Museums and the Web

An annual conference exploring the social, cultural, design, technological, economic, and organizational issues of culture, science and heritage on-line.

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David Bearman's Blog

Museums and the Web: What do you get from being there?

In a time when money is getting tighter all around, it's becoming harder and harder to justify conference attendance, especially when it requires international travel. But for many, it's just not the full Museums and the Web experience, if you're not there, on-site.

Why is that?

I think it's partly because MW is about the process as well as about the product. The papers aptly describe the outcomes of research, the collaborations, the analysis, but they don't always tell you what it was like to get there – warts and all.

LOCKSS, Thomas Jefferson and digital records

This week I've been thinking about strategies for preservation for the Library and Archives of Canada, and particularly about the "Lots of Copies Keep Stuff Safe" strategies that many of us have advocated for years as an alternative to expensive preservation and protection mechanisms.

I was amused, therefore, to find in correspondence at the Library of Congress that Thomas Jefferson wrote about this in 1791 proving both that he was an astonishing thinker and that there is nothing new under the sun. Speaking of the records of the American revolution, he said:“Let us save what remains not by vaults and locks which fence them from the public eye and use in consigning them to the waste of time, but by such a multiplication of copies, as shall place them beyond the reach of accident."

Demonstration Offers Out

We've completed reviewing all the Demonstration Proposals for MW2011 in Philadelphia and sent offers to museum participants wishing to show the progress they have made in the past year. As always, the Demonstrations are a way for museum staff attending the conference to brag about what they've done and/or get advice and help from others. It's all about sharing and feedback.

Impact of Museum Websites - a comparison using Alexa

NOTE: This was an experiment, meant to test the method, not to produce a citable result. Read the comments.

The other day I was musing about what impact museums are having on the Web and who is 'punching above their weight'?  I began to ask how would we know, and it occured to me to check the relative Alexa rankings of museums ( This produced a few possible answers and lots of surprises, so I systematically looked through the rankings to find the (c. 200) 'museums' that ranked, by traffic, in the top 500,000 web sites worldwide. I included for comparison and amusement (which, if it was a museums, would have ranked 99 among museums).

What you thought of MW2009. Evaluation Data Analysis

Thanks so much for your evaluations of MW2009 – if you haven’t completed one, you still can online at Our preliminary analysis of these is proving immensely useful as always, but we’re always happy to hear more (so respond online even if you filled one out at the meeting but have had additional thoughts since).

You don't always agree ...

How does the conference work: People come

Of course the way the conference really works is that people attend and participate. We would like to think that the meeting is designed so that everyone who comes participates; if we count the unconferences, BOF's, blogs and tweats, everyone who wants to certainly does! We suppose, however, that some attendees were lurking, happily, and that's fine too.

How does the conference work: Everything else

Having previously reviewed the venue, staff, food and publications related efforts and costs, in this last blog posting about the conference I’ll discuss a number of miscellaneous issues including the pre-conference events and exhibits that are important components of the overall program. Finally, I'll pose a question we've been noodling, about whether it makes sense to have a "membership" in Museums and the Web.

How does the conference work: Publication

We invest a huge effort in getting the Museums and the Web conferences documented. As those who have proposed presentations for MW know, everything goes through extensive peer review. Once accepted, we require all our speakers to provide full papers and then we copy edit those papers and put them on-line, on CD-ROM and in print. After the meeting, we follow up by putting slides of talks on-line and providing transcripts or video of some events. The entire process, end-to-end requires a lot of attention and costs a great deal. We think it is worth it and hope you agree.

How does the conference work: Food

The conference, like any army, marches on its belly. This year we each ate or drank $177.57 of our registration fees. That included 625 bottles of water at $4.66 each and over 2400 cups of coffee, decaf and tea from hotel urns at $4.32 each (yes, the hotel over-charges for everything). One reason we give out 'free' tickets for Starbucks espresso drinks, is that this is cheaper for us than the hotel coffee.

How does the conference work: Staff

We take advantage of the clauses that we negotiate to permit us to bring in outside contractors. After all, as you have no doubt noticed, we have no staff. Jennifer and I do the conference year-round, though primarily during the six months leading up to the meeting when we estimate we spend about 50% time on it (eg. 2 people 50% x 6mo = 1 FTE very unevenly distributed and with lots of long days).

Transparency. How does the conference work?

I don't know if it was Max Anderson's call for transparency in the opening plenary, curiosity about how sausages are made, or just an effort to make conversation with me assuming it was something I knew about and not wanting to presume whether I might be able to discuss museums as well...but I received lots of questions about what goes into running the conference this year at MW, so I thought I'd explain in a series of posts.

40+ useful tweets in 4 days!: Twitter aggregation as a means of sharing community knowledge

I was a skeptic about twittering, seeing it as useless chatter, until in the weeks leading up to this year's conference, I found I was becoming a regular reader of twitter feeds tagged #MW2009 because they were producing one or two url's a day that were useful references.

Museums and our Common Heritage: Moving Beyond Intellectual Property

My presentation at Kieo University, Tokyo, from January is online now, and embedded below.


Special Issue of Museum Management and Curatorship of ICHIM07 papers

Recently we've been helping editors Ross Parry and Paul Marty put together a special issue of Museum Management and Curatorship containing articles from ICHIM07. Our introduction ( to the issue, which will contain five articles focused on organizations and changes created by multimedia online, looks back at 16 years of ICHIM history, locating today's discussions in some of the earliest themes from the past.