Thursday, October 23, 2008

Open Museum Online RFC

Heritance is currently working on the development of Open Museum Online.

Open Museum Online is a Web 2.0 service that allows any individual or organization, regardless of funding, location, or current technological capabilities, to create dynamic online exhibits of their collections. Exhibits can include text, photo, video and audio contributions, all of which will be automatically aggregated into a global museum. Open Museum Online users can participate as curators (creators of exhibits), or as visitors to the exhibits. Visitors interact with the exhibits on a variety of levels, including commenting, rating, tagging, making guided tours, contributing content, and joining in community-wide discussions. (potentially a screen shot here of the listing of facets in the global museum with a tag cloud?)

A bit dry, but here's the summary report of the Heritance Request for Comments on the concept of Open Museum Online....

Heritance recently created a preliminary market research survey to gauge interest and gain feedback regarding a proposed Open Museum Online project. Heritance sent an email with a Request for Comments to 104 museum industry professionals who subscribed to Heritance's WEMUP (Weekly MEMber UPdate).

The RFC outlined the concept of OMO and asked recipients for feedback on several aspects of the project: proposed product features, cost to participate, enticements to adoption, and stumbling blocks to adoption. The survey also asked recipients for any additional comments they would like to add. Heritance set a deadline for responses of (date).

25 of the 104 total recipients responded to the survey. 22 respondents answered all the questions in the survey; 3 responded to the email but did not answer some or all of the questions.

Many features of the proposed Open Museum Online product appealed to respondents. The most appealing features to respondents in the survey were the perceived ease of use of the product, its accessibility, the idea of OMO as a venue for collaboration and mentorship, the potential for interaction between museums, and the potential opportunities for younger museum employees to get more involved in planning and creating museum exhibits.

Respondents also expressed multiple concerns about some of OMO's proposed features. Recipients listed 18 different concerns they had about potential OMO features. One respondent was concerned about displaying objects out of the context of the museum; another suggested that the project would require extra work for an already overworked staff. Several respondents worried that a rating system of exhibits could lead to overly negative ratings, making it necessary for museum personnel to expend additional time monitoring the exhibits. Other respondents felt that features were missing, including a 360-degree view or different angled view of objects.

Responses about how much museums would be willing to play for a service like OMO were quite mixed. Several respondents were unable to provide a concrete figure, while others suggested figures ranging from a few hundred dollars to a thousand euros. Others suggested it be a percentage of the museums' marketing budgets, or a sliding scale, and some simply responded with $0.

When asked what they envisioned as the biggest stumbling blocks to adoption, respondents indicated they were concerned about busy staff or lack of staff; lack of time, technical ability, and technology (internet); cost; constraints on creativity and collaborative creating; and the risk of trivializing objects by taking them out of context. Respondents also expressed concerns about copyright, multiple languages and lack of digital material.

When asked what they thought would entice museums to implement OMO, respondents offered several suggestions, including a demonstration of effectiveness with other museums and communities; targeting a larger and different audience, such as younger users and users in different countries; using OMO as an education tool or for curriculum development. Some respondents suggested that ease of use, visual attractiveness, and a working online sample would be enticements for museums to try OMO. Other respondents suggested that the possibilities of interaction between research and professional colleagues would be appealing to museums, as would OMO's use as a marketing tool or working tool for co-curating exhibits, and the idea of contributing to global bank of information on objects.

While respondents have some reservations about aspects of OMO, 20 out of 25 indicated that Heritance should pursue development of OMO. 1 respondent indicated that Heritance should not and 4 were undecided. Based on the positive response to the RFC and subsequent conversations with some respondents, Heritance has decided to proceed with the development of OMO in concert with Zirgoflex, a registered Vermont L3C (designated low-profit) social venture specializing in the design, development, and deployment of web-based products supporting public sphere collaborative content production.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Stories from a Wounded Country: South Africa

Philippe Denis and Radikobo Ntsimane, announced the release of their new book: Oral History in A Wounded Country: Interactive Interviewing in South Africa, Philippe Denis is professor of History of Christianity and Radikobo Ntsimane is a researcher in Oral History and Religious History, both at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. Philippe and Radikobo are collaborators with Heritance on the Mpophomeni Ecomuseum in the former black Township of KwaZulu-Natal. They are respectively the director and the deputy-director of the Sinomlando Centre for Oral History and Memory Work in Africa at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

They write: With the end of apartheid and the exciting, but elusive, advent of a new nation, South Africa is witness to the emergence of a new generation of oral historians whose aim is to develop a broader, more inclusive and culturally sensitive understanding of the South African past. In a country still wounded by a legacy of racial discrimination, the retrieving of oral memories is a task more urgent than ever.

Oral History in a Wounded Country shows how the cultural, political, socio-economic and intellectual evolutions that gave birth to South Africa as we know it today affect the oral history process. It seeks to help practitioners, whether they use oral history as one technique among others to gain a better knowledge of the past, or envisage oral history as an academic discipline in its own right, to reflect critically on their practice and find better ways of handling the interview process. The challenge is to appreciate the complexity of South Africa’s diverse histories, while being attentive to the dynamics of the interview and their effect on both interviewers’ and interviewees’ sense of identity.

The book can be purchased on-line via and will be available on from the end of October.