Designing In/For/With the Museum Part 4

by Alan Hook. The latest in a series of blog posts, guiding us through the design process for producing interactive museum content.

19 Jul 2022   10 min read

Designing In/For/With the Museum Part 4

In previous blogs I outlined some core principles of design work with museums, including the importance of accessible technology or platforms and thinking about inclusive audience practice by ‘designing for my mum’ and the importance of underpinning digital audience engagement with work that is stable, usable, sustainable, and durable. Following this, we engaged in some consultancy with the sector to sense check the underpinning principles, and allow representatives from the sector to give feedback.

Alan Hook, standing in front of a small classroom, demonstrates a piece of audio recording equipment
Alan Hook demonstrates a piece of audio recording equipment to a workshop group.

We invited members of the museum and heritage sector, and design agencies who have worked closely with the sector to discuss and offer feedback on some of the core principles. This online workshop presented some of the ongoing research process and prototype outcomes, from the project, but also allowed space for groups to offer feedback on the core underpinning priorities.

The workshops helped to confirm the core direction for digital development from previous posts and helped us focus the initial ideation phases for digital development. This type of direct, open and transparent stakeholder engagement has been core to the ethos of the Museums, Crisis and Covid19 project

Feedback from the workshop has highlighted a few key areas:

  • Museums often use strategic funding, or external funding sources to develop new engaging audience experiences. These funding pots usually cover the cost of the development but rarely cover the cost of maintenance and the full life cycle of the digital experience.
  • Participants emphasised the importance of developing platforms of digital frameworks that were modular and scalable so that they could be built upon with follow-on funding.
  • Projects often have a set lifecycle which needs to be considered and built into the project strategy. Many digital visitor experiences need to be updated with new content, or can quickly feel quite dated.  The framework or platform is still strong, but the experience lacks replayability so needs to have need content developed to keep it up to date, relevant, and engaging for repeat visitors.
  • The core skills and expertise to update this work often doesn’t sit inside the museum, so this could be a funding issue or there needs to be some cross/up-skilling of staff or the platform needs to be easily updatable by internal staff.

This stakeholder feedback will help to inform the project direction, and also help solidify the recommendations from the project to help inform policy and governmental strategy to improve their support for the sector to build more resilient, robust and responsive approaches to future crisis.

In the next of this series of blog posts, I'll talk about a skills development workshop provided for MA Museum Studies students at Ulster University.