Danny Birchall, Digital Content Manager, Wellcome Collection

The Wellcome Collection is a free museums and library that combines science, medicine, life, and art.  Danny Birchall is the Digital Content Manager.  He is responsible for games, social media, and web presence of the institution.

Having a strong interest in digital interactive experiences, especially in a web setting, it was a special treat for me to be able to interview Mr. Birchall.  We discussed how video and flash games can help educate and entertain potential museum visitors.  Creating quality standalone games based on moments in history can be a complicated process.  This is something we’ve seen recently with Suffragettes in Red Dead Redemption 2 that was recently released.

We also discussed the role of social media for institutions today.  Twitter, for example, allows for museums to interact with their visitors/fans in real time.  Institutions can react and comment on topics that are in the news and are having a direct impact on their own local communities.  Through this unprecedented access to their audiences museums can extend their reach and become much more that brick and mortar buildings.  Whether this is done in a lighthearted tone by two museums competing during major sports events or in a somber attitude about social injustice, museums have the responsibility and opportunity to make their presence and voices heard.

Something that I like to ask people when I conduct interviews for the Museum Studies Program is what they wish they knew when they started their careers in the museum field.  Mr. Birchall stressed the importance of not having to stick to the role that you are given.  I think that people tend to get comfortable and complacent with their roles even if it is not something that they are passionate about.  It is nice to have confirmation that it is possible to create a job that you love in a field that you love.


  1. wendytribaldos says:

    I really enjoyed this interview. I believe that if museums are going to develop a game, they should outsource it to agencies that have experience in the commercial market, because they are better positioned to create high quality experiences that cater to users needs. I loved his caveat of doing games that are not “flashily immersive but rather more persuasive in nature”. I must admit that I am no fan of museum games in general, specially now that the more expensive mobile market has complicated the panorama as Danny explained.

    Perhaps the best part of the interview for me was at the very end, when Danny gave two wonderful pieces of advice: that a good digital project must allow the unplanned to happen, and that you should never stick to the role you are originally given.

  2. Robyn Filonczuk says:

    What a wonderful interview you held with Danny Birchall! You really did your research and knew a lot about the Wellcome Collection’s gaming contributions. I enjoyed hearing about the success of the game High Tea, which accompanied the exhibition High Society, that it inspired me to play it right after listening to this interview. It was engaging and I learned about a historical subject (the Opium War) I didn’t know much about. Although I personally enjoy the Wellcome Collection’s Digital Stories, I understand their position to move away from it due to its expense, keeping people intrigued, and the issue of too many cooks in the kitchen. I was happy to hear about their Serial Stories and how one part of a six-part series is released each week. I love the concept but found it confusing and not user-friendly to locate the Series on their website. I appreciated Danny recommending reading the blog Play the Past to understand the relationship between cultural heritage and gaming. He also mentioned an article written by a gentleman named Russell who wrote a post about social media. I unfortunately wasn’t able catch his correct last name to locate the article. Do you happen to know which one he is referring to? Lastly, I enjoyed hearing Danny’s response regarding advice he wish he knew when starting his career, that people shouldn’t stay siloed in the role they’re in but should hop between things. It’s a great piece of advice so you don’t get pigeonholed into only knowing one thing.

  3. Nicole Negron says:

    This was a very interesting interview. He made some arguments that I did not quite agree with, but it was intriguing. I think museums have to be wary of reacting to politics and other things going on in the local community as he suggested. I think it is important for museums to be vocal about what they support and do not, but only to a certain degree and on certain topics. I appreciate that he talked about using their knowledge and collections to present fact. In this day, especially, it can be very hard for many to wade through the wealth of information at our disposal and separate fact from fiction.

    I like that he and his team strive to create standalone experiences with their games rather than simply making flashy adverts for their new exhibits. I do not, however, think that a game has to be engaging or educational. I am a firm believer in games, especially those created by museums, being both engaging and educational. Lastly, he mentioned that Twitter can be performative and I think that most social media is or can be.

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