We’ve just taken part in a thought-provoking live chat for the Guardian Culture Professionals network on mobile in museums. It aimed to ask a range of probing questions:
Why address the same old issues when we can take a deeper look at the role mobile can, should and does play in museum development and audience engagement? We want to discuss the practical, organisational and financial barriers that can scupper a great idea; we want to look at the finer points of user experience, responsive design, and the tech and tools available.
We also want to look at the audience, from the differences between on-site and off-site users to how different demographics interact with mobile. And what about data – should you be collecting it, how can you measure it and in what ways can those results be used for future iterations?
It proved to be a really interesting and lively discussion, ranging across topics such as the benefits of and barriers to creating good mobile projects, carrying out qualitative research in the gallery, simplicity vs complexity, favourite museum apps, funding, google glasses, interpretation in gallery vs on mobile and more. Last count it was up to over 230 comments!
Comments will be left on over the weekend and we’ll try and pop back to the discussion so do get stuck in if you’ve got more to add.
Also on the panel were Hugh Wallace (head of digital media, National Museums Scotland), Tom Grinsted (product manger: core mobile applications, Guardian News and Media), Dianne Greig (associate director, digital, Culture Sparks), Matthew Tyler-Jones (consultant, visitor experience, National Trust), Linda Spurdle (digital manager, Birmingham Museums) and Andrew Nugee (chief exec, Imagineear).
On the 31st May the Guardian Culture Professionals published an article by Matthew Petrie of Fusion Analytics that caused a bit of a fuss amongst museum professionals on twitter and in the comments.
Dear museums, we love you. You inspire, engage and educate. We visit you to have an experience, to learn something new, or for a day out with family and friends. We love you because you actively bring change and development to our communities. You just make us feel good.
And it seems that you London Museums are having a bit of a moment. The British Museum was recently named the UK’s most visited attraction in 2012 for a sixth year running, while Tate Modern moved into second place, with a 9% rise in attendance from the previous year. The V&A had its most successful exhibit ever with Hollywood Costume (over 250,000 visits) and David Bowie has just become the fastest selling event in the museum’s history. Well done.
But now we need to have a word. Many of you celebrate the past, history and heritage exquisitely, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be forward thinking too. See all those people coming through your doors? You know what the vast majority of them don’t leave home without? That’s right, their mobiles.
You can read the rest of the article here and see some of the response on twitter here. People took issue with the tone, the suggestion that museums weren’t thinking about this already, and the focus on technology over audience experience, in particular. The Guardian Culture Professionals network asked us to write a response, which was published last week.
We can’t just blindly copy from one museum to another or replicate old formats on the new devices. Creating a mobile experience is a design activity and must take the context and audience needs into consideration. As our museums professionals at the ME:CA workshop acknowledged, one size rarely fits all. As a sector we are beginning to develop tools and evidence that can help organisations identify where and for whom mobile can deliver the biggest impact and we are excited by the potential this offers.
Our experience at ME:CA is that few museums believe that mobile is a silver bullet that will enable visitors to engage by simply delivering more stuff. There is acknowledgement that mobile is a very powerful tool, but it is just a tool and one that we need to master. It should be used strategically – in the right way, with the right audience, and at the right time.
Read the whole article here and please do let us know your thoughts in the comments, here or on the Guardian site.
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