It’s Not About the Conference: Museums and the Web 2015

The first rule of the Museums and the Web conference–it’s not about the conference. The second rule–meet somebody. What better way start to a conference dedicated to sharing ideas about digital experiences in museums than reinforcing the idea to just get together and share!

The #MW2015 conference kicks off at the Palmer House in Chicago.

The #MW2015 conference kicks off at the Palmer House in Chicago.

I had the opportunity to attend the #MW2015 Conference in Chicago this year representing team Smithsonian Affiliations. As a “first timer” we were given ten guidelines for getting the most out of the meeting. The top five were:

5. Explore
4. Session hop
3. Check out the exhibit hall
2. Meet a new friend
1. Remember- it’s not about the conference!

We all know attending conferences is all about the networking. But here, bouncing ideas off of people is an even bigger priority. It’s even encouraged to skip a session if you are deep in conversation and learning something new. Skip a session? Outrageous, right?!! Not here. The power of collaboration and sharing ideas is key to the experience. Web developers, content managers, museum educators and museum curators all coming together to puzzle out this question of integrating digital into the museum experience. This would be an epic blog if I listed all of the amazing things I took away from the conference, so I’ll just provide some highlights. Bottom line- If you are interested at all in increasing content and engagement online and in person, and you’re interested in meeting some really cool people, this is a really incredible meeting.

My favorite takeaways:

  • storytellingWe are all built to learn things through stories. Not all stories are good stories, but those that are help direct your attention and ask questions and reflect on our lives and others lives. Empowering our whole team to see themselves as storytellers is important. It’s not chronology that is being sought but building connections from overlapping paths. From The Whole Story, and Then Some: ‘Digital Storytelling’ in Evolving Museum Practice
  • Endless browsing is becoming a substitute for deep contact. We want intuitive access with the right balance of control, surprise, visual pleasure and reward. From the XY&Z of Digital Storytelling: Dramaturgy, Directionality and Design. Slide deck here.
  • Internal communication is the key to selling research and improving the user experience when considering motivations of different segmented audiences. From Finding the Motivation Behind a Click: Definition and Implementation of a Website Audience Segmentation
  • We are not technology specialists; we are learning specialists. Technology is just a way to make art accessible. From Museum Making: Creating with Emerging Technologies in Art Museums.
  • place“Place” remains a key part of identity creation and community building within digital culture. Location is not place. Museums positioning themselves in the center of supporting communities are creating a greater sense of place. Connecting audiences with place values creates more engaged communities. From Beyond the Building: Creating and Supporting Communities Based on Place
  • Cultural organizations in change are fertile spaces for critical shifts in their digital work. When considering change: Don’t be afraid to lose some things for the better of the organization. The most interesting digital storytellers will likely NOT be in your digital team. There needs to be a clear project manager–the person who “owns” the project cannot “run” the project because they are too invested. KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE. Include ALL departments and have conversations about important changes. From Organising for Change and Change in Organisations
  • Digital is beyond the digital department–it is really in every aspect of our business. We need to become more nimble and efficient in how we deliver our services and digital can help us do that. If we don’t embrace it, we will be in danger of losing income, falling behind competitors, losing appeal and missing opportunities. From How to be a Digital Leader and Advocate: The Changing Role of the Digital Department

All-in-all it was an amazing experience. I look forward to using some of these ideas and inspiring change in my organization. Were you at #MW2015? Share your thoughts with us in the comments!

That's me in the background experiencing a wind vortex at the Museum of Science and Industry. Can't all be serious business, right?!

That’s me in the background experiencing a wind vortex at the Museum of Science and Industry. Can’t all be serious business, right?!