Ann Danks, our gallery archivist, spotted a talk that Annette Haworth of AACT was giving at Reading about the iMuse work at the Museum of English Rural Life and we decided it sounded intriguing. The use, and future use of IT in the gallery was something that needed addressing. We do not have a resident IT geek on our staff list. One member looks after the Gallery plant and till software, one runs the website and I am involved in creating presentations and illustrated talks using archive material – but we don’t have an overall strategy or IT guru to be definitive about our requirements. As volunteers we have to play to the strengths of the skill base available – and I’m afraid we don’t have the geeky ten year old on staff yet who can tell us instantly what we need and how we do it – so we are feeling our way slowly. We have discussions about blogging, twitter feeds and Facebook groups, and all the interactive possibilities the new technologies present – but we keep coming back to the same point : as volunteers we have limited time, knowledge and money. We have enthusiasm, but also a mature self knowledge that if you can’t do something wholeheartedly and properly it is better left alone. But is this just an excuse for not trying? Twitter is an amazing marketing tool if used properly – but do you risk ruining that if you are not constantly updating or finding new and engaging things to say – don’t you need to use the right language to keep the appeal – and how on earth do you know who you appealing to anyway? Large institutions have whole departments dedicated to market research and social media – we have a couple of retirees picking their way through the shifting sands……
This is why the iMuse project is so important to the Gallery. It opens up for us not only access to the iPad technology – for which we immediately came up with four or five uses – which we could not readily afford ourselves – but just as important is the skill base and the experience they have already gained. We now have back up and assistance as we pick our way through the minefield.
Working with Annette we have accepted the challenge of a six month experiment to see if we can create a sustainable way of using technology to engage visitors of all levels of ability and to add to their experience in the Gallery.
We have identified a long list of challenges – and are working on the solutions. Twitter can wait while we deal face to face with our visitors. They are a complete cross section – about a third ‘concessions’ i.e.over 60 – a third ‘adults’ and the rest students and under 16’s, mainly with school parties. We are accredited to the Museums Association so we have certain obligations ( which we would feel even without this official requirement) to those with special needs and are already working towards offering enhanced services.My next blog will cover the challenges we face and how we go about meeting them.