The past two weeks have been very busy with Thanksgiving festivities, Christmas decorating, and a poorly timed sickness. However, seeing extended family while I was back in upstate New York and answering questions about my first semester of grad school has allowed me to reflect on some of the most interesting things I’ve learned in this class. Prior to taking Museums and Digital Technology, I had very little knowledge on the uses of technology in museums aside from some experience with collections databases I used in an internship. So, here are a few random thoughts about just a couple of the many things I’ve been exposed to throughout this semester.
One of the topics we’ve covered in class that I hadn’t thought much about prior to class is the effect of technology on the relationship between the museum and the public. Of course, I follow a few museums on social media so I’ve seen how those platforms can help museums reach a broader audience. I had also used online collections in research before starting this class, but I hadn’t put much thought into the design of the website. I hadn’t considered how the search tool was formatted or if the website was tailored toward an average visitor or someone familiar with the language and culture of museums. Now, I find myself taking note of certain features when I visit any website, let alone a museum website.
I learned a bit about website design as well. As I’ve mentioned before in a previous post, I had never heard of responsive websites before. I enjoyed learning about what they are and why they are a good alternative to developing an app. They require less maintenance, which I also learned is a huge expense when dealing with technology. As technology changes so quickly, things become obsolete or need updates on a fairly regular basis. Installing a piece of in-gallery tech is useless if it doesn’t function, so upkeep needs to be considered in budgeting.
I have also learned more about accessibility to all groups of people and the many different aspects of the museum in which accessibility is important. Beyond the Americans with Disabilities Act, there are a huge amount of steps that can be made to make a museum and its website more accessible to all. Through articles on Twitter, I’ve seen museums offering special tours for visually or hearing impaired groups. Our recent guest speaker, Seth Bravin, explained screen reader technology and how websites can best be designed to accommodate this technology. I’ve learned about alternative text and how to add it to images.
I have learned a lot about how technology has impacted the idea of authority in museums. As my final paper for the class deals with the topic, I’ll explore this idea more in my next post in which I will explore one of my sources for the paper.