Wednesday 5 December 2007

The GLAMS sector

Returning to the NDF conference ....

One of the most interesting moments of the conference was when a session chair asked for a show of hands, to see what kind of instition people who were attending the conference worked at. The results looked something like this:

That blue sliver is 'galleries' - and it's probably over represented. About 3 people out of 300 raised their hands when 'galleries' was called out by the chair.

Three things worry me about this. First, the NDF conference (not so much this year, but definitely last year) is a great place to learn about what cultural orgainisations are doing online to increase and serve their audiences. Last year's presentations by Seb Chan from the Powerhouse Museum and a nice fellow from the V&A were total eye-openers.

Second, NDF is currently the most obvious manifestation of what's being called in political dialogue "the GLAMs sector": galleries, libraries, archives and museums. I'm not sure that art galleries are aware that they're meant to be part of this group - or that they're being represented on a national level by this body.

And third - this reinforces my feeling that compared to some of our other cultural instititions, galleries are really not that interested in working collaboratively, sharing information and ideas, or even just hanging out together.


Anonymous said...

Hello, and thanks for an interesting post.

Yes, I agree that galleries should be up there at the forefront of the digital economy. Yes I agree that they are woefully under-represented in discussions to that effect.

After a few drinks I might even stretch to agree that in some cases "galleries are really not that interested in working collaboratively, sharing information and ideas, or even just hanging out together."

But I don't think you've quite hit the nail on the head.

Entry to the Digital Future Summit was $945 per head. Galleries don't have the resources that Te Papa or the National Library has. Galleries don't even have the resources that the library next door to them or the museum up the street has. That's a bunch of money that will go a long way towards a whole range of competing priorities.

Late November also coincides with the exhibition changeover period in almost every public gallery in the country, as the Summer Shows go up. Summer shows are critical to visitor numbers, and visitor numbers matter, a lot more than they should, but a lot nonetheless. Particularly when most galleries around the country are putting in budget bids for 08/09 around the time the summer shows come down.

Galleries operate within a local-government structure where information management and ICT are handled at council level. It's not easy for a gallery to move much beyond the business of art, unless there's a tangible benefit that can be justified to council managers.

It could be argued that if we had an active and dedicated 'National Gallery' galleries would be better represented at such events on a similar level to some of the other members of the GLAM sector. One would hope this would have a similar trickle-down effect that it has in the library sector.

I'm sorry I missed attending the event, but did follow as much of the programme online as I could. I know I'm not alone in wanting to up the contribution of the gallery sector to the digital debate, but at the end of the day, I have greater priorities.

Leading the digital charge is on the list, I just haven't got to it yet.

Anonymous said...

So rereading your post I see we're referring to different events - I followed the Digital Future Summit online. Why they were at exactly the same time I don't know.

To be honest I wasn't even aware of the NDF, which points to issues with the system rather than any perceived elitism from the gallery sector.

I still stand by my arguments that galleries generally don't engage because they can't. Staging an exhibition is a lot of work. Doing it every 3-4 months doesn't leave a lot of time for much else. And generally the first priority beyond the visitor through the door (and perhaps the media) is the local authority paying the bills.

Sad, but true.

Courtney Johnston said...

It is kinda mystifying that the DFS and NDF were on at the same time, but the two conference were, from what I can tell, quite different and attracted different audiences: higher level strategy and policy at DFS, more 'grass-roots' at NDF (which was considerably cheaper than $945 a pop).

Frankly, the economic argument is beyond my powers. But I do think that recent digital developments of the kind that get discussed at NDF - blogging, flickring, facebooking, community repositories - are accessible to galleries. And it's a good place to learn how people are doing things on the cheap - or where they're finding funding.

These things are also about people through the door - physical or virtual. The Web 2 world is an addition to the mainstream media, which is why I think comms/marketing people should be looking hard at these opportunities.

Points taken though on the pressures of running a busy project-based programme, and on the need for the NDF to reach out to the G in the GLAMs.