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Rock ‘n roll strolling down the hushed corridors of art history #DigiLab

In her third and final Digital Lab blog, Ruth Selwyn-Crome is not only looking forward to future plans but also reflects on what she’s managed to achieve from her initial objectives. 

Having completed a few experiment outlines — and forced myself to think hard about objectives, unexpected results and what I might do differently next time — I’m feeling that I’ve managed to learn quite a lot so far.

I began with a really grand idea that I could create an online, immersive, museum style showcase. I wanted to find out how best to engage and attract people looking for memorabilia relating to gigs they’d attended. While I was thinking about this I decided to turn the massive list of gigs into a more workable format.

BUT researching many other music archive sites made me realise that engaging content isn’t all about functionality. I couldn’t possibly create a library catalogue in the time allowed — there are far better qualified people around to do that. And I didn’t have the time necessary. Meanwhile the simple list of gigs (albeit back to front) had sold out its second edition and more were being printed. The list wasn’t a problem that needed to be fixed.

I thought about what I was most disappointed about with the website I’d been using and it was mainly about the complete lack of ways to show images in an attractive way. This combined with the fact that the most exciting part of the Gig History project has been the newly digitised photographs which have come my way from alumni contributors.

SO when choosing a new web template to play with I went for the grandest museum/gallery version I could find. I liked the idea of exhibiting the material I had as valuable works of art. I liked the idea of allowing rock and roll to stride down the hushed corridors of art history!

The template is very sophisticated and it’s going to take a while to find out how best to use it. My mentor has very kindly offered to assist me beyond the confines of the lab timetable. It’s already attracting comment from my work colleagues though (“Wow, that’s beautiful — did you make that?”) which is heartening.

I’ve been invited to take part in a University of East Anglia (UEA) session at Latitude Festival in July. This has given me another deadline and great reason to develop the new site. I’m going to get a fantastic opportunity to do some audience surveying.

I recently met with a young postgraduate student, who had seen a panel discussion I’d been part of where I spoke about reaching out to new audiences and freelance experience I’d had with a local music festival. The student was part of an i-heritage project and was looking for ways to advise and help a local museum to engage with particular audience members.

I immediately remembered a case study from an AMA publication which I’d found very useful — and which I had shared with my own work colleagues. I also found myself referring to my notes from the AMA Future Now conference and found them incredibly pertinent. The student had already got some great ideas of her own but just needed to bounce them off someone. And perhaps that’s been my own biggest takeaway from the Digital Lab, with talk on the Slack Channel and participation in the webinars and research into what other people are doing with their online archives.

It’s all been a useful way to not so much firm up my own ideas as to reflect them back to myself in a slightly different way and give me courage to go in a different direction.

That’s what experiments are for isn’t it? Thank you to Digital Lab for this fantastic opportunity.


Read Ruth’s previous Digital Lab blogs — Keeping the dialogue open #DigiLab and Shrinking changes for the sex pistols #DigiLab

Image courtesy of University of East Anglia (UEA). Photographer Tim Richards. The Specials performing at UEA’s LCR venue in 1979.