Weeknotes: 8.2016 – thinking about RFPs, reading about inclusion, requesting research on repeat visitors

On February 25th, 2016, posted in: weeknotes by

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Last week, Lindsey was obviously thinking hard about remote working, something you and your organisations might be doing even without realising. You can read her advice from experience about how to do this effectively in this post from Monday.

Alyson and I were given some analytics to play with for the Van Gogh Museum’s audio guide, and as Lindsey put it, went a bit squirrely in the excel spreadsheet. I broke out my COUNTIF functions and Alyson showed off her pivot tables. It doesn’t take much to make us happy.

Laura spent last week working on a big stealth project that, hopefully, she’ll be able to talk about soon. In the meantime, she is currently serving on the panel for the 2016 Horizon Report. This aims to identify what technologies will be meaningful in the short, medium and long term for museum education and interpretation. If you’re interested in the topics and ideas being reviewed and considered by the panel, the work of the Horizon panel is conducted on a publicly available wiki here:  http://museum.wiki.nmc.org/.

She also spoke to the Museums and Technology Class at the University of San Francisco about the Request for Proposal process (an RFP is a brief for those of you in the UK). We shared Laura’s top tips for writing RFPs last year. Giving the talk prompted some thoughts about the RFP process.

At FGW we’ve seen many RFPs for digital projects that have long, detailed lists of features but little indication of target audience, strategic objectives and measures of success. Why is this? One of our clients, Marthe de Vet, Education Director at the Van Gogh Museum observed that they specified the brief for a high profile digital project in great detail as a way to manage project risk and in an effort to define a path to innovation.  However, they came to realise that this wasn’t necessarily the best approach. You can hear Marthe describing the original brief and the subsequent shift in their thinking in our joint presentation from the 2015 Agenda conference.

Given how much can change in one’s understanding of the project constraints and opportunities once you get into the actual design process, greater flexibility in the RFP specifications can allow you to move with these changing parameters. And instead if you’ve been clear about the objectives, those can be the guiding principles that enable you to make good choices about how to react to those changing parameters. So, as a sector, if we changed our approach to RFP’s, how might that affect what we design and build?

On our reading list for this week is this paper by Louise Archer, Emily Dawson, Amy Seakins and Billy Wong: Disorientating, fun or meaningful? Disadvantaged families’ experiences of a science museum visit (behind a paywall but contact Emily to find out more). We mentioned Emily’s work on the poor provision for minority visitors to science and natural history museums in this previous post, and whilst I haven’t read the whole of this new paper yet, I suspect there are many lessons for museums to learn about inclusion here as well.

Also, Museums and the Web papers for this year’s conference have started to appear online, including this on Adventures in Digital Storytelling by Danny Birchall and Anna Faherty. It mentions our work in evaluating their Digital Stories project.

And a request, we’re thinking about what motivates people to make repeat visits to cultural organisations, especially heritage sites. Have you seen any research in this area, or have any you might be able to share with us? Please get in touch!

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