Where should you put a digital department in your museum?

Tate’s John Stack and I were featured in the most recent episode of Museopunks, the self-described “podcast for the progressive museum”. Entitled “Digital as a Dimension of Everything” it explores the questions that surround the role and placement of digital departments in museums. John talks about his experience as Head of Digital Transformation at Tate and I cover my recent experience at SFMOMA.

From the Museopunks intro:

One of the most interesting sessions at MCN2013 was on The Future of Museum Digital Departments, which featured staff from the Tate, the National Gallery, London, Imperial War Museums, and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and discussed the sometimes harsh realities of delivering a digital strategy within a complex organization. In the session, John Stack, Head of Digital Transformation at Tate, spoke about the museum’s recently adopted hub-and-spoke model for digital governance. In this episode, we break this idea down, and ask how different organisational structures can impact museums and digital organisations. How are museum digital departments integrated within broader institutional structures, and what impact does this have on digital’s place in the organisation?

One of the interviewers, Suse Cairns, mentions Tate’s 2013-2015 Digital Strategy, which gives the show it’s title: http://www.tate.org.uk/research/publications/tate-papers/tate-digital-strategy-2013-15-digital-dimension-everything

You can listen to the episode on their site, download it for yourself or subscribe to the ongoing podcast. While you’re there, check out the Communication Breakdown episode which I particularly enjoyed. And, like many people interested in #musetech, Museopunks are on twitter…

…as am I.




A number of people have asked me why I left Sydney for San Francisco. Why my family and I left our close friends and family, Sydney’s warm climate and great food, and I left a job with a view of the Sydney Harbour Bridge to move to America. There are lots of different answers to that question, but the museum-centric one is “something old and something new”.

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On saying good bye

I haven’t had a chance to post here since leaving the Museum of Contemporary Australia (MCA) to take up the position as Head of Web and Digital Platforms at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA).

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Museums & Mobile: stats and analytics

I recently took part in the 6th iteration of the Museums & Mobile online conference, in a session entitled Usage data for mobile: what can it tell us? with Seb Chan from the Smithsonian, Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum and Elena Villaespesa from the Tate, London.

 of the Engaging Museums blog has written a great recap of the whole conference, so I’m going to focus on my session.

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Building a successful museum website

It’s been a year since the launch of the award winning MCA website and enough time has passed that I can reflect of the process of UX, design and development and a make an honest assessment of the project.

When I first started working at the Museum of Contemporary Art, the main website (www.mca.com.au) had a flash header, an early 2000s aesthetic and scrolling ticker in the header (see below if you don’t believe me, those little people walk around at page load). There was no online collection, every exhibition – big or small – looked the same, there was no mobile support and the site was clearly in need of some love. Happily for me, the MCA had already begun work on a new web presence.

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Ways of seeing Anish Kapoor

I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Kevin R. Brooks from Macquarie University about the mechanisms behind the inversions and distortions of Anish Kapoor’s mirror works. We also talked about Oracle, one of Kapoor’s early void works (and my favourite work in his exhibition at the MCA).

Dr Brooks is Senior Lecturer, Department of Psychology, Faculty of Human Science, Macquarie University, specialising in the research of Visual Perception and Psychophysics.

There are some great moments where the film crew are reflected and distorted in the mirrored surfaces in the background of our conversation. There’s also some visual trickery when we’ve turned a piece of footage taken through the deep red reflections of Blood Cinema upside down, in post production, so that it matches what Kevin is talking about at the time.

Check it out:


It’s a girl! A case study in social networking

In August 2012 my wife gave birth to our baby girl. In generations past this happy news would travel through a family’s social network through very different means than are available today. In December 1775 Jane Austen’s father wrote letters announcing her home birth to friends and acquaintances. Fast-forward 200 years, and the only addition my parents could use for my birth was the telephone. By 2012 there are an enormous number of protocols, platforms and technologies for propagating social news, most of which are available on a smart phone like the one I carry almost everywhere I go, including to the hospital.

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So, we craned two multi-tonne sculptures through the a hole in roof

Two sculptures in Anish Kapoor’s solo show at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA), Untitled and Oracle, have a combined weight of 9.7 tonnes. The MCA’s exhibitions services manager Tony Mighell engaged specialist lift technicians and a trolley engineer to get the works up to the gallery floor in the trolley and through the gallery to one of the only spaces in the museum where supporting beams overlapped that could take the weight of the works. Once all the calculations were done the lift technicians were unwilling to risk the works in the MCA goods lift and the trolley engineers simply said “no way”.

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