Archive for the ‘how to’ Category

GLAM Transmedia

A story becomes richer when it is experienced in multiple platforms. This is the underlying principle behind transmedia production — a technique increasingly being used by publishing, broadcasters, the advertising industry and now the cultural sector to promote a product, like an exhibition. Marketing and publicity are relying less on the traditional forms of advertising and are using stories to promote an idea. Museums and other collecting institutions have an advantage in using this strategy because they do not have to invent a strong narrative — history has already written the script.

The CAN Outreach Blog has asked the directors of two production companies specialising in this area how cultural organisations can adopt this communication style on a budget – Nathan Anderson, of Envelop Entertainment, and Jennifer Wilson, of The Project Factory. Ms Wilson says the key to a successful transmedia strategy is to ensure messages on both platforms are consistent but not interdependent. One of the most recent projects she has worked on in this field is designing a game for the ABC’s animation series The gradual demise of Phillipa Finch by artist Emma Magenta. The game is designed to be played on all smartphone devices. Ms Wilson says the player does not need to have watched the television show to play the game and vice versa.

There are exciting possibilities for museums to develop transmedia stories within the exhibition space using a mix of mobile devices, print media and public programmes. Ms Wilson suggests institutions could develop their exhibitions by integrating apps into the experience — using augmented reality to contextualise the object, offering more information about its history through collection access and to transform the artefact into the subject of interactive games.

Augmented reality applications are readily available to download for free on smartphones and can be used to enhance the museum viewer experience. Mobile augmented reality browsers Junaio and Layar take the museum experience into the virtual space. Sydney-based mobile and online innovation company, MOB Labs, has been experimenting with the Powerhouse Museum’s historic photographs using Layar. Ms Wilson is excited by the possibilities Junaio offers. Reality can be augmented by altering the longitude, latitude and altitude points in the mobile phone. For example, holding the phone up to view an Egyptian mummy in a museum can transport the viewer to a pyramid outside Cairo.

Mr Anderson set-up a transmedia production company and studio in early 2009 to meet this growing trend of cross-platform entertainment. Game development is particularly significant in television and film industries, with soap operas starting to use online games. Museums, galleries and libraries are increasingly needing to compete with mainstream leisure activities, like sporting matches and television, so they are turning to developing games to deepen the audience’s experience with the story or product. This has meant games are flooding the market making it a highly competitive medium.

The Tate Britain developed iPhone game Tate Trumps that encourages players to think about its art collection from a different perspective. Players build a deck of cards from the Tate’s collection of artworks. Players can choose to play one of three games – mood, battle and collector – using the principles of ‘paper, scissors, rock’ to see which artwork out plays the other. Viewers can play the game in the gallery or at home. Mr Anderson says the game met two main principles of a successful campaign – crossing over into the real world and creating a social experience.

Museums could adopt a similar campaign to that of the History Channel / foursquare partnership. Using the principles of play, foursquare takes participants to the site of the Gettysburg address. Mr Anderson believes this is more powerful than the documentary screened on television. On the flip-side, foursquare may not have enough participants in Australia to support this type of project unless it became part of a specific school program.

The ABC has recently experimented with alternate reality games which sit on the boundary between education and entertainment. Sam Doust developed a web-based documentary and game based on a leading atmospheric science researcher who whistleblows on the philanthropic project Bluebird. This project was viewed as having limited success as there were a small number of viewers but each one was highly engaged.

For those interested in this field, there is a site with a collection of blog posts on transmedia production.


Plundering and poaching: Tasmania’s whaling history

Hobart was the biggest whaling port in the southern hemisphere in the 1800s but now is the launch pad for anti-whaling vessels, like the Sea Shepherd and Ady Gill. Maritime Museum of Tasmania curator Rona Hollingsworth worked with the Collections Australia Network (CAN) to make a video about Tasmania’s rich whaling history. While CAN was visiting Hobart to help galleries, libraries, archives and museums put their collections online, it took the opportunity to look at historical collections from a contemporary perspective.

While watching this three minute YouTube video, think about how stories in the news cycle relate to collections. What messages can be explored in a digital story that compare the past with issues in contemporary society?

Please email Sarah Rhodes with any ideas that CAN and its Partners could collaborate on.


Long Tails: Why Participate Online?

While pondering the few gem-like comments on the CAN blog some questions arose about the type of action, participation and commentators (and commentary) is out there in the Australian collecting sector via social media. There are guidelines aplenty online to help people to establish and participate in social networks using social media tools – see Darragh Doyle’s how to comment on a blog and Caroline Middlebrook’s blog commenting strategy as just two examples. There are blog lists relating to the Australian collecting sector I’ve scooped up as a small sample (e.g. archives, museums, libraries) to reflect the diversity in a part of the Australian collecting blogosphere. There are also some useful guidelines readily available online aimed at particular collecting domains or organisation types — see the blog about a social media manual being developed in the UK by Jim Richardson which appears to be drawing upon these institutional policy documents and guides for the museum sector.
The Long Tail and Learning


What seems to be missing is the discussion of the ‘why would I/we?’ factor and what those motivations and (in)actions reveal about the participants and the wider community. Nina Simon discusses this question at the tail end of a blog on the use of social media by museums and some interesting debate crops up in the comments on this blogpost. There are different questions to ask of oneself about what the motivations and benefits are in establishing or participating online and using social media, for work, or as a citizen. Noticeably (and impressively) there has been strong online feedback on the Australian National Cultural Policy (dialogue open until 1 Feb 2010). Glancing over the open feedback gives an immediate sense that these open online commentators are confident in their thoughts about policy direction and in using social media as citizens in a democratic manner. It would seem unusual to have anything but strong feedback in any case (perhaps worth remembering the polarised nature of public comment or feedback on issues of public interest is about asserting ones views rather than about neutrality and acquiescence). It is though useful to be reminded that what is openly available is not the total picture of the feedback offered and the open commentary may at this point have a certain characteristics of its own by comparison with feedback not published online.
The Long Tail of Fans


The larger questions potentially are: how much of Australian digital/social activity is through social media technologies per se and how much is happening through the collecting organisations, the practitioners and the interested public to make for thriving onsite and online communities? An allied question is how big are Australians on offering opinions and dialogue – and is that rate and type of commentary different and/or similar to other cultures? There are theses to be written no doubt in time on that front (if not already written or in process) on patterns particular to Australian participants. A search on Google and then on the Australian Digital Theses Program reveals a doctoral thesis developed at Griffith University by Gordon Fletcher about the cultural significance of web exchange through analysing popular search terms. To quote from Gordon Fletcher’s thesis abstract:


“Critical analysis of these higher order categories reveals six cultural traits that predominant in the apparently wide array of search terms; freeness, participation, do-it-yourself/customisation, anonymity/privacy, perversion and information richness. The thesis argues that these traits are part of a cultural complex that directly reflects the underlying motivations of contemporary western mainstream culture.”.


There are very good practical reasons to examine the resources committed to onsite and online priorities. Necessarily those priorities are linked to the strategic objectives of organisations and less formally so the aims of individuals. There are also cultural reasons for people to be quick or slow to comment, happy with openness or privacy in offering commentary, and desire and/or comfort levels with particular levels of openness or privacy. In terms of balance I am reminded of the value of perceiving consensus (some kind of peak in the bell curve or cluster of opinion) and the value of diversity, that is, what the long tail of commentating and commentary, and diversity in commentators, online can offer.


Podcasting open-access and the commons

ABC Radio National is closely following the development of the Creative Commons and how it affects both the creator and the end-user. Future Tense host Anthony Funnell interviewed David Bollier for the show titled The future of the commons. Bollier is an activist and public policy analyst who talks about the premise behind his new book Viral Spiral: How the Commoners Built a Digital Republic of Their Own. For further reading, click on the links at the bottom of the ABC page.

Others may like to watch Bollier on YouTube – there is no shortage of videos to choose from.


How to allow CAN to OpenSearch an online collection using an RSS feed

If your collection is set up to be searched on your own website, it can just take one day of coding to prepare for it to be searched from CAN.  Making a collection searchable using OpenSearch has the potential to broaden your exposure significantly when your collection is being searched on an national collection database. The following instructions on how to build an RSS feed can also be downloaded from Sector Resources.

Making an RSS feed that will hook into CAN is very easy to provide if you have a search already working on your website. All that is necessary is the duplication of the page that performs the search on the website and adjusting it so that rather than providing the output of the search results wrapped in HTML the output of the results wraps them in XML instead.

It may be helpful to examine the XML of the feed that the Powerhouse Museum sends to CAN – this is visible here:

Where ‘chair’ is the search term and the start = 1 parameter is the page number (currently set to send 50 at a time, I think). If you do this in Firefox and view the source you can see the structuring of the result set we would be expecting at the CAN end.

Basically each result set has an item with a: “title”, “description”, “link”, and unique “guid” (which are actually the same in the Powerhouse Museum’s case) and then we use an “enclosure” tag to send a thumbnail link (URL).

And that’s it – pretty easy – most people have been able to spend only a day or two getting it going provided they already have a working search.

If CAN Partners are interested in providing more than the four basic pieces of data (title/description/link/unique GUID) + enclosure tag (link to thumbnail) CAN is more than happy to accommodate that data. For example, PictureAustralia has “categories” and “rights” data, and the State Records of NSW has “series” and “agency” data. Ideally CAN is supplied with a list of other metadata tags by the CAN Partner to extend the standard use of OpenSearch. As long as that extra data is supplied in standard XML in the RSS feed, CAN will look incorporating it in its OpenSearch.

Email us if you need any more information.


Copyright procedures for managing websites

CAN has links to the Australian Copyright Council’s information sheets on “Websites” and “User generated content & Web 2.0 websites”. The information sheets highlight the basic elements that need to be considered when designing a website. The terms of use need to be clearly marked on your site so the website owner and contributor understand who owns the copyright. The website moderator must continually audit and assess its content. They must keep a record of the source of any text, photos, links, graphics, videos and audio uploaded by the website owner that could infringe on the copyright law. If there is uncertainty, seek legal advice. The Australian Copyright Council is planning a practical guide to User Generated Content, to be published next year. They have an online enquiry system to let them know if there are particular issues that have not been covered on their website.

It must be noted that the dynamic nature of the web means material can easily be removed if there are any complaints. Contributors and web browsers feel reassured if there are clearly marked procedures to make a complaint, including the contact email and address. This can help to diffuse confrontation.

In sector resources, there are valuable links to further research on copyright procedures for websites.


Key elements to a successful online collection

Daniel Wilksch, Manager, Online Projects, Public Record Office Victoria, spoke at the Collections and the Web conference, on 24 November 2008, at the Melbourne Museum.

Before starting to develop an online collection catalogue, it is a good idea to research how other organisations have approached theirs. The National Library of Australia and the Powerhouse Museum are leading the way in web-based catalogues. They have already considered questions like – What do people want to see? What should the online catalogue do? Developing online collection catalogues can be a large but necessary jump for small institutions.

Online catalogues command a different way of organising information from the traditional library catalogue and provide a wider range of benefits. Beyond being used for insurance purposes, they help people find your collection items – on site and online, offer information about the item, help with enquiries and act as a marketing service. Web 2.0 technologies can be used to start a conversation with the public about a collection, engaging and building audiences. The United States Library of Congress started this form of social networking when they uploaded their historic photographs to the Flickr Commons in early 2008. Using a similar principle, the Public Records Office Victoria has set up a Wiki on their site to build on their collection descriptions.

People in organisations have different needs to the public so the web team needs to separate management information from keywords, descriptions and object photographs the end user may need. Questions to be asked are – Is it just access or information people want? Should the CSV file be made available for download with all of the information about the object. The catalogue software should provide archival information about the item, as well as physical and digital information about the object.

Libraries, archives and museums demand slightly different function of catalogue software. Libraries hold a collection of books and so require subject thesauri and controlled vocabularies. Museum software needs to create lot of information around an item, such as photographs, places to add information, item description rather than just noting the item. Archives lead the user down a path of how to find a search result object so they can be led back into that search result.

Designing your website for people interested in looking at single pages is an effective way of maximising the Google search. People may not want to navigate your website but use Google as their collection search tool so you should try to accommodate both approaches. A library catalogue card is equivalent to a web page and each web page has a URL (address) used to organise and search for information in the catalogue. Try to provide a list of things in the collection so people can organise their own data.

The key elements to a successful online collection are:
*a page for a collection of items that can be clicked through to one page per entity, each object has a registered address,
*if there is a change of software the address should be transferred so links don’t break and gives items permanent place on the web,
*URLs should be descriptive with the object name and catalogue number,
*URLs should be intuitive so people can guess the URL if looking at another item.
*each page should have links back to the content of the item so people can explore the catalogue,
integrate catalogue information into the website,
*consider a system to store the image of object and its description because a catalogue holds the information not the actual entity,
*embed the catalogue in the website and allow the user to return to the same place to start another search so that information is not duplicated on the website.

Email Daniel if you have any questions relating to online collection catalogues.

Related links to online catalogue software
Online public access catalogue

To listen to more talks from the Collections and the Web conference
Collections and the Web, Perth, September 9, 2008
Collections and the Web, Melbourne, November 24 2008


Identify and then target each audience type differently

Audiences need to be identified and targetted differently. UK consulting company Curtis and Cartwright Consulting have published a Guide to Researching Audiences.

It identifies five key questions that need to be asked about audience types when building an online presence:
i. What is the target audience?
ii. What is the actual audience?
iii. Who are they?
iv. What do they want and expect from our service?
v. How are they using the service?

Curtis and Cartwright has also written a briefing paper for the cultural sector.

Publishing collections online provide opportunities to recruit new audiences and reinvigorate existing ones. People interact with galleries, libraries, archives and museums (GLAMs) differently when they are online versus in an exhibition space. Furthermore, the digitial environment attracts a different demographic. Audience segmentation was a common theme at the recent Museums Australia conference. As CAN’s national project manager Ingrid Mason expressed in her conference presentation, GLAMs need to experiment with digital media, make mistakes and re-evaluate strategies as they try to cater for increasingly diverse audiences. Manchester Art Gallery’s Kim Gowland and Jane Wilcox reinforced the need to identify different audiences and target them differently.

Links to audience research resources
Museum Audience Insight Australian Museum Audience Research Centre Lynda Kelly’s Audience Research Blog Australia Council Research Hub Audience Development Museums and the Web 2007 paper: Audiences, Visitors, Users: Reconceptualising Users Of Museum On-line Content and Services, Darren Peacock, University of South Australia; and Jonny Brownbill, Museum Victoria, Australia

Sarah Rhodes


Working together to develop relationships with audiences and stakeholders

Manchester Art Gallery’s Kim Gowland and Jane Wilcox presented a paper on identifying and building audiences at the recent Museums Australia conference in Newcastle last month. The presentation titled Working together to develop relationships with audiences and stakeholders outlines how the gallery worked with the UK government and the North West Museums Hub to attract under represented audiences. This powerpoint presentation is available on our collectionsaustralia Slideshare channel.

In the UK, widening access to culture is central to the national government agenda. Government research into regional museums identified common problems such as declining visitor numbers. This led to the establishment of the ‘Renaissance in the Regions’ program with the aim of increasing visit numbers and attracting a more diverse audience, more representative of the UK population. The key target groups were lower income households, black and minority ethnic people and disabled people.

North West Museum Hub, UK

To achieve this mandate, Gowland and Wilcox at the Manchester Art Gallery needed to understand who their visitors were and what they wanted. The North West Museum Hub employed audience development specialist Morris Hargreaves McIntyre to engage in this research. This involved sharing existing knowledge, meeting quarterly to discuss and analyse the findings and setting up an online group to share information, issues and insights. The group of museums also jointly commissioned new research.

Manchester Art Gallery

Morris Hargreaves McIntyre used dynamic and creative qualitiative and quantitative research tools to identify the different museum audiences. Quantitative research involved surveys within the gallery space while qualitative research used post-it notes to record responses to an exhibition design and content. They also conducted focus group discussions, interviews, audience forums, and vox pops.

The eight audience groups identified were kids-first families, learning families, siteseers, third-spacers, experts, self-developers, afficiondos and sensualists. At the Museums Australia conference, Gowland and Wilcox explained three of the audience groups: third spacers – socially motivated, sensualists – spiritually/emotionally/aesthetically motivated and self developers – intellectually motivated. They believed that while everyone has probably visited a museum for social reasons, they suggested we tend to fall into either the sensualist or self-developer categories. The slides in the Powerpoint presentation were illustrated by Paul Loudon giving us a clear sense of the characteristics of each category type.

In the next CAN Outreach Blog post, we will outline how to identify different audiences. If you would like to subscribe to this blog using our RSS feed, please click on the orange icon at the top right-hand side of this page.

If you would like more information about the Renaissance in the Regions project, email Kim Gowland and Jane Wilcox


Telling stories using maps

The first thing Joy Suliman focuses on in the morning is the Alessi kettle sitting on her stove top. The funky Italian design prepares her for a great day. Just looking at the slick lines and quirky details makes her feel good as she pours water into it for her cup of tea. In gratitude to how this beautiful design makes her feel, the former CAN project manager decided her kettle’s story deserved to be told.

Alessi / Michael Graves Kettle with bird whistle 1986

Joy geo-tagged in Google Earth a video of the Michael Graves Blue Kettle with Bird Whistle in her apartment and then created a tag for the Powerhouse Museum’s Inspired! exhibition in Google Earth and included information about the kettle from the Powerhouse Museum’s online collection records. From there we travel to Portland in the United States where architect Michael Graves designed what claims to be the “first postmodern building” and finally to the Italian city which boasts to be the home of the Alessi design studio. Now when Joy watches her birdy sing on the stove she thinks about the global story behind her treasured object.

She presented this story at the Museums Australia conference in Newcastle last month with the aim of motivating her colleagues to start telling stories about their collection through mapping. We have uploaded the video of Joy’s presentation on our collectionsaustralia YouTube channel and the Powerpoint presentation on our collectionsaustralia Slideshare account. A guide to how to geomap your collection will be available in Sector Resources.

Joy says she chose Google Earth rather than Google Maps because it is an application offering animation and a sense of drama. In her new role at the Powerhouse Museum’s Soundhouse Vector Lab, she teaches high school students how to build themed-journeys using Google Earth. Joy has not embedded this kettle project into a website. Instead she has saved it as a KMZ file (which is a zipped keyhole market language file), so she can email it as an attachment to other Google Earth users. If Joy decides to embed it into a website so that other people can geotag their own Alessi kettles, we would be able to see where the little birdy sings around the world.

Geotagging objects in your collection is a good way to give information about them. Whether you embed a map into your own website or use Flickr, you just drag the image to a location on the map. The best example of where geomapping works well is in the Flickr Commons. Institutions and the public are geotagging historic photographs so when you zoom into a place in Google maps you can see 150 years of images comparing then and now.

If you would like to use or embed Google Maps / Earth in your projects, click here for the terms and conditions.

Sarah Rhodes


Transcription services

Transcribing an interview can take hours of your valuable time. Not only do you need to process the information but you need to spend time doing further research. CAN Outreach used a transcription service for its series of interviews last week and found it was an extremely cheap and high quality service. We used Casting Words in the United States. Pricing changes depending on whether you would like a 24 hour, six day or two week turnaround.

There are several companies in Australia that also offer the service.
The Transcription People
Brisbane Transcript Services


Ten ways to improve your multimedia production

Ten ways to improve your multimedia production follows on from one of our previous posts on producing digital stories to preserve intangible heritage. Mediastorm offers ten tricks to ensure a professional multimedia production. The examples cited in this text are from Mediastorm’s digital stories found on their website.

1. Don’t use dissolves between images. As a general principal, these are unnecessary.
2. Avoid excessive pans and other Ken Burns-style effects. Animation on stills is effective only when done sparingly. These techniques should be a surprise like an exclamation point in literature. And as Elmore Leonard teaches, “You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose.” So let’s just say two still animation effects for every 10 minutes of your project. See Finding the Way Home for an example of just how few image moves are actually used.
3. Give your images time to breathe. In multimedia, we have the power to determine how long viewers spend with each photograph. A good rule of thumb is to leave each photograph onscreen for at least two-and-a-half seconds. Three or four seconds is even better. Watch the opening sequence of Rape of a Nation for an example.
4. Show an identifying photograph or video of everyone who talks when they speak for the first time. Identify them with a name and title. It’s a courtesy to your viewers. See Never Coming Home for an example.
5. Use image sequences to transitions between ideas or themes. Think of image sequences as paragraph breaks between two big ideas. Sometimes these sequences need only be two photographs long, or on occasion even one will suffice. See the poaching sequence in Black Market for an example.
6. Work with your music. Allow your images to flow dynamically with the changes in your music. Cut on the beat. Cut against the beat. End your piece with the final sting of the music. Edit the music, cut it up, and make it an integral part of your project, not just background noise. See the funeral section of BLOODLINE.
7. Use music dynamically. Increase the volume during an image sequence; decrease during an interview. Your music should be thematic just as your photographs are. See Kingsley’s Crossing fro an example of how music weaves in an out of an interview.
8. Use one-second frame dissolves to smooth rough audio. It’s startling to hear how a one-second frame dissolve can save a clip that would otherwise end abruptly.
9. Use room tone between gaps in dialogue, even when using a musical bed. Without room tone, your audio will sound like someone dipping in and out of a cave.
10. Watch your production on speakers with someone who has not yet seen the piece. There’s something about reviewing your work with an audience that makes one more self-conscious and thus open to seeing new things.

Sarah Rhodes


Digital storytelling to preserve intangible cultural heritage

As tradition slowly takes a backseat in our daily lives and technology takes over, there is an an ever-growing pressure to preserve our intangible and living cultural heritage. It is the role of museums to record these fragile artforms. Languages, musical instruments, theatre and dance are all at risk.

UNESCO promotes the use of interactive multimedia tools and digital storytelling technologies to preserve and build a better understanding of intangible cultural heritage.

Online newspapers and media agencies build dramatic video-style stories from a collection of still images. Mediastorm is an example of a company producing people’s stories with beautiful production values. There is no reason why these storytelling techniques cannot be applied to museums – in preservation and education. US photojournalist Colin Mulvany offers tips on how to make your audio slideshows. He recommends using the software Soundslides; but if you have iPhoto, iMovie or Final Cut Pro they would be just as effective coupled with the free sound program Audacity.

Sarah Rhodes


Do you know how effective your website is?

Analysing the performance of your museum or gallery website will work towards more effective results. The easiest way to monitor how people are behaving on your site is to ask your web developer to link the site to Google Analytics. That way you can experiment with the way you present information. Museums and galleries can also measure the interest in exhibitions early, giving them the opportunity to change their approach.

Google Insights is a fantastic tool launched last year which shows the popularity of search terms since 2004. You can compare the keywords used to search for your institution with keywords used to find your competition. The “rising searches” tool is a handy way to market your services in line with current trends. Google displays the results using graphs and heat maps. You are even able to analyse and compare behaviour at a regional, national and global level.

For institutions with larger budgets, there are several companies who offer web site tracking and search engine optimisation. Webcertain recommends you focus on six main statistics when analysing behaviour on your site:
-New visitors v returning visitors
-Search phrases and their conversion
-Site visitor source in terms of domains, tracking urls and search engines
-Bounce rate: how many people disappear after deciding it wasn’t what they were looking for
-Visitor click paths: to monitor areas of your site – reflecting where they show most interest
-Navigation effectiveness: how many clicks does it take people to get to the areas of your site that interest them.

Sarah Rhodes


Geo-tagging and mapping

Geo-tagging and mapping historical photographs makes photography collections more accessible to the general public. It opens up opportunities for people to research the locations and content of images which can be then ingested back into the institutions’ database.

Photo-sharing website Flickr runs The Commons for cultural institutions to upload their historical photography collections under a Creative Commons licence. Once the images are in The Commons, it is easy to locate these images on Google Maps. Paul Hagon has used a Google Street View mash-up to compare ‘then’ and ‘now’ photographs from the Powerhouse Museum’s Tyrrell Today Collection. Indicommons has published a wrap-up of institutions around the world exploring this idea.

Wired magazine goes into greater detail about what technology you can use to achieve successful geo-tagging and mapping.

Sarah Rhodes