Category Archives: Museum Projects

Two new workshops


Storytelling workshop

I am excited to announce two new workshops that I will be hosting in partnership with the Hong Kong Archives Society.

Hope to see you there!

Share Your Ideas through Storytelling


Storytelling is one of the oldest forms of communication, from the earliest days it has been used to share ideas, beliefs, culture and heritage. It is a powerful medium of instruction that captures the imagination of the audience and allows them to connect with the past. Today cultural institutions like libraries, archives and museums employ storytelling as an effective means to share their resources and fulfill their mission.

Robert Trio, a museum professional with 20 years of experience, will share his strategies to make storytelling a fundamental component of exhibition and programme planning. By using different storytelling approaches institutions can make their message more meaningful, relevant and entertaining.

All participants are encouraged to bring an ordinary object to the workshop that can serve as jumping off point to how to build an effective story.

Course Details
Course Code : 2016_AM_01
Date : April 9, 2016
Time : 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm
Venue : Po Leung Kuk Museum, 66 Leighton Road, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong
Course Fee : HK$250
Medium : English
Speaker : Mr. Robert Trio, Museum Consultant

Archives and Museums in the Digital Age


Museums focus on three core objectives:
preserving their collections, education and exhibition of objects and ideas. Museums in the digital age have been transformed by technology in all three areas. Perhaps the most dramatic area is in the way that they share information

Archives focus on preserving documentary heritage. At present archives are searching for digital solutions to archiving
and how to implement online sharing of resources.

This lecture focuses on practices and ethical issues surrounding digital platforms and how they museums and archives interact with the public.


  • Definition of a museum and an archives
  • Digital cataloging
  • Digital Asset Management Systems
  • Social Media
  • Intellectual Property Issues


  • Discussion – how are museums and archives different from other cultural institutions
  • Exercise – physical cataloging verses digital cataloging
  • Demonstration – How to apply metadata to an object
  • Explore – different social media platforms
  • Discussion – what needs to be considered when addressing IP issues?


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A bundle of joy

Trade and Commerce Gallery

Over 200 boxes in the gallery represent import and export items of the past 150 years.

Exhibitions are like the arrival of a new baby. There may have been months of anxiety and discomfort but once the day arrives, it is hard not to sit back and enjoy the accomplishment. Last Friday a major exhibition entitled Made in Hong Kong – Our City Our Story opened at the Hong Kong Maritime Museum. The exhibition was primarily funded through a generous gift by HSBC.

I was pleased to be part of the team that put this show together. I am also pleased to take some credit for spearheading two of the major components of the show, the Science On the Sphere (SOS) multimedia display and the touchscreen displays for the Trade and Commerce Gallery.

The exhibition designer created the framework. The Trade and Commerce Gallery would be filled with hundreds of items representing different import and export commodities and services of the past 150 years. Positioned in specially designed cabinets – the site is a visual feast for the eyes. Second – the SOS would be placed in the center of the gallery. How to tie it all together?


Each of the sections of the gallery have touchscreen computers that allow that visitor to explore the boxes further.

Although my contributions to the exhibition are bringing multimedia and artifacts together, the key for me in this case is always focus on the story. Without a story, it doesn’t matter how impressive the technology is. Hong Kong’s story is how this small geographic location in Asia became a part of the greater global economy. And not only is it a part, for the past 150 years, it has been a leader.

That’s the story. So all my efforts are to make those connections. Whether it is an ice block that was transported to Hong Kong from New England in the 19th century or Mattel’s Barbie Dolls ® that are shipped through our port all over the world – I put into place a narrative story that brought those desperate things together.

The show will be up for the next six months. I hope you can all visit. I will be handing out cigars in the lobby.

The 360 degree projection surface adds a new level of display for the gallery.

The 360 degree projection surface adds a new level of display for the gallery.

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A Briefs’ History


I was recently asked to contribute to the Royal BC Museum’s Quarterly newsletter, Curious. It was a great opportunity! In particular I would like to thank the editor for all her help and ease of process.

This article is short and fun and is meant to highlight  some of the research I have recently completed for an upcoming exhibition I worked on at the Hong Kong Maritime Museum. Enjoy!

Please let me know if you have any comments.



Robert Trio, “A Briefs’ History, ” Curious Quarterly Journal 001 (2014),

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Great ideas – Poor project planning

NASA Mars Exploration Rover

NASA Mars Exploration Rover

More and more, I am convinced that good ideas are the main problem behind executing an effective exhibition. All great exhibitions of course start with an idea but too many ideas and too many grand ideas can be the death nail of any project. Let me give you a far out example.

Let’s say – we are planning an expedition to Mars and we want to land a vehicle on its surface for research purposes. Within in a very short amount of time, a roundtable discussion may yield the following questions and possible solutions:

Let’s go to Mars! 





How do we slow down the spacecraft?

  • An aeroshell and a parachute decelerate the lander through the Martian atmosphere.







How do we handle the impact?

  • Prior to surface impact, retro-rockets are fired to slow the lander´s speed of descent, and airbags are inflated to cushion the lander at surface impact.







How do we stop the momentum?

  • After its initial impact, the lander bounces along the Martian surface until it rolls to a stop.







Now what?

  • The airbags are then deflated and retracted, and the lander petals and rover egress aids are deployed.







How do we start exploring?

  • Once the petals have opened, the rover deploys its solar arrays, and places the system in a safe state.

Having a discussion

There are many team players at this point that walk away from the table because their job is now done. Curator “Jones”  has comes up with the brilliant idea of the aeroshell, what else can he do? Now it is up to the execution team to make this idea a reality. It can take one second to think of an idea, a lifetime to achieve it.

Of course planning an exhibition is not the same as a NASA space project. But what the two share in common is project planning. And when sitting at the table to discuss what can be done – it is important to keep core project elements in mind. Be careful not to kill the spontaneous ideas that often bubble up in a creative process. Here are the core elements to keep in mind:

Core project project elements 

What is the scope of the project?

  • Does everybody agree on what the project is meant to achieve?
  • Are there outcomes that can be measured and incorporated into the project?
  • Is there room for scope drift?

What are the resources?

  • This includes human resources and financial resources.
  • Are there hidden costs like administration?
  • Are there free resources like donations or reused equipment?
  • What procurement procedures need to be followed?

What is the timeline?

  • Have you determined the critical path?
  • Are certain elements dependent on others?
  • Are we dealing with a fixed date?
  • Are resources and dates aligned?

Can we quantify quality?

  • Can you identify the refinement of what needs to be achieved?
  • Is your quality requirements aligned with resources?
  • In what areas is quality flexible?

Harness ideas that can be used

This is a general overview but nonetheless a good place to start the conversation. When any one of these core elements is changed – the whole project is changed. When the core elements of project are front and center at the initial discussion, it helps to ground some of the more outrageous ideas. Great ideas can be placed in a parking lot for further discussion but do not let them distract or delay the execution of the project.

Lastly – here is some room for thought. Ideas cannot be copyrighted. I can create a story about a boy who is a wizard, has adventures and attends a wizard school. And that is not a copyright infringement on any well-known author’s works. It is only when I used that author’s words, names and specific plots that I have crossed the line of legality.

Ideas have no value to a project until they are acted upon.








Thank you to NASA for its public domain photos.

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July 16, 2014 · 4:03 am

Museums and the Web Asia 2013

I was pleased to learn that my paper on how flickr can be used to build new communication in a museum setting was accepted by the review committee of Museum and the Web Asia 2013.

Link to paper: flickr: a social media building block

Here are the key dates for the conference:

Monday, December 9, 2013 On-site registration begins;
Pre-conference Workshops
Tuesday, December 10, 2013 MWA2013 conference begins;
Registration desk opens at 8:00 am;
Exhibitors’ Reception (@ conference hotel).
Wednesday, December 11, 2013 MWA2013 conference continues;
Conference Evening Reception at Hong Kong Martime
Museum Pier 8.
Thursday, December 12, 2013 MWA2013 conference continues;
Closing Plenary;
MWA2013 Ends.

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Eyes and ears are everywhere

Digital has changed the world in many ways. For one – digital has allowed for almost endless amounts of documentation. One no longer has to worry about how many pictures are left on the roll or how much film is left in the recorder.

One of the consequences is that almost all events are now recorded. That may be a little scary. But in this case, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that a speech I gave last year at the NODEM conference was captured.

This short speech is about the strategy I took to build a mobile web site for the Hong Kong Maritime Museum.


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Outside the glass case - objects come alive

Outside the glass case – objects come alive

That magic feeling

My first job working in the museum field was as a guide. I was still in high school and I had the opportunity to volunteer at a local museum giving people tours. I can still remember the magical feeling that comes about when you help people to make a connection to something tangible, to something from their own experience.

I haven’t had a lot of opportunities to do this type of hands-on work in recent years. My role has mainly been behind-the-scenes helping to create environments and opportunities for visitors to enjoy.

Native American speaker

Recently – a group of young children visited the Hong Kong Maritime Museum. They are learning about local history and applying what they know to learn in order to write better in English. The course instructor desired that the students could speak with a native English speaker at the museum. I was told. “I was close enough.” (After all I am a native American speaker)

Some pretty sharp kids interviewed me about my job. I decided it was a good opportunity to pull out one of the museum’s artifacts and let them see it close up. The object I chose was a photo album, circa 1908.

Getting that old feeling back

I was reminded how powerful that the tangible object is. The album fascinated the children. Many of them had never seen one before. And the concept that a person who was on vacation would create this to preserve their memories was bizarre.

I then showed them how I take an object like this and transform it into a digital medium. Although I had a large screen projector, the children still kept going back to the real object.

Once again – I am reminded of how powerful the real is. No matter special the digital experience can be it must be rooted in something tangible.

Digital copy of the photo album

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Liquid history


I am so excited about Cathay Pacific’s new issue of Discovery Magazine. It features an article, Liquid history that focus on the new Hong Kong Maritime Museum at Central Ferry Pier 8.

Both the Director and myself are quoted.


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Tell me about your feelings …

Most Unforgettable Museum Experience

I was recently involved in conducting an evaluation wrap-up with a bunch of students. These students had been responsible for talking with visitors about their experience at a museum exhibition.  It was my job to speak to each of the students to discover if there were any insights learned from their time working with the public.

The following is a transcript of conversation:

Me: So how did you find the experience of conducting the interviews with museum guests?

Student: I found it a little confusing.

Me: Can you elaborate?

Student: I did not understand the questions. The visitors are here to learn about history.

Me: Yes – and why did that confuse you?

Student: Because the questions of the survey did not ask people what they learned. It asked people about how they were feeling.

Me: Can you remember your first time you went to a museum?

Student: Yes- it was the Hong Kong Space Museum. I was just little. The planetarium was so wonderful. Every one of my friends from school were impressed, we had never seen anything like that before.

Me: What was the show about?

Student: I don’t remember.

Me: But how did you feel?

Student: Wonderful!


AAM display

I think that in part, I was so keen to pick up on this student’s points is that I had just seen a display at the Annual Conference of AAM. In a very simple setup – conference participants were asked to describe the “Most Unforgettable Museum Experience in Six Words.”

As I created my six-word experience – it struck me that it was perhaps this profound moment as a child that led me to be a life-long museum goer.

Is there anything else higher we can strive for?


To this day – I cannot remember what those suits of armor looked like but I never forget how excited I was to see them.

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Digitization workshop

Archives workshopIn June I was asked to give a workshop by the Hong Kong Archives Society on the topic of digitization.

After the lecture I recreated the lecture to share with everyone. Hope you enjoy it.


Digitization is becoming a standard practice for libraries, archives and museum around the world. No longer a luxury, LAMs utilize digitization as a part of a larger collections management policy. Today every institution must create a practice that is based on a standard and consistent with their institutional mission and vision.

Robert Trio, Project Officer for Technology at the Hong Kong Maritime Museum, will conduct a workshop that explores different strategies in building a building a digitization policy. The areas will discuss capture, documentation, access and long-term sustainability. He will also discuss a recent digitization project that the museum undertook in partnership with Kyoto University.

The workshop will be designed as an open discussion. Although technical specifications will be a part of the talk, the workshop is designed to focus more on the issues that institutions must face and consider.


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