Museums and the Web 2017

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Praise and takeaways from a stellar conference

Plank has always worked closely with clients from the arts and cultural sectors. We love bringing their work to the digital world and creating engaging experiences for their audiences. 

Since 2015, we’ve been working with the Juno Beach Centre on a companion website to a traveling exhibition. From Vimy to Juno brings to life Canada’s involvement in the two World Wars through stories, archival material and lesson plans.

We’re also working on a new component, funded by the Virtual Museum of Canada, that offers an even more in-depth and interactive exploration of personal stories and major events. We’ve loved working on this project, and we hope to bring our experience to a lot more museum projects in the future. 

Learning more about museums

To that end, I’ve been attending museum industry conferences for the past few years. It’s been eye-opening to learn about the issues and challenges faced by museums, especially when it comes to digital. There are two camps within the industry, it seems. There are those who think of digital as an afterthought and even a threat to visitorship, and those who are embracing the possibilities with open arms. I think it’s obvious which camp I fall into. So I was very pleased with my most recent museum conference experience at Museums and the Web, held in Cleveland this year. It’s been the most relevant to Plank’s work, and so refreshing to see the presenters and
attendees excited about digital projects.

Who knew?

This was also the first time I took part in an “expo” setup. Myself and Jen Sguigna gave demonstrations of the Vimy to Juno project, and I was quite surprised how much I enjoyed it! I never saw myself promoting Plank’s work in a trade show booth, but it was actually a great way to chat with people one on one. I’m a bit of an introvert when it comes to a lot of networking situations, but it’s a whole other story when people approach you wanting to know about your project. Now I’m seriously thinking about how we can do more of that in a fun and interesting way.

Key themes

Unfortunately, I couldn’t take in all of the presentations and events, but here are a few of the themes that came up.

Social media

It is, of course, impossible to ignore social media. This session on crowdsourcing looked at some campaigns to develop more personal relationships with communities. Rather than just pushing content to the public, museums are using platforms like Instagram and Twitter to encourage people to share the way they interact with museums. 


Accessibility in the museum experience was one of the main themes of MW17. I saw a series of short presentations on it and was really impressed with some of the considerations for accessibility not only to museum visitors, but on social media as well. Crowdsourcing came up again here as a means of collecting alt text tags for large photo collections.

3D and AR/VR

AR/VR is on everyone’s mind and these are still early days of exploration. Most museums are relying on Google Cardboard as a cheap option, and a way to try AR/VR without a big investment. It results in a lesser experience than an Oculus, but certainly
a more accessible one. 

During this presentation by the British Museum I found myself utterly fascinated by some of the 3D photo scanning they demonstrated. I quickly downloaded all the software and tools I needed to do it myself and I’m really looking forward to experimenting with this technology


I enjoyed a presentation by another digital studio owner, Eric Holter of Cuberis. His session on improving the RFP process and focus on developing relationships was right in line with a lot of the experience we’ve had in responding to RFPs.

More please!

Of all of the museum industry events I’ve attended so far, this was definitely the best one for me. It was entirely focused on digital, offered some hearty food for thought, and I really enjoyed meeting the other attendees.

Getting to go to the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame was also a fun highlight! I am now going to make this the #1 go-to event for Plank to attend to learn more about the museum world. 

So see you in Vancouver in 2018!