Conference 2012: best of the blogs

Geraldine Kendall, 21.11.2012
A round-up of discussion from the web about the MA Conference
This year’s MA Conference in Edinburgh inspired plenty of lively debate, and some delegates have been continuing that conversation on the web.

Unsurprisingly, bloggers were particularly enthusiastic about the digital elements of conference. The Let’s Get Digital session looked at how the Heritage Lottery Fund has changed its funding criteria to allow purely digital projects.

Mia Ridge of the Museums Computer Group, chaired the session and wrote on her blog about how she wanted to highlight the point that “it's not about making everything digital, it's about dealing with the fact that digital is everywhere”.

Ridge also touched on some discussions that came out of the session on the question of free digital access: “Someone described intellectual property restrictions to try to monetise collections as 'fool's gold' - great term!”

On the Museum Development North West blog, Louise Sutherland was intrigued by the fact that none of the applications to HLF since the changes were introduced have looked at the acquisition of digital material. 

She wrote: “This in itself is interesting, perhaps the sector is thinking about what it means to be a museum in the 21st Century, the role/purpose of contemporary collecting and how it can make the best of what it has already within the digital environment before collecting more.”

Audience development consultant Mar Dixon, who spoke in the Social Museum session at conference, summarised her tips for integrating social media: "Do not let your social media sit within your PR department. Allow everyone to tweet for you – if you don’t trust them to tweet for you, don’t let them in your museum."

"Making mistakes on social media is OK! Not only does it show you're human, but it shows things aren’t scripted," she added.

Twitter talk

Edinburgh 2012 saw conference’s biggest Twitter presence yet, with the hashtag #museums2012 trending in the UK at one point.

With this in mind, the Museum of Unreason blog offered some tongue-in-cheek advice to speakers at Liverpool 2013: “The brief for speakers at next year's conference should be to keep sentences to 100 characters or less to help us tweeters.”

The blog handed out several Twittering Awards, including “most honest tweet” and “best food for thought”, as well as an award for “reducing social media to playground competitiveness”.

Staying with Twitter, Amy Dale from Museums Galleries Scotland (MGS), who helped organise Conference’s first ever Tweet-up at the Jekyll and Hyde pub, published her top ten tips for hosting a similar event.

Dale’s advice includes: understand the purpose of your tweet-up; get the conversation started before the event; provide Twitter name badges; and create a Twitter list of who’s attending so that people can follow each other in advance.

New faces

This year’s conference had lots of new faces, with a record number of first-time delegates. One new entrant to the sector, former MGS intern Catherine Peck, said her first conference experience was “genuinely fascinating”.

Peck wrote on the MGS blog: “The highlight of the conference was hearing Martin Roth (director of the V&A) deliver the keynote on Friday morning. Having little prior knowledge I expected a ‘politician’ figure to roll out something acceptable... we’d all clap, say it was interesting and forget about it the next day.

“I couldn’t have been more wrong... It was so refreshing to see someone high-powered within the museum world being so openly passionate about working in museums and discussing the future of the sector.”

She finished: “Having leaders with the confidence to speak humbly and thoughtfully is a really positive sign for the sector.”