Monday, February 13, 2012

Archaeology and climate change

IIC (the International Institute for Conservation) has been pushing the line that climate change will effect collections just as much as buildings for some time. I helped organize their first dialogue on the issue at the IIC Congress in London in 2008 (Climate Change and Museum Collections), most memorable to me as the occasion when Nicholas Serota of the Tate pronounced that he expected visitors to have to wear overcoats in the Tate in winter as they no longer would be keeping the Tate toasty just for visitor comfort.

Three weeks ago IIC ran another dialogue in conjunction with University College, London looking at the issue of preservation of archaeology in a time of climate change. It was facilitated by Dr May Cassar, Professor of Sustainable Heritage at UCL, and a guru in this area. The two dialogue respondents were Andrew Curry, an archaeological journalist and Wouter Gheyle, a practising archaeologist.

A range of sites were discussed by the two of them where rising seal levels and changing weather patterns are threatening insitu archaeology, including:
You get the picture, and this is of course incremental, whereas Hurricane Katrina in 2005 washed away an estimated 1000 archaeological sites in one fell swoop.

Following the presentations by Curry and Gheyle there was an opportunity for open dialogue, and there was the inevitable question as to whether global warming is anything new in the history of the planet. As Curry responded there have always been natural weather changes that happen over thousands of years. But what we are seeing now is much faster and more destructive, and therein lies the problem. Weather patterns are becoming more extreme and unfamiliar. Some moderately hot places are becoming deserts and others where moderate rain used to fall, are now experiencing torrential rain and flooding.

As Australia experiences a wet, wet summer with extensive and damaging flooding, the climate change deniers are claiming they are right and there is no global warming evident in this part of the world. In reality it is precisely because the planet is warming up that we are getting these extreme weather patterns.

It’s an issue that is effecting us all, like it or not, and we in the conservation world need to start prioritising what we can save.

Check out the dialogue online.

Julian Bickersteth
Managing Director

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Mobile connectivity and museums

I sat through a highly thought provoking talk last week by Craig Rispin, a self acknowledged ‘futurist' (apparently there are 25,000 of them around the world).

Along with a pile of interesting insights into where current research is going (did you know that the Chinese have developed a way to store data in E.Coli bacteria, and that one gram could store as much as 90gb of data?), I was particularly struck by the research data he has sourced from Morgan Stanley on the inexorable and stunning rise of mobile internet use take up.

I have blogged before on how mobile access of the internet is already greater than any other form of internet access. This research shows graphically what this looks like.

The first image shows the 15 million units of iPads (blue) shipped in the first three quarters after launch, compared to the 3 million iPhones (orange) and the 100,000 iPods (green) .

But what have all these iPads been used for?

One answer is connecting to the internet. The following graph shows in green the take up by subscribers (120 million of them) of mobile internet via iPad, iPhone and iTouch after 13 quarters of launch of the service, compared to the equivalent time after the launch of AOL internet in red or Netscape internet in blue.

But look at the same graph after 14 quarters (380 million subscribers)

And 15 quarters (468 million subscribers)


It is the relative take up of the technology which is so stunning, and which is going to have such an impact on how museums harness this new level of connectivity. Of particular interest to me is the opportunities that iPads are going to provide in terms of allowing shared access to information between visitors, particularly families – something a smartphone struggles with due to the small size of the screen. But more of that later.

Julian Bickersteth
Managing Director