:
– reflect on and analyse the way in which their organisation engages with its communities
– identify a range of ideas and strategies to support their implementation within their organisation.

Case Studies

Museum of Brisbane
- Community collections; no collecting happening, but rather there is borrowing from the community for part/whole exhibitions
- Postcards sent out to canvas the community for contributions (an expensive way to do things, without a great percentage result)
- How do you hand on to those communities once their collections are no longer on display, and that has effectively removed their major connection to the museum?

Jewish Museum
- Funded, primarily, by Melbourne’s Jewish community
- Bridge between Jewish and non-Jewish communities
- Responsibility to community

Museum Victoria
- Visitation data important
- “Attract” (what brings people), “Delight” (what delights people when they’re there already)
- Community festivals at the immigration museum (mutual benefits for museum and community)
- Community input into info on collections
- Engaging with demographics (eg. Kid’s Labs @ Scienceworks)
- Sharing space, supporting community groups (no other input)

Major Points of the Workshop:
- Identifying communities and vital people within those communities (appropriate representatives) is important
- Set boundaries for groups working with museums
- Change the culture of the museum to work better with communities
- Disparity in what “community” is – locals, tourists, what? Is it people grouped by location, or interest, or something else? Hard to serve more than one community when they want different things.
- Engendering a sense of community ownership
- Aligning agendas – harmony between museum and community
- Inviting community groups vs waiting for them to come to us (how to find them? Face to face, mailouts, advertising, direct marketing, going to communities, etc)
- Museums must look at what communities can provide for them, not just what the museum’s got that’s relevant.

(Publications mentioned: “Birth of the Museum”; “Mastering Civic Engagement” – US Museum Association)


Friday, June 02, 2006

Hey! My name's Nicole and I ♥ museums! I just have this blog so I can comment on other blogspot accounts and the like. Perhaps some day when i'm livin' the museum nerding dream i'll blog here properly.


Thursday, April 13, 2006

Article repost and comment - Museums find an unlikely ally: The cellphone

Museums find an unlikely ally: The cellphone By Dan Goodin, The Associated Press.

Article and comment after the jump...

SAN FRANCISCO — Art lovers, history buffs and science devotees, take note: To get the most out of your next museum visit, make sure you have your cellphone with you.
By Paul Sakuma, AP /

Not to gab on, of course, but to listen to audio tours that weave music, narration and recordings from historical archives designed to bring more context to the exhibitions. For many visitors, it comes as a welcome alternative to the decades-old system of museums renting out expensive handheld devices.

Museums across the country, once averse to noisy cellphones, are suddenly encouraging their use. In the past year, about a dozen art institutions — including museums in Los Angeles, Berkeley, Calif., Tacoma, Wash., Minneapolis and Greenwich, Conn. — have begun offering cellphone tours, mostly for free. Dozens more are in the process of implementing the service.

One reason for the surge is the emergence of companies such as Guide by Cell of San Francisco, Ashburn, Va.-based Spatial Adventures and Minneapolis-based Museum411, which run computer servers and phone systems so museums don't have to.

"I generally don't buy the audio tours when I go to a museum unless it's a Monet or somebody really impressive," said Chris Mengarelli, 53, who recently used her phone to tour the exhibit Visual Politics: The Art of Engagement, at the San Jose Museum of Art.

"It was much more convenient than having to rent a head set and worrying about what kind of germs are being transmitted."

Museums have been making audio tours available over cellphones since at least 2002, when Southern Utah University opened an exhibit of historical photos documenting 100 years of local theater. Matt Nickerson, a professor of library science, wrote the script and taped old actors recalling their performances in Shakespearean plays. He recruited an actor and engineer to record and mix the audio tour at a radio station.

"It turned out to be much simpler than I thought," he said.

Using the museum services is as easy as dialing a number and selecting the code that corresponds to the artwork a visitor is viewing. While each museum's system is different, visitors generally can stay on the same call throughout the tour and switch from one exhibit to the next by entering different numbers into their phones, similar to the way callers navigate a voice mail system.

At least one tour, offered at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, responded to voice commands, but museum officials there discontinued the feature because chatter and ambient noise often interfered.

Companies such as Spatial Adventures plan to offer text, pictures and video in the next year or so to take advantage of new capabilities being offered by cellphone carriers such as Verizon and Sprint.

For now, most museums offer cellphone audio for free, although users must deduct the time spent listening from their monthly allotment of minutes. They also must pay any roaming charges or other costs that may apply to their cellphone plan. Those costs differ widely depending on the carrier.

Many museums are able to give away the service because companies such as Guide by Cell, living off investor financing, offer free pilots of the service as they try to jump-start the trend. About half of Guide by Cell's customers are paying for the service, while all of Museum411's clients pay.

"When we have to pay, or someone has to pay, we may have to change things," said Suzanne Isken, director of education at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, which started using Guide by Cell audio for one of its exhibits in January.

The chief benefit of cellphones is their ubiquity. With almost 204 million Americans carrying a cellphone, according to wireless industry group CTIA, museums no longer have to maintain fleets of handheld devices.

Isken recently decided to not to offer an audio tour using the dedicated devices for an upcoming exhibit on the work of artist Robert Rauschenberg. She estimates that her museum would have spent $20,000 just to pay the staff that checks out, cleans and recharges the dedicated devices, which are provided by a company called Antenna Audio.

"We were concerned that we wouldn't be able to make back our investment," Isken said, explaining that under financial arrangements with Antenna, 20,000 visitors would need to buy the $6 service for the museum to break even.

cellphones also make it easy for visitors who have decided to skip the audio tour to spontaneously change their minds.

"You don't have to go back to the desk and rent something," said Robin Dowden, director of new media initiatives at the Walker Art Center.

Not all museums are embracing the trend. The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is studying cellphone audio tours but has decided to hold off for now. Instead, it offers audio files that visitors can download from the museum website and play on their iPods or other portable music players while viewing exhibits.

"Just because you have a phone in your hand and can call up a message about every piece in a gallery doesn't mean those messages are going to be engaging," said Peter Samis, associate curator of education at the museum.

"Museums themselves are relative novices at this and don't have any experience producing this type of content in-house," he said. "There's a steeper learning curve than many proselytizers of the technology are willing to acknowledge."

Mengarelli, who toured "Visual Politics," confessed to finding some portions of the audio tour "distracting." She also complained that her arm got tired holding a cellphone to her ear for 30 minutes.

Still, the San Jose Museum of Art's experiment with cellphone audio has already changed the way some visitors take in art.

Ben Patel, a 29-year-old hotel worker who arrived just before closing time one day last week, quickly snapped pictures of the images on his digital camera, so he could view them later on his computer while listening to the narration on his phone.

"It's a good idea," he said. "I'm short on time and the museum will be shut before I can view all of them."

When I was in Wellington at Te Papa, I tried out the PDA virtual "tour guide" for the "Made in New Zealand Exhibit" - it wasn't perfect, but it was an interesting concept that went a little further than a generic audio tour. I really like the idea of making audio guides more accessible to visitors though, because they (if done well) can really enhance the experience in a particular exhibition. I think a lot of museums are put off by the huge costs involved in creating/providing/maintaining audio tours, however, and it's pretty rare to see them. This proposed service would be a lot more accessible for visitors, and sounds to be a lower cost than hand-held units; overall a terrific idea and it's something i'd love to see happen in Australian museums. A while back I heard about MOMA's audio tours, which come in multiple formats (hand-held and downloadable, mainly) and I think it's the perfect way to approach it. Podcasts appeal to me particularly, because I think it's something that could be done (reasonably) easily and low-cost in-house in museums. I'd like to work to put something together for one of the permanent displays here at the Queensland Museum, most likely the "Discover Queensland" display - it's a broad, all-encompassing display that presents the state well but could be enhanced with an audio tour with some more background and history. Once the school holidays are over, i'll talk to my manager (who was one of the main people involved) and possibly our "new media" person and see if it's something they'd be interested in.