Horizon Report: 2010 Museum Edition – Hot off the press!

Yesterday the first-ever Horizon Report: Museum Edition was given the final stamp of approval.  The PDF to post on the NMC website, and to circulate with emails was generated and sent off to the 37 Advisory Board members.  The final proofs were forwarded to the printers for the hard copy edition.  I am deeply satisfied.

It’s not often that one gets to work on a project like a Horizon Report.   Horizon Reports have been downloaded from the NMC site nearly 350,000 times, and the readership is estimated at 600,000 in some 70 countries.   You know the work is important and substantial, and you want to do it well.

A few years ago I served as an Advisory Board Member for the 2007 Horizon Report and while I enjoyed the work and the process, this time it’s different.  This time, as editor and Co-PI for the report the stakes were so much higher for me on both a personal and professional level.   Larry Johnson and the team from the New Media Consortium, including, the incomparable Rachel Smith, Alan Levine, and Keene Haywood are old hands at this process — the project is in its ninth year.  Despite their familiarity with the process—the creation of a Horizon Report is never just business as usual.

We put together a list of several dozen experts in the field of new technologies and sent off invitations to them — museum practitioners, scholars, administrators, and a few folks from outside the museum community — and then waited breathlessly to see who would join our merry band for this first Museum Edition.  Would people be willing to take time from their already-busy schedules to do the necessary research?  Once everyone had accepted, the time frame for accomplishing what we needed to accomplish in order to write the report seemed fantastically abbreviated, but Larry and Rachel assured me that it would all come together. My questions and worries seemed endless. Both Larry and Rachel had to talk me down off the ledge a number of times during the relatively short but intense research phase of the project.

And the process worked.   The Advisory Board, who cannot possibly receive enough thanks in my opinion, reviewed press clippings, addressed the research questions (discussing topics and technologies, indentifying critical challenges and key trends) and then participated in a Delphi-based series of rankings that iteratively reduced the set of things we were looking at, each round interspersed with fresh research from the NMC staff.   It took just two rounds to reach consensus.  The set of some 40 possible topics for the report was first reduced to a short list of twelve (four for the next year, four set two to three years out, and four set four to five years out) — and then winnowed down to just six — the two in each of the three adoption horizons that were considered most important.  That list became our table of contents.

The bulk of the work of the Advisory Board was completed in two short months last Spring. As summer approached the project wiki displayed a timeline with one lone checkbox to be checked-off:  the daunting “Produce Report” checkbox:

Screenshot of the Horizon Process Checkboxes

The goal: to distill the work, and words, and wisdom of 36 professionals and specialists in programming, user interface, administration, museum education and interpretation, into a product that is informative, useful, and readable.   How much information is enough?  How much is too much?  What kinds of examples do we need to find to supplement the great examples provided by our advisory board members?  What other articles might be useful to the museum director, head of museum education, or chief information officer in their work?

I’m going to drop into simile here now (or is it metaphor?).  Once the process of creating a new Horizon Report has “left the station,” so to speak, the project picks up a momentum of its own and you do the work that needs to be done whenever and wherever because that train’s not stopping or even slowing down.

One of my clearest memories of this project is that a key conference call could only take place when I was en route from Cleveland to New York City by car.  No worries, road trips are good places to take care of business—pull over, take the call, and then carry on.  As the time for the conference call approached I was traveling through the Finger Lakes region of New York State and my phone reception was spotty at best.  Luckily, in the nick of time, a sign for Watkins Glen appeared on the road, and I pulled off the highway and discovered a fast food restaurant with Wi-Fi and a phone signal.  We were able to hold a super-sized Horizon Report: Museum Edition content meeting, a meeting that in retrospect was key to bringing the speeding freight train smoothly into the station.

As I mentioned above, today I am deeply satisfied.  Larry Johnson and I had the opportunity to work with a splendid advisory board and the 2010 Horizon Report: Museum Edition is every bit the document we hoped it would be.   I hope you find the information in it useful and relevant to your work.  If you do, let us know.  If you think we’ve missed the boat somehow, write us about that too, because we want your input.

There is another Horizon Report already in the planning for 2011, and (we hope) for each of the years beyond.  Your help will make each one better than the last.

* Download the 2010 Horizon Report: Museum Edition here: http://www.nmc.org/pdf/2010-Horizon-Report-Museum.pdf

* Learn more about the 2010 Horizon Report: Museum Edition here: http://midea.nmc.org/2010/09/hz10mu-released/

3 Responses to “Horizon Report: 2010 Museum Edition – Hot off the press!”

  1. The 2010 Horizon Report: Museum Edition dovetails into some conversations I had at the American Association for State and Local History(AASLH) conference last month and with a conversation/presentation that I’d like to see go on in the history community.

    The 2010 AASLH conference included a Tribal Track, a sincere effort to jumpstart conversation among tribal museums and non-tribal local and state history groups. I had a conversation with Robert Swanson of the Grand Portage Tribal Museum about how technology might be used to capture the process of making certain sacred objects, because the preservation of these objects (such as drums) goes against tribal cultural practices. A few weeks later, on the smallmuseums@yahoo.com listserv, a conversation errupted about local and state historical organization’s responsibilities to preserve the “how-to” knowledge of history – such as how to use a tape recorder, how to repair a clock, or how to use a rotary phone. Again, the question was of preserving the processes or actions around an artifact instead of just the artifact itself.

    It strikes me that the kind gesture-based computing described in the report could be the right type of technology to go beyond making a 2-dimensional representation (video) of a process into 3-dimensional representations that allow museum visitors to experience some part of the process – the “how-to” or the act of creation. This type of activity would go beyond the gimick of being able to choose information based on a gesture to making the gesture itself a piece of the learning.

    I would love to see this conversation happen at a national level at the next AASLH conference (or other national conferences.) Holly, do you want to go to Richmond, Va. next year and meet some history geeks?

  2. Rachel Varon Rachel Varon says:

    Thank you Stacy for this great response to the 2010 Horizon Report: Museum Edition. I agree that gesture-based computing opens many doors to museum experiences for visitors that often are not possible. Keep dreaming of practical applications of the technologies, as it may soon become a reality.

  3. Larry Johnson says:

    We’ll be taking the conversation to both the national *and* local levels next week at the annual Museum Computer Network (MCN) conference to be held in Austin. Holly and I will be joined by Nik Honeysett and Nancy Proctor in a further discussion of the report. I hope you can join us!

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