Archives, Libraries & Museums: Time To Let Newspapers, Radio and Television Die.

A historic decision was made this week at the International Museums, Archives, Libraries and Heritage Committee (IMALHC) annual congress meeting in Oslo by international representatives of the global heritage sector. IMALHC members voted to stop giving deadmedia (newspapers, radio and television broadcasting) a free ride in order to let them die with “a bit of dignity left”. This welcomed decision is expected to be respected and actioned by heritage organisations in the coming year. The decision taken is to stop giving free time, resources and assets to deadmedia organisations to run cutesy stories or prop up the same three documentaries they keep making.

Brione Poplio, IMALHC member and Curator of Massmedia at the Museum of Communication, said “As an expert on obsolete media it was a difficult decision to pull the plug on creative industry stablemates. However, it’s been a rather one-sided relationship for the last hundred years or so. We waive filming and reproduction fees, give up our already limited staff time, help with their research and they run the same headline about ‘discovering lost artefacts in dusty basements’. It’d almost be offensive if anyone was actually reading listening or watching”.

Cereza Bayonetta, Head of Brighton Archives Centre added “We had the perfect example of this last month. We gave up two days of time and museum space for BBC filming How Old Is Your Celebrity Caravan and got three likes on our ‘we’re on the telly’ tweet. A local popular LGBTQ+ podcaster happened to mention they came to the centre in passing and our Instagram follower quadrupled overnight. They also got the name of the institution correct, unlike the BBC”.

Ian Dunlop, Director of Wenlow Museum of Horticulture said “Exposure is cheap these days. I was on the Today programme recently talking about hoes and I couldn’t even buy a coffee in my local cafe with the exposure. The young barista didn’t even recognise it as valid currency at first!”.

Jenny Jenson, Head of Marketing, Communication and Innovation at the Museum of Rocks and Dairies, offered: “We’ve got a live webcam of a creaky floorboard that once belonged to Charles I that has more viewers than at least three national newspapers have circulation figures. If we wanted to get a message out, we’d put a Post-It on the floorboard to be honest”.

Some heritage professionals welcome the decision to allow traditional journalism to end with some dignity such as Mia Norwich, Head of beeswax at GYRATE!: “When the lights do finally go off and the doors do finally close on the fourth estate and traditional journalism let’s remember them for speaking truth to power, for making world leaders quake in their boots. For holding those at the top accountable. Let’s make the memory of dead media one of these messages, not the papping celebs on the milk run in their PJ’s or the giving platforms to trendy fascists that they’re known for nowadays”.

Not everyone was unconcerned for the future of popular culture, newsmaking and communications though. N’Gari Hattershank, Chief Senior Junior Librarian from the Potter’s Library, warned: “Obviously, the Internet and social media remains the Wild West when it comes to ethics, checks and balances and accountability. This is a slight change to traditional journalism which has these ethics, checks and balances largely ignored but at least on paper”.

 

 

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How to be More Helpful to Researchers

My last post was a ‘How To’ for researchers of all walks of life to write an enquiry to a museum. I’ve mentioned in a previous post for UCL Museums and Collections Blog about the foibles of finding and accessing museum specimens (specifically natural history museum in the UK) and I’d like to expand on that in this post. Accessibility and relevance of collections is enshrined in many museum’s ethos, founding principles or strategy yet as a museum researcher on occasion, as well as someone who works in a museum, the sector can make it very hard to link the people who would be users with collections. Anecdotally, I’ve heard from a number of researchers who have had a poor response from museum enquiries, even well structured ones, and I’ve got a three year old and one year old enquiry lodged somewhere in the pipes at two well known UK National Museums. With ever present pressure on resources within the sector as well as a need to justify why we need to plough resources into maintaining vast collections, here are a few things I think we could do, to get those collections better used. Continue reading

How to Write a Research Enquiry to a Museum

Museums are full of great stuff and the job of many museum curators and collections managers is to make museum collections as accessible as possible. Collections are there to be used, not hoarded for  some future end-of-world-saving scenario. Museums receive hundreds of thousands, if not millions of queries a year about the collections they hold from university researchers, students, artists, teachers and members of the public. However, there are a few top tips I’d like to suggest to ensure that your enquiry is as helpful as possible to the people who look after collections and ultimately to help you receive a response. I’ve written previously on the UCL Museums and Collections blog that museums could be a bit more helpful for researchers trying to locate material for their use, currently it’s not necessarily easy or straight forward to match potential users with the people and collections that could be helpful for them. The excellent Ministry of Curiosity wrote a blog post earlier in the year about academics accessing museums ‘Why won’t you respond to my emails and other woes of academics‘ and I’d like to expand on Kristin’s list for everybody who might be writing a query to a museum. Continue reading

Sea Fables Explained

I’ve been using the excellent Biodiversity Heritage Library recently for both work and play based research into animals and specimens. If you don’t know it, it’s an excellent initiative by a consortium of natural history institutions with a short and sweet mission, taken from their website.

The Biodiversity Heritage Library improves research methodology by collaboratively making biodiversity literature openly available to the world as part of a global biodiversity community.

In essence, it’s digitising and releasing the history of biology, for free to reference (you can make a donation though) or under creative commons for others uses which takes the sting out of trying to hunt down all the early references, many of which include original taxon descriptions and it includes publications that are incredibly rare or valuable and in some cases very odd. One of the very best things they’ve done recently, well 2012, is release over 24,000 images to flickr which is a great thing to do but is also a different way of browsing the history of biology. Although the image searching could be a little better, the released images are sometimes in little ‘curated’ albums which are just a pleasure to browse. Here is the BHL fLickr page and a few of my favourite albums are Sloths!, Monsters are Real, a gorgeous collection of desktop wallpaper squid and, ahem, Octopi. One particular highlight brought to my attention from the images alone, and the subject of this blog post is Sea fables explained. London :W. Clowes and sons, ltd.,1883. WHICH YOU MUST HAVE A LOOK AT. Continue reading