Research Question 3: Critical Challenges

What do you see as the key challenge(s) related to education and interpretation that museums will face during the next 5 years?

INSTRUCTIONS: Enter your responses to the questions below. This is most easily done by moving your cursor to the end of the last item and pressing RETURN to create a new bullet point. Please include URLs whenever you can (full URLs will automatically be turned into hyperlinks; please type them out rather than using the linking tools in the toolbar).

As you review what others have written, please add your thoughts and comments as well.

Please "sign" each of your contributions by marking with the code of 4 tildes (~) in a row so that we can follow up with you if we need additional information or leads to examples- this produces a signature when the page is updated, like this: - alan alan Jan 27, 2010


Compose your entries like this:
  • Challenge Name. Add your ideas here, with few sentences of description including full URLs for references (e.g. http://horizon.nmc.org). And do not forget to sign your contribution with 4 ~ (tilde) characters!


  • The public perception of the value of copyright is diminishing. The challenge of providing the broadest possible access to content, without depriving artists, authors, and other content creators of their intellectual property and income, continues to be one of the largest faced by education today. Creative Commons and other alternative forms of licensing are quickly becoming mainstream; new business models must be developed that take these forms of licensing into account.- Larry Larry Apr 28, 2010 Yes! And so a large extent, these new business models depend on new content development strategies (see below). - nancy.proctor nancy.proctor May 4, 2010nancy.proctor
  • Increasingly, museums are being expected to fill in the gaps in cultural education as schools drop the arts, music, and more from their curricula. While museums have embraced this challenge as part of their missions, the scope of this challenge is profound. A strong case can be made that museums can in fact do this better than schools, but without new resources, it is going to be hard to meet this need. I agree wholeheartedly with this, and museums are being called upon both implicitly and explicitly! - rosanna.flouty rosanna.flouty May 4, 2010- william.real william.real May 4, 2010Here here!- scott.sayre scott.sayre May 4, 2010
  • Changing the historical model - Museums have a long history of keeping information within closed systems, for a variety of security-related reasons. As the business model for museums changes from a model of an institution which primarily presents pre-packaged information to a narrowly defined audience or set of audiences, to an information-sharing institution, with a many-to-many relationship with it’s audiences, museums will more than likely be driven to adopt more and more cloud computing tools if only because of the disastrous financial implications of trying to sustain tools, technologies, storage-needs, and system processes in house.- holly holly Apr 29, 2010 +1- Koven Koven May 3, 2010+1- scott.sayre scott.sayre May 3, 2010 +1- allegra.burnette allegra.burnette May 4, 2010 +1- rosanna.flouty rosanna.flouty May 4, 2010rosanna.flouty- rosanna.flouty rosanna.flouty May 4, 2010- william.real william.real May 4, 2010
  • Joining the dots - How do we breach the enormous chasm between the richness of content that museums have to offer for curriculum-based, or extra-curricula learning in schools and the reality on the ground - limited hardware/software/ variable online access etc.? We are all aware of the growing discrepancy between the abilities and skill set of the teachers and their web-native pupils who are fully engaged in social networks. Students are active in all sorts of creative cross-domain mashups in their spare time and are already generating rich content while the reality is that their school has has probably blocked Facebook and Twitter and most other popular social networks from their classroom computers. With so much best practice in museum education already shining as isolated stars twinkling in a black sky – we all have our own lists of great stuff - who is working on joining the dots and creating a roadmap to find a way to get the right kind of balance between school access/ teacher/student roles and rich museum content that is simply not hitting the spot? - susan.hazan susan.hazan May 1, 2010
  • Embracing change as a constant - I gavea social networking presentation this week, and what resonated for me while I was putting my slides together is that web 1.0, 2.0, 3.0 represents the evolving role technology places in our culture and daily lives. This continuous march forward that is all about doing things differently. Now, what also struck me is that it took my museum 5 years to start participating in the social web after it emerged. I don't think we can sustain audiences if that gap continues to exist. Money and staff resources are always cited as reasons for not participating, yet I think it has more to do with the education and point of view of the people involved in the conversation at my institution. We forget it is not just about technology but about sustaining audiences and making the museum accessible for future generations. - christina.depaolo christina.depaolo May 1, 2010 Absolutely agree here; the lifecycles of relevant technology products/projects/concepts are significantly shorter than museums' research cycles. By the time museums have "waited to see how this Twitter thing pans out," the community has already moved on to something else (just to use an obvious example). "Flexible/agile response to emerging trends in communication and/or technology" will have to be a bullet point in the mission statement if museums want to survive.- Koven Koven May 3, 2010 Completely agree - scott.sayre scott.sayre May 3, 2010 +1- allegra.burnette allegra.burnette May 4, 2010 Yes, but we can also legitimately say that surviving change as a new cost center is not a trivial issue; the rate of change is daunting, even for those of us who think technology offers great new opportunities. In other words, I'm saying we can easily embrace change and still not know how the heck to pay for it! - john.weber john.weber May 4, 2010- william.real william.real May 4, 2010
  • Top Management Support - Like any innovative technology introducing project, the most important successful factor is the Top Management Support. How to invite the top manager show up and support the technology strategic meeting once or twice a year is critical challenge. - james.lin james.lin May 1, 2010
  • See related research at http://www.tcrecord.org/content.asp?contentid=10850- scott.sayre scott.sayre May 3, 2010
  • Professional Development - Research shows that the majority of museum educators have minimal time or financial resources for any professional development, particularly related to educational technology. Museum education has been turned on it's head by the challenges and opportunities provided by the digital media, but very little expertise has been fostered within these communities. The greatest investment, as shown by participants in this Wiki is new New Media, Web and IT departments. There needs to be a much greater investment in the fusing the capabilities of new technologies with the expertise of museum educators.- scott.sayre scott.sayre May 3, 2010 I agree strongly with this. Time is a precious resource, and deadlines drive our daily lives. - john.weber john.weber May 4, 2010
  • Internal Cross-departmental Communication - After the initial stage of finding the need of introducing a new technology, we need to find the detail of requirement from all departments and the support of departmenal managers to finalize the system speicfication. - james.lin james.lin May 1, 2010
  • Project Management - Once the technology introducing project has been kicked-off. Find the right person to be the project manager and to insure the project went successfully is now a new challenge to all museums. - james.lin james.lin May 1, 2010
  • After-Implementation Evaluation - Find the hard evidence to justify the success of the project not only for wrapping up the current project but also build the foundation for the future possibility to keep the new project coming. - james.lin james.lin May 1, 2010- william.real william.real May 4, 2010 defining meaningful measurements for success continues to be challenging
  • Content production has failed to keep up with technology - This is perhaps the invevitable challenge. New, more flexible audience expects to consume information whenever and wherever they want. Museums have been scurrying to repurpose information already created to try and meet demands. The challenge and the opportunity for museums is to stop for a moment and take at what they have, then to look at research about online learning and absorption of information and then create real, valuable, interesting, and engaging content.- holly holly May 2, 2010 I agree Holly - but - but can they deliver it to those who dont know they need it? - susan.hazan susan.hazan May 3, 2010 I agree, but I think the challenge is different. I think the real problem is twofold: one, most museums' entire content-production infrastructure is geared towards slower print cycles rather than faster web publication/production, and two, museums continue to assume that specialist data has no value to the general audience. Museums don't have a problem producing enough content for the Web (we produce it every day in various documentation systems/journals/memorandums), we just still assume that users want to have that information packaged and summarized as if it's a book, instead of made available in its raw (i.e., "appealing to long tail audiences") form. - Koven Koven May 3, 2010 I agree with everyone, but would add one additional note, which is that I think we will really need to learn and implement better methods for prioritizing the creation of content (either raw or highly produced), and to pair both new and moribund forms of evaluation with content development strategies. - susan.chun susan.chun May 4, 2010 Agree with most of this. The tools we have now are, frankly, good enough to do what we need to do. Better tools are fine to have, but what we really need is time/money to make good use of those we have. Content is ultimately king in the museum field; a scratchy, ancient audio recording of an artist we care about deeply is way more compelling than a slick, 3D HD video of an artist we don't care about. - john.weber john.weber May 4, 2010 One of the biggest challenges for museums and any publisher today is finding new approaches to content development that are a) audience-led (through evaluation - see below) and b) cross-platform so that they don't end up siloed or orphaned on obsolete platforms. The latter is so much easier said than done, and I think we're only now starting to see some outlines of what cross-platform content development practice will look like. I think it is organized around the principle of the 'sound bite' - a unit of content that moves easily across platforms and media, but also combines into longer, more immersive 'soundtrack' experiences and with links to permit a rhizomic exploration in both breadth and depth from any point of entry into a content field. There is probably much more that eludes me still... The other side of this coin is formats and standards; I'd like to hear smart people engage with the question of whether we should be authoring content for web standards, or if there are better approaches to future-proofing content from a technical perspective. - nancy.proctor nancy.proctor May 4, 2010nancy.proctor I agree that this is a challenge and find Koven's points in particular to be very interesting. Museums have so much information that could be contributed in many ways -- open content, mobile apps, and other ways -- and I do think that a lot of it is locked up in book form. Freeing it would make the information more flexible and more available to all sorts of people where and when they want to know. - ninmah ninmah May 5, 2010
  • Speaking of which: evaluation. We should be doing more of it, and better, both qualitative and quantitative. - susan.chun susan.chun May 4, 2010 Strongly agree, and here I think that social computing and networking might offer some ways to do longitudinal study of audiences that we are not even beginning to explore.- john.weber john.weber May 4, 2010 Yes, evaluation is critical and should be the starting point of every content/experience design process. Audience evaluation skills are fundamental to the museum profession and should be part of all of our toolkits and standard practice - not just something we do to secure funding or if there is money left over. And we need to be sharing our data! - nancy.proctor nancy.proctor May 4, 2010nancy.proctor
  • Let's not forget the educators here. Museum educators, particularly the older ones do not have the training, resources or or support to address the technological opportunities and challenges they face. There are very few examples of best practices for development of educational technology for museums and most progressive examples are being developed outside of the education departments.- scott.sayre scott.sayre May 3, 2010
  • Duplication of effort/shared resources - Part of the culture of museums is concerned with how we differentiate (brand) each museum as unique. Toward that end we hire talented people who want to create education and interpretation programs designed to enhance our collections. How many museums have created (sorry for repeating this again and again) lost wax casting labels, videos, interactives, animations? How many hours and dollars have been spent producing and reproducing the same key content for museums across the world? The internet allows us to share this content the world, but we aren't really sharing it with one another. - holly holly May 2, 2010
  • I am totally with you Holly! I also want to add the idea of "repurpose" and "reuse" those digital content. Most importantly, how to preserve existing digital content so we don't need to do it again. It is expensive!! - herminia.din herminia.din May 3, 2010
  • Integrating technology as part of core museum mission and 'making the case' for enhanced technology resources -- building competencies, sharing expertise, making museum resources truly accessible in a collective way to the many publics who would love to have access to them. - marsha.semmel marsha.semmel May 2, 2010
  • Greater understanding of relationships/synergies between on-site technology, off-site technology use, and on-line access to museum resources and pioneering new ways of exploiting these complementary museum "venues" and spaces.- marsha.semmel marsha.semmel May 2, 2010- william.real william.real May 4, 2010
  • Re-imagining and re-configuring organization charts to respond flexibly and strategically to opportunities of new technologies.- marsha.semmel marsha.semmel May 2, 2010
  • Keeping up with new research and practice -- within and outside of the museum field -- regarding technology and learning.- marsha.semmel marsha.semmel May 2, 2010
  • Integration of visitor knowledge into exhibits and objects -- Niche visitor groups can provide insight and enhance the interpretive value of an exhibit or objects from collections. Example: Jennifer Nez Denetdale's story of finding her great great great grandmother's dress in the Southwest Museum's archived collection http://www.uapress.arizona.edu/BOOKS/bid1798.htm The challenge is to provide input capacity and a ranking system for this information (perhaps wisdom of the crowds sensu http://digg.com/, perhaps curator team analysis) and allow its dynamic linking to each resource for public review and further input. - mike.kelly mike.kelly May 2, 2010
  • Keeping up with the Jones -- My comment is similar to Christina's. Communications strategies will continue to change rapidly and it will take diligence to keep with up with the competition for people's attention span. We have to keep our eyes wide open for opportunities and our feet on the ground to build strategically in a manner to be as nimble as possible. Taking full advantage of opportunities will required continued investment and increased collaboration between technology professionals and the content creators in curatorial, education and marketing. - liz.neely liz.neely May 2, 2010- william.real william.real May 4, 2010
  • Improving our ability to measure impact using new digital technologies. We're good at traditional program evaluation, but determining the impact of new technologies on knowledge, attitudes, skills is more challenging--especially for technologies that are unfamiliar to the "instructor" but are second-nature to "digital natives".- elizabeth.babcock elizabeth.babcock May 2, 2010 I definitely agree Elizabeth - we need to rethink the instructor/learner roles here - susan.hazan susan.hazan May 3, 2010
  • Being smart about implementing digital technologies. Not every project needs to be digital. Museums are rushing to implement new digital technologies, but each institution needs to be purposeful about matching learning/experience objectives with the appropriate technologies. We also need to be thoughtful about the ways in which we combine experiences with real objects and specimens with digitial media. - elizabeth.babcock elizabeth.babcock May 2, 2010
  • Funding new technologies and/or making reallocation choices. While many of these projects can be launched reasonably efficiently,they do require new resources and new kinds of resources. In many cases, museums may not have the necessary technical infrastructure in place to realize their vision for digital learning. Choices may have to be made to reallocate funds from non-digital education efforts to digital.- elizabeth.babcock elizabeth.babcock May 2, 2010
  • Creating a digital strategy for your institution. Digital learning is only one part of a comprehensive digital strategy, which should also include emarketing, ephilanthropy, revenue generation, digitization, digital preservation, wireless platform, etc. Digital learning has linkages to many of these other areas of museum operation. - elizabeth.babcock elizabeth.babcock May 2, 2010
  • Incorporating Content Strategy as a discipline. Following from Elizabeth's post, museums will have to incorporate the emerging discipline of content strategy into their overall approach. A content strategist is able to intervene at the earliest stages of a project and help route content to the appropriate output(some content is right for Web, some is better for an in-gallery presentation), while keeping track of the impact of all these outputs when taken together. - Koven Koven May 3, 2010 Yes! - allegra.burnette allegra.burnette May 4, 2010 Ditto!! - nancy.proctor nancy.proctor May 4, 2010nancy.proctor- william.real william.real May 4, 2010
  • Reconceiving museums as part of a global cultural treasury whilst maintaining institutional identity. This is about both dispersing our assets, and building joint resources with ever greater numbers of partners. As well as making for a less fragmentary experience for audiences, resources that bring together the goods of many institutions are actually one response to the fact of consumer choice: they avoid obliging a choice on consumers between one museum and another. Dragging decision-makers along with this idea is a big part of the challenge, because of issues of identity, valuing impact, and unclear funding mechanisms.- jeremy.ottevanger jeremy.ottevanger May 3, 2010
  • Creating knowledge beyond just information through facilitating community and means of using that information. I'm one of those that puts a lot of thought into the question of releasing data and content and perhaps not enough into the harder bit: helping people to make sense of it. A very timely post from Lorcan Dempsey alludes to this http://orweblog.oclc.org/archives/002086.html- jeremy.ottevanger jeremy.ottevanger May 3, 2010
  • Keeping up with still-diversifying delivery channels for digital content, identifying which to invest effort in- jeremy.ottevanger jeremy.ottevanger May 3, 2010
  • Getting more for the money when there’s so little of the latter- jeremy.ottevanger jeremy.ottevanger May 3, 2010
  • Understanding the value of what they have (or could have). Valuing resources is as important as costing them in deciding whether to invest in building/sustaining them, and our measures of impact are still poor and may be under- or overestimating the ways in which resources are serving the mission.- jeremy.ottevanger jeremy.ottevanger May 3, 2010
  • Tying online and offline –things, places and activities, but also the identities of users and museums. AR is a great opportunity and challenge here- jeremy.ottevanger jeremy.ottevanger May 3, 2010 +1- Koven Koven May 3, 2010
  • Resolving distributed identity - Can the museum work towards de-fragmenting or re-configuring what we now call the distributed identity for our online audience in the same way as we have contributed to forming the sense of self-identity in the physical museum? - susan.hazan susan.hazan May 3, 2010 +1- Koven Koven May 3, 2010
  • Commitment, Sustainability and Archival Strategy - Museum technology projects and educational resources come and go, making them an undependable resource for any serious educator. One of many examples is the Whitney, which in the last decade has has developed two major educational resources: Doceo, and Learning@Whitney. Both projects were heavily marketed to educators and both completely abandon and taken offline. Museum educators and particularly funders, need to begin to make project development decisions based on commitment rather than opportunity. Dedicated end-users come to depend upon our electronic resources and expect museums to be responsible in sustaining them. No teacher likes to assign students to a resource that the museum has taken down because it was perceived to be old or out of date.- scott.sayre scott.sayre May 3, 2010 great point. There is a moral responsibility, if nothing else, to support resources for a certain amount of time. There's also a "business case", if you like: only if you can state a clear committment to support a resource for a certain period will people invest efforts in building things that rely on them, and only if they do invest this effort will you get the payoff (usage) that counts for museums. This doesn't go for everything, I'm sure, but where educators or developers are putting time into preparing things that depend upon your resources, they need that committment. For things like APIs, we need not only to encourage people to use them, but to offer something akin to an SLA. Otherise some developers won't bother to build stuff with them at all.- jeremy.ottevanger jeremy.ottevanger May 4, 2010 I think this is an issue, but I'm not sure where we can go with it. Museums tend to be fickle in some respects due to the changes of boards and directors. They are far more fickle than academic institutions in my experience, due to the more distributed power of the academy -- you have a lot of professors with tenure, and they have a lot of power to keep things from changing quickly. Not sure what this means for museums and technology though.... - john.weber john.weber May 4, 2010 That's a fair point, John. I think I'd tie the issue to the one below, about operationalising core activities. There's a time for experimentation (which is happily still thriving in various places), and a time for an institution to say, this is a production service, and we wish people to understand that it is stable, reliable, and supported. It's true, of course, that there will be changes of leadership and priority, but this makes it all the more important to show partners that there will be some stability too. Offline, if you run a workshop every now and then but decide it's not popular and ditch it, that's reasonable; but if you make a deal with a donor to use their name in an exhibition title in return for sponsorship, they expect that committment to be fulfilled. Different degrees of committment from the museum reflecting the committment made by the other party. Online, some of our activities (by no means all) may also require a considerable investment from the "user" - this could be an educator, it could be a developer using our API, a newspaper taking a feed of our content, a posse tagging our collections or uploading their artworks etc. - and before they make this investment, they need to have confidence that there will be some stability. So I think that the issue may be about starting to delineate those activities that are seen as infrastructural or durable rather than ephemeral, and giving them appropriate long-term plans.- jeremy.ottevanger jeremy.ottevanger May 4, 2010
  • Operationalizing funding for technology projects - I honestly believe that the recession put an end to a promising trend in museums of allocating ongoing operational funds (as opposed to capital or project funds) for both new/experimental and ongoing "technology" projects. Rethinking budgets so that tech projects are no longer funded on a short-term basis is, of course, directly related to the issues raised by others about the need for institutionalized strategic planning initiatives, but often requires buy-in and skills from a completely different group of people. - susan.chun susan.chun May 4, 2010 a worrying development, and I'm sure you're right. It strikes me that, with digital heritage becoming gradually recognised as a profession and a discipline in its own right, we need to be sketching out very clearly for decision-makers what lies clearly within our core remit and should be core funded, and what is the sort of work that is either sporadic or can reasonably be handed out to third parties. Worked into a proper digital strategy (the upside of this story, since there are more and more great examples of these), this may give managers a clearer understanding of exactly what should be "operationalised" rather than left to project funds. - jeremy.ottevanger jeremy.ottevanger May 4, 2010 Absolutely agree here. - Koven Koven May 4, 2010
  • Transparency. Please also see "Changing the Historical Model," above. Not sure if this can be pin-pointed to one technology. More efforts to encourage the field to encourage museums to be active and engaged with their visitors in sharing their efforts to digitize collections and create learning communities. We've gotten smarter as a field to begin these initiatives, but it still seems that there is too much happenstance when we share stories about how visitors have found the great projects we have created. Maybe we need to get more articulate about the 'why,' just as much as the 'what' - so that visitors understand that we are genuine in our efforts to increase accessibility and make the museums they love more relevant to their lives. - rosanna.flouty rosanna.flouty May 4, 2010
  • Recognizing the diversity of our institutions, collections, and budgets. This is the wet blanket part of the challenges discussion, in which I feel the need to point out that many future-facing technologies are far out of reach for the vast majority of small- and medium-sized museums (not to mention our siblings: archives, libraries, historical societies, etc.) as they struggle to implement (or upgrade) systems that most of us assume are well established within museums. It simply cannot be assumed that the majority of museums have collections management, digital asset management, and content management systems, and even those that do continue to struggle with upgrading, maintaining, replacing, and training staff in the use of these essential systems. - susan.chun susan.chun May 4, 2010
  • Rechannelling monetization pressures. With every cycle of strategic planning at my institution comes renewed mandates to figure out how we can make money from technology (or more benignly, find ways to make technology self-supporting). While I think it would be a grave mistake for museums to start charging (for things like online images and data), or selling augmented reality T-shirts and pins and such, I also realize that by giving it all away, we are not necessarily going to be flooded with cash for our public-service good will. Is there a business model that might work (for small and medium-sized museums as well as big ones)?- william.real william.real May 4, 2010 Agree with this, and think that this issue is tightly bound to the "new licensing schemas" issue highlighted in the other research questions. This is absolutely critical. - Koven Koven May 4, 2010
  • Social Bandwagoning Institutional commitments to invest in "free" Web 2.0 and social media tools need to begin to be based on best practices and institutional strategy rather than public trends and availability. Many museum's continue to fall prey to the "it's" free and everyone is doing it mantra, with little understand or planning for the long-term commitment and resources these ventures can require.- scott.sayre scott.sayre May 4, 2010