Universities and Museums: new rules of engagement?

Last Thursday and Friday saw me attending the University Museums in Scotland (UMIS) Conference 2011, which took place in the Hunterian Museum at the University of Glasgow. It was a great opportunity to catch up with museum colleagues and to hear about some of the inspiring work that’s been going on.
Some of the highlights for me were
– Sally MacDonald’s keynote address “Not core business” which explored the changing roles of university museums and how they are perceived. It really gave a flavour of working in the unversity environment. Sally is the Director of UCL Museums and Collections.
– Jack Ashby from the Grant Museum of Zoology, UCL speaking about the different ways in which they have been engaging people with their collections. I was particularly interested in their use of crowdsourcing to find out what suggestions their visitors had.
– Eleanor Smith talking about Edinburgh University Collections of Historical Musical Instruments’s project “Drawing to scale”. This project was Recognition funded, so I was really interested to hear all about it. I’m sure I’m not the only conference attendee who now wants a pantograph for Christmas!

Take a look at the UMIS website to see the rest of the conference programme, which included our very own Alison Turnbull.

The star of the show, though, was the new Revealing the Hidden Collections online search portal. This is the result of a Scottish Funding Council funded project developed by 9 Scottish Universities working in partnership. All of the partners are members of UMIS, and the portal allows you to search their collections with a single search. We were given a demonstration of the search facility at the conference so we could see how easy it is to use. Congratulations to all involved in its development!

To complement the new search portal, the rest of the UMIS website has been given a new look. It’s looking great, so do check it out and take a look at Revealing the Hidden Collections too.


  1. I am usually not a fan of institutional blogs, but I have to say that I find your coverage of activities such as this conference to be of great value. Unfortunately, I did not know the conference was planned – and even though I am in Norway, I think I certainly would have attended. Enough said. My comment/question is as I am particularly interested in crowdsourcing, do you have any links which would be useful for me to follow up?

    • Hi Ellen, thank you for your kind comments on our blog. I first heard about crowdsourcing at a CultureSparks conference in Glasgow a couple of years ago. One of the speakers mentioned a book that I promptly went off and read, “Crowdsourcing” by Jeff Howe. I found it to be a really interesting read and it gives different examples of crowdsourcing being applied. In this context the crowdsourcing was mainly done online, for example, using social media. At the UMIS conference Jack Ashby gave some examples of crowdsourcing where the crowd could submit their ideas via an evaluation form or through conversation. I suppose one factor is how big the crowd is that you are trying to engage with your work, and thinking about a range of methods that you could use.
      You might also find it useful to look at one of the presentations given at our Collaborating to Compete Conference, which looked at Bristol City Council’s experience of using crowdsourcing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.