Thursday, March 31, 2011


As an exhibitor I was manning the booth for much of the Tennessee Association of Museums conference. I heard the indefatigable Ken Mayes (AMSE) keeping everyone up to date on web tools (The Online Visitor) and  I did get to the session on millennials (The Next Generation of Visitors: Creating Museum Experiences  that Connect with Younger Audiences by Lori Cagan of Tombras Group  and Sylvia Martin from A Different View). As part of the presentation we had three millennials adding their insights. Millennials are broadly defined as the generation born in the mid 70’s to 2000.

Regarding technology, it’s no surprise that this group is heavily into communication. I had the experience as a younger man of living abroad, pre-internet. I sent and received letters and monthly made a phone call on the public telephone in the high street. This generation gets stressed by not being connected 24-7. And most of the connection - social media, texting, chatting - is mobile. They access the web through a phone screen.

At the end of the session the panelists were asked what museums could do to make themselves more engaging to Millennials. All three answered with the word interactive. They felt that museums should come to them, to engage them through changing, and participatory content. This is a group that wants to be involved, but perhaps is less into self exploration than reaction – they are getting a lot of calls on their attention!

The PBS special digital media  pointed to the work museums are doing as places of experimental learning. There really is no limit to what can be achieved. Stories Past is working on projects involving mixed media, social interactions and gaming. It’s a fun time to be working in this area.

How Millennial are you? Try the Pew Research Quiz. Is Millennial an age range, or a state of mind?

Friday, March 25, 2011

Being There - still going to conferences

March is conference time. Last week was a fun time at the Virginia Association of Museums conference in Portsmouth, VA. This week I am exhibiting at the Tennessee Museums Conference (TAM) in Johnson City, TN.
Personally, I love the opportunity to get to places around the States, but are conferences becoming redundant? There’s an increasing trend to offer virtual sessions and more online papers. I imagine conference organizers are trying to balance offering access while still wanting people to come. There’s the cost, and time, of travel and hotels, and long hours sitting and listening to papers that sometimes would be better read, than heard. And at the end there’s often little time for questions or debate.
And yet until we reach the singularity , there’s still a lot to be said for personal contact, networking, discussion and serendipitous conversations that come from standing in line at the bar! I enjoy conferences and I am disappointed to be missing out on two others that I’d have liked to have attended. The CAA conference is in China, and the Museums and the Web conference is in Philadelphia. I’ve attended both of these in the past, and I’m still thinking about some of the papers I heard. This was the first year in many that I didn’t attend the Society for Historical Archaeology conference, which means that there are a lot of people I won’t get to see for nearly two years. We’ll make the next one.
So, like many things, the virtual is great but it’s still not as good as the real thing!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Putting Virginia Archaeology on the map

Egloff Atlas of Virginia Archaeology

Google maps seem like a natural for archaeology. Though they are not fine grained enough for a single site, they excel in showing multiple sites, or indeed any spatial content. The maps form the starting point, and content – text, images, and videos – can be layered on top, along with any type of interaction.
Stories Past created a simple map for lithics last year  as part of a larger module on points and lithics.  Now we’ve put up the Egloff Atlas of Virginia, named after noted Virginia archaeologist Keith Egloff.

The map shows sites in Virginia that have archaeology and you can select by region, or by specific site. The content was developed by the Council of Virginia Archaeology and the Virginia Department of Historic Resources and should serve as a way of promoting Virginia archaeology.

There are a million ways to use Google maps in interpretation and research. The development costs are low and you it comes with all the Google functionality: zooms, drag, satellite, map and street view. If the content is created through an XML file it can be easily maintained through a simple text editor. Showing routes or journeys, linking story and place, overlaying maps with layers to show distribution of artifacts across a region or country, relating time and space, showing landscape features – the list is endless as this link proves!