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The Future Museum – South West project is an impressive example of collaborative working. It shows Scottish museums working together to achieve a shared online presence supported by a developed network offering on and offline activities.
• To set up a south-west region museum partnership and share resources and knowledge
• To increase access to our collections and create a focus for our activities through a dynamic web-based interface
• To increase the number of joint exhibitions and initiatives in the region
• To work together to develop a range of learning packages that explore our shared history
• To increase audience / access to our buildings as a result of the partnership
A steering group was formed with representatives from each of the key partner museums and one representative for the independent museums. The steering group met regularly throughout the funding period and continues to do so. A project team was formed and two Digitisation Assistants appointed. In September 2005 a web design company were commissioned and the Future Museum website www.futuremuseum.co.uk was launched in July 2006 populated with 3500 digitised collection items and associated interpretive information. By the end of the funding period around 11000 images had been added to the site. Through the project partner museums have built up an archive of high quality images of considerable portions of their collections.
Usage statistics and online feedback indicate that the website has been very well received by the target audience. During the second year of operation there were 81,500 unique visits to the site and across two years of operation there have been around 1000 visitors making contact through the site’s ‘Contact Us’ feature. Access to collections has been improved not only for the local population but also with access extended to a national and international audience. This has benefited partner museums through increased knowledge sharing and new collection donations.
The partnership organised two touring exhibitions and one large scale art exhibition across 3 venues. All three exhibitions picked up on major themes from the Future Museum website. In connection with these exhibitions there have been 5 new commissions from artists and 5 interactive resources added to the Future Museum website. The art exhibition, South by South West, was accompanied by a 250 page publication and contained several key works loaned from the National Galleries of Scotland and the National Libraries of Scotland as well as private collections. This exhibition far exceeded its target audience figures with 68, 742 visitors across the 4 venues. The touring textile exhibition ‘Strands’ also exceeded its projected visitor figures with several new venues added to the tour.
Through the project the key partners have acquired digitisation equipment and staff at many of the participating museums have been trained in digitisation and use of the website’s administration site so that the adding of content to Future Museum can continue.
Public feedback on the site has affirmed that there is considerable public demand for a resource like Future Museum. It has also been found that far more service users are likely to make contact with museums with enquiries and contributions of knowledge through such a resource than would approach staff on the museum floor.
In addition to the increased knowledge sharing with the public, the partners have found it beneficial to see their collections brought together in this way, with connections previously unnoticed emerging and enhancing partners’ knowledge and research into their own collections. Meanwhile the deepening of relationships between the partners means that this increased access to each others collections opens up potential for more loans and exchange of knowledge for future exhibitions.
The development of such a resource places demands on staff time not only in creating it but in the enquiries the access it provides generates. Whilst all partners have been committed to this, it is at times, practically very difficult to meet these demands. Whilst this can place tensions on a partnership the partnership does create a level of accountability and allow a sharing of responsibility which makes a project like this feasible.
The Future Museum project demonstrates how a shared online presence can sometimes raise the profile of and access to collections more effectively than through individual sites and has also facilitated easy connections to be made between partner collections. By establishing a network of collaborating organisations with a bank of digital content, there may be future opportunities to build on these achievements with sustainable new projects. The collaborative approach also enables skills to be shared and consistency in areas such as copyright.
During and following its launch the website was advertised in the national, local and specialist press. Leaflets have been distributed across south-west Scotland and in Glasgow. Advertisements regularly appear in East Ayrshire’s events programme publication The Guide and links to the website appear on a number of websites including those of the participating local councils. Banners are also on display in participating museum venues. Marketing campaigns accompanied each of the three exhibitions emphasising their association with the website. These campaigns made use of all of the above media with the addition of AA signs.
The project was designed in order that it could be monitored and evaluated on an ongoing basis. Market research was undertaken at the outset of the project and the website contains an online feedback facility.
There is ongoing statistical analysis of the website usage monitoring various performance indicators – unique visits, number of hits and pages viewed per visit. Quarterly feedback provided to MGS monitored finances and the achievements of targets set. Evaluation was undertaken by independent consultants during the funding period and a final external evaluation is currently taking place.
Regional Development Challenge Fund
1st Apr 2005
1st Sep 2008
9th Dec 2008
East Ayrshire Council
Who else took part?
The project was developed in collaboration with key partners Dumfries and Galloway Council and North and South Ayrshire Councils.
Associate partners included:
The Maclaurin Trust
Robert Burns Birthplace Museum, National Trust for Scotland
Scottish Maritime Museum
The Museum of Ayrshire Country Life and Costume
Stewarton History Society Museum
Wanlockhead Mining Museum
John Paul Jones Birthplace Museum
Westkirk Parish Library
The Museum, Newton Stewart
National Museum of Scotland
Regional Development Challenge Fund; East Ayrshire Council; Dumfries and Galloway Council; South Ayr
£349, 517 RDCF funding through Museums Galleries Scotland. An additional £19,000 was contributed by