Gateshead - MuseumNext

Gateshead

19th - 21th April 2014

For our sixth annual museum conference, MuseumNext returned to the UK. With happiness, mobile technology and audience engagement chosen as key themes, the event attracted a large number of international delegates with our most diverse range of nationalities attending yet. More than thirty countries were represented from New Zealand to South Korea to Tibet along with many organisations from the local area.

Prior to the conference, delegates could enjoy a number of fringe events including a popular workshop on design thinking from Dana Mitroff Silvers and Marco Mason encouraging participants to get creative, and a sunshine filled walking tour to introduce delegates to the city.

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The conference opened with an evening reception at BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art where delegates were treated to a private view of the galleries, before being given a chance to network over drinks in the Riverside Bar. Roughly half of the delegates attending the event had been to previous MuseumNext conferences, so this was a great opportunity to see old friends as well as to meet new people from a huge range of places and organisations.

The next morning delegates gathered at Sage Gateshead, the £70 million concert hall venue on the banks of the Tyne, to hear MuseumNext founder Jim Richardson welcome them to the event. Jim expanded on the recent cultural renaissance of North East England, which has seen more than £200 million capital spent on new arts spaces and redeveloping existing arts venues.

The opening keynote came from American museum consultant Koven J Smith who spoke about the need for museums to rethink how they approached the digital. He stated that 100 years ago a factory in Newcastle would have had a Chief Electricity Officer, and in the same way that electricity no longer needs a ‘manager’, we would see Chief Digital Officer roles disappear, as organisations embrace technology and skills become more widespread.

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The afternoon keynote was delivered by Colleen Dilenschneider, Chief Market Engagement Officer for IMPACTS, who clearly and concisely laid out an argument for us to digitally and physically (via face-to-face communication) touch visitors to increase engagement and improve experience – thereby generating more positive reviews and increasing footfall.

Other organisations presenting included TATE, INTK, Naturalis Biodiversity Centre, Mart – Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art of Trento and Rovereto, Media Lab Helsinki, Nodes, The Common People, EYE Filmmuseum, Van Gogh Museum, Twnkls Augmented Reality, imagineear, Ian Potter Museum of Art (Melbourne), Lord Cultural Resources, Dubai Culture and Arts Authority, Cap Sciences, Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery, ScanLAB, Science Museum – London, Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove, Unique Visitors Barcelona, Birmingham Museums Trust, independent museum consultant Mar Dixon and Design Thinking for Museums.

The day ended with an evening social at Newcastle’s Great North Museum, offering delegates a chance to immerse themselves in the galleries whilst networking and making new contacts. The England – Uruguay World Cup match was even shown at the museum to please the football fans amongst us!

The final day of the conference started with Jessica Taylor and Sam Billington from Antenna International sharing their insight on mobile technology and potential uses for museums and galleries. They also highlighted a number of their own projects including Talking Statues which uses playwrights, actors and mobile technology to put words into the mouths of 40 statues scattered around London. Pass a talking statue, swipe your phone on a nearby NFC tag, scan a QR code or simply type in the tiny URL and hey-presto, your phone rings…it’s Joan of Arc on the line.

The final keynote was delivered by Gretchen Scott from the Museum of Modern Art and Jason Minyo from New York Advertising agency Possible. They spoke about ART140, a Twitter project that poses a simple prompt: “What does this work of art make you think?”. By inviting the public to share their thoughts and feelings, ART140 hopes to spark a conversation about art with a broad audience.

Other organisations presenting included the British Museum, Venture Stream, LACMA, Museum of Life and Science, Urban-Play (Seoul), Cogapp, the Orientalist Museum, Doha, the State Historical Museum Moscow, Gallagher & Associates, adidas AG, Historic Royal Palaces, National Museums Scotland, Collective Experiences, Peabody Essex Museum, Derby Museums, Palazzo Madama and Victoria & Albert Museum.

MuseumNext 2014 was chaired by Mike Ellis of Thirty8 Digital and Emma McLean from AKA and sponsored by MailChimp, Impacts Research, Tessitura Network and Komodo.