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Web person at the Imperial War Museum, just completed PhD about digital sustainability in museums (the original motivation for this blog was as my research diary). Posting occasionally, and usually museum tech stuff but prone to stray. I welcome comments if you want to take anything further. These are my opinions and should not be attributed to my employer or anyone else (unless they thought of them too). Twitter: @jottevanger

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Odds and sods 3

Well what with disease, conferences and various other out-of-office experiences I have had very little time at my desk to do real work, let alone meta-work like this and I have some catching up to do. However real work must come first, so this will have to be super-skimpy.

First, Ross's new book should be out any day now. I can't wait to read it. I just flicked through the proof in his office and know it's going to be a great and stimulating read.

We've opened a new gallery at MiD , "London, sugar and slavery", which I can't wait to see tomorrow when I'm at Museum in Docklands for the MCG meeting. My part has been to do with the ArcIMS mapping application, which isn't yet on the web but is in the gallery. Let's be honest, ArcIMS is a pain in the rear and you need a pretty good reason to justify the effort involved if you choose to use this over one of the free mapping apps, although of course they also have their learning curves and limitations. What they don't have is installation issues; OTOH you can't install them, and hence your client machines must have web access enabled. As our experiences this summer with web access on gallery machines was so dreadful we're keen to avoid this, although from past experience we know it's perfectly possible to do this safely and effectively - we just seem to be lacking the skills at present. On the subject of installation, I should say that the current version of IMS is actually pretty straightforward, perhaps disturbingly so - I think I was looking for all sorts of post-installation configuration changes to do that didn't actually need doing. But there are always complicating factors, and it's still taken me the best part of 3 days to get the thing working on our internal CMS server.
Anyway, our app uses ArcSDE, a new departure for us, and Pete's written some cool queries to make this a little more interactive than some of our previous efforts. We've got some bugs to iron out, to do with our merging and over-riding tool behaviours, but it's reasonably presentable.

Next up, Mia. Our social software torch-bearer has been working hard in all sorts of directions trying to get us off the ground with blogs, forums etc., not to mention organising our chaotic efforts with Flickr and the like. She's now got us going here: http://mymuseumoflondon.org.uk/. BIG congratulations, we're in the 21st century! Now we need to work out our management practices, encourage authors, look at how to embed and integrate this with our main sites, and see how it takes off.

I guess I should mention Jonty, but I'd rather not. If you insist you can check him out on our sites or on YouTube.

CHArt: the conference last week deserves a post of its own. For now, I'd like to give honorary mentions to J Milo Taylor, Tara Chittenden, Jon Pratty and Bridget Mackenzie, Tanya Szrajber, and Douglas Dodds, whose presentations I particularly enjoyed.

EDLNet. Did I write about this yet? I hope so. Watching over the mail list and looking at some discussion documents (so far simply lurking) I have some hope that the project will place the right emphasis on function over interface, given limited resources. Jon and Bridget talked about "Your Paintings" at CHArt, so far just a proposal but one that I would think could be designed to mesh well with EDL. I hope to talk more to Jon about this tomorrow.

Martin Bazley and Nick Poole are keen to get together with some of the people involved in IT in the London Hub so we've set up a meeting at MoL next week to see what we can draw out, initially to help them with a strategy for the SE Hub. I'm interested to see what they come out with for a strategy there. I also know that Martin wants to pursue some of the issues around stats that Dylan and I were talking about before, since he has got the job of writing a report for the London Hub on the question. I'm just a half-blind opinionated fool on the subject but if I have anything useful to offer I'll try.

Kurt Stuchell has put together a widget bringing together podcasts and blogs from/about museums worldwide. I reserve judgement on the thing itself, which I'm sure will be of use to some, possibly me included. The main point is that it's nice to see this happening in museums, full-stop. There must be lots of other imaginative ideas out there for what museum material can be widgetised. The Rijksmuseem's widget is perhaps obvious but effective nevertheless and perhaps we should do something a little similar: push object data out in an RSS feed to be consumed via a client-side JS snippet, perhaps. As I say, not that imaginative but worth a crack.

Micah Blue Smaldone. Do yourself a favour and get some. He may not be your cup of tea but you need to find out for yourself. The more I hear the more I'm ensnared. Follow far enough from the link above and you'll reach this where you can hear some spell-binding live renditions.