The 2019 South African Museums Association (SAMA) conference took place in Pietermaritzburg towards the end of last month. At the farewell gala dinner, which was held at the Victoria Country Club, awards were given for the year’s most impressive publications and presentations:
Category A (Publications of more than four pages): TOTEM Media – “Top Secret: Investigating the Past” (Liliesleaf Farm educational outreach resource 2018)
Category B (Publications of less than four pages): Afrikaanse Taalmonument & Museum – Creative writing completion poster; Youth Day poster
Category C (Website): SA Naval Museum Website
The FitzSimons Award for the Best Paper at the 83rd SAMA National Conference: Helen Joannides for her paper “Museums as creative hubs: The tradition of the future”
The President’s Award for best paper by a first time speaker at the 83rd SAMA National Conference: Nosipho Mbuthuma for her paper “Digital Technology: The future of tradition”
Congratulations must go out to all the recipients of the awards, but we are especially proud of our very own, Nosipho Mbuthuma! KZN SAMA Chairperson, Steve Kotze, summarises below the important messages contained in Nosipho’s very impressive presentation:
As a graphic designer it is not at all surprising that Nosipho’s presentation looked amazing, but she made as much effort to ensure that the content matched the excellent appearance. For starters, she used a variety of media to convey her argument, including a short relevant video from the Artlens Gallery produced by the Cleveland Museum of Art. For those interested in seeing this, it is available on YouTube.
This was followed by well-planned series of slides containing some useful definitions and context of the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’ as it relates to the heritage sector. Nosipho admonished the audience to know their target audience intimately, and work with it, not against it. She advocated immersive learning, which can be either real or virtual, but which should create settings that visitors find highly engaging. In order to support her argument Nosipho gave several reasons why South African museums should consider fully immersive digital technology as a medium to deliver content. The call to action she offered though, is not limited to new forms of technology, but serves as a useful method for considering all types of display:
- Don’t be afraid of discussing difficult topics
- Encourage visitors to have fun by blurring education and entertainment
- Tailor content to specific groups
- Seek innovative ways to tell stories
- Engage visitors with all five of their senses.
Nosipho rounded off this call to action with practical examples of how local museums are already employing some of these techniques, at our sister site, Durban Natural Science Museum, the Old Prison in Burger Street, Pietermaritzburg, and the Maropeng visitor centre in the Cradle of Humankind. Finally, her presentation ended with a few points about the challenges museums face when using technology, namely maintenance of equipment, and the fact that some visitors are intimidated by it. She suggested that these challenges could be mitigated by improved staff skills through training, market research and embracing change. The value of this approach was summed up in a quote she used from the American innovator and philosopher Benjamin Franklin “Tell me and I forget, show me and I may remember. Involve me and I learn.”
Nosipho Mbuthuma’s paper “Digital Technology: The future of tradition” is available for download on the Papers & Publications section of our website.
The featured image on the home page shows Nosipho Mbuthuma presenting her paper at the 2019 SAMA conference. Image courtesy of Steve Kotze