The opening plenary talk at the Museums and the Web 2007 Conference was given by Brewster Kahle if the Internet Archive. Brewster spoke on “Universal Access to Human Knowledge (Or Public Access to Digital Materials)“. This was a great inspirational opening to the conference, with Brewster arguing that “universal access to global knowledge is within our grasp”. He argued that the costs of the digitisation and storage of text, sound and video resources was achievable – and that society had a responsibility for rising to these challenges.

After coffee there were three parallel sessions. I attended the session on “Web 2.0” where Mike Ellis presented our joint paper on “Web 2.0: How to stop thinking and start doing: Addressing organisational barrier“. As I was on stage during the talks it was difficult for me to make notes of the session. Fortunately I’ve managed to find a post on the session on the New Media Initiatives blog. As described in this report, the first speaker in the session described a managed approach to the use of blogs within a museum, with a formal workflow process for identifying topics for blog postings with editorial processes to ensure posting complied with institutional policies on the scope, writing style, etc.

The second talk, by Shelley Bernstein and Nicole Caruth (Brooklyn Museum), in contrast, described how the museum was encouraging use of third party services such as Flickr and MySpace in areas related to the interests of the museum, such as public grafitti. This approach was very much based on the museum’s mission, which emphasises the importance of engagement with the user community.

Mike’s talk, which closed the session, went down very well, with Nate Schroeder commenting on the New Media Initiatives blog “Really good ideas, another one I want to chat with over a beer later“. The other interesting comment made on this blog was “[Mike] touched into a lot of the phobias many people have about technology and change in general. I can understand concerns people have in this regard, but Mike is right in that if many of us don’t adapt and move past them, we’ll be left behind and become largely irrelevant. Technology moves too fast for us to sit on our hands“.

Unfortunately further comments on the day’s events were hindered by problems with the WiFi network. As the the New Media Initiatives blog commented “Advance apologies – this post sort of fell apart as I went. Internet access at the conference has been spotty at best, it seems like DNS lookups are failing or being blocked upstream. Very frustrating. If I get a chance I’ll clean it up in a bit, but for now I want to keep the “liveblogging” thing going so it’s time to hit post!“. As I spoke in the afternoon session it was not possible for me to keep a record of the afternoon sessions. And as I’m co-facilitating a Professional Forum tomorrow morning, I’ll be having an early night tonight. So I’ll give another pointer to the New Media Initiatives blog for their views on the Alternative Realities session which I attended. One comment I would add is that the talk on Second Life (which generated most of the interest) featured two examples from the UK – Andy Powell’s ArtsPlace work (including a comment on use of Library of Congress exhibits as their licence permitted such reuse) and Talis’s Cyberia Second Life presence.

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