After eight happy years, George has decided to leave Museum in a Box. In November 2022, she became the Co-Founder and first Executive Director of the new Flickr Foundation, and that seems like a natural transition moment.
Adrian McEwen, Tech Lead and original team member, has graciously decided to take over running the business.
George: Adrian, you’ve agreed to take on the responsibility of running Museum in a Box in its next phase. Why?
Adrian: Having been part of Museum in a Box since the start, I’ve seen it grow and the wealth of lovely projects that the museums and schools and more have done with it. I’ve been happy to take a more behind-the-scenes role, as that allowed me to continue running my existing business, MCQN Ltd, alongside it.
MCQN works on gentle, Internet-connected objects and we’ve been growing the product side of the company more in the last couple of years. When you decided to move onto new (old) challenges, it seemed a good fit to bring Museum in a Box into the MCQN fold and increase our involvement.
George: What do you most want to do this year?
Adrian: Get new boxes made and back in the shop!
The global chip shortage hasn’t been a fun period to navigate. There are a couple of key parts of boxes which, if we redesign, will give us more control over production. It also lets us improve the software update process and, down the line, opens up options such as a USB connection for adding collections.
It’s some work we’d both been discussing for a while, and now is the time to crack on with it. That requires rewriting the software for the box, and changing some of the electronics inside it; it’ll take a little while to work through that, but should be ready towards the end of the year.
Adrian: What do you feel you didn’t get enough time to work on?
George: Honestly, I’m happy to step away at this point. I’m very proud that we managed to make Museum in a Box into a batch operation. It was very satisfying for me to develop our box-making so we could work in batches of 100 at a time. I enjoyed making boxes at my dining room table during our long lockdown and sending them all over the place very much indeed. It was extremely satisfying to improvise around all that until I was able to settle on a repeatable process.
I am sad I didn’t get the opportunity to visit with the team at the Royal Mint Museum. I was interested to see what logistics they had created to allow them to send any one of their 75 boxes to any care home in the UK.
There are obviously extensions and improvements that could have been made to the “Heart” website where people can explore and create collections, but, that’s up to you now!
Adrian: What could be more exciting than working on Museum in a Box? Your next challenge must be something interesting!
George: Museum in a Box is exciting. I really enjoyed bringing the business into the world, and I especially enjoyed watching people (and particularly kids) using it for the first time. I’ll never forget that look of delight.
But, you’re right. The next thing is a huge challenge. The Flickr photo sharing website is nearly 20 years old, and in that time, it has grown into a picture collection 50 billion pictures strong. It’s one of the biggest picture collections humans have ever assembled, and I believe that means we need to treat it with more care than a corporation is set up to do. So, the Flickr Foundation’s mission is to make Flickr pictures visible in 100 years. Deliberately a long reach, and a big idea, and just the sort of thing a) I like to bite into, and b) I think we need to start developing as a more broad approach and mentality around our digital cultural heritage. We pour our histories into online platforms at a mad rate these days, and there’s a big risk hiding in plain sight there – that we’ll lose it, as corporate and shareholder interests ebb and flow.
Adrian: Which boxes or collections were the most fun/strangest/exciting?
George: While I would never name a favourite child, I do remember some collections fondly, like:
Frogs in a Box – Made for the Smithsonian Institution, this collection combined beautiful illustrations of various frog and toad species with their “songs” taken from a herpetologist’s album of recordings of each species. Simple and wonderful, and wow! Some frog songs can travel for miles.
See Red Women’s Workshop – Developed with the V&A, this collection was installed in a small temporary V&A in London, and one of the first successful “in-gallery” uses. The content was also so simple. Postcards made by the See Red collective, and the stories surrounding that poster or their work at the time, directly from the women who worked on it.
Nos statues préférées – our favorite statues – one of our testers for the Make Your Own product was a school in the French Alps. The students made 3D prints of famous sculptures around the world, and wrote their own scripts to describe them. The personified La statue du Christ Rédempteur is a source of great joy.
Generally, a smile always crossed my lips whenever I came across a collection in a different language. That is one of my favourite features – that a Box can speak any language!
Adrian: What would you put into your ideal collection?
George: I had always dreamt of a collection that grows and updates over time. One idea was to have the bust of my favourite newsreader and a Box in my kitchen. Each morning, I could place her on the Box to hear the latest news stories as I enjoyed my morning coffee. Or, I could give a Box to my parents (who live 10,000 miles away) and could send them postcards with a sticker and a story from me from my adventures. My Dad has dementia now too, so he’d probably enjoy a collection that plays him Queen songs.
Adrian: Ooh, that would be lovely. *makes notes for future developments* It has been fantastic to work with you over these past eight years; the Flickr Foundation is in great hands and I look forward to watching it develop!
Will I be able to order a Box soon? As mentioned in the discussion, we’ve got some development work to do before we can produce the next batch. We should have that done and orders opened up in late 2023.
Will the existing boxes still be supported? Yes. Nothing changes around that, email firstname.lastname@example.org or post to the #get-help channel in the Museum in a Box Slack, as usual, for any support issues.