Digital Publishing

Note: I just finished rewriting my thesis intro and conclusion for the last time, hopefully. I must be a little mental, because I’m writing this instead of sitting down with a nice Scotch and relaxing and celebrating… It can’t be helped, though. This post has been banging around inside my head for a long time and it had to get out.


At a loss for words by Flickr user SeanMcTex

Ever get the feeling the Universe is trying to tell you to pay attention by showing you something over and over again until you see the light?

Several weeks ago, I went to an open house our publications people held to explain their process to the staff, and looking at the timelines for how many months ahead of time you had to submit info for inclusion in our magazine, I couldn’t help but think that museum print production processes not only aren’t 21st century, they’re not even 20th century. I thought, “Wouldn’t it be interesting if we thought of our member magazine as a mobile app that we published stories to all the time, rather than monthly, or quarterly?” My old friend Patty Toland’s company had rolled out the Boston Globe’s new site, which is a monument to responsive web design and a model worth exploring. Go hit the site yourself with anything that can access the web and you’ll find that regardless of your device, you have a Boston Globe experience. Just brilliant. Could we do similar?

At the same time, work on the Horizon Report 2011: Museum Edition was wrapping up.  One of the most interesting parts of working on the Horizon Report was getting out of my exhibits bubble to think more broadly about technologies in museums. And one of the trends that resonated most with me (surprisingly) was digital publishing.  I’d noticed that many of the apps on my iPad were magazine-type ones that aggregated and served up content in interesting ways. Mix all this with a healthy dose of the incendiary questions Koven Smith’s been asking about the point of museum websites, and you get quite a heady mix of possibilities, largely unexplored by the museum community.

Then, in the space of a week, Seb Chan posts “The museum website as a newspaper – an interview with Walker Art Center” on Fresh+New, and the ever-mysterious Museum Nerd posts “The Walker’s New Website Is An Earthshaking Game Changer” So, I say to the Universe, “OK! I get it!! Here’s what the future can look like, and it’s pretty awesome!”

If you haven’t read the two above-mentioned posts, do so now. Then visit the Walker’s new site, and see for yourself. For extra points, go look at your favorite Museum site and compare them.  What do you think? Is the new Walker site what more museum sites should look like?