Blog

Co-curation and the Public History of Science Workshop Part 2

By: Dr Lynda Kelly, Category: Museullaneous, Date: 24 Oct 2010

Quick notes from Day 2 of the workshop at the Science Museum, London.

Primary students with paintbrushes

Stuart Humphreys © Australian Museum

Session 1 Provocation: New ways to engage people in exhibitions

Andrew Pekarik, Program Analyst, Office of Policy and Analysis, Smithsonian Institution

  • Continually look for difference to embody the museum experience: see the difference; be the difference; use the difference to determine content and display, test and experiment with the difference and identify new difference (and external cycle of seeing, being, using, testing).
  • IPO typology used at the Smithsonian – their research has found that visitors have a preference either for ideas, for people, or for object (I think visitors will move in and out of this tho depending on experience, mood and what they’re seeing? I also wonder about categorizing visitors in these ways and have written about that here. Also in my doctoral work I found that identity was fluid and continually changes before, during and after the visit)
  • Project teams need to be made up of multiple decision makers representing diverse perspective. Need to diversify our teams. Suggestion is to use IPO typology to assemble project team and guide decisions on content and design, ensure decision and processes are not hierarchical.
  • Exhibitions need to attract, engage and then ‘flip’ visitors to encourage them to have a different experience to their preference.
  • Whole team need to be involved in studying visitors so they take on board findings and change their practices.
  • If you’re a decision maker on the team you have to be out with visitors seeing what they are doing.
  • Process of exhibitions development: Idea-people-object ? IPO team – 3D objects ? attract-engage-flip ? whole-tem visitor studies ? design research ? begin again

Panel 1: International examples
As I was presenting didn’t take notes so best refer to the twitter stream which can be found on the wiki here. I will write my presentation up when I get a minute or two (promise!).

Panel 2: Public history: participating with the past http://bit.ly/a6vSKv

Helen Weinstein, Head of the Institute for the Public Understanding of the Past

  • What does public history mean now? She defines it as any place where past and present meet, need to understand public engagement with the past in the now.
  • Different approaches to delivering history on TV and audience: voices of authority (delivers white male audience aged 50+); history as dramatical reconstruction using primary sources such as letters and newspaper clippings (delivers female skewed audience); history as reality TV such as 1940s house, etc (delivers family audience); history as celebrity journey, e.g. who do you think you are (generates large audience watching actual TV, not rerun on YouTube!). Why do the latter two work? It is the emotional structure and idea of a journey or quest.
  • We need to think about multiplatform approaches to delivering content to extend audience reach.
  • We need to understand audience engagement on line – more than just numbers, what are they actually doing there?

Here’s some AM stuff on measuring for you Helen:

Roger Lewry, Archives Liaison Officer, Federation of Family History Societies
Why study family history?

  • Intrigued by stories handed down within family
  • Want to understand what lies behind a family name
  • Follow up a contact, someone with similar name
  • Become interested via other avenues (e.g. TV shows)

How can museums help in family history?

  • Add background information to lives of our ancestors
  • Where an area was known for a particular trade where tools and materials may be displayed
  • Examples of types of buildings from different periods reconstructions, fotos etc
  • Living museums such as Sovereign Hill bring those days back to life
  • Specialist museums such as postal museums have information and objects

John Wood, Head of Training and Skills Development, The National Archives

  • Decided to change his talk based on previous day’s Twitter stream (onya John!).
  • Archives are boring bunches of paper and hard to convey their content, need to work out what the content is and then categorise it simply
  • They found that digitisation led to more interest and requests.
  • To meet user needs have to move beyond jargon – start from where they are, watch them, sit with them, observe them. Found they were looking for information under three categories: person, subject, place.
  • By building research trails based on 3 categories built repeat visitation and more sophisticated searches.

Andrew Chitty, Managing Director, Illumina Digital

  • London recut – get Londoners to tell stories about London, put 100 archive clips online and encouraged people to make their own film in their own ways that were meaningful to them. Found that they needed to provide easy tools to help First principle of co-curation is to open up to them, next is to share and allow content to be shipped around the internet, go where your audience is.
  • Value is whatever the audience thinks is interesting not what the institution thinks, won’t work at all if you’re not open.

Reflections so far, Tim Boon, Science Museum:

  • Need to ask why are we doing participation – for the sake of it or as an instrument?
  • Lines of demarcation between participants and museum
  • Participation can be small-scale, how to make it on bigger scale?
  • Different structures of narrative
  • Relationship between bricks and mortar gallery and online – how to bring together and get each to play to their strength
  • Issues of quality of data

Find notes from Day 1 of the workshop here and an archive of today's tweets are on the workshop wiki here.