Libraries and Archives SIG

Are you an MCN member who works in a library or an archive? Would you like to see a Special Interest Group (SIG) specifically for librarians and archivists?

Many librarians and archivists are actively engaged in digital initiatives.
Our patrons/clients include both internal and external scholars – our strategies
and best practices both reflect and inform their needs.

This unconference session will help to gauge the interest in
developing a Library/Archives SIG where the issues and topics specific
to our community can be discussed and tips/tricks can be shared

Ways to Tap the Wisdom of Crowds

Museums are looking for successful ways to engage new audiences and create communities of interest, on the internet and through mobile technologies. Crowd sourced projects are one means to accomplish these goals and there are many inspiring, useful and playful projects out there.

We’re proposing an unconference session that looks at a handful of successful examples to see how they are relevant to museums, and challenges the group to come up with other creative, productive approaches that are inherent to the strengths of their institutions.

We plan to review several types of crowd sourced projects, such as those in which:

1. people create/provide a unique artwork, photo, comment or piece of writing to contribute to a single larger whole:

2. People collectively re-use materials:

  • Natalie Jeremijenko’s feral robot dog project where she teaches people in workshops to hack disposed-of robot pets and turn them into environmental toxin sniffers, where they then create toxin maps of their local environments:

3. People contribute skills, expertise and time,

4. People contribute to citizen science projects

5. People actively collect data for public use:

6. People using public data to create useful maps and tools, as in:

As a result of the conversation on mining the wisdom of the crowd, we could also do just that within our own community. We could consider setting up a crowdsourced research/resource project where people could contribute recommendations of successful projects or ideas for projects!

Links to projects shown on slides

Link to notes about the conversation in the session.

Session Info
Type: Unconference session
Keywords: crowdsourcing, community, creativity, social networking, user generated content
Relevance: Curators, Digital Media or Interpretive Technology staff, Marketing & PR. The relevance lies in the concept of crowd sourced projects to help museums build community, be places or provide content that people use, not just visit (to borrow a term from Nina Simon!)

Build an online collecting site

Ever wanted to collect stories, reflections, images, or other digital items from your visitors through the web, but you did not quite know how to plan and launch a site? In this proposed session participants will discuss the steps required to build a friendly and easy-to-use digital archive that encourages public contributions. Sheila Brennan has considerable experience building digital archives and collecting sites, and will share her experience with the group and will encourage others to talk through the challenges they are facing at their own institutions as they try to launch online collecting sites. Other topics that may be discussed include vetting, privacy, content management systems, project outreach, and sustainability.

<10/27/10> Folks, I’ve created a public Google doc for notes and examples during our session. Please annotate, edit, et al before, during, and after our session:

Session Info
Type: Unconference session
Keywords: digital archive, collecting, tagging
Relevance: The session relates to the conference theme by demonstrating how museums can invite the public to create content and add to a museum’s digital collections. Creating an online collecting site provides another means for a museum to encourage participation from its broad range of publics. Outreach and publicity for these types of sites are as critical to their success as building the site itself, all of which will be covered in this proposed session. This session may interest museum technologists, outreach specialists, curators, and educators.

Building map guides with open source tools and content

DC MapGuide ( ) is a web-based map application under active development. It will feature custom maps, created with free, open source tools.

The site integrates open source content, collected via the OpenStreetMap project, including highly detailed maps of Arlington National Cemetery and the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden. Map data is stored in a PostgreSQL database, with Mapnik used to render custom map tiles, and OpenLayers used to integrate interactive maps on the site.

The site draws descriptive information about these places from Wikipedia, and curates the content and “mashes it up” with the map data to provide a highly informative guide to places around Washington DC. The talk will include a brief overview of the tools and the process of creating and curating the content.

Session Info
Keywords: web, map, wiki, content
Relevance: people interested in mapping technology, wikipedia, or open content

Museums, Mobile and Augmented Reality: Redefining the Museum Experience

Imagine a digital re-imagining of the traditional brick & mortar museum, where visitors could use their own mobile devices to become a part of the museum experience. Augmented Reality (AR) & Mobile Applications are an effective way to build user interest in museum collections and exhibits by engaging users and prompting their participation within an exhibit. With the advent of Social Media and Mobile devices, the current paradigm of museums pales in comparison to the next generation of museums to come.

Augmented Reality, like many early technologies, was only possible in controlled settings with specific hardware and software designed for that usage. Medical students have long been able to practice open heart surgeries on dummies wearing AR goggles where visuals are mapped over the real world. The critical step we are experiencing now is the ability to map digital information over the physical world, making AR on mobile devices possible. With mobile devices came the ability to put AR in the hands of everyone. Using location and compass capabilities that come with mobile devices, museum visitors can hold their mobile device at eye level and see digital information mapped over their view of the museum. This information signifies where users are located and what direction and exhibits they are viewing. Users can view content such as blueprints to a Historic building mapped over the current structure, take tours of the museum based on their location or even prompt a virtual reenactment of a historic event to be viewed while in the exhibit, all from their mobile device.

Augmented Reality & mobile applications for museums would impact museum planning, exhibition design and museum attendance in a positive way. Those tools would allow curators to design interactive exhibits that would draw the attention of a younger, more mobile connected audience. Through the use of social media visitors could share their favorite painting, sculpture or collections with their friends, bringing more attention to the museum and its exhibits.

The session will show, in full scope, the evolution of interactivity in museum exhibits and how augmented reality applications could work to positively impact museum exhibitions. Below are links to a few examples of what a museum Augmented Reality mobile application looks like, using The Smithsonian Institution as a location.


Sample screens:



Session Info 

  • Keywords: augmented reality, mobile devices, mobile applications, social media
  • Relevance: New Media Directors, IT Directors, Marketing & Public Relations Directors within the museum community

Museums and Drupal: A Survey of the Field

The content management system Drupal is experiencing growing popularity and adoption in the museum field. Drupal offers significant benefits to museums: it’s powerful, widely-supported and open source. Our paper will explore the use of Drupal within the museum community.

Our paper will present the results of a survey of a wide range of museums (art, science, history, large and small) that are currently using Drupal. We will examine the primary benefits and challenges of the system for museums.
Has Drupal met the museum’s expectations? What unexpected issues did the museum encounter in adopting Drupal? Were they technical challenge or issues of workflow and change management?

What are the most commonly deployed Drupal modules? Are administrative users limited to the webmaster or web team or does staff from across the institution update their own sections of the site? Has Drupal been a challenge for non-technical museum staff? Does Drupal scale to support the needs to the largest, most heavily trafficked sites? Is there an impact on hosting requirements when an institution adopts Drupal?

One of the concerns about using open source technologies is the absence of a product vendor to provide service and support. How do museums handle ongoing service and support issues for Drupal-powered sites? Has the lack of a conventional product vendor (and the presence of a large community of independent Drupal developers) proven to be a burden or an opportunity for museums?

One of the greatest strengths of Drupal is its extensive and rapidly growing library of community-contributed modules. Our paper will explore Drupal modules that have been developed by museums (some of which have been contributed back to the community) and modules that address issues of particular concern to museums including:

• Integration of external data sources such as data from Collections Management Systems and Digital Asset Management Systems such as the online collections of the Art Institute of Chicago
• CRM tools such as CiviCRM
• E-commerce modules such as Ubercart
• Calendar module being developed by Balboa Park Online Collaborative
• Calendar and TAP mobile platform developed by the Indianapolis Museum of Art

Finally we’ll look at the some of opportunities offered by the upcoming release of Drupal 7.

Session Info
Keywords: Drupal, open source, content management systems
Relevance: Our session is designed for museums currently using Drupal and those considering their content management system options. The session will be relevant for IT and web staff at a range of large and small museums.

Announcing THATCamp Museum Computer Network

We’re very pleased indeed to announce that THATCamp has partnered with the Museum Computer Network to bring you an “unconference within a conference.” THATCamp MCN, offered in conjunction with I/O: The Museum Inside-Out/Outside-In 38th Annual MCN Conference, will be free and open to anyone who wants to attend and share ideas and get work done in the company of experienced museum professionals used to working with technology.

October 28th – 30th, 2010

Sheraton Austin at The Capitol

Austin, TX

See also the website for the associated conference, I/O: The Museum Inside-Out/Outside-In 38th Annual MCN Conference.

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