by Jennifer Hilder (PhD Intern)
Before Christmas, around fifty people attended the ‘Digital Innovation in the Public Sector’ event, held at Glasgow University and organised by the College of Arts’ ArtsLab and Knowledge Exchange teams. The afternoon was split into two halves, with speakers from different sectors of Glasgow Life guiding us through their experiences of digital innovations in the first half, and speakers from the College of Arts showcasing their own developments and contributions to digital innovations featuring in the second half.
The first speaker, Mark O’Neill, talked about the opportunities Glasgow Life holds for researchers who would like to collaborate with them. Glasgow Life is the largest organisation of its kind in Europe and manages over 150 locations. With 17.5 million visitors per year there is a lot of potential for mapping levels of engagement across the city. There is another ‘Big Data’ aspect to Glasgow Life in its archives: records going back to 1875. What could someone do with all that information and what could we learn, for example, about Glasgow’s Victorian heritage as a result?
And the opportunities kept coming. Pamela Tulloch from Glasgow Life Libraries spoke about the popularity of libraries (more people visit them than go to football matches) but also their vulnerability and changing role. Libraries need help so that they can help people in turn, especially with users who can’t keep up with digital innovations themselves. There is an incredible amount of material in the libraries that could be digitised and interpreted to tell a really interesting story for the public.
Bob Peck, with Glasgow Life Sport, spoke about their new Leisure Management System and the way in which that will allow user experiences to be analysed more effectively. Duncan Dornan, the senior museums manager of Glasgow Life, talked about five key projects for Glasgow Museums. One of these is social media management; after 27 million page impressions on social media sites last year, there is now a twenty-person team to deliver content. Anthony Browne discussed this in more detail: apparently there are 71 different social media profiles for Glasgow Life! The public’s increased engagement with social media goes hand in hand with increasing use of mobile devices. As a result, websites and information sharing needs to be designed with that in mind, using apps and texts rather than emails. Irene O’Brien from the Mitchell Library’s City Archives told us about the new Record Management System, which has improved their archival experience.
After the break, John Faithful from The Hunterian explained how databases and online systems could be created and maintained cheaply, and how important it is for them to be sustainable in the long run. Andrew Greg from History of Art promoted his new project Art Detective, which crowd sources information using an online forum and enables interaction between curators and members of the public. Maria Economou works with The Hunterian’s research and teaching team and spoke about wanting to make the user’s experience of digital technology within the museum seamless and connected. She would like to see the museum taking advantage of the changeable nature of digital installations to be more flexible and experimental.
Ian Anderson from HATII walked us through their work on the Kelvin Hall Project, which Duncan Dornan is also involved in from the Glasgow Life side. A big part of their work is crating a gateway or portal that will function as a virtual museum. Clare Paterson from Glasgow University Archives showed us how putting the story of Glasgow’s international alumni online helped to attract the interest of foreign students, particularly via social media. Wendy Anderson introduced her current project ‘Mapping Metaphors’, which uses the Historical Thesaurus to draw connections between words and ideas. When finished, this will be a valuable online resource of interest to libraries and museums, schools, and society in general.
The final talk of the day came from Jane Stuart-Smith and Eleanor Lawson who really brought to life the way digital innovations can play a key role in producing fascinating and important research. The ‘Seeing Speech’ project has used ultrasound imaging to visualise speech. The videos and recordings are online and available to the public. Comparing the way that people from around the country say different words is not only a real laugh, but important for linguists too. It has already led to new discoveries.
Moreover, new discoveries and new connections were made by everyone during what was a highly successful event. If you have any questions or comments about the day, or an idea for a digital project involving Glasgow Life or the College of Arts, please get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org