Technology, participation and creativity in museums worldwide

Museomix is a creative makeathon held every year, on the same weekend and in different places of the world. Elena Bertelli from Museomix Italia explains how different professionals together with volunteers and museum staff create a working space in order to design innovative mediation tools - useful to improve visitors experience, engage new audiences and help the museum staff to adopt new skills and perspectives.
It has the intention to change the way people perceive museums by inverting the processes that lead cultural institutions to adopt new devices and technologies. During the three days, the participating museums host communicators, designers, makers, programmers/ developers, experts of collections and cultural mediators. Whereas in a regular customer/ supplier relationship, a museum first identifies a need and then asks for a professional advice in order to find an affordable and effective solution, during Museomix the extern professionals are the ones who identify what the museum needs. They browse in collections and archives, and museums give them a wide space of action by accepting their cross-eyed vision, critiques and ideas that emerge from the analysis. During the three days of Museomix, the museum gives tools to the professionals to realize some prototypes, without any constraints or influences.
What happens in the museums during Museomix?
Among the resources that Museomix local community provides, there are different facilities: a FabLab, a wifi connection (which some museums before Museomix had not and perhaps would have never had otherwise), a TechShop where to find all electronic and technical materials needed to build a prototype, a Mixroom where the communication team produces content to be disseminated in real time on the web and content experts, infinite sources of knowledge available to provide contents of the museum. Finally, three meals per day and, of course, a huge supply of coffee and comfort food are provided to get through the marathon.
On Friday, after a deepened visit to the museum and explanation of playgrounds thematic areas identified by the organizers after a careful analysis of the collections and the environment the so-called 'museomixers' come together as a team. The first day is dedicated to the development of the prototypes concept. The goal is to plan a project that can be concretely developed by the end of Sunday morning. Once the teams have designed the project, on Saturday and Sunday they entirely concentrate on the production of the prototype: some people build the designed object by using the FabLab, the craft workshop and the TechShop, others work on the brand and its storytelling or develop electronics and software. On the last day, all the teams hurry to complete and install the prototypes and welcome the public, invited to test them at 4 p.m.
During Museomix, professionals and experts with different skills work closely with the museum staff, an essential step to establish a relationship of cooperation and shared purpose. The audience has a fundamental role too. During the three days, the spaces of the collection are open. Therefore, it is important to explain to visitors what is going on in order to make them return on Sunday afternoon. Indeed, they will have a decisive role in the development process of prototypes, by testing them and giving back an evaluation of the experience.
Communication is a key element of this format and assigned to a specific compartment of professionals who work in the mixroom where social contents, videos, articles and materials are constantly produced. Everything that comes out of the mixroom has an international impact. A strength of Museomix is that the whole event happens at the same time around the world: museums dialogue constantly with each other and are connected with local communities. In this way, reciprocal exchanges take place from Belgium to France, from Quebec to Italy, from Switzerland to Mexico City just to name a few countries where Museomix took place.
Which advantages does Museomix offer the hosting museums?
Museomix is a moment of intense horizontal exchange of skills; for museums staff it is an opportunity to acquire skills in new areas and at the same time to share their knowledge about the place and its collection. The making of the prototype is only the final step of a long journey during which those who operate in the museum are called to reflect on the strengths and weaknesses of the institution in order to identify new approaches to its contents. These approaches are known as playgrounds: subjects or paths that will be proposed to the museomixers.
The prototype is the means of expression through which disclose this contents to the public. Through content-processing and technical support required to realize the prototype people, tools and different skills come into contact. After three days of makeathon, the echo of the massive communication traffic, activities and the added value of new human capital remains in the museum and, in most cases, continues to gravitate around it and gets involved in new projects.
During Museomix 2016, in the Museo del Risorgimento e della Resistenza of Ferrara, teams could count on technology but also on the presence of an actress, who was available to impersonate characters of the historical period represented by the museum. And during Museomix in Museo Tolomeo, the museum of the Institute for blind people Francesco Cavazza in Bologna, blind people where fundamental to support prototypes development. 'Tolocomando' is one of the result of this collaboration: an audioguide for blind, visually impaired children, adults and people of every language, inclusive and universal, to explore the museums Wunderkammer.
How much does Museomix cost a hosting museum?
Museomix is a huge investment in the museum and its staff in terms of development and training. The amount of the costs of the event changes from museum to museum: Museomix was organized in all kinds of museums. The most important costs to consider are: a good internet wifi and three meals a day for teams, museum staff and volunteers. Museomix international community has provided some useful tools to define a realistic budget.
Would you like to test it?
Museomix will be back from the 10th to the 12th of November 2017, and the call is open for museums and communities that want to apply. You want to candidate?
  • The first step is to fill out this form: a simple expressions of interest that will help you to get in touch with the international Museomix community if you are looking for support and helpful advices.
  • The second step is to gather a community of people and possible supporters/ partners for the museum. A specific section of the site contains the supporting tools. There you can start writing down the application and the estimated budget. Find the Museomix community closest to you and contact it for information on how to submit your application or any other kind of support.
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