Visitors, Digital Innovation and a Squander Bug: Reflections on Digital R&D for Audience Engagement and Institutional Impact

Claire Ross, UK, , Melissa Terras, UK


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.

Keywords: R&D, digital innovation, social interpretation, visitors, public engagement

1. Introduction

Research and Development (R&D) projects that utilise digital innovation are being regarded as the ‘Holy Grail’ for offering museum professionals quick, new and experimental ways of engaging visitors with content, and creating new relationships between museums and their users. (Bakhshi and Throsby 2010; Tanner and Deegan 2011; Tanner 2012) However the reality of R&D can be very different.

Cultural institutions are operating within an environment of profound and rapid change.  This change, however, is not new; for more than a century, museums have been continuously evolving and undergoing re-invention – transitions in governance, institutional priorities, societal value, management strategies and communication styles – that have made them more inclusive, externally focused, visitor oriented, and engaged in open communication with their audiences. (Anderson, 2004) The difference now is the pace of change: museums and other cultural institutions are facing the challenges of the accelerating pace of technology-driven changes in society. More rapidly than ever, digital technology and participatory applications are changing the way society works, learns, and interacts. Cultural audiences are more connected, social and open to sharing than ever before. Increasingly, they use social media in their personal lives and expect similar levels of access and participation when engaging in online cultural activities. Social media is beginning to surpass all other methods of online information access and retrieval; therefore it is becoming imperative for museums to investigate how it is used to engage audiences in cultural activities both online and on-site.

Traditionally, cultural institutions have been extremely successful in inspiring and provoking debate, discussion and social exchange. (Black 2010; Simon 2010) However, they tend to act as provocateurs, initiating discussions, but not actively participating, facilitating or representing them (See Hein 1998 for a discussion on didactic and discovery learning in museums). This is no longer accepted by audiences familiar with constant social engagement. (Black 2005) Cultural institutions now require new frameworks and models to engage audiences in ways that are acceptable to them, and social media offers a mechanism through which to test this engagement. Faced with such pressures, innovation is viewed by many institutions as critical to their future success.

The Social Interpretation (SI) project at the Imperial War Museum (IWM) ( utilised R&D and innovative practices, including agile project management principles and a user centred approach to fundamentally challenge the way in which museums interact with, and provide for, audiences. The overarching aim was to explore how social media models could be applied to museum collections and exhibition interpretation, offering new models for public engagement and the construction of social interpretation. SI aimed to apply the intellectual and technical models that have underpinned the success of social media to cultural objects and interactions with the public. The focus of SI was a participatory social system that would allow visitors to interact with museum objects and create their own interpretation; facilitate social interpretation in the physical space and online; and include visitor content and personal narratives as part of the museum object’s history and the display itself.

The project was undertaken across three platforms: online for over 750,000 objects; in-gallery in the new A Family in Wartime permanent exhibition at IWM London and in the Main Exhibition Space in IWM North, and mobile: linking a Quick Response (QR) code (for definition of QR codes see Walsh 2009) to a conversation about museum objects. Members of the public could type in their thoughts and interpretation of museum objects and submit their interpretation to become part of the individual object’s history and ultimately the display itself via the interactive label system which displayed comments and information directly next to the museum objects. This research aimed to investigate the real world application of social media participatory models with cultural institution output, focusing on the approaches to developing, implementing, evaluating and measuring the use and impact of Social Interpretation in the Imperial War Museums. This approach hoped to produce appropriate solutions by embedding users, stakeholders and the entire project team at every point of the development process, leading to advocacy and ownership. Ultimately the SI project created three applications and an underlying technical product to test if this innovative approach is a valid way to answer the challenges and opportunities that social media present to museums, galleries and cultural institutions. The project was a collaborative one between the Imperial War Museums (IWM), Knowledge Integration (KI), UCL Centre for Digital Humanities (UCLDH) and Gooii, funded by the Arts Council, Nesta and AHRC Digital R&D Fund for Arts and Culture. The project ran from October 2011 until IWM London’s closure for refurbishment on January 1st 2013 and is still available online at

The following paper presents the experiences and learnings from the national Research Development project, at IWM.  The focus of this paper will be on the challenges and responses that embedding R&D and innovative processes in museums present. The paper discusses the challenges of implementing participatory digital innovation projects in museums and the impacts this has not only on visitors but also on the institution as a whole. Throughout this paper we will explore how mobile devices, interactive digital labels, QR codes and social media in permanent gallery spaces and online can be used to engage audiences and the implications for the use of digital technology that encourages participatory communication and content creation by visitors. This includes the key themes facing the museum in a modern digital context: moderation, visitor authority, community engagement, co-production of design and content, internal support, external advocacy and technical development.

2.    The Social Interpretation Project

Aims and Objectives

The SI project is a digital R&D project that explores how QR codes, mobile devices, interactive digital labels and social discussion and sharing online can create new models for public engagement, visitor meaning making and the construction of multiple interpretations inside museum spaces. Digital tablets, touch screens and QR codes located next to museum objects, pose provocative questions about the objects and the themes they represent. The project aims to apply the models and content found in existing social interaction mechanisms (social media applications like Facebook, Twitter, etc.) across the IWM collections, thus making social objects out of museums objects. The project is based around technology developed by Knowledge Integration, a modular suite of software called the Collections Information Integration Middleware (CIIM) ( This enables IWM to facilitate discussions about, and the sharing of, museum objects by audiences. Social Interpretation provides the opportunity to move the interpretation of objects from the static museum label to an open discussion making objects social with two-way public interaction in museum spaces.

Specifically, the SI project explores two key questions:

  1. Does applying social media models to cultural collections have the potential to increase audience engagement and reach?
  2. Is social moderation is an effective response to the challenges posed by representing public comment and discussions in physical and digital cultural spaces?

These questions were posed via three main components of the project:

  1. A custom application that is built in Flash running on six tablets in the A Family in Wartime exhibition at IWM London and four touchscreen computers in the Main Exhibition Space at IWM North.
  2. A custom mobile application built for Apple’s iOS and Android platforms entitled ‘Scan and Share.’
  3. An online commenting, collecting and sharing interface entitled ‘My IWM.’

The Gallery Kiosks

To facilitate visitor interaction and social interpretation, six kiosk tablets were developed and installed in the A Family at Wartime exhibition at IWM London. These are situated next to a range of objects, including an infant’s anti-gas helmet, a squanderbug, and an evacuee label. (Figure 1) The kiosks include two screen states: one depicting the ‘museum voice’ and one depicting ‘the visitor voice.’ (Figure 2) The ‘museum voice’ acts as a digital label providing curatorial information and imagery of the object. The ‘visitor voice’ acts as a space to enter a comment and to present visitor comments from the most recent to the oldest. The user can swipe between the two states. Essentially these kiosks give visitors the opportunity to leave a comment or offer social interpretation in response to a ‘prompt’ question posed by the Museum. The kiosks also include some additional interaction elements in the ‘visitor voice’ screen: the ability to like or dislike a comment, the ability to reply to a previous comment, and most importantly the ability to remove or report a comment. This remove button provides a function for any visitor who expresses concern or dissatisfaction with any of the user-generated comments to raise this as potentially inappropriate material to the museum. This action not only removes the comment from view, but also flags it to a member of staff who can check the query. This function directly relates to one of the main research questions of the SI Project: Is social moderation an effective response to the moderation challenge?


Figure 1: Example object with SI Kiosk in the A Family at Wartime exhibition; Squanderbug air rifle target. Image taken by Jane Audas


Figure 2: Screen shots of the two screens; museum voice and visitor voice.

In IWM North, following in situ usability testing and observations of the London tablets, the kiosks were re-developed in terms of content and interface design. (Figure 3) The screen size increased to 23 inch touchscreen PCs as the tablets used previously were deemed to be too small for social interaction and were not robust enough for sustainable gallery use. Four, 23 inch touch screen computers were installed next to four standalone large exhibits in the main exhibition hall of IWM North. These included a t34 tank, a fire tender, a field gun and “Baghdad, 5 March 2007,” Jeremy Deller’s installation featuring the bombed wreckage of a car. The changes in content and interface design primarily relate to the main screen that visitors encounter. Previously there were two principal screens. (see Figure 2) In the second kiosk iteration, the ‘museum voice’ and ‘visitor voice’ exist on one screen. The visitor encounters a screen where an image of the object and its name is presented in the top left corner. Underneath, a provocative question is posed which is designed to generate comments. The remainder of the screen is devoted to inputting and showing comments. Touching the photo of the object triggers a larger display of the picture, but does not generate any additional text. The same interaction functions of like, dislike, reply and remove were visible.


Figure 3: Interface design of second iteration kiosk in IWM North

QR Codes and Mobile Application

The SI mobile application (Figure 4), designed for both the Apple iOS and Android platforms, allows for a more personalised presentation and interaction with objects. The application includes a QR code scanner to scan an object’s QR code in IWM exhibition spaces and get unique content about that object. It also contains the ability to search the entire catalogue of IWM’s collections, which covers over 750,000 objects and the facility to create and share visitor stories, memories and experiences as well as create a personal collection of objects. QR codes are used throughout the gallery spaces to facilitate physical/digital interaction and serve as keys into more information on displays. Eight QR codes are situated next to objects and artworks in A Family in Wartime, mostly small objects such as a dress made of parachute silk, food ration books and a set of railway timetables. QR codes were also placed next to 19 of the individual paintings in the Breakthrough Art gallery in IWM London. In IWM North, QR codes were placed next to nine objects in the main gallery, including a nuclear bomb, a piece of the Berlin Wall, steelwork from the 9/11 World Trade Centre, and a child’s gas mask. The mobile app acts as a bridge enabling visitors to add their own comment to the specific objects, to search, collect and share museum objects. The SI Team discussed alternatives to using QR codes throughout the initial stages of the project; however, QR codes were selected as being the cheapest and easiest option.

Figure 4: SI mobile interface and of use in the Family at Wartime Gallery, IWM London


IWM also added social interpretation elements to its website at the end of July 2012, creating the ‘My IWM’ interface. Visitors to the website are able to curate and annotate their own unique collection of objects and then share them with friends. Each individual object page includes, at the top right hand side of the page, icons indicating comments and the option to “collect” and “share”(Figure 5). Below the object record itself is the comment thread and comment box, recording what other people had to say about objects in the collection. There has been no active promotion of SI on the website: all collections (Figure 6) and comments have been created “organically,” by users visiting pages and stumbling across the functions (or through word-of-mouth). Users can create an IWM account or use their Twitter login (Facebook will also be added).

Figure 5: Object page highlighting comment, collect and share icons

Figure 6: Example Collection page

Moderating User Generated Content

One of the key research questions the SI project aims to explore is the effectiveness of, and the risks and challenges involved in, using social moderation as a means of dealing with the representation of visitor comments and discussion in physical and digital museum spaces, whether in or outside the Museum. Comments made through the kiosks, app and website, once approved via an automated profanity filter, are not reviewed by IWM staff before going live on the gallery floor or website (although staff are able to review and moderate comments once they had been made). Visitor comments are uploaded immediately with a profanity filter applied to the message before being sent to the server. In addition to the profanity filter, a social moderation layer was added to the interface. As described above, a “remove button” provides a function for any visitor who expresses concern or dissatisfaction with any of the user-generated comments to raise this as potentially inappropriate material, which not only removes the comment from view, but also flags it to a member of staff who can check the query.

3. The Process of Digital R&D

Hasan Bakhshi (2012) stated that: “Unlike science and technology, very little is known about how R&D is managed by cultural institutions, how it should be evaluated, and how well the knowledge created through R&D diffuses (or not) across organisations.” (Bakhshi, 2012) With this in mind, over the past year the Social Interpretation project (SI) at IWM has been grappling with the overarching aim of finding out what R&D is in a museum context, and what is possible in the timeframe, within certain budgetary constraints.

Innovation and R&D undoubtedly vary in their impact on a project and on the institution as a whole. With SI it became apparent very early on in project progress that there were numerous challenges around working in an agile, user-focused manner in a large institution like IWM, particularly when working with limited budget, resources and time (the SI project had to be completed within a year). The project quickly became a balancing act between stakeholder management, minimal content and appropriateness of hardware and software to design, produce and deliver three applications with a viable visitor experience on each. The SI project generated a number of lessons about the way that R&D is conducted in museums, which are discussed below.

4.    R&D is difficult and it’s fast

Throughout 2012 SI utilised R&D and innovative practice to fundamentally challenge the way in which museums interact with, and provide for, audiences. The task was vast; to rebalance the authority / audience divide; turning museums into social, participatory organisations, and syncing up the online, mobile and in-gallery experience. Not only did we have an aspirational project to deliver but we were also trying to do it in a large national museum, with a difficult and challenging subject matter, across three domains. It was a risk – and to the museum’s credit, one it was willing to take. It has been suggested that creating a culture in museums that embraces risk is a prerequisite to allow significant innovation to take hold. (Stein 2012) A certain amount of risk is always associated with digital projects because they are ‘new,’ ‘innovative’ and ‘cool,’ but there are uncertainties about how much risk is too much risk. How far can the boundaries be pushed with one project and how much tolerance does the museum have? These are questions that all museums are now facing and questions which SI have been trying to tackle head on.

Agile project management principles (, a user-centred approach (UPA no date), and only one year’s worth of funding meant the SI project was undertaken quickly. One of the problems with R&D digital lifecycles and museum exhibition lifecycles is that they are completely different. The pace of technology change is misaligned with the fiscal, creation, development and installation cycles of museums. In a climate in which new technology platforms emerge on a weekly basis, there is a dramatic mismatch between the cycle of technology and the long planning phases that exist for most museums exhibitions and public programming. Social Interpretation is no exception. By the time the project’s funding had been secured, the A Family in Wartime exhibition, of which SI wanted to be a part, had already been signed off and was waiting to be installed, leaving SI little time to develop, iterate, install, robustness test and to be fully integrated into the exhibition. It is important that realistic time-scales be adopted for all project partners, as developing digital applications from the ground up can take a significant amount of time and not allowing for this can lead to delays which then affect all other aspects of R&D. It is also important to ensure that your project scope is achievable and not to be afraid to pare back the original idea if you need to. Unrealistic scope and timescales mean missing deadlines, which can affect the benefits of the research leading to a lack of opportunity to feed the project findings back into the research and development process.

5. Communication and Advocacy

From the outset, the SI project team wanted to be as open as possible and stressed the necessity of including users, stakeholders and the project team in the systems design process. In reality, in a large institution, this can be very different to sustain. There is always the aspiration, but unfortunately the day-to-day running of the project often takes over.  Once a project reaches delivery mode, the ability to communicate everything, to everyone, all the time, becomes increasingly hard to do and can massively slow down agile development. Museums need to ensure that R&D projects have senior management buy-in, and that all relevant departments and sites are ‘on board’ with the project. It is important that those leading the project are empowered and given the leeway, freedom and authority to make decisions, rather than having to secure institutional permission at every stage in the process. Otherwise the permission process can act as a barrier to innovation and development. Clear, regular and transparent communication is required, not only externally but internally, so all parties involved are aware of any changes, and are able to react and continue to provide input into the project. This is particularly important because what might seem unimportant to one party might have a significant impact on the ability of the other project members to complete tasks. Ideally an R&D project requires someone leading on internal communications, otherwise arguably the most important aspect of a R&D project gets left behind when the deadlines begin to loom. One of the key challenges for SI very early on was that the main museum project advocate left the museum just at the point when the first deliverables went live. This meant that it became harder to keep the communication and advocacy going throughout, and required other people in the project team to take on this additional responsibility. A key learning for any further R&D in the museum would be to design a project that is an embedded part of a wider programme of activity so that there is more chance of buy-in and advocacy for the project from a wider group of key stakeholders.

6. Adapting and Compromise

Flexibility, adaptability and accepting change are key components of any R&D project.  The nature of R&D means that things can change quite quickly and often, for example in terms of what is possible. As a result of such changes, there can be impacts upon such things as development potential, methods, installation, evaluation, and analysis. There is therefore a need to be able to react quickly to changes to the project, but also to find the space to accommodate these. It is important to constantly refer back to the aims and objectives of the project, and to reflect on the sections of work previously completed. Project teams need to become very good at adapting to change and adjusting the process accordingly to match that change.

7. Adequate Resources and Risk Management

The issue of resourcing is of key importance. The SI team conducted a risk assessment at the beginning of the project but a full resource assessment was not completed. One of the key lessons the SI project generated about conducting R&D is the importance of both a resource assessment and a risk assessment, at the start of the project. R&D projects generate many excellent ideas for increasing reach and engagement with audiences, but several of them would require considerable resource in terms of staff time for effective delivery. For example, in the SI project, the comment kiosks generated a significant amount of social interpretation of visitor comments. Moderating such high levels of activity was a considerable task for the IWM team, often having to look at over 500+ individual comments per week. The work was divided up among team members and was just about manageable over the lifetime of the project; however, any commitment to moderation going forward will require further thinking around how to make it more sustainable in the long term. Looking back at the gallery kiosks, had we had more time it is likely that we would have experimented more with the way the commenting worked including the order, weighting and length of time displayed. It would have been interesting to see how adjustments to approach would have impacted on the team’s time carrying out the moderation. In the online environment, IWM would consider building a community of ‘expert users’ who are trusted and knowledgeable about the museum’s subject matter and could take on the role moderating and responding to comments, working closely with the museum. In addition, and as already mentioned, IWM is also now looking at how commenting on the website can be incorporated into a wider service provided by the existing collections enquiry team. In effect, this is a new way of working for that team rather than new work.  The risks of not delivering on certain elements should be carefully assessed and resource allocation should be determined before deciding whether to proceed with each element of the project.

8. Raising Awareness

Marketing communications are a vital part of the success of any innovative project.  Audiences need to be informed that a new initiative is available. Ultimately, if a new initiative is launched with a very low profile, then it is likely to be missed and not used fully. A key learning from the project is that there is more likelihood of a project being promoted by marketing and communications if it can be slotted into a wider programme of activity. Anything that isn’t regarded as such can become ‘extra’ work and harder to promote. Also, a marketing and communications plan needs to be built into the overall project planning from the start so that resources, budget and time are properly built into the project lifecycle. It is important to understand the likely audience response to the R&D project so messages of reassurance to visitors can be included in marketing communications. In the case of SI, it would have been useful to work with exhibitions, marketing and visitor services at the start so that they could have planned some signposting about the kiosks in the exhibition, helped to highlight the free WIFI in the gallery and let visitors know an app is available. The project could also have been better promoted on the website; however, it is important to recognise that there is usually a cost attached to these activities and that this has to be included in the overall project budget.

9. Build in Evaluation

R&D is hard to evaluate. For the SI project, digital engagement is actually quite subjective, one person’s positive is another’s negative. It is essential to manage expectations and to be clear about measurements of success. The SI project was continuously evaluated throughout the project process, utilising User Centred Design (UCD) processes. UCD explicitly and actively includes users in the development process from an early stage.  Focusing on user requirements should enable a R&D project to become embedded and owned by the visitors, creating a comprehensive collaborative system specifically designed to the requirements of the users. UCD processes focus on users through the planning, design, development and implementation of a product. For any R&D project it is important to embed evaluation activity into the project from the beginning. There is a need to go beyond quantitative metrics. Mechanisms to understand the dynamics of interpretation, audience exchange and engagement are required on a real time basis so that user-focused iterative adjustments can be made quickly.

10. Incremental Institutional Change

Despite the many challenges of the project, the museum has learnt a lot about R&D practice and would certainly be better prepared if it were to undertake another R&D project in the future. Whilst the project outcomes were variable, all have been valuable in some way.

Some important factors to highlight include:

  • The museum’s senior management team, including the director-general, gave their support to an R&D digital project and were prepared to take the risk of allowing post-moderated comments in an exhibition and on the museum’s website. This is particularly courageous considering the museum’s difficult subject matter.
  • The challenge of incorporating commenting kiosks into the exhibition in IWM London at a very late stage meant that the project team then had to carry out iterative technical development in a live environment. Along with this challenge came the daily pressures of visitor expectations and demands (along with those of the museum exhibition team and visitor services) that the kiosks would always be fully functioning.
  • Significant development work to introduce SI on the museum’s website was undertaken outside of the planned technical roadmap. This introduced added risk to the project but enabled the Digital Media to introduce new functionality that it might not necessarily have implemented.
  • The project team attempted to include the visitor voice in every aspect of the project to ensure a user-centred approach even though this became harder with the pressures of delivery and time.

Not everything was successful but the museum is now attempting to assess the findings and to apply them to future activity. A form of social interpretation, probably in quite a different guise from the commenting kiosks used in the project, will be present in the new First World War gallery due to open in 2014 for the Centenary. A redesign of the current collection enquiry service is underway and a new workflow will be developed that incorporates timely responses to comments on the website and moves the community management outside of the digital media department to where the subject expertise lies. There is a better understanding of agile development and how to conduct it in an environment that is not agile. We also now understand better the necessity for building in marketing and communications throughout the lifecycle of the project.

On reflection, the ambitions of the project were probably beyond the budget and the one year period available. Losing the key project advocate at a critical stage was also not helpful, adding pressure on other project team members and requiring them to take on more work as well as be champions for the project; however, the appetite to take risks and to innovate in digital development is still strong and supported by the museum. It is likely that given another funding opportunity the museum would be willing to undertake further R&D digital projects – this time wiser and better prepared.

Key challenges for other organisations

In addition to the findings for IWM outlined above, there are a few other key challenges for any organisation who wants to undertake R&D digital projects:

  • Don’t underestimate how hard it will be to carry out R&D whether it is in a large or small institution – make sure the scope and scale of the project are achievable within the timeframe, budget and resources available. Don’t be afraid to say to funders that the project scope may need to change. They will want the project to be successful above all else.
  • Try to design a project that fits naturally into a wider programme of work and be able to clearly articulate the benefits for why the organisation should undertake the project. This will help to gain buy-in and advocacy from key stakeholders, make the project success less dependent on a single or small group of individuals and better embed the project experience and findings across the organisation.
  • Be clear from the start about what you are trying to achieve and what success will look like – for R&D this should be as much about process and organisational change as it is about delivery and outputs.
  • Make sure there is time given throughout the project for dissemination across the organisation and the sector as a whole. There will be lots of different outcomes, some unexpected, and it is important to capture them at the time so they can be incorporated into wider thinking and inform future activity.

11. Conclusions

The SI project highlights the challenges of implementing R&D in a museum environment on time and on budget. In particular it emphasizes the issues of trying to work in an agile and user centred manner in a large national museum, such as IWM.  There is a requirement to establish an infrastructure that supports the creation and implementation of innovative digital projects, which can require institutional change, often at a pace that is difficult for the organisation to manage. Institutional change, however, requires a tentative approach to change in a culturally sensitive manner. Communication and advocacy is key. There is a necessity to have a strong group of internal advocates for the project and to avoid an over reliance on a single person or small group of individuals. There is also the issue of managing expectations: not only the expectations of the museum visitors but the institutional expectations.  A lack of communication is usually at the root of most problems associated with different expectations. When communication is direct and transparent, trust forms and helps to create a solid foundation for all stakeholders.

With traditional projects, strategy would be agreed with the aims and objectives and the timescales for completion. Due to the agile nature of R&D, the strategy, objectives and timeframes are in a constant state of flux, leaving the project at risk of others not understanding what ‘success’ is and how it should be measured. For SI, digital engagement and success metrics are subjective, one person’s positive is another’s negative. The project team did not build in enough time or space into the project to manage confusion over expectations and difficult conversations on measurement.

What this project highlights is that it is essential for thoughtful action based on insight.  Institutions must understand their resources, processes and values (Christensen 1997) to address the specific challenges they face. In order to maintain success with digital innovation there is a need to work with the strengths and values of the institution and that of the technology advocates. Be clear about what the project team considers success and be open and flexible, and the true value of your work will emerge.

This project has demonstrated that social interpretation can be a viable option for digital engagement in museums and provides a valuable guide for further development and refinement of applications and content. The SI project also highlights the challenges of implementing R&D in a museum environment, emphasising the issues of trying to work in an agile and user centred manner in a large national institution. There is a requirement to establish an infrastructure that supports the creation and implementation of innovative digital projects, which in turn can effect institutional change. Successful digital innovation projects need to work with the strengths and values of the institution and provide continuous support throughout the change process.


The Authors of this paper would like to acknowledge the SI Team for their continuing support of the project, particularly, project manager Jane Audas, Rob Tice and his team at Knowledge Integration (KI), Taras Johnson and his team at Gooii. Thanks to IWM, in particular Jeremy Ottevanger, Jesse Alter, Christian Statham of IWM Digital Media and James McSharry of IWM North. Additional thanks to Wendy Orr, developers Toby Bettridge and Ben Tandy, Claire Warwick from the UCL Centre for Digital Humanities (UCLDH) and the SI Advisory Panel.

This work was funded through the Arts Council, Nesta and AHRC Digital R&D Fund for Arts and Culture.


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Cite as:
C. Ross, . and M. Terras, Visitors, Digital Innovation and a Squander Bug: Reflections on Digital R&D for Audience Engagement and Institutional Impact. In Museums and the Web 2013, N. Proctor & R. Cherry (eds). Silver Spring, MD: Museums and the Web. Published January 31, 2013. Consulted .

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