Title:Visitors, Digital Innovation, and a Squander Bug: Reflections on Digital R&D for Audience Engagement and Institutional Impact
Authors:Claire Ross, Melissa Terras
Publication:MW2013: Museums and the Web 2013

What's the difference between the aspiration and the reality of digital innovation? How much can you actually achieve under the umbrella of R&D? How experimental can you be across multiple platforms when time, resource and funding are against you? These are questions that all museums are now facing and questions which the Social Interpretation project at The Imperial War Museums (IWM) has been trying to tackle head on. The Social Interpretation project (SI) at IWM is utilising R&D and innovative practice to fundamentally challenge the way in which museums interact with, and provide for, audiences. The aim being to rebalance the authority / audience divide; turning museums into social, participatory organisations – with all the challenges this entails. With this paper, we would like to share our experiences and the findings from this national project, focusing on reflections on R&D and innovative processes used to engage audiences and the implications for the use of digital technology that encourages participatory communication and content creation by visitors. In particular we will discuss the challenges of implementing participatory digital innovation projects in museums and the impact this has not only on visitors but also on the institution as a whole. Although this paper will concentrate on technology and concepts created for IWM, issues of R&D and digital innovation are applicable to any museum.