Mapping the way to a more digitally inclusive museum

Paper
Alyssa McLeod, Royal Ontario Museum, Canada

Published paper: Mapping the way to a more digitally inclusive museum

How can museums implement digital methodology from the start of a project to its end? All too often, we graft digital assets or tools onto the ends of projects rather than letting them play an integral role in our planning from the beginning. This digitally exclusive approach frequently results in what Koven J. Smith calls "analogue products with a digital finish" (Smith, 2014a).

In the fall of 2013, the Web team at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) launched a cross-departmental collaboration to create an iPad-based interactive digital map for an exhibition on Beijing's Forbidden City. This public-facing instance of mapping heralded a more widespread use of open-source digital-mapping tools across the museum. Museum studies students are now using Google Maps Engine to display their research in our galleries, collections managers are taking a geographical approach to organize their discoveries, and the Web team is holding well-attended all-staff workshops to teach the basics of online mapping.

This paper proposes that staff enthusiasm for mapping technology at the ROM is directly related to the familiarity of the tools being implemented. It outlines the process by which staff across the museum integrate digital mapping into their day-to-day workflows and suggests a model for digital inclusivity for future projects. When digital tools play an integral role in the research and planning stages of an exhibition or public-facing project, what we display to our online and on-site visitors becomes a more authentically digital and more fundamentally usable experience.

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