About Me

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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

Monday, May 05, 2008

The shape we're in (with a musical digression)

Today I'm still making the most of the quiet to dig into my vinyl and I'm working to the sounds of the german underground, mainly circa 1970-75. Right now, though, Phew (1981). This just so blows my mind. Can fans must have it, and they can get it on CD now (perhaps I will too, it's so hard to get at my LPs most of the time). Given that I've been writing about what our organisation needs to do to get its digital act together perhaps its good that the previous listening has been pretty calming: Alpha Centauri, Tone Float and Outside the Dream Syndicate (not that mellow, actually, the last one). Phew has lovely peaceful moments (like Dream, now), but a driving, anxious motion to some tracks too (Signal). The legendary Roger of defunct Revolver Records in Bristol sold me my copy, I don't think I've thanked him enough and probably never will, but thanks anyway, Rog.

I've been thinking about the holes in our policies (notably concerning the preservation of UGC - we may not want to bother, but we have to at least formulate a policy towards it), and I've been looking back over the 6 years I've been there and thinking about how our responsibilities have developed. We need to work up a business case for a larger team, and perhaps one of a different shape. Frankly it's a no-brainer, but the case needs to be made and it's a good exercise to outline those changes. We also need to work out with the Godot-like web committee (I'm sure it will be along any day now, with purposeful stride and a keen sense of what needs to be done) quite what role we want the web folk at MoL to have. There is a wide range of things we could be doing, and right now we try to do most of them, with some key exceptions like web design and rich media work (Flash, video), which we always farm out. But we do too much and can't always do it properly, and I feel the need right now to consolidate, to work on our infrastructure. If we can decide on exactly what we should be done in-house, and what can be effectively handled out of house, then we can get and give a clear idea of just what resources we need. Right now we have our content manager Bilkis (the one net gain since 2002), Mia, who does a lot of web work as well as various databases, and me, essentially just web.

Personally I reckon we need more people in the team, but there are alternatives, even if they're idiotic: the Museum could decide to draw in its horns and use our expertise just to commission, integrate and manage third party work, as well as content. We certainly do plenty of advising on this at the moment, and most of the vendors we've used recently have done great work for us (please drop me a line if you want to know whose work was not up to scratch), but I'm one of those who think the core work of a museum web team must also include taking care of the plumbing and probably building/running the core CMS too. Perhaps when I've finished my musings I'll post a proper list here of what functions I identify, what I think we should take into our remit, and what I think we should hand out. Best get on with it, then.


Frankie Roberto said...

Sounds interesting, and you're not the only one having to work out these things!

Jeremy said...

Thanks Frankie, I'll be pestering you in detail about the situation at your gaff before long! I reckon lots of us (i.e. museum web teams) are in a bit of a mess, to be honest, in terms of having a clear role. Probably a side effect of doing things that naturally sprawl across departments, plus perhaps the disconnect of which Ross writes.