Soliciting User Comments
It's been a while since I posted to the New Media blog, but plenty of work has been going into the blog system itself to fix bugs and add features. Building a blog server is less work than you may think if you have enough control over your CMS. For instance, pinging a blog site with your new content is easy using a XML-RPC call - PHP even has a helpful xmlrpc_encode_request function - and a site like Pingomatic will pass the message on to everyone for you
The remaining big feature for us is user comments - I'm not sure we're even a real blog till we enable this. Although the museums I've spoken to haven't experienced problems with comments, most still retain safe-guards. This might be through a registration/email verification system or pre-approving comments to appear on the site. One method favours the regular contributor, the other casual commenters. I haven't seen a system that lets the user decide which they group they belong to, but this might be a good way forward.
Of course, this work could be avoided by installing a blog server like WordPress but by integrating with our in-house content management system (the snappily named Amgueddfa CMS) this work will eventually find its way throughout our site. One of the projects we're working on will introduce lots of interesting articles and other content about our collections. We'd like people to discuss those themes too.
The Morgan Library and The Whitney Museum of American Art
Today I visited the Morgan Library, which has been recently refurbished. It's worth a visit to see the building not just their collections, which include manuscripts, early printed books, and old master drawings and prints.
Apart from their impressive galleries, they also have facilities to allow you to pour through their website. The website includes CORSAIR, the online website catalogue, as well as collection highlights and online exhibitions.
I also had the chance to visit Dina at the Whitney Museum of American Art. They have designed a superb resource for teachers in Learning@Whitney (www.whitney.org/learning). Teachers can either use the pre-prepared lessons (which are theme based) or print images and create their own lessons. There are even sections for kids and teens to develop their own online galleries.
Ellis Island Immigration Museum
Today I went to the Ellis Island Immigration Museum, and decided for the first time this trip to get the audio guide. This proved to be well worth it - I seemed to be more immersed in the tour, and be more interested in the collections and exhibition.
There were some touchscreens that had access to all the census information. In fact, I looked to see how many Welsh there are currently living in the US (942,377), you can even check the population density. There were also some terminals that allowed you to check names that entered the USA through Ellis Island
Following my trip to Ellis Island I visited the Skyscraper Museum, which was very small, detailing some facts about the world's (and New York's) tallest buildings. It also contained some documentary videos running off DVD boxes.
Museum of Television and Radio & Digital Knowledge Ventures
My visit to the Museum of Television and Radio was an alien experience to me. They explained as I entered how it worked - you could view screenings which are at certain times of the day, then visit their library of television shows and films. They also had a choice of 5 radio programs running on loop all day
This was very strange as there were no artifacts - at least none I'd seen. Unfortunately I missed the museum tour which started in the gallery downstairs. I ventured upstairs just in time for a show's screening. There are several rooms so you can pick and choose throughout the afternoon (it's only open from 12pm).
Later on I visited the library, which (as they explained) allows you to choose 2 shows or films to watch in a private booth. These booths were great - and they would be fantastic for any large film archive
I also visited Vivian at Digital Knowledge Ventures, which is part of Columbia University. They have done some great work for museums, including many websites and interactive touchscreens (using Director). I've got a lot to look at when I get back, especially one of their current projects for the Library of Congress.