Are you ready for the Internet of Things?

Fellow Culturemondo-er Rob van Kranenburg (seen below at our 4th Roundtable in Taiwan), the Founder at Council, has come togeher with! to present: “Are you ready for the Internet of Things?”


A LIFT @ Home event on December 4, 2009, at Brussel’s Center for Digital Culture and Technology. See Launch.

Take homes from two Culture24 workshops – Social Media, Web Metrics, Evaluation by Seb Chan

Just finished a full-on week with Seb Chan from Powerhouse, delivering this years ever popular and inspiring workshops – the first on Social Media and the second on Web Metrics and evaluation.

Under Seb’s guidance, Powerhouse Museum has been consistency leading internationally on how museums can use digital tools to further engage and reach audiences. This fact, combined with Seb’s own passion for the subject and his ability to dissect, confront and interpret his own digital, made this years workshops better that ever.

Take homes for me from both were:

Tuesday 3rd November – Social Media

1. Start with what are you trying to achieve and who is it for. Sounds obvious but its harder than you think.
2. You have to know who your audience are to reach them (the more segmentation the better).
3. Your content is your marketing. If your messages are not your actual stuff, your stories, your views, the stuff that makes you who you are, then its just noise.
4. Your social media channels need curating just like your exhibitions (all the time).
5. You need to monitor what is happening in our social media channels – what are people saying about you – and you need to respond to them.
6. Digital strategy needs to really be the responsibility of the whole museum team.
7. One museums misuse is another person’s valid interpretation.
8. Websites are not social spaces so don’t try and make your one. Take your stuff out into the existing social spaces where your target audience already are.

The day was held at CILIP in central London, great venue for courses and good catering with real hot food (very important). The mixture of people was really interesting, some museums, heritage, photography, arts – and individuals with responsibilities for marketing, curation, publishing, technical.

Living proof of the huge range of ways that organisations are dealing with digital strategy. There was a marked different from last years workshop and people seemed to be further developed in their thinking and understanding of the key issues. You can see this clearly in the fact that this year at least third of those attending were in the process of writing a digital strategy for their organisation, whereas last year, about the same number left the workshop having realised this was something that needed to do.

Wednesday 5th November – Web Metrics

This subject is a particular hobbyhorse of mine as I am so often amazed by how many digital projects have not even considered the basic questions of what are they trying to achieve and who is it for – without this how do you know what to evaluate to tell if it worked?

The big issue here I think is the fact that some projects are clearly commissioned because people think they have to ‘do’ something about digital – have a website, have a facebook page, put their collections online – whatever it might be.

Seb has done a great blog post on what he calls the “five rules of museum content” Worth a read and definitely worth interrogating your own work to see if you can answer the questions well or not.

Next meeting up Seb at the New Zealand National Digital Forum where we will do the Web Metrics workshop again as part of the 5th Culturemondo roundtable. Looking forward to seeing how the NZ museums/galleries/archives are coping with all this.

A further set of take homes from another participant – Bilkis Mosoddik at the Museum of London – can be found on her blog here.

How *not* to use Twitter!

There is a really nice piece in here about how Habitat have used #tags in twitter to promote it new furniture range. They come into much criticism for what is seen by many as just plain spamming and by others as a more serious king of twitter abuse.

Comments added add further to the debate and together off a pretty good critique of Twitter, the opportunities and pitfalls.

Andy Burnham, Boogie Woogie, HMS Belfast and Museums at Night

I had never been on board a destroyer until last week when we hosted the launch of the first Culture24 Museums at Night campaign on board HMS Belfast. What a great venue that is. Nestled right up next to Tower Bridge, across the water from the Tower of London, flags flapping in the breeze, shiny brass everywhere and an awe-inspiring array of gun desks.


We picked HMS Belfast to launch the event to our crowd of museum, arts and government VIP’s because they are one of the 150 venues that are taking part this year. Their specific offering is called ‘Battleship Boogie‘ and is an evening of live jive dancing. As part of our launch event we staged a sneek preview of the daning for our guests with live DJing from Jeff Duck from Two Tone Boogie (he also does a seriously mean jive in his wheelchair).

Dancers and Geoff

Thanks to the excellent photographic skills of Charlotte Macpherson we also managed to get some fabulous publicity shot to give to press.


In fact it all come together to be really good event, with a few words from our chairman John Newbigin and the lovely Andy Burnham, ever the genuine enthusiast and museum lover. Thanks to both of them for their kind words of support. You can see excerpts of the speeches on YouTube.

John and Andy

It is not to late to check out what is happening near your this weekend and go along. If you do, don’t forget to take your own pictures and upload them to our Flickr group.

Finally, need to mention the smooth and mellow live jazz care of Jim Howard and the perfect summer sunset care of mother nature. The ideal backdrop for a Culture24 team photo.

C24 team

Coordinating a National Marketing Campaign for Museums at Night – the role of Culture2


It has been 13 weeks since Culture24 were given a total of £23k from MLA and NMDC to coordinate the national Museums at Night Campaign. This is the first time we have done a national campaign of this kind and it is really exciting to be able to lead and coordinate it and try out our ideas about how these kind of things can work.

Trying to promote multiple events across the whole UK is not an easy thing to pull off on such a small budget. We have tried to create a simple but memorable branding and make sure venues understand the value of the campaign and the benifits of trying something different.

Our approach has been, as with everything, to simply make best use of what we already have. This means obviously using our own websites as promotional vehicles but also our network of contacts in the sector and press to build momentum and participation. This work has been a big focus of our effort and with just under a month to go and I am really staggered by the enthusiasm of museums and galleries to take part.

There are over 120 events already planned and more coming in each day. Crucially, lots of them have risen to the challenge implicit in the night that it is all about trying to reach out to new audiences in new ways and are planning some really great one-off events – Tours by candlelight, battleship boogies, after-dark fire-spinning and lots, lots more.

Our online coverage started a few weeks ago and we hope to ensure that there is at least one story written about every single event as well as regional roundups and event highlighting. The stories all go onto our own sites but are also shared out with related and relevant partner sites to make sure the right audiences see them. For example, matching top food events with popular food site and networks – making every bit of editorial work as hard as it can for us.

We have also started up a Flickr group and are inviting people who attend an event to submit their best photographs to the Flickr archive. From this archive, the best pictures will be chosen by some top sector curators and publishers and featured in an online exhibition. Difficult to know what the take up will be but it is not really about quantity of engagement, it is about quality. We will be starting to promote it on the Flickr forums soon and distributing leaflets to all the participating venues … and we will see.

All the PR and press liaison is being done by our regular freelance whizz Ruth Cobb from Mosaic marketing, who as well as liaising with local and national press, is staging a fab launch event on HMS Belfast with a distinct 1940’s theme. Just off to buy my hat ….

Museums at Night 2009, organised by Culture24, takes place on May 15, 16 and 17 and is part of the European-wide Nuits des Musees celebrations.
Find out more here.

Goodbye 24 Hour Museum (forever) and hello to the new Culture24 BETA site

We went live with the new BETA version of the Culture24 website today which has replaced the original 24 Hour Museum site forever … so long, farewell auf wiedersehen, goodbye …

The experience is both electrifying and terrifying and has been the result of a very intense six months of hard work by the new Culture24 team, preceded by at least of year of thinking, planning and fundraising, preceded by eight years of learning on the job with the old site.


Like all BETA sites, it is not finished, in fact it has just begun, but it is already better than its predecessor. Ironically most of the content on the new BETA site is the same as the old 24 Hour Museum (with the exception of the editorial in the new Teachers section) but the difference is in the way that it is displayed and categorised. It is like building a new gallery for your old collection that you used to only be able to find by rummaging around in a storeroom.

The new site brings our content forwards and shows it off. Stuff is grouped by subject or region and you can drill down into your area of interest to a deep level. The search is faceted like ebay, so in the same way as on ebay a search for ‘shoes’ offers you a breakdown by size, colour, make etc, a search on the new site for ‘trains’ gives you a breakdown by subjects, region, curriculum, and time.

This means that you can explore the different articles, venues, events, resources and websites by switching on and off these different facets. Very cool and very useful. It means you can sort through the thousands of venues, listings and articles to find things that suit your interests. Of course, anyone who knows anything about databases knows that this only works if things are well classified and that is what this next few months of testing is all about.

The clever stuff behind the scenes that makes it all work is largely credit to my colleague Anra Kennedy who sorted out all the classification issues, writing bridging taxonomies between the kind of worlds people use to search (our navigation) and the formal classifications such as curriculum, artists names etc.
Plus of course the very talented Sacha Varma at SSL who has built the database and publishing system. And the really, really clever bit is that the taxonomy has been built as a living thing that we can change, update, refine as we learn to live with the site.

The plans we have for the site are ambitious. We want to get it known and we want to broker the data behind the site with new partners, both inside and outside the sector. We also want to share our experience about what works and what doesn’t with others.

This is the best moment in any project, the calm before the storm – and I know that there will be lots of stuff over the next few months that is bound to go wrong and need fixing. But right now, everyone at Culture24 is really proud of what we have done and rightly so I think.


Report from 4th Culturemondo International Roundtable meeting in Taiwan

The theme which framed the conference was ‘how the old feeds the new’ – how cultural heritage, artefacts, collections, objects can shape and nurture meaning in our ever changing online world.

There were 37 participants from 21 countries who split pretty equally into three groups:
– those (like me) running what were in the past called cultural portals
– people from the asia/pacific region who are involved in online cultural projects of various different kinds (some portals, some networks, some new stuff)
– theorists, artists, researches and developers from varies strands of the commercial, academic and creative sectors.


It was my first meeting as the new Chair and also the first time that we have had the resources to document the proceeding (thanks to our Taiwanise host TELDAP) as well as serious plan to disseminat them over the coming months.

These events are always best for their sociable nature and the inspiration you find in new people with other practices. The group were all wonderfully creative people, who are at the top of their fields and I felt a real honour at being their chair and coordinator for three days.


What is a cultural portal? It used to be a simple set of links, a kind of directory within which to find information. This model is dead. Search engines have replaced this functionally in ways that are quicker, more sophisticated and free to the public purse. Portals (if the word is to remain) now need to be doorways into an online architecture that is a curated space – much as a real doorway leads you into a building with different rooms, levels and interiors. They need to be published and at their best should allow their data to be filterd by others for republication.

The first generation of cultural portals have now either evolved or died. Those that have survived and grown are faced with the new challenge of how to have their own voice. How to build an architecture that draws people in and lay down ‘desire lines’ to new places.

Portal used to just be just the messenger, with culture itself – the art, the object as the message. The new generation of portals we are now seeing are, at their best, are both messenger and the message.

Portals need publishing and publishing is about curation, opinion, vision, style and content. The more we can publish, curate and integrate content for our audiences, the more meaning we can give it and the more value we add as the publishers.

This means not just knowing and defining our own voice as publishers (the role of the editor or journalist) but also finding ways to integrate both institutional culture (from our museums, archives galleries etc) with people’s own views of culture. This is a real challenge to do well and one I know the mumbers of the Culturemondo netwrok are rising to.

Some of those at the meeting were running a new generation of projects that seem to bypass the institutional view altogether. Things like Global Voices or Dirk Picture Library in Bangladesh are both examples of projects that fundamentally combine the message and the meaning inseparably in their architecture, methodology and delivery.


It was clear to me personally that the new Culture24 site that we have just spent two years building is already in need of another rebuild before we have even launched it. I am driven, inspired and depressed by this fact. I know that the new site is going to be loved and will generate a level of interest in UK culture not previously seen online but I also know that the best is let to come.

Roll on the next Culturemondo roundtable.


You can see full info on the participants, agenda and video clips of the roundtable on the Culturemondo website.

Working internatioanally with other non-profit cultural publishers: Culturemondo 4th Roundtable

This December will be the 4th international roundtable I have been involved in initiating and delivering as part of our rather romantically named Culturemondo project.

We now have a pretty serious three-day agenda full of keynotes, conversations, master classes and case studies covering issues from the UK and Europe, Australia and New Zealand, Africa and a diverse mix of Asian countries. I am travelling out to chair the event and present a case study about Culture24 that tracks our evolution from “portal to publisher”. We are lucky to have sponsorship from TELDAP part of the Academia Sinetica and supported by the Taiwan government) and the event is being held in a rather beautiful and nostalgic Culture park in the heart of Taipei that used to be a wine factory.


Being part of this informal network has been a real inspiration for me. The exposure to real international differences and intellectual perspectives always has something new to show me. I have also been the guests of Japanese, Canadian, Croatian, Cuban and Taiwanese hosts and know all about the value of some good face to face conversation and cold beer (not to mention the odd moment on a sun blessed beach).

To coincide with the roundtable we are reinvigorating the networks Google Group and our website and sending out the first in a series of regular posts (beginning w/c 17th Nov 08). If you would like to join the Google Group, you can find out more here.

We have also gone live with our third international survey of cultural portals and it is now open for completion by anyone who is running a cultural portal of some kind. You can find it on survey monkey here.

The survey will continue to benchmark the size, scope and development of our sector internationally but will also, for the first time, be collecting statistical information from which comparisons can usefully be made. This is because this is the first time we are only collecting stats from the same system – Google Analytics.

The survey will stay open online until after the roundtable in December and the results will be incorporated into the next published report summarising the roundtable that is being written by Katherine Watson from Lab for Culture.

One of the good things about watching something grow, organically from individual peoples passions, is that you have no shame about seeing it for what it is. Warts and all and if nothing else, Culturemondo has allowed me a perspective on the failures of Culture24 as much as it has helped our successes to shine brightly.

One thing that sticks out like a broken thing, is our use of the word portal. Intuitively, I always hated it (maybe it sounds better in French or Italian?) but it is a struggle to find a word that accurately describes the new model of cultural online publishers that some of us are becoming.

Why “Turning the place over” is just so good

When you first see the architectural intervention by artist Richard Wilson as you walk around the back of the Liverpool town hall, you get a feeling of well being.

There is just something very satisfying about the precision with which the opening has been cut out of the front of this old derelict building. It is a work of art, in both senses of the word.

People stop and stare, not quite sure if it is okay to laugh, which of course it is. There is a lot of humour here, a lot of play and some serious engineering. The illusion is magnificent as it is so subtle. The building in unchanged except for a huge oval that has been cut from its front and is spinning and turning on a vast sort of propeller blade. The kind of thing you imagine being used on the rotor on a wind turbine or submarine engine.

You have no choice but to take the time to wait for the cut-out section to return to its original place and for a brief moment return the building to a whole. But, no sooner is it back, then it moves on again, always turning, always changing, like any great urban cityscape.

There are thousands of views of the numerous youtube videos that the public have posted and if you can’t make it to Liverpool to see the real thing, they are a must.