The “Remix the Museum” was the session we were most looking forward to with Don Undeen from the Met in New York, Samuel Bausson and Mar Dixon from Museomix and Oonagh Murphy, a freelance arts manager and PhD student.
Oonagh opened the session speaking about how smaller museums can adapt digital technology to enhance their more traditional offerings. She explained how MOMA PS1 have been experimental with their event programme as well as their artwork collections, every Saturday in summer they have live music and DJ’s in the courtyard, which sees people queueing to get in and sells out every week. The strategy behind this is that as well as introducing attendees to new music and sounds it will encourage them to return at a later date to have a look around, as well as the promotion of awareness about the museum on social media. A similar project happens in Amsterdam at Museum Night when events are based around museums’ collections with themes and free return tickets are given out. Oonagh’s research has shown that learning should be focused around people, rather than objects, and by developing events, programmes and exhibitions like this museums can only increase participation and a sense of community. Oonagh has lots more information on her website http://www.oonaghmurphy.com
Next up Samuel Bausson and Mar Dixon, both of Museomix spoke about how they bring together creative professionals to try out new ideas to make museum spaces more accessible and encourage resources to be shared and developed. Museomix create teams from the participants across a range of creative disciplines, for example coders, graphic designers, curators, and carpenters. These teams design and create a project to help visitors interact more with the museum and the collections. From the last Museomix there were 16 concepts, and 4 of them are actually in use at the museum, which shows how many great ideas are developed when collaborations are born. No wonder the 2013 Museomix is being held at 6 separate locations over the same weekend this year! You can find out more about the events and the vision of Museomix at http://www.museomix.org/accueil/home/
Don Undeen, who manages the Media Lab of the Met spoke about using new technologies to enhance the museum experience for visitors, and working with the community to show that the Met’s collections are worth remixing. In collaboration with MakerBot a hack weekend was held with 30 digital artists and some of the museum’s curators. The aim was to produce replicas of items from the collections using a 3D printer, and to add to a growing online collection of 3D objects. The results of this meeting of minds were surprising as the digital artists were more interested in meeting the curators and having conversations about objects in the museum than the process of creating the 3D prints. This shows how important these conversations, and the sharing of knowledge and skills, are in the creative process. The traditional barriers to participation in projects like this have been removed by the use and sharing of open source 3D software and the widespread use of camera phones and digital cameras. Anyone can use the free app on http://www.thingiverse.com/apps/customizer to remix an object in any way they please for free.
Alan Hook concluded the session by saying that whether museums like it or not visitors will remix the museum, so maybe museums should rethink the traditional ideas of quiet observation and learning through reading object labels. A recent visit to the Ulster Museum by a group of digital technology students and museum studies students demonstrated this. The art galleries where the digital technology students were not allowed to take photographs or interact with the exhibits only held their attention momentarily before they went off in search of exhibits that suited what they wanted from their experience more. It was only after talking to the museum studies students that the reasons behind the rules made sense, flash photography damaging artwork materials, and copyright issues for the museum. Again the need for conversation and interactions between different strands of culture professionals was shown. It also shows that the gap between museum visitor’s expectations and the museum’s perception of what visitors want from them are still, in some cases, very different, despite the many remix projects going on worldwide.