The Natural History Museum in London was the setting for the Museum Computer Group‘s Museums Beyond The Web Conference, on November 7th. There was a certain aptness to the venue, given that the Digital Development Team are currently working closely with the Geology and Anatomy collections, with Natural History itself hopefully to follow….
Certainly, while it is enough of a challenge to get the resources online, it is good to see what trends are coming up within museum spaces, and there is a lot of exciting work going on. Talks focused on museums going beyond simple catalogues, searching and retrieval: there was a huge emphasis on breaking down the barriers between the physical and digital manifestations of an object, and between visitor and curator. New methods of searching (“tumbling”, anyone?) also came up as signs that digital methods are evolving.
Some of the technologies mentioned included Google Glass, being trialled by MIT; iBeacons, in use at Kew Gardens; mobile apps which could turn Dartmoor and Oxford into living museums, and (of course!) a screen combined with a wooden magnifying glass, developed by Sheffield Hallam. However, there was also a lot of emphasis given to new curation techniques, through crowdsourcing, and online museum discovery.
All of the above informed a closing keynote which basically told us that digital is now bedded in, accepted, no longer a risk. We are past the nascent period (so should be delighted that we’ve got to this stage), and now, as we move into the post-digital age, it’s no longer about the content, as much as the magic, and what we DO with it.
Scott Renton- Library Digital Development