We spent Thursday and Friday in Gatineau/Ottawa at the Université du Québec en Outaouais attending the Festival International de l’Audiovisuel & du Multimédia sur le Patrimoine (Fiamp) organized by AVICOM, ICOM’s International Committee for Audiovisual, Image, Sound and New Technologies (ICOM stands for the International Council of Museums). Anyway, Fiamp is an international event and was attended by top museum education and technology professionals from numerous countries including Australia, Canada, China, France, Great Britain, Hungary, the US, etc. The annual festival features two components, the conference and a competition.
The conference was really terrific, and our thanks go to the organizers — Eric Langlois, Marie-Françoise Delval, Alain Massé and Nada Guzin Lukic. We know what hard work is involved in organizing a conference — and this one in two languages!
We presented a paper on the Smarthistory web redesign and entered the competition somewhat resigned to the idea that our humble efforts would be easily overshadowed by the extraordinary work being done by large museums and their crack web teams. The paper went well enough—many people came up to us over the next day and a half commenting on the design and the content. In fact, more than one person explained that they had spent the evening exploring our work—always lovely to hear. There were many strong papers but we think three really stood out:
Dr. Angelina Russo from the Swinburne University, Melbourne delivered “Transformation in Cultural and Scientific Communication: Creating New Museum Audiences with Social Media. We were struck by her emphasis on the importance of demystifying the museum, its holdings, and especially its processes. She talked about how to take the museum from conversation to collaboration (something we also need to do with Smarthistory) — and the co-creation of knowledge (“distributed innovation in the creation and dissemination of cultural content”). We will be spending some time on the Ning site she created on the Museum 3.0, which asks “What will the museum of the future be like?”
Dr. Ross Parry of the University of Leicester offered, “The Museum Reprogrammed: How Computing Became the Metonym (Rather then the Antonym) of the Modern Museum.” Dr. Parry is a historian of the technology of the museum and offered a very thoughtful analysis of this past as well as a possible future and delivered really thoughtful closing remarks, summarizing the main themes that emerged during the conference.
Nancy Proctor who heads new media initiatives at the Smithsonian Museum of American Art read “Beyond the Two-Minute Stop: Soundtracks, Soundbites, and the Future of Mobile Interpretation for Museums.” Nancy began her talk with the important insight — It’s Not the Technology. As we all know, the technology is an important tool, but it’s how we teach, how we reach out to our audiences that is critical. Nancy gave one example that really moved us — of how, in one particular Tate Modern audioguide, listeners reported that what they enjoyed most was the fact that they were asked their opinion. This is an important fact to keep in mind. Nancy’s insightful understanding of past and current practice was extremely valuable.
When the conference was over, the prizes were awarded. We had entered the web category and the competitions’ work was extraordinarily beautiful. Three honorable mentions, three bronze, and three silver winners were announced and then Smarthistory was named the sole winner of the gold, the highest award in the the web category. We still don’t fully believe we won despite the lovely plaque, but we are honored and gratified. Our thanks to the FIAMP organizers, AVICOM and ICOM.
Beth & Steven