Between September and December last year Story Inc was fortunate enough to be a part of a team in Mahuki, Te Papa’s inaugural innovation incubator, focussed specifically on providing digital solutions to problems faced by the GLAM (Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums) sector.

We were selected for the Mahuki programme after teaming up with two other Wellington-based companies, each with decades of experience in the cultural sector: interactive developers Click Suite, and software company Touchtech. Our project was to create what we now call Curio, a “DIY interactive” software platform which will allow GLAMs to create their own beautiful digital interactives at a fraction of the cost of bespoke alternatives - and without any need for technical skills.

We worked alongside nine other start-up teams - whose products span disciplines as wide as VR, holograms, gaming, apps, location-based services and cultural mapping - to ideate, design and validate our product. The CEOs of each team also travelled to the USA at the programme’s ten week mark to take a look at the latest developments there and develop connections to assist us in entering the international market. The programme culminated in an industry showcase evening on 5 December, at which teams pitched to a room full of potential investors, customers and supporters.

As well as being provided with a purpose-built space and support from Te Papa to innovate wildly, we essentially participated in an intensive business school, to make sure that our innovations can be packaged into scaleable, marketable and profitable products. The extensive knowledge of the in-house entrepreneurs and “hub-stars” was supplemented with visits from local and international experts in fields such as marketing, visitor research, PR, legal and financing. Teams were also matched with business mentors who provide help with business strategy development and advice on crucial decisions.

Working from within the heart of our potential customers’ realm at Te Papa gave us far more significant insights than we would have managed on our own, as we had access to the museum’s experts, collections, resources and visitors to help develop and test ideas. As a demo for Curio, we worked with Māori curator, Matiu Baker, and iwi descendants to create an interactive telling the stories behind the large carved waharoa from the 1906 Christchurch International Exhibition that greets visitors to Te Papa at the top of the stairs on Level 2. Working in close proximity to the other nine teams was incredibly inspiring and motivating. We discussed how we could collaborate with some teams in the future to combine the powers of our products.

Story Inc staff who attended the 2016 MA Conference came away with the feeling that there is a revolution on its way for the museum sector, not just here in Aotearoa, but internationally. No-one quite knows what this new reality will look like, but it’s obvious that new digital solutions will certainly play a role in allowing institutions to tell the stories of their collections and connect with their visitors. In establishing Mahuki, Te Papa has cemented its reputation as an innovative, world-leading museum. Its support is allowing New Zealand start-ups and GLAM institutions to set the pace globally and foster the next generation of digital experiences for the cultural sector.

Te Papa plans to continue Mahuki in 2017 with a new intake of start-up companies. Interested parties can register their interest here http://www.mahuki.org/register-your-interest

For more information about Curio, please follow us by signing up at www.curiopublisher.com