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

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The wrap

So, it's over. The PhD. Having first submitted the thesis in November...
been examined in March, done my amendments (thereby adding another 150 pages...) and made my final submission at the end of May, and had the degree granted on June 1st...
Official letter
I attended my graduation last week and picked up the certificate in the presence of much of my family - Fiona and the kids, and both our sets of parents, with silly hats playing a notable part...
Doctor, Watson your son's head?
and I finally - finally! - got to introduce my lot to the famous Ross Parry, and to thank him one last time.
And yesterday when I received my own hard copy of 500+ pages of green hardbound proof of my labours, it really, really felt finished, and ready to sit by my bed and not be read.
Bedtime reading
So it's about time that I did something with it. I don't really know what's next, perhaps some conference papers or journal articles, or perhaps I should listen to those suggestions of turning it into a book (which frankly sounds like a lot more work). But I might start by putting bits online here. The whole thesis (minus a couple of redacted interviews) should soon be in the University of Leicester's Research Archive and in EThOS so there's no need to stick the whole thing up independently, but I'm going to start with pasting the abstract here and attaching the short introductory chapter. Then, if you want more, let me know or seek it out. All comments, questions and dinner invitations are very welcome (if unlikely).

Sustaining digital products in the museum sector: Balancing value and resources through good decisions.


Digital products are an increasingly significant part of the output of museums in the UK, but the rationale behind them and the long term plans for them are not always clear. This thesis argues that to consider such a digital product to be sustainable, the value it creates must justify the resources it requires. The decisions involved in building and supporting these products affect both the value proposition and the resource requirements, but also reflect the way that museums and their stakeholders see the balance between the two. At the same time, this balance is under the influence of a constantly changing environment. The study proposes a model of sustainability as a cycle of value, resources and decision-making, and three case studies are used to examine how decisions are reached in the face of flux and uncertainty. Some ways in which decisions can be biased or distorted are identified, and finally some approaches are offered for museums seeking to improve the balance of value and resources, and increase the quality of the decisions that underlie them.

Chapter 1 (PDF on Google Drive)

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

PhD: tick

I had my PhD viva today. The last time I had a viva, 21 years ago, I believe I went in a touch intoxicated. That experiment in controlling nerves was not a success. I see it as a sign of how much I've grown up that this time I stuck to my pledge to reverse the order. This experiment worked, and after a really enjoyable 2 1/4 hours chatting with my examiners I was given the news that I had passed (I have minor corrections to make, but hey, I'll take that!) If I'm completely honest, perhaps the embarrassing 3rd class degree I "earned" in 1992 helped to get me to my doctorate by giving me a chip on my shoulder big enough to drive me through what I'd have to describe as a challenging (but immensely rewarding) seven years. That chip has now been doused in mayonnaise and eaten - nomnomnom!*
This blog was intended initially to be a research diary. It's long since stopped being that, or anything much, but I do intend some time soon to write a bit about the whole PhD experience, to summarise what I did and the conclusions I reached, and maybe talk about where I'd like to take it next. For this post, though, I only want to do the most important thing of all: thank a bunch of people. Having done this in the acknowledgements of my thesis, which I expect that almost no-one I've thanked will ever read, I'm just going to paste it in here. All I'd add is that there are actually many other people to whom I owe a debt of gratitude. Many of sent tweets today and I didn't manage to acknowledge them all, but I read and deeply appreciated every one. But over the last 7 years I've also had conversations around the broad subject area of my research with countless colleagues, friends, peers, and venerable elders, and every one has left its mark in my thinking. Whoever of these I've failed to thank by name, I haven't forgotten: you have my sincere appreciation.

*literally: great chips at the Marquis today, courtesy of Ross. Thanks Ross!

I should like, first of all, to thank the AHRC for their support in funding this PhD, one of their first ever collaborative doctoral awards. My heartfelt gratitude goes to Ross Parry, my academic supervisor and an extraordinary teacher and friend, whose understanding of my thoughts around this subject so often exceeded my own ability to express them, and who managed somehow to shepherd me gradually towards the mindset of a scholar. The project’s commercial partner was MWR, and although the company went through two rebirths before finally ceasing operations, the support – financial, personal and academic – never wavered, first in the form of Andrew Sawyer and latterly of Martyn Farrows. To both Andy and Martyn, sincere thanks. Your input at critical moments has been invaluable and much appreciated.
When I started the project I worked at the Museum of London, which soon signed up as a third partner. At MoL I owe a particular debt to my friend and manager, Pete Rauxloh, but would also thank Bilkis Mosoddik and Mia Ridge, colleagues there who took an extra load when my attentions were divided. Carolyn Royston, my manager since I joined the Imperial War Museum in 2010, has offered every help she could, and done so at a time when my studies might have seemed like a distraction, given what I still had to learn in order to succeed in my day job. To her and my other patient colleagues at IWM, many, many thanks.
My case studies were possible only through the vital support and documentation provided by their host institutions, and I am especially indebted to the individuals within and outside those organisations who gave their time as interviewees: Cathy Ross & Claire Sussums at MoL; Jill Cousins, David Haskiya, Luca Martinelli, Jan Molendijk, Nick Poole and Harry Verwayen, interviewed for Europeana; and NMSI’s Robert Bud, Andrew Nahum and Dan Evans. Many other individuals provided additional advice and insights that helped to steer me to a clearer understanding of these projects.
A lot can happen in seven years, and it felt like most things did, and the moral support and enthusiasm for my study that I received from my friends and my family were priceless. Most of all, of course, I thank my lovely wife Fiona, whose patience and sacrifices so that I can complete this work have been embarrassingly great; and our children Isabella, Luca, and Sacha, three bairns with scarcely a memory between them of a time when Daddy wasn't studying for his PhD. To all four of them I give my love, thanks, apologies, and my promise that I am now theirs again.