How can museums be more like the Web?

Can we apply the principles of how the Web operates to the running of our cultural institutions? Nina Simon discussed this idea in a paper and a mini-workshop called Going Analog: Translating Virtual Learnings into Real Institutional Change at the Museums and the Web conference last week.

Nina says:
But now we should be going in the other direction and applying the methods and lessons of the Web and Web 2.0 to the museum itself. How can museums be more like the Web? How can they be open 24/7? How can visitors customize their experiences? How can museums become places to talk with other visitors and sneak into the most interesting drawers and move things around?

In Going Analog, Nina cites a fun example of how museums can behave in a similar way to a wiki. She says: ‘Dick Rijken, a Dutch researcher, wanted to find a way to encourage people to contribute to local historical archives. Rather than setting up a wiki, he erected a stall at a town festival, and cooked and served food based on 17th century recipes that were in the archive. To get fed, visitors had to submit their own recipes’. Rijken came up with a clever way of acting out a metaphor for how the Web operates.

Wikis, hyperlinks, creating your own aggregate site and user-generated content are just some of the tools museums, galleries and libraries can think about when designing public programs and exhibitions. By creating an emotional response to an artwork or object, the participant will be more likely to remember what they experienced and apply it to their everyday lives.

Sarah Rhodes

2 Responses to “How can museums be more like the Web?”

  1. sarah Says:

    Nina Simon has developed this paper further in a blog on Museum Two Blogspot.

    She airs her concerns about the disparity between the use of web in small and large cultural institutions. As well as the difference between the online and on-site experience. It is a really interesting read.

    Nina writes: “How are we going to bridge this divide? Many of the technologists I met at Museums and the Web never go to regional or national museum conferences. When I asked why, people said, “no one there understand what we’re doing,” or “it just reminds me of how far behind the rest of this field is.” I understand the desire to learn from and spend time with people in your part of the field, but I was surprised at the extent to which people had no interest in cross-industry discussions. I’m teaching a graduate course at University of Washington right now on social technology and museums. Four of my students were at Museums and the Web. None are attending AAM (the American Association of Museums). They don’t see it as relevant to their future careers. This worries me.

  2. Annette Says:

    in response sarah’s comment: I have to admit that when I started working on the website for the NSW Migration Heritage Centre ( I wasn’t so excited about going to the Museums Australia Conference. But I’m so glad I went. We geeks can get stuck in our own worlds sometimes. By learning more about what museum folks were up to, and struggling to achieve, I can make myself more useful be trying to help with the solutions. It’s easy to get seduced by the latest tech trends, not so easy to make sure we’re applying them in a genuinely useful way.

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