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A guide to managing a large multi-institutional project in the cultural sector

TitleA guide to managing a large multi-institutional project in the cultural sector
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2009
AuthorsRoyston, C.
Secondary TitleMuseums and the Web 2009. Proceedings
Conference Start DateApril 15-18, 200
PublisherArchives & Museum Informatics
Place PublishedIndianapolis, Indiana, USA
EditorTrant, J., & Bearman D.
Keywordslearning, management, mini-workshop, multi-institutional, partnership, search, social media

The National Museums Online Learning Project is the most significant UK national museum partnership project to date. It is a government sponsored project involving nine national museums: British Museum, Imperial War Museum, National Portrait Gallery, Natural History Museum, Royal Armouries, Sir John Soane’s Museum, Tate, The Wallace Collection and the Victoria and Albert Museum, working together to get their websites better used, engage new audiences and transform the way they think about and use existing digital collections. The project will launch in March 2009. The project involves the development of a range of innovative online resources across the nine websites for pupils, teachers and lifelong learners. These resources include a large-scale social media application; school-based resources to promote critical thinking; and a federated search linking the nine collections together for the first time. In order for the project to be successful, participating institutions have had to work in new and innovative ways – both inter-departmentally and intra-departmentally, sharing knowledge and expertise as well as risks and successes. This unique project required the participating national museums to work together in a truly collaborative and creative way. This paper will describe the approach to the management of this multi-institutional project. It will discuss some of the key partnership issues that were addressed, and some of the specific challenges it has raised in order to deliver resources that meet the expectations of the stakeholders, wider sector, the government and the public. The paper will focus on how we found solutions to problems and worked with the partners to gain consensus on key decisions, enabling the project to be successful and move forward. Practical examples and outputs from the project will be used throughout to illustrate these points. Some of the challenges discussed include:

  • Developing a collective vision and agreed aims and objectives
  • Ways of working together to ensure delivery to time and budget
  • Choice of technologies
  • Copyright agreement
  • Approach to Web 2.0 and user generated content
  • Gaining advocacy for the project
  • Developing a legacy strategy that ensures that the project is sustainable and manageable for the partners

The outputs from this project are not just the final deliverables on the partner websites. Outputs also include the learning that has been achieved from the partners working together on a project of this size and scope. The experience and learning (including mistakes) from managing this landmark project has applicability to anyone managing a digital project in the cultural sector, whether it is one institution or several working together.