Joy of Text and Digital Labels?

It’s often the case at conferences that I feel like I’m preaching to the converted.  I’m always surrounded by like minded people, who are enthusiastic and ‘get’ digital technology and what it can do to transform experiences.  But then you start to think, what if I’m only really talking to a bubble, a cool exciting bubble, but a bubble nevertheless.  So it was fantastic to be asked to speak at the Museum Association Joy of Text Event.  The audience all had notebooks, not the Mac kind, you know those paper and pen thingies? At most conferences I go to, notepads and pens are non existent. This was a very different crowd.  In fact, it is probably the crowd that we really need to be talking to in order to highlight how and where and why digital tech in museums can and should be used.
Jane and I were there to wax lyrical about the potential of digital labels.  We ended up playing good cop bad cop about digital interactives in gallery spaces.  Using Social Interpretation and QRator as examples.  Jane and I had different ideas about slides, she cringes at mine, and I cringe at hers. So our slides are a bit higgledy piggledy, but we managed to get our point across.  It’s not about the technology, it’s about the experience.  Focus on content, your visitors and the experiences you want them to have.

It was an interesting conference, and I was really pleased to hear that the speakers all agreed that there has been a culture in museums of writing text, for text sake. Text is not always the most appropriate form of Interpretation.  Lucy Harland made a fantastic point right at the beginning of the day, stating that text should earn its place in the social dynamic of a museum gallery space. Museums should think seriously about how they choose to communicate with words and whether this is always the best way to convey meaning.  It’s quite interesting that you can swap out the word ‘museum’ in that sentence an replace it with ‘academics’ and the same thing applies. Choose what to say and say it well. These were the two key messages from the day.  It’s a nice mantra for all public engagement really. Digital or not.

For a nice concise round up of the rest of the day check out Ellie Miles Blog

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