Project #2 findings

Dr Sophie Frost and the One by One team are very pleased to announce the launch of People. Change. Museums., a podcast series exploring the relationship between museums, technology, and this time of intersecting crises.

Episode #1 Precarity

‘Precarity’ refers to the condition of being precarious – of being flexible, insecure, dependent, vulnerable and exposed. In 2020, the word ‘precarity’ couldn’t be more pertinent as we find ourselves and our museums in a variety of insecure, dependent, vulnerable and exposed states. At the same time, our world feels rife with precarity – we are in the middle of a global pandemic, of ongoing racial injustice, of spiralling inequality, of frustrations around access and inclusion, of anxieties over national borders – both real and imagined – and in a global climate emergency. In this episode, we will hear how ‘precarity’ is a complicated term when it comes to museums and technology. Sara Snyder, Smithsonian American Art Museum (US), Dr Oonagh Murphy, Goldsmiths’ College (UK), Ed Rodley, freelance experience designer and museum professional (US) and Blaire Moskowitz, PhD candidate and museum professional (US/UK) join Sophie to discuss how they are each contemplating what ‘precarity’ means for our individual and collective futures. In 1976, that Welsh cultural theorist Raymond Williams wrote ‘Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society,’ a book examining over 100 ‘keywords’, that explored the fierce political struggles that often underpinned their adoption in everyday conversation. Inspired by Williams, each episode of People. Change. Museums. takes a different ‘keyword’ as its focal point, with each one capturing an aspect of work in museums today. Through these ‘keywords’ we will explore how digital technology is changing the way we experience and understand our culture and heritage – thus paving the way for new forms of social justice.

Episode #2 Courage

‘Courage’ is the keyword of the second episode of People. Change. Museums. This year, many of us have needed to be more courageous than before in our use of digital applications and tools, both to stay connected personally and to continue to work professionally. Similarly, previous fears and trepidations about technology have had to be overcome in our museums and cultural institutions. In these spaces, ‘digital’ can no longer be siloed or avoided, but rather recognised as pivotal to the operations, activities and collections of these organisations if they want to stay relevant and responsive. In this episode, we hear how museum people across the globe have been practicing digital courage where they are. Sophie interviews Dr Steven Franklin, Digital Engagement Officer, Egham Museum (UK), Angie Judge, Chief Executive of Dexibit – a big data and analytics company working with museums and cultural institutions (NZ), and Seema Rao, Deputy Director and Chief Engagement Officer of Akron Art Museum in Ohio (US) about what they believe it takes to promote and inspire change. We’ll also hear again from Sara Snyder, Chief of External Affairs and Digital Strategies, Smithsonian American Art Museum (US), about where the ‘bright spots’ are for digital technology in museums.

Episode #3 Emotional Labour

The term ‘emotional labour’ is our keyword in this episode. ‘Emotional Labour’ is a concept that has gained more and more recognition since the start of the pandemic, and even before that it had become synonymous with a wide range of employment rights issues – from its close relationship to typically female experiences of juggling a career alongside caring responsibilities, through to experiences of exhaustion, burn-out, self-alienation and exploitation when having to continuously put so much of one’s inner self into one’s work.

In 2020, ’emotional labour’ has been experience by people working in museums in more broad and nuanced ways than ever before. Sophie is joined in this episode by Effie Kapsalis – Senior Digital Program Officer at the Smithsonian Institution (US), Jude Holland – Learning Manager at Barnsley Museums (UK), Andrea Ledesma – Digital Product Specialist for the Web & Digital Engagement Team at the Field Museum (US) and Dr Lauren Vargas – Research Associate on ‘One by One’ and Digital Placemaker-Community Strategist (EU). Hear Effie, Jude, Andrea and Lauren help Sophie delve deeper into what ’emotional labour’ might mean in 2020, and how it might be a force for good rather than one that is merely burdensome.

Episode #4 Agency

The term ‘agency’ has long been considered a term of empowerment, linked to the ability to transgress, to be insurrectionary, political and subversive. But how has the meaning of the term shifted in 2020? This episode takes ‘agency’ as its keyword and considers how, in museums and other cultural spaces at least, it has come to mean the ability to have a voice as much as to act; to be able to speak up and in speaking up to bring others to the table too.

In order to further explore the meaning of ‘agency’ in 2020, Sophie is joined in this episode by Kelly Doyle, Open Knowledge Coordinator at The Smithsonian Institution (US), Jack Yates, Communications Officer at the Royal Armouries (UK) and Kathleen Lawther, freelance Curator based in Brighton (UK). We also hear from four individuals leading digital in national museums in the UK – Kati Price, Head of Digital Media at the V&A, Rob Cawston, Head of Digital Media at National Museums Scotland, John Stack, Digital Director at the Science Museum Group and Dafydd James, Head of Digital and Strategic Projects Lead, National Museum Wales. Kati, Rob, John and Dafydd discuss what this year has done for digital technology and the role it is continuing to play in keeping museums relevant.

Episode #5 Cultural Identity

This penultimate episode of People. Change. Museums. presents the term ‘Cultural Identity’ as its keyword. The notion of belonging has taken on a new set of meanings during the time of pandemic, with those identified as belonging to certain ethnically diverse cultural communities – and typically those characterised as experiencing higher rates of poverty, unemployment and poor health – being disproportionately impacted by the crisis. In this episode, Sophie explores the evolving concept of ‘cultural identity’ by dissecting the relationship between technology, museums and power in 2020 and 2021. To do so, she is joined by kYmberly Keeton – Chief Library Curator, ART | library deco (US), Shereen Hunte – Learning Officer at the Jewish Museum London (UK) and Claudia Zapata, Curatorial Assistant of Latinx Art at the Smithsonian American Art Museum (US).

Episode #6 Empathy

In the final episode of People. Change. Museums., we take ‘empathy’ as our keyword. Last century psychologists determined that there are three variations of empathy: ‘somatic empathy’ – the physical reaction to someone else’s pain and suffering; ‘cognitive empathy – the capacity to understand another, to put yourself in their place; and ‘affective empathy’ – the ability to respond with an appropriate emotion to another’s mental state. Arguably: all of these variations of empathy are required within the museum setting, especially in a time of intersecting global crisis.

The voices that you will hear from in this episode – some new, some familiar – all reflect on the role of empathy in the work that they do and push at the boundaries of how we might understand it within museums. In considering this topic, Sophie is joined by Dr Lauren Vargas – Research Associate on ‘One by One’ and Digital Placemaker-Community Strategist (EU), Adrienne Lalli Hills – Associate Director at Studio School at Oklahoma Contemporary Arts Centre (US), Corey Timpson – Museum Design and Accessibility Expert and formally Vice President, Exhibitions, Research, and Design at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CA), Kati Price – Head of Digital Media at the V&A, Dafydd James – Head of Digital and Strategic Projects Lead, National Museum Wales, Rob Cawston – Head of Digital Media at National Museums Scotland and John Stack – Digital Director at the Science Museum Group (UK).