Museums and the Web

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

How do we make change? We want your answers!

As museum technologists, we need to evolve constantly. But how? How do we create the conditions for change in ourselves, in our museums, and in the wider community?

A team of us from the Getty in L.A. will be at MW2013, including some first-timers and staff new to museums. We decided to devote the week to MW on social media via Getty Voices, a multi-platform social media experiment that features first-person perspectives in weekly rotation. Together, we’ll be tweeting, Facebooking, and blogging about MW--and we really want to include all of your voices as well!

While brainstorming how to address the changing museum in a straightforward way, we were inspired by last year's closing MW session about failure. Can we change things up by looking at the flip side of failure: goals we can set that aren’t pass/fail, things we can do to make good work possible? What does a failure-free working model look like?

The goal for Voices is to make the work museums do, and the shop-talk about it, as interesting as we can for a wide audience. In order to simplify, and because MW is so crazily, awesomely busy, we decided to throw out three questions to ask ourselves, and colleagues, about how good work gets done in museums. These are simple, but pretty challenging to answer:

  • Where do you get new ideas?
  • When do you get your best work done?
  • How do you deal with "failure"?

Are these the right questions? Do you have an answer (or a better question) you can share with us? And how do you get good work done?

Answer these questions however, or wherever, you want to--here on the MW blog, on your own blog, on Twitter, FB, Tumblr, You Tube, or Instagram! Wherever you are, there you are… Our own social media coordinator Sarah Waldorf will be at home base in L.A. collating nuggets--tag @theGetty, or use #webQ to send up a flag for her.

patterd's picture


I'm a museum-goer, and a technologist. So, I'd like to make some comments from my perspective.

A few years ago I went to the Prado Museum in Madrid. They had a nice booklet with the top "n" works from their museum. The booklet had pictures of each work, and listed the gallery where the work was on display. My wife and I (both comfortable with maps) plotted where each of those works was located on a map of the museum and planned a route that had minimal back-tracking but took us to all of the most-important works. We also plotted our path through a few of the galleries specific to works that were of interest to us. We stopped several times in rooms where there were works that caught our interest in passing.

My thought is that every physical museum should have a way to guide a new visitor past the key works (and maybe take them past a few of the works that they might find interesting).

There should be a way to let the visitor select key works they want to see (assuming they are aware of specific works, specific artists, genres, etc.) and direct them with options for visitors who can use stairs vs. ones who need elevator access.

Every museum has the data spinning around on a storage device to power such a path generator, but I've yet to see a museum offer such a service.

Offered as an idea by someone who visits a good number of museums a year.

David Patterson

astephan's picture

Hi Susan,

Thanks for posting this. I wrote up a few preliminary, drafty answers off the cuff that go beyond tweet length. I'm sure I'l get some better ideas from #MW!

Where do you get new ideas?

From my smart colleagues. From riffing, brainstorming, hearing their solutions.

Also, by tinkering: writing, designing, sketching, photographing, etc. Execution is everything.

I use reframing a lot. I like to apply the “who cares?” test: Is it useful? Is it meaningful? Who cares? Putting myself in the shoes of the person looking our stuff gives me a different frame.

When do you get your best work done?

When I stop talking and just say, “what do you think?” (I don't always catch myself, but I'm getting better.) The other person usually has the answer.

Liz Neely tweeted a pic of a business card that just says STOP TALKING. Cracks me up.

How do you deal with “failure”?

By trying harder. That's not always a good strategy, though. It can mean doubling down and doing the same thing as before, except faster and with grimmer determination. I'm really intrigued by research that shows how some people, when they think they've failed, actually lose their ability to solve problems. Right now I'm working on the ability to do less in the face of failure, to create some breathing room to rethink the problem and come up with different solutions. We'll see how that goes.

Annelisa (@meowius)