Collections Trust conference debrief

Thank you from all the team at Collections Trust. Not only did we receive very positive feedback about this year’s conference at the time, but a large number of people also completed the evaluation form. As we hadn’t run a virtual conference before and were learning as we went along, it was particularly helpful to get a sense of what the audience experience was like for participants.

By moving this year’s conference online we certainly attracted a much larger and wider audience than would usually be able to attend the conference and, overall, the response was extremely positive. Most people came along to update their knowledge generally or find out more about a particular topic. They said they liked hearing about new ideas and initiatives, as well as current projects and forthcoming sector developments.

The vast majority of respondents liked the format of three recorded presentations and a live Q&A with those speakers. No one found the structure too fatiguing and the break between each session meant they could grab a cup of tea and biscuit, visit our Spectrum Partners, who were available to chat in virtual meeting rooms, or simply take a few minutes to ruminate on what they had just heard.

There was the option to attend just one of the afternoons, but in fact the vast majority came along on both days. The programme deliberately combined policy issues and a more practical focus with consideration of some of the questions around collections and data which the sector is facing, and each of the four sessions was rated roughly equally. Someone noted, ‘A really wide-ranging programme with some great speakers.’ There were some attendees who found the strands on AI and big data a little challenging, although that’s understandable given the concepts would have been new to many. Some also wanted more content that was directly applicable to smaller museums.

Delegates were also very pleased that we made the speaker and Q&A videos available online after the event, so that they could catch up with any segments they’d missed, time-shift their viewing if they’d needed to work or refer colleagues to specific presentations.

As always with feedback, it was the comments that were especially interesting. One respondent commented, ‘It was all really good and the sessions flowed very well. The IT was easy to use and it all worked!’ Another said, ‘It would have been nice to bring other session speakers and also the audience into the Q&A sessions somehow, as often happens in a physical conference, but no idea how you’d do it!’ It’s something we’re already looking into for next year, and also for our online outreach events in the meantime.

And talking of next year, when asked what type of conference they would prefer to attend in the future, 36% of respondents said online, 7% said in-person, but 57% said either. This prompted us to wonder whether it might be possible to hold a hybrid event, live-and-in-person but also reaching an audience online at the same time.

While we’re here, we should also say thank you for the shout-outs to the BBC Archive potter’s wheel and Sarah’s cat, who made a couple of fleeting appearances during the Q&As. We are very grateful, too, to those who kindly donated to Collections Trust.

So if you’ve made it to the end of this post, congratulations and there’s a reward for you. We’ve received a lot of requests asking for the conference proceedings to be made available for longer, so we’ll keep them accessible via the links below for the foreseeable future.

Session 1: Joining the policy dots

Keynote: Dr Jeni Tennison, Vice President and Chief Strategy Adviser, Open Data Institute

Decolonising the database: Dr Errol Francis, Chief Executive, Culture&

Making ‘dynamic collections development’ a bit more dynamic: Sarah Briggs, Collections Development Officer, Museums Association

Q&A panel discussion with session 1 speakers: Moderated by Sarah Brown, Outreach Officer, Collections Trust

Session 2: Making workflows flow better

A toolkit for managing digital collections: Sophie Walker, Information Manager, British Film Institute

The Exhibition Object Data Exchange Mechanism (EODEM): Rupert Shepherd, CIDOC Documentation Standards Working Group

Building better data tools for modern collections management: Adrian Hine, Digitisation Manager, Science Museum

Q&A panel discussion with session 2 speakers: Moderated by Sarah Brown, Outreach Officer, Collections Trust

Session 3: Using AI intelligently

GATEway to AI: Diana Maynard, Senior Research Fellow, Natural Language Processing Group, University of Sheffield

Machine learning in action: Jonathan Whitson Cloud, Knowledge and Information Manager, Horniman Museum and Gardens

Visual search for collections: Dr Giles Bergel, Digital Humanities Ambassador, Visual Geometry Group, University of Oxford

Q&A panel discussion with session 3 speakers: Moderated by Sarah Brown, Outreach Officer, Collections Trust

Session 4: From data to big data

Using big data to optimise preventive conservation: Chris Vastenhoud, Project Coordinator, Royal Museums for Art and History, Brussels

The value of data harvesting and aggregation: Andrew Ellis, Director, Art UK and Adrian Cooper, Director, Intelligent Heritage

Getting it together – realising the value of museum collections data: Kevin Gosling, Chief Executive, Collections Trust

Q&A panel discussion with session 4 speakers: Moderated by Sarah Brown, Outreach Officer, Collections Trust