We had a brilliant day today with the Cape Cornwall School French exchange group. After a tour of the site, they produced some brilliant multimedia postcards using art inspiration gathered from around the site. Have a look!
Archive for June, 2009
We’re very excited today! We have reached the semi-finals of The National Lottery Awards! The Awards are an annual search to find the UK’s favourite Lottery-funded projects, and they aim to celebrate and recognise the difference that those projects have made to people, places and communities all across the UK.
We like to think we did a pretty good job, HLF funding gave us the opportunity to initiate the Geevor Tin Mine Project. This Lottery funding has enabled the restoration of all two acres of buildings – some of which date back to the early 19th century – and the development of our new Hard Rock museum. When the mine closed, the local council made the unusual decision to buy the site, recognising the importance of preserving such an important piece of Cornish and mining history. And with the help of Lottery funding we are continuing to preserve the site for the future. Its great that all our hard work has paid off! And even better that we’ve been recognised by the National Lottery Awards!
Geevor Tin Mine: Conservation of buildings and new Hard Rock Museum is competing against nine other projects in the Best Heritage Project category for the chance to win an Award and a £2,000 prize, and we need your votes to help us!
The three projects in each category with the most votes will progress to the final round of public voting, which will run from 3-14 August. How cool would it be if we got in the top three!
It would be fabulous if you could vote for us, you can visit www.lotterygoodcauses.org.uk/awards, click on the Best Heritage Project category and cast your vote! Alternatively you can call 0844 686 2607 to register your phone vote. Every vote counts, so we really appreciate your support.
Jo W’s belated month of May post.
In May I learnt about Slime…or to be more accurate, about The Slimes Plant. I had no idea of the whereabouts of this building, let alone any recollection of having set foot in it already…..testimony to the size of the Geevor site.
Bill led a small contingency down there and Nick T printed out some old photos to give us an idea of what it would have been like and off we went….
The older part of the building housed the Eastern Calciner (early 20th C) which was all about roasting the ore to get rid of the arsenic and other sulphide minerals. Geevor clearly had good moral values even back then and unlike nearby Levant and other mines in Cornwall did not go in for mass extraction of arsenic (and hence the poisoning of young boys and men to collect the arsenic). I’m strangely obsessed with arsenic and shall return to this topic in a future blog. The Slimes Plant next door was a last chance saloon for those tiny particles of tin that had so far escaped processing. The waste from the Mill was processed here one last time to recover as much of the tin as possible. This building is amazing. Although some bits of equipment look a bit makeshift, a lot of this technology was cutting edge in its day. The rusting brazier and wooden seat at the end adds a human dimension as this is where the night shift man passed the hours.
By far the highlight of May was our Museums at Night event. We had 41 people – wow! Geevor never has 41 people turn up for anything!!! And we took them round several of the buildings that would have had a night shift when the mine was running. Although it will never be possible to recreate the sights, sounds, smells and activity of a working mine, we were able to offer the opportunity to visit the mine in the darkness and soak up the atmosphere….we made front page of the local newspaper, I was very chuffed.
A few days later I ran a ‘Behind the Scenes Tour’ as part of community history month. I have to admit that I wasn’t expecting anyone to turn up and had planned to be tucking into a Sunday roast by lunchtime. However, we had 17 people who I had to take round for almost 3 hours.,…I really enjoyed it but was totally exhausted by the end. Janet had to feed me chocolate to get me home.
Bring on June….. or July…
The climb down Victory Shaft this week was very cool, but thigh muscles are making themselves known now! Climbing down steep rusty ladders into the dark, deep unknown isn’t my usual day, even though I work at Geevor! Very glad I did it though, not glad that I looked down whilst I was still high up (or looked up either – many of the platforms the ladders were resting on were very mouldy!!). We travelled down to 3rd level and saw the top of sea level in the shaft, to where it is now flooded, and from the pump chamber clambered our way across the tram lines and across wonky planks, most the time in knee-deep muddy water. The colours are amazing though, one wall running with water was bright yellow, others stained by copper deposits, but the deeper down the adit, the more ‘rustules’ we saw – like red stalactites, though some had combined and gave the walls a rippled effect and there were some ‘rustule flowers’ or ‘chandeliers’, no idea what you call them, but were just an amazing sight! You don’t see those in mining pictures too often but hopefully Claire S will be produing some wonderful artwork based on them! The deeper down the adit, the lower the ceiling, until eventually, after about an hour and a half, we came to a metal gate which we had to clamber over and then… sunlight! and a beautiful day it was too! Though we had to clamber from the bottom of the cliff upwards, it was very atmospheric amongst the pinks with the water gushing down the cliff. At least now I can actually share experience with the children who visit!
Well, apart from the excitement of going underground, me and the Learning Team are steadily making our way through our workshops, trying to refine them and gearing up for the summer holidays which will be busy for everyone on site and it’ll be all hands on deck!
I’ve already had a mini rant about the audience and their reactions to user generated content at World Wide Wonder by the Museums Association. This seems to be happening quite often Nina Simon has posted ‘Don’t Join the conversation if You aren’t ready to listen’ recently with her experiences of similar events. Online museum stuff should be engaging for the museums and its users, its not a pedestal to push the ‘we are the keepers of truth card and we dont want to speak to the likes of you’. Anyway… So the content of the World Wide Wonder event was pretty full on, it was great to see different people talking about museums and the web.
There’s too much to discuss so I’m going to focus on the points that particularly interested me.
Matthew Cock’s welcome note suggested some tips for what we should be thinking about:
- Do one thing really really well- what do we do best?
- Have clearly defined audiences and clearly defined user needs
- Use others peoples content and tools to enhance your site and vice versa. Don’t feel you have to host the conversations about your content, just link to them. E.g flickr competitions, blog debate and discussions. Work with flickr. Don’t just use them.
- You’re too close to it. in order to fully evaluate watch other people using your website. Even better, watch a disabled person using your website.
- Engagement with your audience is about quality.
He also asked us a question Do you have a web/digital strategy for your museum? If not why not? That’s a good point. When I joined Geevor, there wasn’t a web/digital strategy despite Geevor having a website (please don’t look at it- its awful- I’m currently giving it an overhaul- then it will look and feel good hopefully…). By the time I leave (2 and a half months agh!) Geevor will have a strategy for all facets of the web that engages with/in, hopefully which will continue to grow and evolve as Geevor grows and as the web audience changes too.
Jason Ryan – Head of User Experience at ICrossing UK. Talking about IA for the distributed online experience. I have to admit I didn’t actually know what IA was…. But now I do! Jason also asked us whether we should be considering centralised and de-centralised web strategies?
Information architecture (IA)- series of site maps and the effective organisation labelling and layout. Ahh now it makes sense. So IA is a way of working- a toolbox of principles, guidelines and techniques. Many museums see their website as the sum total of their online existence. But every organisation exists in a broader network; through networks of links and conversations. The question is to what degree we as museums choose to be part of those extended networks- through listening and engagement? to what extent can we develop our IA to embrace and optimise the flow.
So basically our audiences are changing, they are no longer passive consumers. They are active, engaged and thirsty to collaborate. We need to change to suit their needs not our own.
Jason suggested at the moment there are three types of visitor to our museum websites:
- I am looking for something specific
- I am interested in a topic or theme
- Inspire me
Jason also suggested three simple principles for success in broader networks
- Be useful
- Be live
Next up was Anra Kennedy from Culture 24. This was pretty cool. Anra was talking about meeting the needs of the youngest online audiences.
Firstly Caboodle is now live! Why didn’t anybody tell me, and why wasn’t it tweeted to oblivion??
So museums face stiff competition when it comes to children’s time and attention. And what are they doing with their screen (not necessarily online) time?? Playing, communicating, creating and finding out.
The best place for museums to position themselves is in the finding out section of children’s time. So what do children find out and when?
- At home- unguided, informal, craze led, and interest led
- School- guided, time limited, formal, info led
- Homework- a combination of the two.
Children have a wide option of experiences open to them and they love sharing interesting content. Anra posed the question why isn’t it happening with out content??
She provided a brilliant example of her daughter who was doing a piece of homework on Boudicca. By using google images her daughter chose an image that she felt best represented Boudicca, and what was it? this!
why wasn’t museum content chosen? Because its not visible enough! Homework should be the quick win for the museum. We definitely need to work on this!
Anra also discussed crazes that children are in too and these crazes are in a format that museum could try and adopt.
www.neopets.com ( I have to admit I used to have a neopet, I was an only child and my hamster had just died- I needed something- don’t judge me) it’s a virtual pet community. All I can really remember is playing solitare with this blue dinosaur looking thing, giving me points to feed it, it was addictive for a while. I soon got bored and went to play outside in the mud (archaeologist through and through), but the point is the majority of people didn’t get bored and played for hours on end! Why cant children or in fact everyone be playing with museum content, museum games?
www.clubpenguin.com (its tag line is ‘waddle around and meet new friends’ fab) – club penguin is a safe and moderated virtual world where you are a penguin avatar in a continually evolving community. What’s interesting about club penguin is that it has been far reaching. Its everywhere! You tube, twitter, you name its there’s a club penguin waddling about.
www.moshimonsters.com – Moshi Monsters is a free online game for kids, in which they adopt a monster and look after it. whats great about moshi monsters is that learning is at the heart the experience. The child’s monster will create a series of puzzles that test everything from vocabulary and arithmetic to logic and spatial skills. It might actually be good for me to do, test the brain a little. My logic and arithmetic and my vocab for that matter and not up to scratch.
It wasn’t in my remit to work on games for Geevor. But I think tapping into the crazes that children are in to, is something really worth looking into for museums as a whole. Plus it would be fun to research- Anra suggests that if museums are going to tap into childrens games, the first thing you need to do totally immerse yourself! Cool. I would like that job.
A few good museum websites/games aimed at children are:
Finally, the final talk of the day was by Carolyn Royston, Carolyn focused on working in partnership and the benefits and challenges she faced as the project manager of National Musuems Online Learning Project. The title of the post ‘It’s not about technology, its about people’ is from Carolyn’s talk. It was one of the most important lessons Carolyn learnt from the project. And from my experience I would have to agree. My job is to lead a collaborative project between Geevor and the University of Exeter. I have had to develop strong partnerships with internal and external stakeholders and work collaboratively within Geevor, with the local community and with several departments in the University of Exeter. And what it comes down to is the people involved. You need to effectively communicate with everyone all the time. This on occasions is exceptionally difficult. Carolyn was faced with ‘so what’s this project actually about?’ by a partner involved a few months before the end of the project! People and communicating with them are the key factor in the successful management of any project .
Some key points that Carolyn discussed:
- Project needs clear benefits and value for all involved.
- Clarity about what the project will deliver (and what it won’t)
- Capability and capacity clearly defined.
- Agreement on how you will work together
- Spending time on the partnership early on will benefit you throughout the project
- Legacy strategy and sustainability issues must be discussed
- Setting up clear lines of communication
- Understanding that milestones and deadlines have to be met otherwise they impact on everyone
- Gaining advocacy- being a project champion
- Gaining commitment- building commitment
- Partnerships require work- all the time.
(on a another note. The webquests are pretty good!)
A point that was left ringing in my ears is – a good project manager will lead your project but implementation and delivery is a collective responsibility.
There was also great talks by Areti Galani- Participatory media: one size does not fit all. Areti looked at the ladder of participation and asked key questions about who participates, what does it look like and what is its purpose. Martin Bazley- understanding online audiences: how to evaluate your website(s) and why . Martin discussed why we need to research are online audiences – basically because otherwise users don’t get what we are offering. and Phil Poole- Enhancing websites on a shoestring budget (which I mentioned in Part 1).
Well after being away for a wee while off camping I (Claire S) returned to Geevor just in time to have a VERY EXCITING MORNING. No really it was, I got the chance to go down Victory Shaft the main shaft that was used at Geevor before it shut. I should point out that this was a very rare oportuntiy for some of us here to go down the mine. This included climbing down 18 ladders to the third level up to where the shaft is flooded to. A small exert of what was going through my head at the time “right its going to be fine, I only have a small fear of heights/small spaces, don’t look up don’t look down and adopt a voice that makes me sound alot more nonchalant than I feel….what am I doing oh noooooo…..its okay not a problem don’t look up etc” . As it turned out it was really cool going deeper underground, the light gradually disappearing and the old rusting metal pipes, dripping rock faces and wobbly ladders becoming more familiar scenery. We were led on a tour going deeper along the main adit for the shaft. Off this there were loads of other mine workings of different ages dating from the 18th century. With low ceilings and water over the top of my wellie boots we made our down through mine workings that spanned over 300 years. One of the coolest parts for me was seeing in the rock where the miners had hand drilled into the rock to set the shot, showing which way they had been working from and the load they were following. This meant that as you travelled through the underground you could work out from the clues they had left behind what the miners had been thinking and how they planned their next moves. Being no geologist I was only able to admire the colours of the minerals seeping from the rock face which were really astounding colours and made some very interesting formations. We finished the tour at the bottom of the cliff which meant that luckily we didn’t have to test our fitness getting back up the 18 ladders! ! It was an amazing 2 hours underground, could always do more if I were to join St.Just Mines Group although it was mentioned that they often abseil into shafts hmmm….. maybe one step too far for this slightly claustrophobic girl with vertigo!!
(the next part will be more about the content of the conference)
This week, whilst some lucky people back at Geevor got to go down Victory Shaft (I’m miffed that I missed it!), I was up in London for the Museums Association World Wider Wonder: Museums on the Web event.
Now this event was really interesting.
It was the usual suspects and case studies being identified as good practice:
- The IMA for its transparency and all round goodness
- Launchball for its general awesomeness
- Brooklyn museum for all they work they do
That’s not what was interesting. What was interesting was the audience and their reaction to these case studies. The Museum Association has the ability to attract a diverse audience of museum professionals to its events, so rather then the speakers preaching to the converted, the web developers and the geeks, they were talking to curators, interpretation teams, marketing people, learning people and a mini selection of web people. I have to applaud the MA for this, it was really great to see so many different people listening to how useful the web can be to enhance what they already do onsite.
I got talking to some of the small museum members over lunch; the Cheltenham art gallery, the quilt museum in York and the Bournemouth Art Institute; the resounding point was “yes the case studies are great but how can we even attempt to emulate them when we don’t have the time, money or resources?” this links to something I blogged about during MW2009- Small Institutions Big Dreams. The fact that small museums just don’t have enough resources to commit to engaging museum webery.
And low and behold Phill Poole pulled it out of the bag with his presentation on Enhancing website on a shoestring budget! You can access his slides here
Another quite interesting thing came from the Q&A after one of the presentations… a member of the audience believed their museum to be an authoritative keeper of knowledge and several people firmly believed that User Generated Content (especially wiki’s) goes against this authoritarian ‘we know the facts, and you don’t’ mentality. Sorry that’s coming across as quite negative. I don’t mean to, but it infuriates me when people believe that just because they work in a museum, they therefore are a keeper of knowledge. Increasing access and audience engagement is really important to me. Museums are well on their way to shaking off the highly negative stereotypical view that they are quiet, revential and un-welcoming, perceived as an old building with an imposing appearance, full of fuddy duddy curators who waffle on about boring stuff. Of course everyone is entitled to their opinion, I know that, but museums believing that User generated content isn’t acceptable to their core message, goes against that fact: everyone is entitled to an opinion! There are multiple perspectives to every story especially when it comes to artefacts. Just the facts is the knowledge so to speak but the interpretation is open to just that interpretation.