Museums and the Web 2005
Interactions: Description
Photo Credits

More than just papers, MW2005 offers a chance for dialogue.

Storymaker: User-generated Content - Worthy Or Worthwhile?

Jonathan Pratty, 24 Hour Museum, United Kingdom
Graham Howard, System Simulation Ltd, United Kingdom
Mike Stapleton, System Simulation Ltd., United Kingdom

Mini-Workshop: User Generated Content

Some Web initiatives in the UK such as Moving Here and the BBC's WW2 People's War site solicit content and memories from members of the public. In a museological as well as a publishing context, material like this can be difficult to classify (and often hard to read.) Is it historically relevant if it has not been checked or corroborated? How should this material be placed in an editorial context? For these (and other) reasons, some in the museum sector find it hard to give user-generated content a significant place in the museum, archive or institutional Web site.

The 24 Hour Museum ( and System Simulation have built an open authoring tool which channels user-generated content called Storymaker. Storymaker attempts to defuse or work around the apparent pitfalls mentioned above about this type of content. This mini-workshop demonstrates, in live Web sessions with the tool, how the 24 HM system offers two differing routes through the tool for different types of user.

First, we have an easy-access instant participation route, requiring careful editorial contextualisation to ensure appropriate responses from the public; second, we have a supervised, password-protected group use situation, where all sorts of interactions from history and community groups can be encouraged.

We'll look at how material generated like this can be presented in a worthwhile and engaging way to a general Web audience, and how Web sites need to be sensitive to the multiple needs of groups when the content being solicited might be historically or emotionally sensitive. The workshop also examines how the content sits in local community sections on our new City Heritage Guide sites. Content is now flowing in and the sites are live on the Web.