I’m researching current good practice in family and informal learning in museums and checked the Kids in Museums website to remind myself of their manifesto. The Kids in Museums organisation played a key role in the Great Museum Debate in Liverpool, in September. They discussed – what is the museum of your dreams? That’s a good question and it’s a great chance to get a bit visionary and radical. Since then, Kids in Museums have set up a online discussion inviting your ideas on the Museum I’d Like. However, there are no comments yet. I tried posting and there are some hitches that make it hard to do so. In the meantime, the comment I wanted to post is below. Actually, this isn’t my dream but the thoughts of three children. I’m working on a dream of my own, to come shortly. If you want to share your dream, try the Kids in Museums site, but you can also post comments here too.
I asked three 8 year olds who have visited some museums what kind of museum they’d like ideally and what activities they like to do in them. Here are some of the things they said:
- We like activities that let you be louder, or be able to talk normally, in the museum.
- We like to explore rude and funny things, and for the people there to let us be rude, and we’d like to draw nude people.
- We like activities that you can be included in, like in the Big Draw when we drew the picture and the singers sang what we drew. You are making the art happen with the artist.
- It would be good if we could make the pictures in the museum more interesting. Can we do a workshop in a gallery where children actually make the things that go on display?
- It would be brilliant if the activity had something you can go in, like a ride round the buildings, like in Curious George.
- We like long activities that can last a whole day or a whole week, if you like doing it. Like the X-Factor bootcamp. Sometimes, if it’s just a little thing, like colouring in, I can’t be bothered to do it. But if I know at the end of a day that we’ll put on a show or something, I want to do it.
- I like watching films in galleries, not when they’re repetitive but when they’re like stories. And I like storytellers and plays. I want them to be funny.
- I loved the crystal blue room (Seizure by Roger Hiorns) – we’d like to visit more strange interesting places that you can explore, like mazes and Alice in Wonderland rooms.
- We love sleepovers, my sister went to the British Museum – you can sleep right in front of a warrior, which is really spooky, and they do lots of fun activities.
- We like to go on hunts, like a quiz where you have to hunt for things.
- We love making things, art and craft – but they have to be different from what we can make at home.
- We would like to join a museum club and get invited to parties and to win prizes.
- And we want the Livesey Museum for Children to come back again as we loved it.
Here are a few things that have struck me recently in the museum-y webby world.
Whenever the topic of user-tagging comes up, someone says ‘But how will we get people to tag our thousands of items? Surely it’s not that much fun!’ Fair point, and this makes a change from the usual worries about being swamped with random and ‘plain-wrong’ UGC that has to be moderated. Folksonomy works best, it seems, when you do harness the power of the crowd, not just the insane energies of a steam engine enthusiast in Harlow and your own hard-working interns. Nina Simon in her Museum 2.0 blog has reviewed two new experiments in motivating the crowd to tag. One is, unusually, not about tagging artefacts but animal/bird behaviours. The other, the one I joined, is the Brooklyn Posse. You sign up to the Posse and, basically, play Tag with other Posse members. Yes, it is addictive. You are pitted against the Posse and a scale shows when you have beaten other players in adding more tags. The main outcome for me was that I noticed the Brooklyn collection. I looked at the objects (slightly frustrated by only getting one view and not being able to see them as a curator does) and thought about them. My recurring question was where they had come from, because the provided metadata didn’t include location or culture of origin. Most of the provided data was about materials, so my tags tended to echo and expand on that, which slightly pulls against the factor that online artefacts are best interpreted in contextual rather than visual-material ways because you can’t easily see them ‘in the flesh’.
Exhibitions on Freebase
Frankie Roberto sent a message to the Museums Computer Group about his experiment to build up a database on exhibitions in Freebase. He started thinking about this at the Museum Mash-up day before the UK Museums and the Web conference, and later approached Freebase to do this with them. The idea is not just to create a database, but to open up and collate the data that individual exhibiting organisations sit on, to create a resource about past, current and future exhibitions. The data is organised into categories such as ‘free exhibitions’, ‘exhibitions about people’ and so on. You can also link these categories together e.g. free exhibitions about people. This is potentially leading to a web service that lets people find exhibitions related to their interests, which I think is pretty exciting and useful. It will be good when international web-based services like this can form part of our national cultural digital infrastructure.
Streetview Powerhouse mash-up
This had to happen, and thanks to developer Paul Hagon, here it is. You may have heard about Google driving round streets taking eye-level shots to create a seamless virtual photographic map, plotted onto Google Maps. This mash-up shows old photographs of Sydney streets from the Powerhouse Museum, next to the current Streetview. I wonder if Flickr Commons can organise it so that lots of place-based historic photographic collections, the world over, can be shown next to their Streetview? If this can be connected to a feature that allows people to add memories and knowledge about those places, it could be great.
Meeting Flickr at Tate
I am an unashamed Flickr fan and it’s getting better all the time. I collect and play with old photographs, so I’m loving Flickr Commons and also groups such as Found Photographs . I administer groups, such as a new one to share images of threatened coastal heritage.
I do a lot of idle musing on all the creative things that could be done with Flickr and its subsidiary applications and services. For example, I blogged last year about how museums could create books using Blurb, taking participants photos straight from Flickr.
On Friday, Flickr and Blurb were celebrating at Tate Britain the launch of a book created by Tate from public submissions related to their Street and Studio exhibition. It was good to chat with George Oates there, the project manager for Flickr Commons, about ideas for developing Flickr to enable more creative curating by users. For example, allowing you to combine your own images with other peoples or from Commons (e.g. saved as your Faves) in various presentations, and being able to combine with different forms of writing. I can’t wait to see some of this happen. I have heard some cynicism about whether people really want to curate online with cultural collections. It might be the case that the offer is less compelling within one museum or gallery online, but when you have the potential to mix your own images with 3 billion others on Flickr, working in a well-structured interface and connecting with many thousands of other people, all cynicism fades away. Well, mine does at least, but then I love Flickr. Did I tell you I love Flickr?
For some reason, the Apture weblinks failed in some of this post, so here are the links:
For Tate’s Street and Studio Flickr/Blurb book
For the Flickr group of Found Photographs
For the Flickr group of Threatened Coastal Heritage