Museums This morning I attended the Museums Association Conference and Exhibition 2013 as an exhibition delegate which gave me access to the latter aspect of the event title but not the former (the former requiring a fee). Since the ACC conference centre attached to the Echo Arena opened I've been curious to see more than the mezzanine I sat in last time I was there, and although I didn't see inside the lecture halls again, I can now tick the exhibition rooms off the list, though only half (the other half currently being inhabited by the British Society of Breast Radiology) (there tend to be a lot of medical conferences there).
Having been to similar events before elsewhere, it was pretty much as I expected, companies and services in the sector selling their wares from display cabinets to climate controls to interactive displays, the kind of event where you end up having a long but surprisingly interesting conversation about recent developments in compact shelving technology. Attending with no other pretence than this blog, I couldn't help feeling like a bit of a fraud and slightly guilty about wasting the time of someone who should probably be talking about their massively complicated camera to someone who might be in a position to buy one.
Nevertheless I did see plenty of very interesting things here and there amid passing out moo cards, especially in relation to the mechanics of guide book publishing (there are companies that specialise), website production and archive presentation some of which will feed into the blog over the coming months, here and there. But here are a few of things I think you might enjoy looking at or knowing about right now.
International Council of Museums [http://icom.museum].
Museums have an international council, a massive global association for museum workers, with individual committees for people who work in sectors like Egyptology, Costume, Money and Banking Museums and Conservation (they're all on the website). Even having worked in the sector myself in the past I had no idea they existed but here's the reason I'm bothering to mention it here. The benefits. The annual fee is a bit steep. It's £70, with a £33 concessionary option for students and retirees. But for that one receives a card which gives free entry to all museums everywhere plus preferential rates in shops and on publications. This won't be for everyone, but I imagine if you live in London, work in the sector and visit this sort of thing a lot, £70 isn't that expensive and even less so if you fit in one of the concessionary category and it seems to cover more places than an Art Pass. Plus they're quite relaxed it seems in who can become a member. The person on the stand said they'd probably accept me with my library degree, film studies degree and having worked in the sector at some point.
TIME/IMAGE developed out a group of former employees from the British Council who were tasked with researching, collection and digitising the selection of film produced by the council for international distribution from 1939 onwards. The collection is here and its amazing and especially amazing because its under a Creative Commons license and available for download and streaming. Not until I began typing this did I realise that I've bumped into these films before when I wrote about them on my Shakespeare blog last year (despite showing embarrassed ignorance at the stand) (my memory is failing even if my curiosity isn't). See the top of this post for an example from the collection.
Mamiya Leaf [http://www.mamiyaleaf.com/]
Mamiya Leaf produce high end digital cameras and I'm mentioning them largely because they were good enough to spend a longish while talking about how the hardware works. They showed me their Leaf Credo and iXR camera system, which produces highly detailed images using an 80 megapixel camera which offers the highest resolution I've ever seen from a stills camera and we are reaching the very top end of my understanding. We talked a bit about where the technology is leading and it seems there are limits because of the capabilities of the light sensors within cameras and lenses and unless there is some huge new innovation (like being able to read sources from outside the visible spectrum) improvements will be incremental. But what I saw seemed pretty startling.
Greater Manchester Museum Group [http://www.gmmg.org.uk/]
Museums in Greater Manchester have a group. A partnership of eight museum services in the North-West, thanks to this project I was able to say that I'd visited most of them. They look for ways in which the various museums and galleries can co-operate both in terms of back office functions, education and publicity which includes international touring exhibitions to places like China. Next March they're launching a project which will tell the story of their part of the North-West utilising objects from across their collections for all the reasons I began my own project in the first place. More soon.