Friday, 27 April 2007

All Change - British Museum, London

Some really interesting and inspiring ideas were flying around at this conference yesterday, focusing on how to "adapt and thrive in the digital age."

John Dolan (Head of Library Policy at MLA) reminded us that public libraries have traditionally been about opening access to users, so web 2.0 isn't anything too revolutionary for the mla sector--it's just an extension of what we've been doing for years.

Our institutions, he said, have an important role (almost therapeutic) in helping people to cope with that state of "informed bewilderment" that is life in the digital age [at least on one side of the digital divde anyway].

Brian Kelly of UKOLN stole the show with his energetic and informed challenge to received wisdom, leaving me (and many others I'm sure) with no excuses about taking web 2.0 forward in some way, shape or form. Every organisation needs to look carefully at their needs and what users actually want, but it's clear that the challenges aren't primarily technical.

At London Transport Museum, we're coming to to the end of a £20m+ transformation project and we'll be launching a brand new website to go with it. With more and more web users coming to expect 2.0 features, we'll be missing a trick if we don't take some calculated risks and make a start.

And, by using RSS technology, or having a myspace or facebook presence, or a few flickr galleries, museums can send a message that they're not standing still. Not to mention leveraging these web platforms at little cost to themselves.

In a way, this is just an extension of the sort of outreach and community programme work that museums have done for a long time.

In the 19th century, pioneers like George Birkbeck in the UK and Josiah Holbrook in the US advocated "mutual instruction", where small groups of workingmen educated one another, taking turns leading discussions about topics from mathematics to bricklaying to horticulture. A precursor of knowledge communities and discussion forums on the web today?

So, it seems there's nothing new here.

I'll be looking more closely at Brian Kelly's blog later--but this is definitely one to watch.


Brian said...

Many thanks for your kind comments about my talk at the "All Change: Adapt and Thrive" in a Digital Age" conference. Note that my slides are available on the UKOLN Web site, and a version is also available on the Slideshare repository service - which allows people to add comments.

Vinisha said...

What an exciting experience!/Hilarious! Delightful! True!/wonderful stuff! thank you!
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