Tag Archives: conference

September behind the scenes update

If you’ve been away on holiday, welcome back!

C24 Towers is alive with excitement at present. Nick and I are really chuffed that so many of you are keen to come to our free Museums at Night / Connect10 briefing sessions at the end of the month – which will now feature artists who took part in Connect10 in May sharing their experiences.

Briefing session update

The London session on Monday 23 September is now fully booked, but you can join the waiting list here.

There are still some free places available at the Birmingham briefing session at Winterbourne House on Thursday 26 September and the Bradford briefing session at the National Media Museum on Friday 27 September.

Let’s Get Real conference

LGR hotspot

We’re looking forward to Culture24’s conference in our home town of Brighton on 16 September, Let’s Get Real: an honest look at digital change. Meet the speakers and see the full programme, and find out more about the Action Research Project which forms the background to the new report we’ll be launching.

Find out who else is coming and get yourself a ticket here: https://letsgetreal2013.eventbrite.co.uk/ – and if you come along please say hello! I’ll be handling the front of house, and Nick will be stage managing.

Rosie’s Heritage Open Days highlights

Finally, I was asked to pick out my top ten unusual museum events from the Heritage Open Days programme, but it simply couldn’t be done – there are so many intriguing happenings to choose from over the 12-15 September!

From cult leaders to windpumps and tea parties through the ages, here are my Top 14 unusual museum highlights from Heritage Open Days.

Interview with Laura Crossley, Museums at Night cluster coordinator supreme

I recently spoke about Museums at Night marketing through partnerships at the thoroughly interesting Culture Matters conference in Norwich. It was great to meet so many other culture and heritage professionals, compare ideas, and learn about exciting new projects, and I particularly enjoyed the opportunity to explore the stories behind the Norwich 12 iconic heritage buildings with their stunning architecture and history.

A smiling woman standing at a lectern giving a presentation

I spoke about Museums at Night partnerships as part of the Culture Matters conference marketing strand. Image courtesy Norwich HEART & Jemma Mickleburgh

One of the most exciting outcomes is that I’ve been invited to visit Norwich’s sister city, Ghent in Belgium, for their Night of Museums. I’ll be very interested to see how their festival works – and of course I’ll share any good ideas!

While we were at Culture Matters, I took the opportunity to record a chat in the Green Room with Laura Crossley, who has coordinated clusters of Museums at Night activity for three years running. Last year she brought together the Victorian Nights themed cluster, running activities across multiple organisations across three North Norfolk towns.

In this video interview, Laura discusses how to build good working relationships with a range of partners, her recommendations for joint marketing, some of the challenges she’s noticed and how to overcome them.

If you work in a museum, gallery or heritage site and are considering partnering with other local organisations to offer a joint programme of Museums at Night activity, it’s worth watching Laura’s tips: she has a lots of good suggestions for sources of support, event marketing and audience development which could really make a difference to your community.

Guest post: Oonagh Murphy reviews the Let’s Get Real conference

It’s been an extremely busy few months working on the Action Research Report and planning the Let’s Get Real conference on How to Evaluate Online Success, which took place in Bristol last week. The full report and associated resources are now available to download for free:

Download the Action Research Report http://bit.ly/qc58yL

Social Media Metrics toolkit

Google Analytics healthcheck list

Guide to setting up advanced user segments

I asked one delegate, University of Ulster PhD student Oonagh Murphy, to share her impressions of the event.

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The Let’s Get Real conference was the outcome of a two year research project. The project included 17 partners from Kew to the Royal Shakespeare Company and explored how cultural organisations could evaluate online success.

The first night of the conference saw the launch of the Let’s Get Real Action Research Project report. Whilst the report provides key benchmarking data, all involved in this project expressed the need to continue to develop our understanding of what online success is, and how we measure it within success-orientated funding structures.

The sponsorship of both the conference launch party and future training events by Google demonstrates the reach of this research: more than simply being a paper report it has made a case for digital, for innovation but also for accountability and metrics in the wider cultural sector. The support of Google adds a certain gravitas to what the report says and indeed helps position this report within broader digital conversations that are taking place outside of cultural organisations.

With conference registration starting at 8.15 on the second day I think we all knew we were in for a busy and challenging day. The conference opened with keynotes from Tom Uglow, Creative Lead at the Google Creative Lab, Europe and Matt Locke from Storythings.  What both Tom and Matt brought to the table were insights from other industries, something that perhaps we as cultural organisations need to listen to more of.

a man showing a slide in a presentation

Tom Uglow gives his keynote speech. Photo courtesy Ruth Harper

Tom talked about the importance of vision rather than scale, encouraging cultural organisations to think big and start small. Matt highlighted Million Pound Drop as a good example of a dual screen format which encourages viewers to play a game live on their computer whilst watching their TV. He cited dual screen formats as ways to increase attention share: for museums, this could increase engagement and indeed the impact of an experience.

Jane Finnis discussed the Let’s Get Real Report, but rather than paraphrasing I would direct you to the foreword she has written in the report. It sums up the case for this and indeed further research perfectly.

Two women at a presentation

Mia Ridge was surprised to see herself in Emma McLean's presentation. Photo courtesy Ruth Harper

Before lunch came the Failing Forwards session: whilst quite an unusual session it proved to be a valuable one. A range of cultural organisations stood up and said this is a project that we did, it failed, this is why, and this is what you can learn from our mistakes.  You can read more about this session on my personal blog.

After lunch we broke into two parallel sessions, a Crit Room where a range of organisations put forward their websites to be critiqued by a panel of experts, or Talk Tables (think a cross between speed dating and networking). I opted for the talk tables and got some really useful advice from a range of different companies such as TripAdvisor, Cogapp and JISC. Every 10 minutes a bell rang and that was our cue to move to the next table. This was a great way to start conversations, many of which I have already picked up by email.

I think we all left with more questions than perhaps answers, but then it is always nice to leave a conference feeling both inspired and challenged.

I should end by saying a big thank you to all the speakers for sharing their stories and of course to the Watershed for being such great hosts.

A smiling blonde woman

Oonagh Murphy

Oonagh Murphy is a museums and digital culture PhD student at the University of Ulster. She blogs at oonaghmurphy.com and tweets @Oonaghtweets

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Thanks very much, Oonagh! I have a couple more blog posts to write this week, sharing my new knowledge on how to promote a conference and how to actually run one. Yes, I’ve learned a lot!

For other people’s views on the report and the conference, read more below:

Chris Unitt shares the key points from the Action Research Report

Seb Chan reflects on being part of the Action Research Project

Mar Dixon discusses the Let’s Get Real conference

Hugh Wallace gives his closing thoughts from the conference

B Hunter collates tweets from the conference with Storify

Katie Smith rounds up her take on the conference

Ylva French shares her notes from the conference

Let’s Get Real conference 2011: discover the programme and meet the speakers!

Plans are well underway for Culture24’s Let’s Get Real conference 2011: How to Evaluate Success Online? which will take place in Bristol’s Watershed Media Centre from September 20 – 21.

Buy your tickets now: http://letsgetrealconference.eventbrite.com/

Let's Get Real conference logo
You can now explore the complete conference programme here. One of the options for Wednesday afternoon is to receive personalised guidance from key industry players at a series of Talk Tables – find out how they’ll work here, and meet the speakers who’ll be presenting at the conference.

Learn more about the Action Research Project, How to Evaluate Success Online? which ran for over a year and involved numerous UK cultural and heritage organisations tracking and sharing details of their online activities: the Action Research Project Report will be launched during the conference, and we look forward to sharing and discussing what has been learned as a result of this new work.

Hotel rooms at the Ibis Bristol Harbourside Hotel are available at a specially discounted rate of £67 – learn more about this offer here.

We’re also delighted that Museum Studies students have begun applying for our 5 specially subsidised £50 conference tickets: please share this link http://bit.ly/nCkTZb with any postgraduates who may be interested!

Early bird discount tickets at £150 are only available until 31st August. From 1st September onwards, tickets will cost the full price of £180.

Buy your tickets now: http://letsgetrealconference.eventbrite.com/

Student discount tickets to Culture24’s Let’s Get Real conference

It’s great to see so much interest in Culture24’s conference Let’s Get Real: How to Evaluate Success Online? Tickets are selling well, lots of people are getting excited about it on Twitter, and Culture24 director Jane Finnis and I just made a reconnaissance trip to our conference venue, the wonderful Watershed in Bristol. It’s an inspiring place right on the waterfront, full of creative people – I think we’re in for a brilliant couple of days in September!

There was also a flurry of interest in our Action Research Project following the presentation Jane and Seb Chan gave at the Arts Marketing Association conference in Glasgow last week – you can watch their presentation, and hear their song, here:

http://livestre.am/SQr7

The conference will see the launch of our final report on the Action Research Project, and many of the speakers and workshops will be focusing on drilling in to the results and looking at what they may mean for cultural and heritage organisations’ online offers.

Student discounts

Several Museum Studies students have got in touch asking about discounted tickets to the conference. 5 tickets will be available for students at the specially discounted price of £50 each.

Culture24 welcome postgraduate students taking Museum Studies or a related discipline to apply for one of the five subsidised tickets.

To apply for these tickets, you must email rosie@culture24.org.uk by 5pm on Friday 26th August with

1)      Your name

2)      Your address

3)      No more than 50 words explaining why this conference is relevant to your studies

Culture24 will email all applicants on Monday 29th August notifying those who have been successful.

Further conference tickets are available through http://letsgetrealconference.eventbrite.com/ at the Early Bird price of £150, if purchased before Wednesday 31st August. From Thursday 1st September onwards conference tickets will be priced at £180 each.

Full terms and conditions can be found here: http://www.culture24.org.uk/terms+and+conditions

Guest post: Rhiannon Looseley on ‘Go Collaborate,’ the Museums Computer Group spring meeting

It was fantastic to be able to host the Museums Computer Group spring meeting here at Culture24 Towers. The following guest blog post is a condensed report from Rhiannon Looseley, Online Learning Manager at the Museum of London: you can read her full report here on her blog.

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These are a few points from the MCG Spring meeting that took place on Friday 17th June 2011. The opinions expressed here are my own and not those of my employer, the MCG, or anyone else present unless stated.

Culture24 director Jane Finnis wanted the day to bridge relationships between sectors that aren’t yet working together.  She suggested that the ‘space’ that we work in is in some ways full of exciting opportunities, but can also be challenging.  It’s changing rapidly, with the MLA’s responsibilities shifting to the Arts Council. Jane senses some trepidation among those of us working in the not-for-profit sector about working with the commercial sector, possibly due to discomfort with their goal of making money, which is not our primary aim.  The pressures of the funding cuts mean that we are going to have to generate our own income: we need to reflect on what we don’t have the expertise to deliver, but the commercial sector might have.

Andrew Nairne, Executive Director of the Arts Council, talked about this transition and how museums, libraries and archives can fit into the Arts Council’s world. The functions of the MLA would be transferring to the Arts Council on 1 October this year.  Reassuringly, he explained that they are currently in close collaboration with the current MLA staff to work out the implications of this changeover.  A lot of discussion at present is centring on how to integrate the work of museums and libraries into the strategic aims of the Arts Council, established three years ago in their publication ‘Achieving Great Art for Everyone’. A companion volume to this will be published online in the autumn that will explain how our sector will fit in with all these goals. (Archives will not fall under the ACE banner – MLA’s responsibilities for archives will apparently go to The National Archives).

Andrew then announced a new funding stream, run together with NESTA and the AHRC that asks arts and cultural organisations to work with those with digital expertise :

‘to help them understand the potential offered by new technologies and together develop innovative project proposals for submission to this new research fund, which is for projects that will harness digital technologies to connect with wider audiences and explore new ways of working.’

I found the press release about the funding on the ACE website. The funders seem willing to fund experimentation, which is important if we want to continue to innovate.

Honor Harger talked about some of the collaborative projects that Lighthouse (our venue for the day) have been working on – one really cool-sounding one got artists and scientists to work together on a project where the public were also allowed to drop in and participate – it involved infected textiles, and fruit flies and smelly things: http://www.lighthouse.org.uk/whatson/laboratorylifeopenlab.htm

Ross Parry led a discussion with Andrew and Honor and the audience.  For Oliver Vicars-Harris, what makes collaboration succeed is ‘mutual respect – respecting differences, different skills and different relationships.’  Honor agreed that it’s about compromise. Collaboration is seldom easy and one of the hardest things is what you have to give up, which can often be your whole way of working.

I was also interested to hear Jon Pratty’s account of a presentation he’d heard at the Open Cultures conference by Matthew Cock from the British Museum and Andrew Caspari from the BBC who were talking about their recent collaboration on the A History of the World project. Both recognised that they had underestimated what would be involved, but Jon found it interesting that they had reached a place in their collaboration where they were able to talk openly and honestly. (Thanks to Mia Ridge for pointing out this blog about this session: http://www.meanboyfriend.com/overdue_ideas/2011/06/open-culture-2011-a-history-of-the-world/).

Mia also noted that the research information network is releasing a report quite soon about some of the barriers to collaboration, some of which is based on work with museums.

Kevin Bacon gave an interesting talk about photography digitisation and image sales in Brighton Museums, and led a lunchtime visit to Brighton Museum and Art Gallery.

The afternoon featured four presentations from commercial companies on why they wanted to work with the cultural sector. It seemed clear that the museum sector may need to adjust some of its working practices with external companies, but I felt strongly that this readjustment needs to happen on both sides.

Chris Thorpe’s presentation about Artfinder explained their approach and raised some interesting points about user-centred design, e.g. that users are often looking to apps as a distraction, and that their size, context and finishability are also significant.  I felt that everything that was being discussed at that point was about art.  This was perhaps inevitable given that Chris worked on Artfinder but I began to think ‘but what about other museum objects?’  I tentatively tweeted ‘Museums aren’t just about art though…’ and was cheered to find a number of people retweeting and seeming to agree.  Perhaps this was a slightly unfair criticism, but if the object of the presentation was to demonstrate our shared goals and understanding, I remained unconvinced since the collections I work with and my background is much more history-based.  There seemed to be an assumption that understanding/being passionate about art meant understanding museums.

The second presentation was by Andy Budd from Clearleft.  Andy pointed out that small companies like his are not solely about making money and ensuring ‘a retirement fund’. They don’t see the museum sector as ‘a market segment,’ but like solving problems and their ultimate goal is to add value and make the world a better place. I could see that Andy was genuine about this. He did add, however, that just as we fear profiteering, so the commercial sector fear cost-cutting and ‘design by committee’ and that if they ask for more money, it’s not because they’re money-grabbing but because more money means more of their time and better and smarter solutions.

While I understood Andy’s points, it was also challenging for museum professionals worrying about funding cuts, squeezed budgets and possible redundancies to be told that it could be necessary to invest more money, not less, to deliver creative outcomes.

Furthermore, whilst ‘design by committee’ can be frustrating, it’s important not to confuse it with simply taking advantage of the many different skills in our sector. On the learning projects I work on, those that have input from documentation experts, curators and learning staff plus senior management sign off are the richest.  If managed properly, this number of ‘cooks’ don’t necessarily ‘spoil the broth’.

Certain further comments from the commercial sector that afternoon added to my sense that the bridge between the commercial and museum sectors goes both ways, and efforts to cross it need to be equal:

  • ‘Having a certain budget creates constraints. There is an urgency to get stuff done to move on to the next project…’
  • ‘A lot of what the cultural sector is doing is marketing. Sometimes people don’t want what you’re selling.’

Further presentations from Sky Arts and Google were also very interesting.

There was lots of discussion about museum procurement policies and practices.  Certain practices are incredibly frustrating for designers, and may mean certain companies won’t work with our sector.  There was a feeling in the audience, however, that we as a sector know that our processes are flawed and have tried to change it, but are in many cases powerless to do so.

Useful advice for us included running a ‘thinking day’ at the start of a project where you pay people from several companies for their time to come and discuss ideas: you get to know them, and choose one or two to take discussions forward with before going through formal tendering requirements.

I also found myself wondering what exactly we all meant by ‘collaboration’.  The BBC/British Museum History of the World project was obviously a collaboration, but Friday’s discussions seemed to become about describing scenarios where museums commission commercial companies to build things (which we are already doing, albeit with potential room for improvement).  These scenarios seemed to offer little help with the financial constraints we’re currently facing. Collaboration to me implies more of an equal footing, and a way in which we can work differently to continue to reap benefits with smaller budgets. If this is to happen, the mutual respect and willingness to change working practices that were highlighted by Oliver and Honor earlier in the day are crucial, but my feeling from the day is that this isn’t just about the museum sector’s willingness to change.

I’d like to represent what seemed to be perceived as a rather clunky and frustrating sector in a better light. We’ve got breathtaking collections for starters, we’ve got some incredibly knowledgeable people who make the stories of those objects come alive, we’ve got learning experts who know our audiences and are skilled and practiced at interpreting our collections in a way that fascinates and engages people and actively improves their lives.  Yes, we can sometimes seem idiosyncratic and slow, and sometimes lots of people will have input into a project, but I love those idiosyncracies, and I love that I work in a sector where it’s still OK to have them.  We’re unlikely to ever have much money in the foreseeable future, but I hope that the commercial sector can see us as creative, intelligent people who have some amazing and unique stories to tell.  We’ve got things we need to learn and we’re doing our best, so perhaps take some time to get to know our working practices, and then maybe we can all work together towards the greater good!

I hope those that were at the conference think this is an accurate portrayal of what happened. For those of you that weren’t there, I hope this is useful.

You can read Jane Finnis’s take on the day on her blog here: http://janefinnis.wordpress.com/2011/07/07/notes-and-take-homes-from-the-museums-computer-group-spring-meeting-culture24-hosted-in-brighton-in-june-2011/

Please feel free to discuss any points in the comments!

A black and white photo of a woman smiling

Rhiannon Looseley

Rhiannon Looseley is a museum professional working in the field of museum online learning. You can connect with her on Twitter (@rlooseley) or LinkedIn (http://www.linkedin.com/in/rhiannonlooseley).

Let’s Get Real conference 2011: Evaluating online success in the cultural sector

Culture24 are delighted to announce our first ever conference in the UK!

Let’s Get Real conference 2011: Evaluating online success in the cultural sector

When: Tuesday 20th September, 5pm-9pm
and Wednesday 21st September, 9am-6pm.

Where: Watershed, Bristol

Cost:All-inclusive early bird price: £150 (£180 after August 31)

The Let's Get Real conference logo

Do we really know what we are doing online? Does counting the visitors to our websites really tell us anything? Do we need all the social media channels we start? Is there evidence of real engagement happening online? Do we really know what we are trying to achieve and who it is for?

These are difficult questions that everyone developing online services needs to ask themselves. It has almost become a cliché to say that online technologies have touched our lives, changed our behaviour and altered our expectations. The cultural sector is not immune to these changes, but how do we know if we are actually doing well?

Come and join Culture24 for some honesty, plain-speaking and troubleshooting. You can listen to great presentations, find out about our latest action research and most importantly join in the workshops, Crit Room, helpdesks and breakout sessions. You will leave with a better understanding of not just what success online might look like, but what it can mean for your organisation.

Click here to book your tickets now!

Conference highlights

Session with Matt Locke (Storythings.com)

Lessons on “failing forwards” from Action Research partners (see list below)

Practical workshop strands looking at both strategy and tactics

Crit Room: submit your site’s problems for some friendly group therapy and constructive analysis

Informal Talk Tables to meet with key industry players for problem solving and troubleshooting

Evening social event with yummy ‘Real’ food & drink sourced locally, and the chance to play games and have fun

Keynote: Tom Uglow

A man wearing a hat and scarf

Tom Uglow

Creative Lead at the Google Creative Lab, Tom Uglow will talk at Culture24’s Let’s Get Real 2011 conference about the role of digital for cultural institutions.

Tom will focus on how pervasive digital has become, how it is no longer a broadcast channel, or a ticket sales outlet, but is expected to be an entire world that has to sit alongside whatever you do in the traditional, physical world. Looking at what a cultural institution’s role is – whether that is to preserve, to curate, to educate, or simply to inspire – he will explore how you can align your organisation around both platforms of digital and physical space.

He will also talk about the importance of understanding your mission, your audience, your ‘users’ and how every activity you undertake flows both to and from your online and offline presence. The keynote will stress the importance of being open to experimentation, building, packaging and iteration – identifying your successes and accepting your failures. Hopefully, adds Tom, “with a few actual things that are useful thrown in”.

Culture24’s Action Research Project: How to Evaluate Online Success?

Following the How to Evaluate Online Success presentation at Museums and the Web 2011, Culture24 and partners are delighted to launch the findings of our Action Research Project at our first UK conference.

Find out more about the Action Research Project here.

A group of people standing in front of a mural on a sunny day

Action Research Project partners outside Culture24's office in Brighton

This collaborative project involves 24 organisations and agencies from across the cultural heritage and arts sector in the UK: British Library, National Gallery, Science Museum, Tate, British Museum, Kew, National Maritime Museum, Imperial War Museum, National Portrait Gallery, Watershed, Royal Shakespeare Company, National Museums Scotland, National Museum Wales, Design Museum, English Heritage, Roundhouse, Powerhouse Museum, DCMS, Arts Council of England, Heritage Lottery Fund, Museums, Libraries & Archives Council (MLA), University of Leicester, Birmingham Museums & Art Gallery and Culture24.

Click here to book your conference tickets now!

The full conference agenda will be available soon. To receive email updates about the Let’s Get Real conference, the Action Research Project, and Culture24’s other work please sign up here.