Despite my youthful looks(?), I started chasing the Museum Technology dragon in the 80’s. Now that my arms are not long enough for my iPhone screen to be in focus, I’ve started referring to myself as a recovering museum technologist. Most of the time, my self-important administration job helps me with the recovery process, but trust me when I say museum technology is like the mafia, you think you’re out and then it drags you back in. Even as an administrator, I’m still referred to as the “technology guy” – and they often use air quotes when they say it which is deeply insulting. So this blog is in part, a periodic self-help session as I attempt to exit ungracefully from the museum technology world.
If you’re a museum technologist who can remember a time before email and colour monitors, paying $3,000 for a 20MB hard drive, delivering an interactive using MacroMind Director or HyperCard, and knowing every configuration of Macintosh, PC or printer available on the market, it may be time for you to recover too. There was a time when a museum technologist was a shaman, an intermediary between the natural and supernatural worlds of museum and technology, using magic to cure illness (recover a crashed hard drive), foretell the future, and control spiritual forces (write a serial controller for a touchscreen).
If like me, AARP wants to friend you, then it may be time to enter my 12 step recovery program, which is largely about admitting your faults and that technology is waay too complicated nowadays and its time to hand over the reins:
- Admit that you had inappropriately and without due process of RFP, selected and implemented a web content management system, because you knew it would do the job admirably and what do those curators know about content management anyway?
- Admit that you had knowingly developed applications that would not integrate with the museums’s Collections Management System despite profuse claims that it would
- Admit that you never commented your code in a way that would be useful to anyone else but yourself
- Admit that you had been consistently over-optimistic about how long it would take to digitise a museum’s collection
- Admit that you had over-emphasised the importance of attending that mobile conference in London
- Admit that you had inflated your technology budget submission by 25% because you knew the Director would unconscionably shave it by 25%
- Admit that you cannot keep up with every social media platform and nuance and don’t have a clue how to start a Pinterest board
- Admit that you don’t know how to program with Ruby On Rails, wouldn’t know where to start, and actually don’t know whether to refer to it as “in”, “on” or “with” Ruby On Rails
- Admit that you don’t really understand the whole Fair Use/CC0 licensing thing
- Admit that its time to make a list of all the curators, conservators and educators to whom you have lied about the benefits of technology and be willing to make amends to them all
- Have a spiritual awakening that sometimes technology is an inappropriate solution and that some visitors don’t want an audio guide
- Admit that there is a power greater than yourself and the Director can have a twelve-image rotator on the home page, that nobody will ever page through and will take way too many resources to maintain
If all these are true, maybe its time to start thinking about your recovery.
When you’re in the weeds with technology, its sometimes hard to see what’s really going on, just like me and my iPhone screen. My self-important museum administration job has afforded me the opportunity to step back and see the broader trends much more clearly, so in part, this blog is also about a place for me to opine or rant about those things largely uncontested and speed the recovery process.