Archive for April, 2009

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



Artist residencies are an effective way of developing a profile around a cultural institution. Museums of any size can invite artists to reinterpret the objects in their collection resulting in the artist exhibiting their work in the gallery. Even commercial enterprises invite artists to creatively interpret their space while engaging, even challenging its audience. Global Art Projects is an independent curatorial, arts consultancy and management company that runs residency programs. GAP has run two programs for the Sofitel Melbourne on Collins hotel – most recently hosting Anne Zahalka for one week. They hosted Queensland-based contemporary installation artist Donna Marcus in July 2007.

Here are some examples of artist-in-residency programs:
Anne Zahalka produced her Hotel Suite 2008 series while an artist-in-residence at the Sofitel Melbourne on Collins.
Trust run by The National Trust of Tasmania commissioned eight prominent Tasmanian artists to research, develop and mount work that interrogates and elaborates the stories, history, culture and environment of each of the historic properties.
The World Beach Project was devised by artist Sue Lawty in association with the Victoria & Albert Museum, London. It is a global crowd-sourcing art project open to anybody, anywhere, of any age, building on the experience many of us have had on holiday of making patterns on beaches and shorelines.
The Exploratorium is a museum of science, art, and human perception in San Franscisco which runs an artist-in-residence program. Its aim is ‘to advance a culture of experimentation and collaboration, to engage artists in all facets of museum endeavor and community life, to inspire curiosity and understanding among diverse audiences, and to produce objects, experiences, and knowledge that stimulate new ideas and new directions in the arts, sciences and education’.

Sarah Rhodes


Make museums like magazines

There seems to be growing dialogue around the idea of museums modeling themselves on publishing. Media and museums share the same principles. They both exist to tell stories about a specific genre, they are experts in their field (informing and educating people), they reflect the issues in society and they have a licence to communicate ideas creatively. The New Curator playfully suggests museums could try using the format of Monocle magazine which specialises in international affairs, business, culture and design. Business communication specialist Ross Dawson wrote in his blog last year that by looking at ‘museums as media organisations’, we can learn from its successes and failures and assess how cultural institutions can present its content differently. Nina Simon takes this idea of museums using the publishing model further with her idea that institutions should draw inspiration from the Web.

The New Curator’s case for making museums like Monocle Magazine
* A magazine structure with similar responsibilities. An Editor-in-Chief like Tyler Brûlé, section editors, correspondents, freelancers etc. Everyone gets their name on what they create.
* Lots of different content, structured. Okay, Monocle has five general topics, but there are about fifty different things in each topic of various sizes, from features to small columns. I pick up the copy I have here and under BUSINESS is a report of Arbil in Iraq, a two-page spread on the brands involved in airport security, ten short articles on ten businesses not suffering from economic collapse and three slightly longer columns on three business as examples of the future of retail in Japan. Its amazing.
* Top level design and “format”. Monocle magazine looks good. It always does. Their design team has a lot to do and they do it well. I imagine they’re paid handsomely. Every edition looks good and within the desired format. This has got me thinking in a different tangent about the production of an exhibition being the same as publishing. May explore further in another post, but you get the idea of inserting content into a structure like a magazine, right? The better magazines have very strict style-sheets to give a coherence to everything inside, especially with lots of different subjects. Bad magazines don’t have two pages that look the same nor have two editions have anything in common with umpteen different fonts, hundreds of different column layouts, random splashes of colour with as many badly taken photoshopped images crammed into every space. There’s also the side of formatting which is the physical: the size, the shape, the quality of the paper, the number of pages. all of which slight changes can make a huge difference. Like when The Guardian changed from a broadsheet format to a thinner Berliner format. They’re sales shot up because of the easier to handle paper for reading on planes/trains as well as aligning themselves to be more like European papers as per they general pro-European/international stance. “Format” is one of the most important priorities. Lets the writers/journalists/(curators) get on with being creative and filling that format.
* Twelve Monthly Issues. This is where I give people an aneurysm. Monocle does an edition once a month. How often does a museum do a complete turnaround? A temporary exhibition once every couple of months? I’m saying museums need to do massive changes, whole New Editions, once a month to keep a readership interested. I’ll let you work out how to pay for it.
* Something Worth Collecting. Now, I admit most magazine are cheap trash to be read once and recycled. Monocle differs because it looks great, has high production values, it’s as thick as a book and it shows me the world. First edition copies of issues one of Wallpaper* Magazine (Tyler Brûlé’s previous job before Monocle) are extremely collectible because they are worth something. In museum terms, the product on offer is an experience. Make people want to collect the experience. Make them something tangible to say This is Mine. Not merchandising, but an intended object. I go out and buy Monocle Magazine because it’s worth something. In 40 years time, I’ll be able to say that whilst there monetary value may have increased and they’re becoming increasingly rare, it was the excellent level of magazine journalism and quality of design during an era of insipid media cultures. Museum experiences shouldn’t be memorable, they should be collectible.

Sarah Rhodes


Best of the Web Awards @ Museums and the Web 2009

Museums and the Web is over for another year but the conference papers are still accessible. Here is the line-up of the best of the museum world’s online innovations with the Brooklyn Museum taking out the overall prize. Click here, to see more on the awards.

Best overall website
Brooklyn Museum collection
Panel says: not just because of what they have done (fantastic site)
but because they are pointing us in the direction we should all be
taking in the future.

Best on-line community or service
Brooklyn Museum Collection, Posse, and Tag! You are It!
Panel says: “The playfulness of “Tag! You’re it!” covers up a deep
understanding of what “the social web” is all about. Many other
museums are playing with web2.0, but none (IMO) are actually living
the social web in the way that Brooklyn are.

Honourable mention
Flickr Commons
Panel says: an excellent example of collaboration across both professional and community networks.

Best educational site
Tate Kids
Panel says: Wonderful interactivity.

Honourable mention
Firefly Watch, Museum of Science, Boston
Panel says: an excellent example of how to make a topic that is seemingly narrow into something engaging and fascinating.

Best online exhibition
Click! A Crowd-Curated Exhibition
Panel says: took a concept — “wisdom of the crowds” — and played it out.

Best innovative or experimental site
My Yard Our Message
Panel says: the quality of the final slogan boards were as good if not
better than a corporate ad agency.

Honourable mention
Astronomy Photographer of the Year (plus complimentary digital astronomy services)
Panel says: There are a couple of innovations here, especially the concept
of ‘astrotagging’ (instead of geotagging).

Best professional’s site
Panel says: knits together content, listings, resources and more.

Best podcast
RWM (Radio web MACBA)
Panel says: I like how they have organized the topics.

Best research site
Museum of Jewish Heritage Online Collection
Panel says:You can format the way the site is rendered.

Best small site
Museum 2.0
Panel says:anticipates the needs and questions of people all over the museum sector.

People’s choice
Video Active

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


How can museums be more like the Web?

Can we apply the principles of how the Web operates to the running of our cultural institutions? Nina Simon discussed this idea in a paper and a mini-workshop called Going Analog: Translating Virtual Learnings into Real Institutional Change at the Museums and the Web conference last week.

Nina says:
But now we should be going in the other direction and applying the methods and lessons of the Web and Web 2.0 to the museum itself. How can museums be more like the Web? How can they be open 24/7? How can visitors customize their experiences? How can museums become places to talk with other visitors and sneak into the most interesting drawers and move things around?

In Going Analog, Nina cites a fun example of how museums can behave in a similar way to a wiki. She says: ‘Dick Rijken, a Dutch researcher, wanted to find a way to encourage people to contribute to local historical archives. Rather than setting up a wiki, he erected a stall at a town festival, and cooked and served food based on 17th century recipes that were in the archive. To get fed, visitors had to submit their own recipes’. Rijken came up with a clever way of acting out a metaphor for how the Web operates.

Wikis, hyperlinks, creating your own aggregate site and user-generated content are just some of the tools museums, galleries and libraries can think about when designing public programs and exhibitions. By creating an emotional response to an artwork or object, the participant will be more likely to remember what they experienced and apply it to their everyday lives.

Sarah Rhodes


The small museum’s vital role in community engagement

Smaller cultural institutions have the opportunity to become the lead commentators in contemporary society. The fragmentation of the media, and consequently of civil society, has positioned the museum brand as a credible source of information. Ross Dawson wrote in his blog that the media and the museum are both curators of content facing the same question: Should they control the information or should they open-up the editing process? By starting an online dialogue, museums can take the lead role in the community as builder, shaper and connector.

Museums, libraries and galleries should use digital media alongside its exhibition space to help it build and engage a community. Through online discussion forums, social networking, open-source and other Web 2.0 applications, an institution can listen to its community and reflect civil society’s needs in its public program.

Samuel W. Shogren, of the Washington County Historical Society, argues in The Informal Learning Review No. 92 (Sep / Oct 2008) that small cultural institutions have a significant role in place making and influencing social change for three reasons:
- Museums operating from smaller facilities, rather than large temple-like buildings, can be more responsive to change within the community;
- Smaller institutions are able hold exhibitions and programs reflecting the issues facing civil society;
- Curators and exhibition designers could set up exhibitions in locations reflecting their content. This could open-up possibilities for community involvement in shaping the story for the exhibit.

The role of the small museum is more significant than ever as it has the ability to reflect civil society. (Larger institutions will be slower to respond to community issues as there are more layers of bureaucracy to cut through.) The online and on-site communities need to work together to transform the museum’s traditional spaces into places where dialogue and education can occur. Here vital links between cultures and social groups can be formed, placing small cultural institutions at the centre of a community.

Sarah Rhodes


A round-up of discussions relating to community-managed museums

Community-managed cultural institutions need to share ideas on how to use digital media to reach their audiences more effectively. Here is a round-up of discussion forums that might touch on some of the issues you have been facing.

First of all, we would like to invite anyone who would like to share their ideas in this discussion forum on how small and volunteer-run museums can use digital media to compensate for their lack of resources.

One idea is to upload your collections onto CAN’s online collection database. That way when a search is carried out, your objects will come up alongside those from larger institutions – giving them equal presence. Digitising collections and loading them into our online database is a dynamic marketing tool from which opportunities can be leveraged at a later date. For instructions on how to upload to the CAN Collections Database, click here.

Monika Lechner asks the question: Are museum-web 2.0 applications too time consuming? This question is particularly relevant for small museums and galleries who often do not have the resources to maintain these sites. It would be interesting to further this discussion on this site to work out ways to social network effectively.

Angela Ruggles has posted a forum about community museums and developing countries in preparation for her trip to Cairo, Egypt.

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


Virtual-delegates at the Museum and the Web 2009

For those who cannot attend the Museum and the Web 2009 conference in Indianapolis, social media tools can link you to the action. In past years, participants were limited to blogging on the MW website but this year the use of social media will mean backchannel (or online dialogue) will play a significant role. Groups have been set up on Twitter, Flickr, LinkedIn, delicious and Facebook to enable better networking opportunities. You can even link up RSS feeds with conference updates. These social media applications are for people interested in marking themselves as key players in the industry, sharing ideas and meeting like-minded people.

There are several papers and workshops on social media tools accessible to the public.

Great Expectations: Sustaining Participation in Social Media Spaces by Angelina Russo, Swinburne University of Technology, Victoria and Darren Peacock, University of South Australia, Adelaide.

Planning for social media by Seb Chan, head of Digtial Services and Research, Powerhouse Museum, Sydney and Angelina Russo, Swinburne University of Technology, Victoria.

Down to Earth. Social Media and Institutional Change by Vincent de Keijzer, Gemeentemuseum, The Hague, The Netherlands and Patricia Deiser, Museum voor Communicatie, The Netherlands.

Of particular interest is a paper presented by Maxwell Anderson, of the Indianapolis Museum of Art called Moving from Virtual to Visceral. Anderson will discuss how museum’s can translate their on-site experiences online to penetrate through media clutter.

Sarah Rhodes