‘Power to the People’: UK Museums on the Web 2013

Photograph on the Thames

Pre-conference jitters near Tate Modern
Photograph: Nicole Cama/@MuseumMinx

Last November I attended The Museums Computer Group UK Museums on the Web at the Tate Modern. This is a belated post I know, but I thought I’d share a couple of things from the day. What attacted me to this conference was the theme, ‘Power to the People’, which is a compelling and exciting idea for cultural institutions to be exploring. Papers presented throughout the day addressed the notion of the ‘citizen curator’, crowdsourcing projects, community engagement online and collaboration within and across institutions.

A particular highlight for me was listening to Jesse Alter and Simon Delafond from Imperial War Museums discuss a group they established for staff of the museum to experiment with digital tools and social media platforms. Computer Club extends to all staff in all five of their sites. In many ways, this challenges traditional ideas of where “digital” sits within an institution as it aims to encourage all staff to be involved. Check out the results of some of Computer Club’s sessions.

Hannah Freeman from The Guardian gave her thoughts on ‘open journalism’ and how community participation is changing the way news is being reported and shared. One of its principles, Freeman noted, is that it ‘encourages others to initiate debate, publish material or make suggestions. We can follow as well as lead. We can involve others in the pre-publication process.’

This principle resonated with me as it relates to a project close to my heart here at the Australian National Maritime Museum. Sharing the museum’s photographic collection on Flickr Commons has been the most rewarding part of my job. The Flickr community have enriched the collection more than I ever thought possible, combing through and researching each image, identifying the places and faces of the past.

There is value in nurturing this community and acknowledging their hard work. I’m excited to be working on an exhibition that has sprung out of the efforts of those we like to call our ‘super sleuths’ and ‘armchair archaeologists’. #HoodsHarbour will comprise a small selection of some of the most viewed and favourited photographs from our Flickr Commons photostream.

Like open journalism, the crowdsourcing of history is now adding layers of meaning to cultural collections. These contributors are also citizen historians or citizen curators – researching and interpreting historical objects and sharing their knowledge online. This is what ‘Power to the people’ really means for me.

Special thanks to those from Museums Computer Group, who made the day so wonderful and inspiring.

See also:


7 thoughts on “‘Power to the People’: UK Museums on the Web 2013

  1. lyndakelly61 says:

    Thnx for this post Nicole. Crowdsourcing was identified in the Horizons Report as a key technology to be adopted in the next 12 months (http://www.nmc.org/publications/2013-horizon-report-museum ). They attribute the growth in this to “Crowdfunding, as one of the fastest growing areas of crowdsourcing, particularly due to the advent of Kickstarter, Crowdfunder, Indiegogo, and similar websites”.
    Also thanks for all the useful links – looking forward to #HoodsHarbours too!

  2. lyndakelly61 says:

    Should we try something similiar? I have the mugs from when I ran the AustMuseum’s MUGS (aka Museum Users Group) – the first nine people who turned up got to drink their wine out of a nice pottery mug instead of a plastic one!

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