April 11-14, 2007
San Francisco, California

Sessions: Abstract

Who are you calling cheap?   go to paper

Peter Gray, East Lothian Council, United Kingdom

The power of the Internet and ICT lies partly in the leveling of the playing field for small and large institutions. Yet museums in the south-east of Scotland, mostly small and many dependent on volunteers, were failing to take advantage of this opportunity. In particular, museum staff and volunteers lacked the knowledge required to create their own on-line digital resources; the confidence to build on existing skills in using computers, expanding their abilities into new areas; the awareness of what the technologies can (and can't) achieve, how they work, and how they may fail; and an understanding of the technologies underlying the provision of Web content. In addition, museums, especially smaller, volunteer-reliant museums, were deterred by a perception of excessive cost.

In January 2005 we launched the Digital Resource Development Team project with more than twenty partners and £300,000 over three years from the Scottish Executive. It aims to help the partner museums take advantage of the opportunities presented by ICT, the Web and open source applications to present their collections, and the knowledge about them, in new ways, engaging new audiences, by passing on the skills and knowledge to people in museums and helping them to overcome their technophobia.

This paper focuses on two example sub-projects. Remember When was developed in connection with the 2006 Rainbow City exhibition at the Edinburgh City Art Centre exploring the history of LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, bisexual and Transgender) life in Edinburgh. The Linlithgow Union Canal Society has been supported in re-purposing older educational material, including video, for use on site and on-line.

So, how did we get them to play, and how did we persuade the reluctant? What were the pitfalls, and where were the unexpected bonuses? Did we make things better, or just leave the museums dazed and confused? How can we ensure this project has a legacy?

Session: Small Museums [Management]

Keywords: ommunity, volunteer, institutional change, sustainability, small museums, Open Source