Cold and rainy is not how you would normally describe San Diego, but I can because it was just that for most of my five-day visit for the Museums and the Web 2012 conference. However, this did not dampen my excitement or those of the over 530-strong contingent gathered to share stories, secrets, and advice about all things museum tech. From websites to augmented realities, to analytics to CMS and crowd sourcing—there was something to titillate every taste.
I was there wearing many hats—as the head girl of Girl Museum, as web administrator for INNZ and as a freelance exhibition developer. But mostly I just wanted to understand better how best, and when to use, technology; in gallery interp, interactive games, social media or even when not to use it at all.
The range of topics offered an angle for most tech comprehension levels and I especially enjoyed how international the crowd was—there seemed to be someone from everywhere. It was striking how accepted it is nowadays that people will be on laptops, iPads, iPhones and other technologies during sessions and lectures. I still have a hard time with this, it just seems rude, even if you are tweeting or blogging or engaging in some other esoteric way.
The behind the scenes tours to several of the museums in Balboa Park were really cool, especially the Air and Space Museum restoration area—secret stuff going on down there.
Particularly excellent was the closing panel about failure. Five brave souls got up in front of the crowd and confessed major project failures running into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. It was poignant to hear their stories and how they came through and what they learned at the time. On reflection now, it is even more powerful going forward,wondering how I will deal with such things, hopefully with as much grace and humor.
Of note was the copious amount of coffee and tea on offer, as well as snacks and heaps of nice food. Being fed and watered properly at a conference is very important to how you take everything in and the overall pleasure of the experience. I can safely say there was enough of everything when you needed it.
This was a valuable conference for those seeking like-minds, searching for general solutions or directions, but not really to solve specific problems. There could definitely have been more doctors’ surgeries and outpatient care offered for specific projects, and more for those of us who have a serious interest in using technology to interpret and display, but don’t have big budgets or audiences.
My takeaways were mainly about resources; to always know that every project will take more time, money and people than you anticipate; and to budget for maintenance, both in time and people, or the amazing things that we do will be broken, forgotten or scrapped.