A Museumcamp Rethink – What Do You Think?

We haven’t had a Museumcamp unconference for a while, although it isn’t for the want of trying. Despite the huge success of the Museumcamps in Birmingham it has been difficult to obtain funding, and unfortunately due to the economic climate we can’t get the same level of sponsorship as in the past. However, funding issues aren’t what I’m blogging about today, rather it is about some thoughts on unconferences that came from a recent Unconference conference and my own experiences at unconferences.

Just in the way everyone knows what a conference is, I think that once you go to an unconference you think THAT is what an unconference is – the format becomes set in your head, and this is reinforced by going to more unconferences that are run along very similiar lines. Hence Museumcamp was strongly based on the two or three unconferences I’d been to before we set up Museumcamp. There were things about the unconference format that I found challenging, but I felt that the positives outweighed the negatives. Now I’m having a rethink about some of the unconference issues.

“I have no idea what’s going on”

If you have never been to an unconference before it can be overwhelming. There are a lot of new rules to remember, although they come in the guise of non-rules, and the start of the day when people pitch and sessions are pinned to a wall chart with time slots and rooms, then moved again, and again, then merged with something else, can seem a little chaotic. The pitching process itself can seem scary, not everyone wants to stand up and speak to a roomful of strangers, and being loudly badgered to pitch can make you feel even more nervous, or even feel “told off” if the thrust of the person trying to make you do so is “Why are you here if you didn’t come to pitch?”.

Too many people?

The scale of an unconference can increase the above issues, the more people in the room the more shouting there is – about rules (non-rules!), and pitching, etc – and the more daunting it is to get up and pitch. I cannot lie, I find conferences and unconferences equally intimidating if there are a large number of people there – I feel out of place, uncomfortable and want to run away! But this feeling usually leaves once the unconference sessions begin because they break down into smaller numbers, and the high energy and noise of the beginning of the days settles down into meaningful conversations and getting to know people in a much gentler way. This is where the learning happens and it is why I get excited about unconferences.

Open Space

I’ve realised at unconferences that the best conversations happen in open spaces, often a circle of people, that can expand and contract as people join and leave. Once there is a table in the room less people seem willing to speak, and it is difficult to welcome new people if they cannot fit around the table, and less easy for people to slip out (the rule of two feet). Some of the best conversations can happen in very small sessions, two or three people sitting by a fire extinguisher in the corner of a room. Where am I going with this? Well, the difficulty in finding the perfect venue grows the larger the unconference becomes, and so you start to make compromises about the type of spaces. The smaller the number of participants, the easier it should be to find somewhere that doesn’t have these issues. And if you have a smaller venue, with less rooms, you also take away the stress of trying to find the right room – or in my case, of getting lost all together!

Time to Make Changes?

Of course having a smaller unconference also means we need less money to run one, so it is more likely to happen! So what do you think of the following ideas for Museumcamp 2017? If you’ve been to an unconference before and found it overwhelming, would it make you more likely to come back? And if you have any other ideas, let me know!

  • Smaller unconference (more often, in different places?)
  • Smaller venue, less rooms, less stress finding rooms
  • More prepping for participants – more shared before they arrive, so people don’t feel overwhelmed and confused
  • Alternative pitching – can be done by paper proposals
  • Decreasing the sense of chaos – which might come just from simply having less people, and so lowering the energy levels and noise


MuseumCamp in Paris for Museum Connection @Museum_co

museumconnectionslogoI will be running a MuseumCamp as part of Museum Connection conference in Paris on January 22nd.   Museum Connection is a conference with a programme focusing on innovation in Museums which will gather key museum and cultural heritage actors from around the world.

See museumconnections.com for more information.  Hope to see you there! 

MuseumCamp 2014 – Where is it?

IMG_5903Just a quick update for those who were asking about MuseumCamp 2014.

This year we tried really hard to raise the funds to put another MuseumCamp on but we were unsuccessful twice with our ACE applications.  It turns out we don’t qualify (the main issue in my opinion is we don’t fit the forms as we’re too innovative in thinking).  While it was a disappointment we were already working on a plan B and have been asked to take MuseumCamp (an Unconference) to two conferences.  Yes, seriously.

We ran MuseumCamp at MuseumNext in Newcastle already and we’re currently preparing to run a MuseumCamp at Museum Association conference in Cardiff this October.

Very sorry for those who have said they can’t afford the conferences – trust me, I understand your frustration.  MuseumCamp is and was set up to be available to all (hence it being free) but without support we just couldn’t do it.  Linda and I meet often and are constantly trying to think of ways to get funding so if you have any ideas, please let us know.

Meanwhile, we’re still active on social media (of course).

MuseumCamp 2015 *will* happen somehow and somewhere.  And it will be open to all who like and care about museums (and of course, love cake!).


Mar Dixon

MuseumCamp 2013 #museumcamp

Museum-CampWell MuseumCamp 2013 is officially over but the conversations are still going.

For everyone who came or followed online –


IMG_8418Feedback has been overwhelmingly  positive.  There is still time to fill out our feedback form.  This will help us with MuseumCamp 2014.

I’ve wrote more about the day:  #Museumcamp ala Cakefest 2013 Takeaways, Thoughts & Tweets  Please feel free to share your articles.

We have been asked to share the delegates list and I’m afraid we don’t have full permission to do so.  The names are shared on the Eventbrite page should you need them.

Session Topics

As requested, below is the list of topics from the day.

Screen Shot 2013-10-08 at 09.47.29

Special Thanks:

cakeMC Mike Ellis, Videographer Paul Hutchinson and all our fabulous Live Tweeters!

Thank you to our wonderful Sponsors, without whom we wouldn’t have been able to run!  Special shout out to KE Software for their late sponsorship which paid for the cakes – you were loved by all (especially me!)


KE_Emu_Blue   lottery ace

See you at MuseumNext?

Museumcamp is proud to announce Mike Ellis as MC

Museumcamp is proud to announce Mike Ellis has agreed to be our MC for the day! 

mikeMike Ellis has been involved in running conferences and geek events since 2007, when he set up “Mashed Museum” – a “hack day” which saw 20 or so people coming along to build rapid prototypes of museum web technologies. Then in 2008 he started BathCamp, a 24-hour “BarCamp” un-conference for geeks in the beautiful city of Bath. BathCamp is still going 5 years on as both a monthly get-together and an annual weekend BarCamp.

Mike went on to run “The Big M” in 2011 – this was a 2-day conference for mobile developers which had 250 people coming to hear a range of sessions on mobile innovation. Then in 2012 he founded the first Bath Digital Festival, which saw around 2,500 people coming along to 23 events including “Coding For Kids”, debates about the future of the book, a “solderathon”…and many others.

So far, 100 tickets have been ordered.  The last batch of 50 will go offer September 3rd – those on the waiting list will get first refusal on Sept 2nd.


A big shout out to our Sponsors, without whom we wouldn’t be able to put on MuseumCamp.  If you would like to be a sponsor, please let us know ASAP as we’re getting our posters organized next week.

lottery ace


marches networkIRONBRIDGE LARGE LOGOmardixonlogovs-main-badge

MuseumCamp (ala CakeFest) v2.0 is set moving along nicely.



We have a waiting list on our Eventbrite page with about 35 of the next 50 tickets already reserved.  But worry not!  We will make sure we do our best that everyone that wants to attend can.

We’ll roll out the next batch of tickets on August 19th.

What to Bring

Museumcamp is made up on the day.  Seriously! The idea behind MuseumCamp is we want the people attending to talk about issues that are important to YOU – not what we feel is important, or topics we know are ‘most popular’.  This is about ideas, brought on the day that the participants decide to talk about.

The list of topics from last year included Teens in Museums, Social media, Museums 20/20, Museums at Night, Wikipedia, how to embrace apprenticeship, curating and more.  The smallest ideas to the biggest – all our listened to.

We’ll have 6-7 sessions running during one time slot and project having 4-5 time slots (depending on the day – see how nothing is planned before? ).

Open and Closing Times

We’ll open the doors at 9.30 with a planned start at 10am.  As a very very very rough draft, the day could go something like:

9:30-10:00 Registration / Coffee & Cupcake decorating
10:00-10:45 Topic pitching and Session organizing
10:45-11:30  Session One
openingtime11:30 – 11:45 Change over
11:45-12:30 Session Two
12:30-12:45 Change over
12:45-1:30 Lunch
1:30-2:15 Session Three
2:15-2:30 Change over
2:30-3:15 Session Four
3:15-3:45 COFFEE/ Cakes
3:45 –4:30 Session Five
4:30-5:00 Plenary/Networking

How to get things going now

You can leave comments on this post or share on Twitter using the #Museumcamp hashtag.  Either way feel free to get the conversations going now as October will be here before we know it!

Want to get MORE involved?

We’re still looking for sponsors so if you’d like to sponsor us or know someone who would, please get in touch!

lottery ace

Most importantly – 

Get your thinking caps on & get those brilliant ideas flowing!

Thanks to Carl Durose for our lovely new logo! You can contact Carl via email address or twitter handle.

MuseumCamp ala CakeFest v2.0 IS BACK

We are very pleased to announce MuseumCamp is returning!


MuseumCamp is open to everyone – from volunteers to CEOs.  You don’t even have to work in the sector – just want to have passion for making positive changes.


MuseumCamp is an Unconference – everyone can pitch an idea to talk about.  This is not a day to sit and listen but a day to participate and get involved in subjects that matter to YOU. 


October 7 2013


The Bond (Same location as MuseumCamp 2012)


We’ll be launching our Eventbrite page this Monday (July 8th)

Would you like to get involved? 

We’re looking for some help:

  • Two (2) Live Tweeters for the event
  • New design/logo.

Massive thank you to our Sponsors: (Please let us know if you would like to Sponsor also!)

First and foremost, Arts Council for believing in us.


Marches Network
marches network“We are really thrilled to be part of supporting MuseumCamp again. Our way of delivering museum development in the West Midlands (the Marches Network of MDOs)  has always been about recognising that expertise and wisdom exist at every level of an organisation and that tiny museums are just as valued and valuable as large ones. The unconference format of MuseumCamp is just so perfect for creating really useful, and creative, conversations without the boundaries and self-censoring that can happen at other museum sector events.

Now more than ever, we want to be involved with something which ‘rewards’ energy, ideas and co-operation, from anybody in the sector – with everyone in the sector…. And what better place to have it than in the middle of the country ..”

Mark your calendars – @MuseumCamp (ala CakeFest) is BACK!

IMG_5903Here ye! Here ye!  Breaking News!

Date:               October 7th

Where:           The Bond (Same location as MuseumCamp 2012)

What:             Back by popular demand, MuseumCamp is an Unconference for anyone interested in museums and cultures – visitors, volunteers to managers and CEO are invited to attend and talk about topics that matter to YOU.

Why:               Cake.

More information will be coming in the new few weeks.


MuseumCamp v1.0 – The day after

Now that we’re all coming off our sugar-high from the cake and cupcakes consumed, we wanted to thank everyone who came and took part in what has turned out to be a very successful event.

There were 28 sessions over the day and while the plenary at the end of the day was fantastic, we would like to hear more from you please.  There was lots of note-taking (on traditional note pads – not laptops!) and discussion happening and we would like to build a little portal for those that missed things to be able to tap into.

Please feel free to email mar@mardixon.com or leave a comment here with a link.  I’ve managed to compose a quick blog and Storify.

Things we would love to know:

  • Why did you come? 
  • What did you like that you didn’t think you would?
  • What would you change?
  • Did you decorate a cupcake?
  • What was your favorite session?
  • What sessions did you attend?
  • How was the lunch? 
  • How were the facilities?
  • Would you attend MuseumCamp again?
  • Any other comments?

Again, thank you to our sponsors, especially MuseumNext (who has a call for proposals end Nov 1) and Happy Museums (who has a deadline for submission for the Happy Museum commissions Friday 5 October) – MuseumCamp wouldn’t exist without them!