#GLAMSLAM19 Reflections

Published by Katy McHugh on

Written by Liz Stokes, ARDC

On a rainy looking day in mid March 2019 about 150 folks from across the Galleries Libraries, Archives and Museums sector (and beyond!) turned up to the State Library of New South Wales for the annual GLAMSLAM! This was the second iteration of an experiment initiated by the Australian Centre for Public History at the University of Technology Sydney. The presentations were live streamed from the ACPH community Facebook page, which I was glad of – being on surprise!drop off school duty. Most of the audience seemed to be (digital) museum folks, with a strong historian and then public library contingent. Academic librarians quite rare, although a few sighting in the afternoon. The timing was awkward for them: coinciding with the early weeks of the academic year. The twitter backchannel #glamslam19 was alive and enthusiastic.

The programme structure was excellent, with well chosen and provocative keynotes, and energising lightning talk sessions. David Ritter, Greenpeace –  GLAM Power as Clean Energy? Bring it on! Kicked off the morning recognising the valuable contribution to civilisation as we know it that GLAM workers do – in preserving and facilitating access to our collective cultural and social knowledge. And shone the harsh light of climate change on our proud and noble profession by acknowledging that if we don’t reverse the damage done in the next 12 years, then there’ll be no civilisation worth preserving, or left to preserve. Also, don’t accept sponsorship from fossil fuel companies. Provocative and sobering, like a kombucha scobie.

Happily the lightning talks for the the morning raised our spirits with astute political questions and intensely interesting projects. Tamson Pietsch (Director of ACPH and runner of the whole show) did a great job MCing – revved up the room, honest, witty, thoughtful academic comment. Get her as a speaker if you need one.

Julian Meyrick “Radically Reframing the Problem of Value in Arts and Culture”, brought discomfort of a different kind, with a deep dive into academic theory after lunch. You can read the paper here, and I recommend brewing a cup of tea to accompany you. I don’t think the discomfort was unwelcome though, it was a pleasure to hear a careful and complex meditation on what is culture worth through a philosophical lens. Especially so given that most of evaluative metrics for GLAM collections and academic success are so often decontextualised numbers of bums on seats and journal impact rankings.  

The ARDC booth featuring Tinker at lunchtime was pretty successful. Lots of interest in Tinker as a way to try out new tech, or seek how other open data from GLAM institutions could be used with the Tinker tools or promoted to Tinker users. A couple of local masters students were really excited. As a passionate advocate for Tinker, I’ve been thinking that Tinker works currently for people who have an idea, and are motivated, but doesn’t cater successfully to the total newbie. So it would be great to have some new additions to the Tinker website such as short (2min) introductory videos that get an expert to explain how the tools work and testimonial type videos where digital humanities champions talk about how they use these tools for real would be very useful.

The last session of the day (well, before closing drinks) was an unconference style “glamjam” split up into groups and plan collaboration or build networks discussion. GLAMSLAM organisers want to know how they can help support this community in the next 12 months – this was explicit in their feedback survey. A few of the glamjam discussion groups seem to have some forward momentum – centring on the following topics:

  • climate action (https://mccnetwork.org/ had a presence courtesy of Australia Museum folks)
  • digital humanities
  • feminism (this was billed as GLAM and #metoo glamjam)
  • New GLAMer – people entering or re-entering sector

If you’re reading this and are kicking yourself for not going – I invite you to check out the TAGS archive of #glamslam19 tweets I created here, using @Mhawksey’s excellent TAGS script. Better yet, use this tutorial by Kristen Mapes to do this for your next event.