Notes from Tate Handheld Conference – Nancy Proctor

Nancy Proctor is Head of Mobile Strategy & Initiatives at the Smithsonian Institution.


My notes*

Museum visitors using their own technology, instead of the museum’s devices might lead to cost savings. No need to pay so much for media players, charging racks, operating staff, etc

However, those costs are replaced by mobile costs, including:

  • minutes, texts
  • interface design
  • development, software (CMS, stats, distribution)
  • software as a service
  • onsite infrastructure (ie. Wi-fi, staff time)
  • content, including licensing
  • marketing
  • maintenance and updating

This might be mitigated by:

  • revenue share
  • the use of open source platforms

There are other constraints for museums in terms of the standards they reach for:

  • invaluable (so need to provide the highest possible quality)
  • public good (relevance for all)
  • ‘forever business’ (sustainability)

Knowing these metrics will help determine which of the business models museums should be work with.

Cost to end user:

  • rental onsite
  • retail
  • freemium (in-app sales)
  • donations (eg. by text message)
  • subscriptions

Free to end user:

  • less leader/ mission imperative
  • sponsorship
  • ad-supposrted
  • monetise data (ie. audience info for advertisers)

Interesting concept of the non-profit network effect – the idea that something gets better as more and more people use it. Need to stop seeing museums as the central hub from which messages are sent – adding FB, Twitter and other means of communicating might reach a few more people.

Mobile social media should listen as much as it broadcasts and should help connect people, not only to the things in the museum’s collection, but to others who have an interest in them.

Examples of projects that meet metrics they’ve set for mobile projects:

  • Quality

Two examples of good mobile projects are Ego-trap and Tate Trumps. These work because they build attachment to the museum and the collections.

Other examples include museums crowdsourcing citizen scientists/curators to help with completion of collection records. V&A have been getting users to help choose best images to illustrate their collections. Need to think about shifting this action to mobiles.

  • Relevance

Using AR to turn vistors into curators and collectors.

  • Sustainability

Smithsonian commons and Gipuzkoa 2.0. Trying to increase network by getting a collection out there and letting people do stuff with it. Creating APIs

Finally, revenues.

This was put last for a reason. Income from mobile would be nice to have but would be the icing on the cake in the museum business.

See above for list of methods, but expanding on eCatalogues + subscriptions point. Exhibition catalogues are very expensive to produce on paper and are often quickly obsolete, especially if dealing with contemporary artists or emerging areas. Could be well suited to iPad/eReaders with the promise of updating the content.

[* These notes include all sorts of paraphrasing so excuse any inaccuracies]

Published by Chris Unitt

I work at One Further, doing digital projects with cultural organisations. Follow @ChrisUnitt or find me on LinkedIn.