Epic Fail at Museums & the Web 2012, San Diego

Seb Chan (Cooper-Hewitt) I are hosting the closing plenary at Museums & the Web in San Diego this year. We’ve called it Epic Fail and we’re going to be shining a light on the failures that we individually and we collectively have had as project teams, institutions, and maybe even the sector as a whole.

Inspired by the valuable lessons we’ve learned personally from over-sharing our own failures on our blogs, and the growing trend in the non-profit and social enterprise sectors to share analyse, and learn from failures – we think the time has come for Museums and the Web to recognise the important role that documenting failures plays in making our community stronger.

Failure?

Well, taking a cue from FailFaire, there are many common reasons for failure in the non-profit sector –

1. The project wasn’t right for the organisation (or the organisation wasn’t right for the project)
2. Tech is search of a problem
3. Must-be-invented-here syndrome
4. Know thy end-users
5. Trying to please donors rather than beneficiaries (and chasing small pots of money)
6. Forgetting people
7. Feature creep
8. Lack of a backup plan
9. Not connecting with local needs
10. Not knowing when to say goodbye

Sound familiar? we thought so.

So . . .

We’re doing a call out for ‘failures’ to be featured in our closed door session (that means no tweeting, no live blogging).

Each Fail will present a short 7-10 minute slot followed by 10 minutes panel and open-mic discussion. Each Fail needs to be presented by someone who worked on the project – this isn’t a crit-room – and we want you to feel comfortable enough to be honest and open. We want you to explore the reasons why you thought the project was a failure, diagnose where it went wrong, what would you do differently, and then collectively discuss the key lessons for future projects of a similar nature or targeting similar people.

Maybe, like Seb, you did an early project with QR codes that didn’t take into account the lighting situation in your exhibition, not to mention the lack of wifi? Or maybe a mobile App that you forgot to negotiate signage for the exhibition space? Or an amazing content management system that failed to address the internal culture and workflow for content production and ended up not being used?

In fact neither Seb or I can think of a project we have worked on that hasn’t had its own share of failure. But in most cases we’ve been able to address the problem and iterate, or, if necessary, as they say in the startup game, ‘pivot‘.

The more significant the failure, the better is its potential to be an agent of change.

So, if you are coming to Museums and the Web in San Diego in April this year, get in touch to nominate your project for a spot! We promise to create a safe environment for sharing these important lessons and end this year’s conference on a high.

Get in touch with the Fail Team – epicfail [at] freshandnew [dot] org

On a related note, here is a different kind of Epic Fail that can happen if you get caught out being a tourist in a Glasgow park without an umbrella!

“Join the Art Party” Connect10 needs you!

We are all very excited at Culture24 to be announcing the line-up of artists taking part in Connect10, a competition for cultural venues in the UK to win an artist-led event and a share of £7,000.


IMAGE: Bob & Roberta Smith, Join The Art Party, 2011.

The competition will match 10 contemporary artists with 10 museums and galleries for a series of unique events to be held as part of Museums at Night, the annual after-hours celebration of arts and heritage, which takes place over the weekend of 18-20 May 2012.

The 10 artists announced for Connect10 are:

Claire Barclay, futuristic Scottish sculptor whose carefully balanced installations have been exhibited in Tate Britain and Edinburgh’s Fruitmarket Gallery
Bompas & Parr, the jellymongers, who create spectacular culinary experiences ranging from architectural jellies to lakes of cocktails
Ryan Gander, provocative installation artist whose Artangel commission in a Hoxton warehouse provided clues for visitors to solve a mystery
Jon McGregor, award-winning novelist and short story writer, author of If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things and Even The Dogs
Polly Morgan, contemporary taxidermist whose poignant installations have been collected by Kate Moss
Terry O’Neill, fashion and rock photographer renowned for iconic images of Hollywood stars and bands like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones
Martin Parr, documentary photographer whose pictures tell stories of leisure, consumption and communication
Simon Roberts, landscape photographer who spent a year crossing Russia and was Official Artist of the 2010 General Election
Bob & Roberta Smith, sign-painter and installation artist who uses text on recycled signs and floorboards
Susan Stockwell, creator of installations, drawings and films commenting on globalisation and colonisation, often using recycled materials

In order to pitch for the artists, venues need to find a connections between their location or collections and the work of one of the artists.

So… if you are a venue you have until Tuesday 31 January 2012 to pitch an exciting Museums at Night event idea involving your chosen artist to Culture24 using this online form.

Culture24 will then select the two or three event ideas for each of the 10 artists, and open them up to an online public vote. Each successful venue will receive a £500 bursary for their event, and those selected venues that don’t win an artist will still receive £100 to support an alternative Museums at Night event.