On Sunday, I had the pleasure of organizing and facilitating a Digital-JumpStart session with Michael Edson at the American Association of Museums meeting in Los Angeles. We were joined and assisted by 30 wonderful facilitators and well over 100 participants. For 2:45 minutes we worked together in unconference style to share our lessons learn, questions and struggles, and future plans for digital work in museums. Discussion sessions ranged from gaming to digital exhibits to social media to institutional strategy and our numbers ran the gamut from very experienced museum technologists to those working to launch new museums. In the next days and weeks facilitators and participants will be adding their notes to the wiki, forming our collective record of our time together and possibilities for our work in the coming year. Mike did a wonderful job of capturing the findings shared by facilitators with the entire group at the end of discussion period.
Those findings spoke to a variety of issues, questions, and concerns, but many of them echoed the sentiments expressed by Douglas Hegley in summarizing the discussions about institutional strategy: We all have organizational mission statements and those statements should be the starting place for our thinking about digital work and kinds of technologies we need to put into place to serve those mission goals. I think that Douglas’ statement holds with respect to our organizing and planning for the session. I view Digital-JumpStart and similar collaborative unconference ventures as specifically being in service of both the Smithsonian and the Center for History and New Media’s institutional missions. The Smithsonian Institution was famously made possible by the generosity of James Smithson’s bequest to the United States government expressly for the “increase and diffusion of knowledge.” The Center for History and New Media was founded with the goal of “democratizing history.” That basic goal has evolved into an institutional commitment to Open Access and Open Source as a philosophy–a way of working that honors constructive collaboration and giving back to the community. Digital-JumpStart embodies these aims in its structure and practice by bringing together individuals who are interested in doing digital work and supporting them in moving their projects forward in practical ways. The sessions are low in overhead and high on productive exchange; anyone can come, everyone can contribute, and we all walk away having learned something. That sounds like the democratic increase and diffusion of knowledge to me.
At the close of the session, Mike urged everyone in attendance to “just go for it!”–to take the steps necessary to start innovating in their institutions and their local communities. I share his enthusiasm for pushing forward with this important work. Thus, I invite everyone who was at the session, and everyone who was not, to use the wiki and to consider running a Digital-JumpStart session at your next professional conference.