Tuesday, 29 May 2007

Sharing the R+D load with other museums

Richard Urban at Museumatic rightly brought up the issue of inter-museum competition in a recent post. Understandably, some museums emulate others when bits of good practice come along, but wouldn't a more collaborative approach get us all further faster? The point is:

Working together to develop a community-wide research agenda that can then disseminate information and resources out to the community as a whole seems like a responsible and ethical way to approach this problem.... A research lab seems to be something we are seriously lacking here in museumland.... Who am I missing that does this kind of research on other kinds of museumtechnology issues?

Well, in the UK context, the London Museums Hub captures some of this collaborative spirit. The LMH is a partnership between 4 London museums (including the London Transport Museum, where I work), designed to share skills and improve capacity, with the aim of disseminating shared learning to other museums in the region.

Hub Spoke Wheel Mosaic

Perhaps an even more radical approach could be taken, where more energy is devoted to shared R+D work. What I mean is a kind of think tank approach, where partners even take part in combined brainstorming, and envisioning of museum futures. I have to come clean and say that I'm not really fully in the loop here: it may be that this kind of thing is already going on, either/both formallly or/and informally. If it hasn't been formalised, then there is clearly an opportunity here.

If we think creatively beyond the competition for funding, there may be a way to have our cake and eat it. The whole point of sharing is that the more you do it the better it works. What is unique about any given museum? It's collections. If we work together to develop technologies that can drive improvement in the user experience--even beyond the framework provided by LMH, new and productive combinations might be possible. The growing museum blogosphere is evidence of a collaborative ethos. Let's make the most of it. Overly idealistic? Maybe. Worth thinking about? Definitely.

1 comment:

Paul Orselli said...

You might be interested in knowing that a session to discuss ways to create peer mentoring and exhibit R&D groups will be presented at the upcoming 2007 ASTC Conference in Los Angeles.

The session is chaired by Devon Hamilton of the Ontario Science Center. Nina Simon (of Museum 2.0 blog fame) and myself, Paul Orselli, will also be participating.

This session is largely an outgrowth from some of the ideas that were discussed at the session “The Revolution Will Not Be Podcast” at the 2006 ASTC Conference. That session was a discussion regarding strategies for peer mentoring and development for less experienced science centre professionals. One of the ideas that was discussed, and enthusiastically endorsed by participants, was the notion of a roundtable peer review – an opportunity to share and critique each others ideas in a safe environment, to network with developers of different experiences and from very different institutions.

Our hope is to help develop models of "safe" environments for museum colleagues around the world to collaborate, mentor, and learn from each other as part of their ongoing exhibit development process.