This week, the PHM hosted D2 Digital and DigiEnable in our Coal Store for a workshop introducing podcasting to fellow arts and culture bods from Manchester and the surrounding areas. I’m not a tech genius by nature, but I am really interested in how new technologies can be used by museums to engage visitors with our story, and point them in the way of our collections. Podcasting isn’t a particularly ‘new technology’ in relation to how fast the digital world moves today, but as a digital phenomenon, podcasting isn’t as widely used by museums as other social media outlets. Therefore, I came to the session eager to be convinced why podcasting would be a great way to engage new and existing audiences with the PHM, for example; what sort of content do people want from a podcast? How long is too long when it comes to podcasting? And most importantly, how do you make a podcast?!
After introducing ourselves and the obligatory and very welcome morning cookies, we began the workshop with a presentation looking at the stages involved in making a podcast, the ‘Do’s and Don’ts’ when making a recording, and tips when interviewing people for features. With this information fresh in our minds, we were dispatched in groups to go and make our own 3 minute podcast, in half an hour. We had to decide on a theme for discussion, interview questions, and full yet to the point answers. At first, we were quite hesitant and more than once our recordings were interrupted or had to be abandoned due to extended ‘ummm’s’ or ‘errr’s’ and ‘deer caught in headlights’ style silences. However, once we got over the fact that a microphone was going to be pushed towards you and the requirement of having to come up with some intelligent yet witty remarks, conversation flowed and we record over five minutes of data easily!
As a group, we decided to base our podcast around digital technology, and whether the use of such things as podcasts, QR codes, social media and smart devices in museums and galleries was inclusive or exclusive to our visitors. It is my personal opinion that such technologies can be extremely inclusive in the right context, and will act in bringing about a wider resonance and therefore response from our audiences. The use of technology is going to happen both inside and outside of the museum whether we like it or not, and therefore I believe it makes sense for museums to point these people towards our collections by utilising these technologies as an accompaniment to our traditional roles, but not ahead of them so as to be exclusive. One group member from the Museum of Wigan Life pointed out that these technologies can be exclusive in that people who have no access to these devices are left out, which served as creating a debate on which to frame our recording.
Once the raw data had been collected, we gathered around a laptop and used the programme Audacity to cut and edit our recordings into a 3 minute piece. The programme was really easy to use and in no time we had a podcast which was ready to go! We then got the chance to listen to each other’s podcasts which provided much entertainment (no one likes the sound of their own voice, do they?) One group chose to talk about their Manchester heroes, while the other used their time to talk about their roles in the cultural sector.
Overall, I found the course extremely useful; it offered practical information, hints and tips on how to produce a podcast. While this was great and very much needed, I was still left to wonder; why should museums and galleries produce podcasts? When asked, the group leader stated that podcasts are a great way to engage a new audience in a completely new way, and can be linked to our existing website easily. I have to agree, the workshop certainly proved to me that podcasts have a place in our museum, especially our Play Your Part project. They will be a great addition to our gallery tours, and give us the chance to broadcast many of the interesting people who visit the museum in both a professional and personal capacity. So, watch this space- the first PHM podcast, coming soon!