The Attic (a name which commemorates our first physical location) is, first and foremost, a site for the research students of the School of Museum Studies at the University of Leicester: a virtual community which aims to include all students, be they campus-based and full-time, or distance-learning and overseas. But we welcome contributions from students of museum studies - and allied subject areas - from outside the School and from around the world. Here you will find a lot of serious stuff, like exhibition and research seminar reviews, conference alerts and calls for papers, but there's also some 'fluff'; the things that inspire, distract and keep us going. After all, while we may be dead serious academic types, we're human too.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

UK Museums on the Web, Part the Seventh - and Last

Richard Morgan's Keynote

The internet has scattered the presence of museums across the world. In an informative and exciting speech, Richard Morgan presented how museums should and are dealing with this, and what the role of the museum is in the world of the Semantic Web. How do we, as cultural and marketable institutions, integrate the maverick activity of the online world with the 'corporate' activity of the museum?

The first task facing any museum in such an endeavor is to capture it's data. Simple enough, you might think. But with the magnitude of potential taxonomies that museums can use and the costs that are involved in such data collection, this task can seem insurmountable. But it isn't. Through generating innovative user interfaces and allowing members of the public to contribute to data collection, projects such as FABRIC and World Beach allow diverse and previously unconsidered connections to be made between diverse objects and permit wide ranging browsing options for system users.

But how do museums provide this? It's all very well, of course, talking from such a famous and well supported institution as the V&A, but what of museums which don't have such resources at their disposal? There's no doubt that this is hard. Richard Morgan showed that there are the resources out there - museums are already good at building strong concepts and projects which address particular niches, and there are already many tools out there (such as Flickr) that museums can use, but it is imperative that museums build networks to gain the resources and expertise to put such ideas to use online. There are those museums, of course, who are less aware of the possibilities of such work, and it is here, I maintain, that MCG needs to work to support institutions and groups.

We must move from niches to a world of web insight and intelligence. We must attempt to find links and fragments that aren't immediately obvious. We should use technology to work out how items in our collections are relevant – perhaps in terms of clothing fashion, for the V&A, it might be possible to predict trends, which we should learn to anticipate rather than exploit. We need to move from this observation and intelligence to action and participation. We need to inform consumers of information. 'Cutting Edge' projects such as Decode should of course be lauded - there is a world out there that is waiting for us to explore and enjoy. But when I say us, I mean all of us. The newly branded MGC aims to work for that, to connect, support, and inspire. I might be buzzing from yesterday still, but I am sure that they can.

Thank you to the V&A and the MCG for such an exciting, informative and enjoyable day. As my first real professional conference, it will remain in my memory for a long time to come. There are, no doubt, problems to be faced. But I hope that the museum community can face them together. I know that the innovative MCG will provide a wonderfully open forum in which ideas can be heard - from ALL members of the museological world.

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