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MuseumNext — 2009

Newcastle upon Tyne, England

The very first MuseumNext took the form of a two-day workshop for museum professionals in the North of England. Attendees who explored innovative new ways to energise audiences and looked at how they could create more engaging experiences for their visitors.

The event was led by American museum consultant Nina Simon, who had recently released her book The Participatory Museum, and Jim Richardson, the founder of MuseumNext.

Day one of the workshop was held in Newcastle’s Great North Museum, where an interactive exhibition about recycled design provided the perfect backdrop, encouraging all delegates to build models, sock puppets and discover new ways of thinking about design.

The event started with seven delegates pitching ‘wild ideas’ to their fellow museum professionals and groups formed around these themes – covering everything from developing a new museum in the United States to what to do with digital collections in Manchester.

Delegates worked long into the night as they discussed their ‘wild ideas’ and the challenges that they faced in their individual museums.

The second day of the event was held in Newcastle’s science museum, the Centre for Life. The day started with a presentation from Nina Simon which outlined the principals of The Participatory Museum. This was followed by an informative question and answer session before participants returned to work on their ‘wild ideas’.

Lunchtime gave everyone the opportunity to see what it was like to do something unusual in a public space, with games and interaction designer Nikki Pugh challenging MuseumNext participants to try urban gaming. The groups continued to refine their wild ideas, and the day concluded with each team presenting what they had developed.

The MuseumNext workshop resulted in a number of these ‘wild ideas’ turning into real projects, most notably at the $103m Utah Museum of Natural History. This was under development at the time of the workshop but the museum went on to work with their fellow team members from Frankly Green + Web to develop a digital interpretation system, using a mix of mobile and static web, in-gallery kiosks and an iphone app.