Life on the cutting edge

10 Apr


Tahi Gotty and Nikki Lock

Last week Te Manawa hosted the team from Mahuki, an arm of Te Papa that incubates and fosters new enterprises in the GLAM sector (that’s Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums), ones with an eye toward integrating new technology with old institutions.

Museums have perhaps had the most work to do in the digital age. By their very definitions they’re associated with old things; with dusty corners and the trappings of the past. The very opposite of exciting new shiny futures involving digital interactivity and cutting-edge technologies.

Yet looking at the work being done by top museums around the world, it can be seen that the sector is quickly becoming one of the best places to see this sort of technology in action. The goal of Mahuki is to increase the rate at which this happens in Aotearoa.

During a four month immersion in Mahuki’s incubating environment, advised by mentors and an “entrepreneur in residence”, diverse teams of young digital pioneers test new business ideas that have strong applications in GLAM.

“From the very first time you go to a museum, it’s about wonder and playfulness,” says Mahuki’s Priscilla Loong. This description is an ideal start point for teams in their quest to bring business to a blend of old and new.

“We want our teams to be ambitious. We want them thinking about Australia, China, and what’s coming in the next five years,” says Nikki Lock. This may give the teams misty-eyed visions about virtual reality, augmented reality, haptic interfaces and the like, but dreams need a solid foundation to be made real. “We spend a lot of time drowning the teams in the business side of things.”

Mahuki has to be more than just encouragement, says Nikki. “It’s not helpful to say ‘yeah that’s a great idea’. It’s more useful to say ‘well, how come? What about this, what about that?’” If participants’ ideas aren’t challenged, how will they stand up in the real world?

Last year’s programme resulted in seven teams taking their idea to the next step. Two have already gained commercial agreements. In just a few months, half a million dollars in investment has been raised.

Curio produced a tool that lets museums present their collections in easily curated interactive ways. Breadcrumb made a sort of indoor GPS that would allow museums or galleries to deliver information or other content based on their location. Learn more about them and the other teams here.

Mahuki means “to spring to mind” in Te Reo. Museums and libraries thrive on inspiration. Being a part of that wellspring, swimming in it and meeting the likeminded, is about as exciting as futures get.

Click here to learn more and apply for the programme.

WwOl62BhRob Mildon was incubated at Te Manawa for many years before joining the team there