Digital Innovation and Museum Survival: What price a hero?


I love exploring museums and have visited many, so my first challenge in creating this podcast was to choose one example. This was accompanied by pondering what aspect of the broad topic I might apply.

After much reflection, I was caught by ideas of cultural memory, and opportunities for museums to embrace a core purpose as digital storytellers. There were several museums that offered much in this field, but I selected the Warsaw Rising Museum in Poland, as I’d been greatly moved on visiting it years ago.  I was delighted to find it had continued to innovate, pioneering further examples of excellent engagement.

I chose to name my podcast What price a hero?, as celebrating and perpetuating a culture of heroism is a driving motivation for this Museum. The central focus of my podcast was the intersection of cultural memory and digital storytelling, particularly with reference to turbulent, traumatic historical events. I also considered the nature of storytelling, the need for museums to define purpose, and how examples from Warsaw Rising exhibits clearly convey its grasp of these areas. Finally, I included some challenges for the Museum’s ongoing engagement – while not specifically digital in nature, these still relate to the sometimes polarising way it engages audiences.

Warsaw Rising Memorial, Warsaw Rising Museum, Poland.
Photo by Louise Mathieson, 24 September 2016.

As well as class readings and the comprehensive Museum websites, I discovered several insightful articles from Eastern European historians. I even tracked down some in Polish (thank you, Google Translate!) With a strictly limited podcast duration, another significant challenge was paring down this information; with a longer podcast I would have gladly explored  contrasting museum approaches in Poland, or even other recent experiences at the National Anzac Museum in Albany (also excellent and innovative). As it was, mind mapping my various ideas, key research points and museum examples was helpful in developing a draft script for my podcast and sifting the considerable amount of information I had accumulated.

Still learning the lessons…it has been an exciting and challenging journey!
Twitter, Louise Mathieson, 21 January 2022

Rather than search for musical content, I chose to create my own podcast theme – I intend to continue developing and using this in future podcasting and blogging. It was fun to stretch my composition skills and was easier for me than deciding on the ‘right’ sound from a plethora available online. I also used photos from my visit to Poland as images.

And it WAS part of if in the end, so this rabbit hole was at least productive.
Twitter, Louise Mathieson, 14 January 2022

Besides culling information, my other significant challenge was time management, partially caused by hovering between specific topics, and partially caused by underestimating editing time. Even though I have considerable experience with recording, it’s mostly been musical, and I was surprised how complicated it was to refine spoken word tracks. The last straw was unfortunately falling sick in this final week and having to put off some recording until my scratchy throat had settled. Next time, I shall prepare for the unexpected!

Overall, this has been a very rewarding experience. It has expanded my understanding of contemporary museums, and renewed my appreciation for the resilient people of Poland. They are, indeed, heroes.

Old Town, Warsaw. Photo by Louise Mathieson, 24 September 2016.
The historic buildings have been almost entirely reconstructed after the razing of the city in 1944, when over 85% of Warsaw was destroyed. This is resilience.

References:

Black G (2012) Transforming Museums in the Twenty-First Century, Milton Park, Abington and New York: 4-5, 9

Dostlieva L (10 January 2020) ‘Why details matter: what the Warsaw Uprising Museum tells and how’, for Korydor Magazine, republished in Medium.com, https://medium.com/@liadostlieva/why-details-matters-what-the-warsaw-uprising-museum-tells-and-how-d88e395d665b, accessed 15 January 2022

Gócza, A  (21 January 2018) ‘Polish Historical Memory and the New Museums’, BLOK Magazine, https://blokmagazine.com/polish-historical-memory-and-the-new-museums/, accessed 15 January 2022

Grzechnik A (2020) ‘What’s Your Sign? Warsaw Rising and Fighting Poland in contemporary culture and art’, Muzeum Powistania Warszawskiego [The Warsaw Rising Museum], https://www.1944.pl/en/article/what-s-your-sign-warsaw-rising-and-fighting-p,5110.html, accessed 11 January 2022

Heath C and von Lehm D (2010) ‘Interactivity and collaboration: new forms of participation in museums, galleries and science centres’, in Parry R (ed.), Museums in a Digital Age, Routledge, New York and London: 276-277

Muzeum Powistania Warszawskiego [The Warsaw Rising Museum] (2018) ‘Reflection: I am like you, surely’, https://www.1944.pl/en/article/reflection.-i-am-like-you-i-daresay,5109.html, accessed 11 January 2022

—  (2019), Warsaw Rising Interactive Online Exhibition, http://warsawrising.eu/, accessed 11 January 2022

— (2021), ‘Remembrance caught on camera – Photo Competition!’, https://www.1944.pl/en/article/remembrance-caught-on-camera-photo-com,5187.html, accessed 11 January 2022

— (2022), Home Page, https://www.1944.pl/en, accessed 11 January 2022

— (2022), ‘It is up to us whether it was worth it’, Video, https://www.1944.pl/artykul/to-od-nas-zalezy-czy-bylo-warto,5188.html, accessed 19 January 2022

White A (2014) Digital Media and Society : Transforming Economics, Politics and Social Practices, Palgrave Macmillan UK: 118-120