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National Railway Museum

Discussion in 'National Railway Museum' started by admin, Apr 18, 2008.

  1. Tim Light

    Tim Light Active Member

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    Money is the big limitation, true, but it's also about what the museum believes its mission to be. The NRM's official mission statement is woolly enough to allow anything and everything. Peter has it spot on when he says that they are promoting it more as a leisure attraction than as a place of learning.
     
  2. Enterprise

    Enterprise Part of the furniture

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    I fear they will follow the same path as the Science Museum which is now little different from an amusement arcade.
     
  3. simon

    simon Resident of Nat Pres

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    Until the funding is in place if it ever is that's the future for it and most museums. You won't, unfortunately, get 700k of visitors to a purely educational attractions. The abolition of admission charges being a two edged sword.
     
  4. Tim Light

    Tim Light Active Member

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    Let me ask this quietly so that nobody hears me.

    So what?

    If nobody is paying admission, then it doesn't make much difference if you get 70K or 700K visitors. The British Taxpayer will get far better value for money if 70,000 people learn something about our railway heritage than if 700,000 get a free day out at a railway freak show.

    I know it's not that simple. You need the 700,000 people to spend money in the shops and cafes. But in principle, the museum is free and subsidised by the taxpayer. It has to have a purpose beyond light entertainment.
     
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  5. Platform 3

    Platform 3 Member

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    Correct - it has to educate. But you have to engage with people in order to educate them. There are things I would change about the NRM if I was in charge but I certainly wouldn't be thinking 'let's make it more boring so parents won't want to bring their children'. No families = no future for the museum.
     
  6. simon

    simon Resident of Nat Pres

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    No it is massively subsidised by the gift shop the suggested donations boxes and one hopes the catering but see separate threads on catering.

    It educates up to a point and if even a small number of the 700k go on to be more interested in railways that's a good thing.

    For education, it offers other facilities. But it needs the foot fall to fund itself and if it was purely education then in this day and age it would, like it or not, fail as the crowds wouldn't come.

    Oh and as my Masters lecturer used to say, it's SFW, not so what :)
     
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  7. Tim Light

    Tim Light Active Member

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    All good points. Not advocating that they make it boring. I want them to make it more interesting by doing more with their displays. Too often all we see is engines parked shoulder to shoulder with no context. See the pics in my earlier post for an idea of what can be done.

    The danger with needing the footfall is that they skew the exhibits towards the glamorous and glorious, giving a skewed impression of what railways were really about. So some of the 700K might learn something, but many more might go away thinking it's all about Flying Scotsman, Mallard and the Bullet Train.

    Apologies for the sloppy English! ;)
     
  8. Enterprise

    Enterprise Part of the furniture

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    Most of the clutter could be cleared if advances in smartphone technology were exploited. One could wander around looking at the artefacts with appropriate information displayed at different densities to suit one's preference. Just requires a well thought out app.
     
  9. richards

    richards Part of the furniture

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    A number of museums tried QR codes to do this, but it never seems to take off. Probably because most peoole didn't know what they were or could be bothered to download an app.

    Museums shouldn't assume that everyone has a smart phone or wants to use it during their visit. There need to be old-fashioned information available, with perhaps an option to look up more details for the minority who want that.
     
  10. Platform 3

    Platform 3 Member

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    Free audioguides with 'follow up' information are great for that. You have to invest in the technology but it allows plenty of interpretation without cluttering up displays.
     
  11. 2392

    2392 Member

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    One possible way round supplying information is these electronic hand sets. They look like a cross between the tv remote and a slighlty older mobile phone. As you wonder round the in this case a museum, there'll be a stand with a number on beside the various exhibits, you "dial" the number into the handset then like a phone put it to your ear and it then tells you what your looking at, gives you background information etc. Quite handy really and depending on the nationality of the visitor these handsets are available with a variety of langauges.......
     
  12. Phil-d259

    Phil-d259 Member

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    Yes it does - because the Treasury will not continue to shovel money towards an attraction that is 'Unpopular' or not 'fulfilling its potential' as regards visitors. Also the more visitors a place gets and the more they spend on souvenirs / refreshments, the more money said museum generates and the lower the 'burden' on the public purse.

    Museums (like all heritage) has to be paid for - regardless of how much of a 'serious' museum it is. Thus in an age where every penny of public expenditure has to be seen to be providing the highest possible returns, visitor numbers means more to those that mater than pure content.
     
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  13. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Resident of Nat Pres

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    At that point, why not use the users' own mobile phone as the "electronic hand set" and cut out the capital cost (from the museum's point of view) of provision and maintenance of the hardware?

    However you do it, the expensive bit is providing the information - but at least it could be multi-purposed for use on the website, for example. So every item in a museum has a unique reference number - not especially difficult technically to have a database with a description of each item (if necessary, several descriptions, i.e. perhaps an "in brief" description and an "in depth" description); the user then just needs to add in the reference number (or scan a QR code) to get the detailed description (with perhaps a basic description on display boards, for those without a phone). The same database of descriptions could then easily power the website.

    Tom
     
  14. Enterprise

    Enterprise Part of the furniture

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    The QR codes are unnecessary as WiFi technology and GPS can locate the user and a good app provide a VR view with zooms in to meta layers with the information.

    I think the audio handsets common in museums are already obsolete and will shortly be dispensed with.

    Smartphones are ubiquitous with young people and are the way forward.
     
  15. Phil-d259

    Phil-d259 Member

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    Yet I don't see that establishment suffering as a result. In fact it seems to be thriving - and adding things like sleepovers (for adults and children) plus late night lock ins complete with bars and a silent disco (which also feature mini lectures on scientific topics in various galleries) into the mix. Apparently the chance for adults to revive memories of school trips in the 'Launch pad' being a highlight (I still remember when this was a new initiative in an otherwise rather dated museum and how much I enjoyed it) of such events.

    As society changes, the way content is displayed has to change too. If that leaves some feeling upset - too bad. Nobody lives forever and each generation will do what it needs to do to continue to attract the necessary visitor numbers Museums and Heritage need to survive for future generations. In an age where 'bums on seats' is the primary measure used to determine 'success' by funding bodies then having a excellent museum with low visitor numbers won't last.
     
  16. Platform 3

    Platform 3 Member

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    We've had this discussion before, and above makes the point that people often can't be bothered to download the apps etc. Whatever is easiest will end up being used.
     
  17. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Resident of Nat Pres

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    I don't think you need an App - you need free wifi, and a mobile-optimised website that is built on the back of a complete database of every item in the collection.

    Tom
     
  18. Phil-d259

    Phil-d259 Member

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    Which is indicative of most museum visitors - they are simply not that bothered about knowing the details of the things they see. Yes its distressing for the studious to hear but the evidence is clear - fun and gimmicks are what the public want from museums, not outright knowledge.
     
  19. I. Cooper

    I. Cooper Member

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    I can't stand those dreadful audio-guide handset/headphone contraptions, but I can gaurentee I wouldn't be faffing around with my phone, connecting to unknown 'free' WiFi to browse some website or other for information at all. If I wanted to do that I can manage it with a decent sized monitor in the comfort of home.

    Why try fixing something that isn't broken - a nice sign with real printed words that you can stand and read gives infinately more information than most visitors are interested in finding out anyway, and plenty for those with some degree of interest to bother reading.
     
  20. simon

    simon Resident of Nat Pres

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    Because it's the way the world is moving. You may not like it, but that doesn't mean it's not the future. Far easier to update stuff electronically than signs which get damaged lost or out of date.
     
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