We’re all back from Museums and the Web 2007, catching our collective breath while trying to maintain the enthusiasm the conference generated. I last attended M&W in 2003, and a quick glance back at that program immediately suggests how much has changed in four years. In 2003, I presented mnartists.org’s 10 Tips for Building Online Communities. No where in my paper, or any other that I can find, does one find references to tagging, blogging, or social media. There are some overlapping themes (like Susan Hazan on virtual worlds and the Dead Sea Scrolls: 3D was huge in 03) but the specifics have changed as have many of the people.
For me, the big take away from this year’s conference was rethinking the Walker’s online identity as a web presence instead of a website. If our missions include public outreach (or audience engagement in Walker parlance), isn’t presence more important than place? It’s about being “ there” with the “ there” emphasizing the place where the public is. To some extent we’re doing this already but not as consciously as I’m thinking about it now.
Robin’s conference highlights
Colleague Paul Schmelzer posted a great recap of this session. I was familiar with the Internet Archive for its Wayback Machine. Now I’m determined “ to send Brewster our stuff,” beginning with the Walker Channel archives.
Mashups–web applications creating something new by drawing on content from multiple sources–have many benefits (e.g., “ free” services, dynamic content, development time savings) and drawbacks (commercial nature of open APIs, potential performance issues). Jim did a great job characterizing the landscape, using some of Ideum’s work to illustrate the possibilities. Maxwell Museum of Anthropology’s The American Image: The Photographs of John Collier Jr. did it for me. The site uses Flickr for content management under an account created for the deceased photographer (advantage to this approach: the photos are identified as Collier’s; disadvantage: one-way conversation since the Maxwell isn’t posting fictitious Collier comments on Flickr). On the website, image requests use Flickr’s open API to retrieve particular photographs or groups of photos. In one of the classroom activities, they use Flickr to compare Collier’s work with contemporary photos categorized with similar tags like architecture, defense, family, and school. As noted on the site “ the connections between the photos may be unusual,” although I’ve been nothing but amazed and inspired by the comparisons in the limited time I’ve spent browsing. The goal of the project is to build visual literacy skills. Jim noted that they weren’t necessarily satisfying that objective on Flickr but then again 10% of the site visitors are coming from Flickr. Not bad.
More on mashups: workshop slides and bookmarks are available on the Ideum blog.
We’ve been talking about bringing Walker-related/contemporary art news via RSS into the Walker (both online and onsite) so I was really interested in the Liberty Science Center project. T2ST pairs the Times Square model with interactive surfaces in the atrium of the new Science Center to display science and technology news retrieved through RSS feeds. Visitors interact with the installation via kiosks and research stations, cell phones and PDAs (the cell phone component is part of the Science Now Science Everywhere project). The SNSE system allows visitors to take away custom RSS feeds and news reports on their phones. “ This extends visitors’ engagement with the installation and sets the stage for the development of more elaborate participation in citizen science projects.’” Wayne noted a number of challenges including resolving the relationships between various pieces (e.g., visitor input with a scavenger operator that searches for news and stores data feeds in the database scheduling the actual displays); content policies (content is provided by automatic aggregators but staff must approve all sources); rights management (e.g., CNN’s RSS policy requires direct links back to the source); and providing context for images/media removed from original content. The new Science Center opens in July: can’t wait to see.
Advocating vocabulary alignment instead of unification, Schreiber’s presentation demonstrated the power and potential of the semantic-web. “ The main objective of this work, which is performed in the context of the MultimediaN E-Culture project, is to demonstrate how novel semantic-web and presentation technologies can be deployed to provide better indexing and search support within large virtual collections of cultural-heritage resources.” This is good stuff, and I hope we can incorporate many of the search strategies in the redesign of ArtsConnectEd. The online version of the demonstrator can be found at http://e-culture.multimedian.nl/demo/search. I really like the grouping of results by type of semantic link. A plea to the Getty voiced during the discussion: please make your vocabularies available as open APIs.
Presentations I wish I’d heard
One of the great things about M&W is David and Jennifer’s insistence on papers. I’ll be reading these:
I’ve heard several rave reviews of the Brooklyn presentation. They’re making friends in MySpace and Flickr, building on existing audiences, and really taking the museum program to where the audience is.
The presenters were taking questions when I walked in but the idea of an open source collections management system seems almost too good to be true. We use a homegrown FileMaker application for managing collections information; it has served Registration well but is less than ideal as a foundation for other applications feeding off the data. I spoke to Carl Goodman at the Exploratorium reception and was convinced there’s something here worth pursuing.
So much more but the job beckons. Thanks M&W for staging a great conference.