Week 26 at work

Due to the Christmas break this was a reduced working week with a skeleton crew running across much of the World it appears. My week was split pretty well between the web project and helping out on the galleries
We got the green light to proceed with building a new web platform for the service . This project will effectively build a new website to encompass the deep and breadth of our service activity addressing audience and business needs that have been brushed aside for various reasons. I have already begun the Discover phase so that we can get rolling asap.

We were short staffed for a few days so I volunteered to work out on the gallery which I have already written about. In addition to the Places Gallery I also had the pleasure of working on the City Lives Gallery which is a temporary exhibition in Gallery 5. Observing how the public engage with our buildings and collections is very valuable and i’ll be doing this again.

Working in a museum gallery

Today is Christmas eve 2013 and became my first experience working the floor of the Places Gallery at our M Shed museum.

For ninety minutes I was covering lunch breaks and had control of the radio in the gallery. Ever since I started back in July I have been trying to find out more about each of the locations and staff roles. This served as my introduction to one of the most important roles in the service, helping the public with enquires and keeping everything safe. In my role, if the wifi falls over or a computer fails, the museum continues to tick over. If there are not enough visitor assistants to safely manage the museum, we close. Digital technology roles are critical, but no single point of failure should close the doors (unless the doors fail!).

I took the time to explore the gallery in greater detail and being a biker, my favourite object is the Douglas Motorcycle  which I discovered was founded and made in Bristol. I was asked a few questions; How old is the giant floor map of Bristol and where is slug number 8 hiding (had to radio for the answer). During my patrols of the gallery I made sure to listen to the conversations by the public and watched them interact with the objects and most importantly for me, the technology.

From my observations it was clear to see that the computer kiosks are popular for short periods of time and that they are too high for very small children. Questions I then asked myself were: How can we make the kiosks work for even our smallest audiences? are they only used briefly as their task was complete or do they give up? Do we have analytics for every device to measure usage? What replacement process would we be considering for both hardware and software?

We have a mixture of screens that automatically play video on a loop, audio telephones, touch screens, and button triggered media. Those keyboards are already dated, not so much in function but the world has moved on and everybody tries to touch the screen instead of using the keyboard these days. I kept thinking about what I might change if I had the opportunity to refine and improve what we offer.

What became very obvious and clear during my stint was that the technology solutions we employ shouldn’t be considered in isolation. The public aren’t using these touch-points at home, on a bus or at work. They are sitting or standing in a large multifunction environment. When designing for gallery uses we should consider this context. Many of the public I saw were in small groups and small single person computers are not very helpful to this context. I can only guess that most gallery technology is an after-thought, rushed or makes assumptions that are never tested. I hope to change this for Bristol Museums. Our team has the remit, the will and a lot of the expertise in this area to design compelling public user experiences. If we team up with the visitor assistance staff , curators and the public we should hopefully raise the bar.

Now back to my office I go!

Week 25

Most folks were wrapping up for the year this week and our director is off to Sunny Australia. The focus was ensuring I had agreements and sign-off from anybody who wouldn’t be around during the holidays.

  • I spent a fair chunk of the week at the Bristol Records Office as two of the team are there and it is usual a good quiet place to do planning. The highlight here was exploring our building plans collection which we hope will form a great digital HLF proposal
  • During the final management team meeting I think we came away with a consensus  about our direction of travel as a service
  • I met the folks of Bristol Regional Environmental Records Centre (BRERC) and we had a chat about improving their website and general IT infrastructure requirements
  • Moved the Commonwealthonline website back to our server as part of my retiring costly service agreements with third parties
  • Mark P gave me a demo of his solution of using Dropbox to run daily updates to our Egypt gallery. One step closer to decommissioning that server, Hurrah.
  • Continued to work on the Nesta bid with Aardman
  • Spoke via the magic of Skype with a group of museum types about delivering training for the South West
  • Got the green light to host two events in 2014 for local gov and museum digital types
  • We finally got two TVs setup at our main site which we’ll be using for way finding and whats on type information for the public
  • Got the green light to run the discovery and Alpha phases of our website improvement project – web design agencies can holla until 6th January
  • prepared a service wide plan of attack for the digital strategy which now needs to go out to the teams for feedback and refinement

Sharing the future of digitisation

Hi all,

I support the work of the digitisation programme for the museum and Bristol Records Office. We have  1 stills officer and 1 moving images officer. I am thinking about what kit we need for digitising and digital storage for the next 5-10 years.

I thought i’d just ask that if anybody thinks that partnering up to share practices, resources (scanners, moving image equipment etc) and maybe LARGE data storage then please get in touch.

Questions I have been asking myself:

  • Can we share costs for expensive items like scanners?
  • The cost of data storage is massive, even using cloud hosting, I wonder of several similar services could share to be efficient?
  • How we can best use volunteers and students to help us?
  • There is some revenue in licensing BUT how can we react to the speed that production companies require?
  • Is there a better way to get the job done through shared work and collaboration?
  • Less resource every year… how can we be proactive in responding when less is NOT more it is less
  • What innovative uses of collections are people rolling out for public free or revenue use?
  • Why can I never pronounce ‘digitisation’ in public!


Swindon Heritage Strategy

Swindon Borough Council have unveiled their first ever Heritage strategy. The 18 page PDF makes note of the vision, aims and key objectives. The document has clearly been designed and written for print use.  It would be great if they had the headlines on a webpage instead of just a pdf.

Below are my key highlights from the document.

Read Swindon Heritage Strategy (pdf).

a. Develop a plan for a united museums offer across the borough.
b. Develop the town’s reputation as a hub for heritage expertise with
bodies such as English Heritage and the National Trust.
c. Develop partnerships between voluntary, public and business sectors
to develop the action plan.
d. Promote Swindon as a heritage destination.
e. Increase understanding and awareness of Swindon’s heritage for
residents and visitors.
f. Encourage the engagement of young people with Swindon’s heritage
through activities and partnerships with schools and youth orga
g. Promote Swindon’s heritage in development and regeneration.
h. Create a deeper understanding of Swindon’s heritage assets,
their importance, issues and ways to respond.

p18 Requirement to find a new home for the Swindon Museum and Art Gallery Collections.

The ongoing financial challenge to reduce the cost of delivering services through innovation and income generation

Week 24

Although the end of the calendar year is nearly upon us I have been looking at the financial year as my ‘North star’ so no mad rushing over here to complete projects before Christmas.

  • Me and the team spent about half a day looking at the high level (50,000 ft in David Allen GTD speak) activity for 2014. Much of our thinking is looking at where we want to position ourselves for 2015-2018 which is the duration of the next Arts Council funding stream
  • I took yet another stab at online shops. Running an online shop is the easy part. Trying to resolve payments and syncing to our finance system is soul-destroying. The Council just isn’t able to be responsive so I’m looking at how we can go around this rock-block
  • I met with aardman  to see if we can collaborate on a research and development project in 2014 so watch this space
  • Played good cop, bad cop for an introduction to social media session
  • Chopped it up with Martin P about how our service could engage with wikimedians. The only issue is that of the creative commons licensing which needs to allow commercial use. I hope that the trend of others embracing the ‘share-alike’ mindset will win over our service
  • Budget forecasting – monthly reminder of how much time can be wasted with a poor user interface
  • Agreed in principle to run some digital training for the service and to extend to other South West teams and services
  • Agreed what our digitisation focus will be for 2014. We’ll be concentrating on transferring magnetic tapes and moving a large collection from a legacy system
  • Had a planning session with the learning team about their website requirements
  • Discussed Enterprise
  • Finished up the week seeing the first working prototype of Team Eclair’s student project. They are using a world map and timeline approach to displaying our collection and i’m now very excited about where this may lead us

Week 23

The theme of this week collaboration and thinking more seriously about the first stages of a website redesign. I locked out  a large portion of my week to consider different directions for the website and also submitted the initial business case.

  • Met Nikesh Shukla who runs the web side of visit Bristol to see how we can help each other
  • Spent an afternoon with the conservation department to better understand their area of the service. Luckily for me they are also full of ideas for activities on a new website. Blogging is popular with them.
  • Had a fruitful introduction with Nomensa to hear about how they approach User experience. Making sense of the Cross-channel user experience is a concept I have long been trying to articulate into a single phrase . They also have a beer fridge!
  • Met with the Bristol Old Vic to see about collaboration and I really enjoyed hearing about their prototyping of sets and plays
  • Got the wheels moving on some digital signage (read TVs) with GB
  • Aardman left a message…



Where in your organisation does social media responsibility reside?

Where in your organisation does social media responsibility reside?
And do you have other hubs for social media other than the core team?
(And what are the strategies behind?


Social media lives within the content strategy, and is the equal responsibility of all staff and volunteers at Bristol Museum Service. My role, along with 1 marketing officer is to support (highlight the opportunities, training, guidelines etc) any individual and/or team.

Anybody can contribute to the official social media channels and are encouraged to think about why, how and when to use social media to support a project or theme of activity.

Our evaluation officer then evaluates our effort and we can then use the Build, Measure, Learn loop to improve.

We then have around 5 staff spread across the service who act as ‘champions’ helping their areas and feeding back to the folks interested in digital.

The content strategy is to whisper, shout, inform, engagement, promote, listen, experiment and interact in accordance with our mission.

In 2014 I hope to have social media / digital engagement specifically highlighted in all new job descriptions.


From: Museums Computer Group [MCG@JISCMAIL.AC.UK] on behalf of Kajsa Hartig
Sent: 05 December 2013 17:33

Subject: [MCG] Where does social media reside in your organisation?



Week 22

This week was super packed and organised around several major events. I have my head in our web strategy so here are the highlights.

  • Planned and delivered a communicating on the web mini 90min workshop which essentially said that Google is our homepage and content strategy is key.
  • Met a critical friend from the Arts Council and waxed lyrical about innovation and digital engagement
  • Discussed in more detail the digital requirements for next years Moved by Conflict exhibition
  • Progressed with 1 of our student project teams
  •  Attended the private view for the launch of the refurbished galleries five and six
  • Learned about budget forecasting
  • Attended the private view for the Wildlife Photographer of the Year which included our experiment with motion tracking and ghost slugs which I urge you to see for yourself and THANK YOU to Stef Goodchild