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Monday, 14 July 2014

Open Culture Field Report

‘A museum object is not just for Christmas it’s for life’- Nick Merriman, Director of the Manchester Museum and Trustee of the Collections Trust

The Ministry enters the digital age...

'Museum and gallery collections in the UK are a noble kleptomania’- Sir Peter Bazalgette, Arts Council England

We think these quotes from two of our sectors' most distinguished members summarises the two day marathon that was Open Culture 2014 pretty accurately. It was a conference that was inspirational, insightful and more than a little bit silly. In a morning's session you could go from listening to the need for revised asbestos policies and the ins and outs of an international loans programme, to Nick Poole, CEO of the Collections Trust, cracking jokes about his crazy trips to visit museums around the world (including checking in to his hotel room late at to find it occupied by one very frightened Portuguese woman). You could learn everything you needed to know about marketing your collections from the Director of the Beamish Museum and then play with the latest 3D technology from Inition. Basically, Open Culture was some seriously museum-y fun.

Terri gets scanned into the 3D world
It’s difficult to bring back a field report from OpenCulture because there was simply so much to see and do. We heard about the most innovative projects in the sector at the Collections Trust Collections Management Awards. We played with new collections databases. We had ourselves scanned in 3D. We talked managing risks, digital skills and collections rationalization and disposals. We even had a conference wide debate about whether our museums should collect or die. After some heated debate, it seems that contemporary collecting is our way forward. As Nick Poole pointed out, we wouldn’t want the museum-goers of the future to think the period from 1790 to 1970 was the only time worth learning about. Don’t we have an obligation to collect and preserve our world now rather than just looking back to the Victorians? It was an eye opening point for the Victorian-obsessed Ministry of Curiosity, but a fair one.

Exhibitors and pastries galore (plus tote bags)
We at the Ministry had our own little part to play, hosting the first ever Open Culture Unconference. Delegates seemed a little hesitant to get up and talk for 10 minutes with only a few hours to prepare, but we were lucky enough to present some absolutely amazing speakers. Lucy Douglas, a Doctoral Research from Falmouth University, told the audience all about her Hayle Oral History App and how she was using sound to create a magical and immersive experience of Hayle history. Oral histories, archival images and sounds all help to bring a flavor of the historic area which is rapidly being lost. Peter Hanecak of EEA opened our eyes to open data and encouraged all museums to consider their open data infrastructure. Monika Lechner of Dutch Digital Heritage pushed the conversation even farther, exploring what museums will look like in the post-digital world. Not contented to just go on your smartphone for more information from a QR code or interactive activity, the objects will reach out to you. Galleries will create customized experiences which blend reality and the digital world.

The Mesch Project is already developing the interactive plinth for a post-digital world
With so many sessions to see, we are sure all the attendees walked away with new ideas to apply to their own work. Whether its rethinking your database metadata or working towards international partnerships, Open Culture really pushed us to think about how we can put our collections to work. We also have to say, in deference to the conference organizing gods at the Collections Trust- the food was amazing. You know how we whine about canapés in the museum sector? There was no skimping here. So if you want to learn how to pimp your collections review while drinking wine and listening to Nick Poole impersonate Cheryl Cole, you’d best get to next years conference!

Not a bad venue to spend a few days...

For more on what went down at the conference visit:

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