What are we all here for anyway? – Part 2

What’s imuse trying to achieve? Part 1 is at http://www.aact.org.uk/imuse.php. Here’s some more thoughts.

We picked up interesting ideas from Museum Computer Network conference, Atlanta, November 2011 especially from Nettrice’s workshop on Alternate Reality Games – ways of encouraging visitors and museum interaction. Some of those methods were used in the mini [cheese and cheesey] ARG at half-term.

Now we have the book Museums at Play – Games, Interaction and Learning (ed Beale, Museumsetc, 2011). As we look more closely at what we are trying to achieve, it seems worth jotting down bits as we go along so we remember them. The very first sentence was worth the expense! It starts

      ‘Interactivity, curiosity, challenge, cooperation, choice, creativity, discovery, failure’

That sums up (rather more succinctly than in http://www.aact.org.uk/imuse.php) what imuse is trying to enable.

OK, we are working within some definite constraints. imuse is a project being run by a tiny charity – we are not ourselves a museum. The Charity’s aim is to find ways that inclusion can be increased for those with communications disabilities using IT [our Charity’s strapline is ‘IT helping inclusion’]. imuse is exploring systems that enable ‘interactivity, curiosity, challenge, cooperation, choice, creativity, discovery, failure [well, and success!]’ in the context of: small and moderate sized museums that don’t have dedicated IT teams or much (if any) spare cash for trying new things or buying equipment.

Our plan (to 1Q13) is to try out ideas in ‘several’ (currently defined as ‘three’) museums. If things look promising (i.e inclusion increased) we aim to explore the possibility for setting up a sustainable advisory service.

We are an ‘infrastructure’ project. That is, we look at how museums and their visitors can put in place systems which aid inclusion, particularly using IT. It is then up to the museums and visitors how they use those systems towards their own aims. Taking the analogy for physical access, a consultant may advise a museum on where to put lifts, toilets, the height of the reception desk, space around objects. The consultant will have done a good job if more people can get into  and move around the museum. Why the visitor wants to do this and why the museum wants them to do it are different matters, will change over time way after the consultant has gone and will have many facets.

For example, one visitor may want to bring her grandchildren somewhere fun for a holiday outing where they can do things together, another may want to study a specific museum collection. The museum may have funding to help local schools with part of the national curriculum, or  have an aim to increase volunteering. The access consultant may have been apprised of some of these at the start of his project, but cannot know them all because things change. Those outcomes are not his speciality. Getting people in and moving around is. After that it’s up to visitors and the museum whether they use the systems for having fun, running a cocktail reception, formal learning, somewhere to go on a wet Sunday.