Had a good meeting today with some folk from the Natural History Museum about our work on OPAL – we’re mainly doing the Biodiversity Observatory, they’re doing the portal for the parent project, and some related work of their own on a ‘Bug Forum’ which is a potential big overlap. We had some good discussions about general principles and the beginnings of some more concrete and practical issues around things like OpenID and Google Open Social. One of the things we agreed we needed to think about more together was the user journey through each of our sites and between them.
The NHM seems (to a visitor) like a great place to work – there are cubbyholes and rooms all over the place, in interstices of the public museum, and mazes of twisty passages. I first visited the museum as a wide-eyed teenager from the sticks, and vividly remember losing all track of time in the minerals gallery. That visit was part of the reason I ended up doing a chemistry degree. So I was delighted when I had to wait in that very gallery while people fetched wallets and dumped bags before lunch. The rows and rows of cabinets with interesting minerals were almost exactly as I remembered, and the gallery didn’t seem any smaller with the passage of the decades. There was more by way of interpretation boards around the sides, there was a more obviously sexy bit up one end called The Vault with a (fascinating but showy) display of gems, and some of the signage had been updated, but the serried rows of cases and specimens seemed entirely unchanged by the new museum revolution that started in the 1980s. It was still enthralling, and I had to be dragged away to lunch – a nice reprise of the early parts of my personal learning journey that has ranged far and wide in between.
And a good reminder that traditional forms of learning aren’t always surpassed by newer technologies. Apparently, these are original oak cases from 1881 when the museum opened.