aMUSine is a monthly ezine exploring the ideas and controversies in the Australian art world, as well as sharing campus life in the Macquarie University Museum Studies faculty. Online magazine editor and PhD student Lyn Hicks offers CAN readers a step-by-step guide to setting up an ezine. aMUSine is an excellent example of how an organisation can use digital publishing to take its audience beyond the institution and look at broader issues that relate to its core business.
I’d love to say that editing and producing the first issue of ‘aMUSine’, the ezine from the Museum Studies Program at Macquarie University was a horrifying experience … but I’d be so wrong! It was certainly a challenge, but at the end of the day it turned out to be a fun (and often hilarious) project that pulled academics, undergraduate and postgraduate students together and really bonded our Program with the museums and galleries on campus as well as with numerous readers from ‘museum world’ off-campus. The experience might almost qualify as a case study for my PhD which is looking at how volunteers in museums and galleries contribute to the evolution of social capital such was its capacity for producing social cohesion in our little corner of the world.
Lyn Hicks, aMUSine editor and Museum Studies PhD student at Macquarie University
So much was happening in Museum Studies at Macquarie; we needed a regular, interesting and entertaining medium through which to share this news and invite participation from our students, other Faculties within the university and our professional partners outside the university. We were also keen to raise the profile of the Museum Studies Program generally, to attract more students to our degrees and units and to showcase our splendid university museums.
When the idea for a ‘newsletter’ was first raised at one of our regular ‘coffee meetings’ down at the Union café I must say that I rolled my eyes. After many years in the corporate world I had seen many paper-based newsletters come onto my desk and eventually leave my desk without so much as being opened. Over the next few days however the idea of an online magazine, with a different theme each issue and lots of edgy interesting ideas and visuals started to form in my mind. I was hooked!
Despite being keen to contribute there was quite a bit of ‘feet-dragging’ until I put together a rough layout of the creative theme (in Microsoft Word), the ‘front cover’ and the template for news and regular features. Once the idea took on a tangible form the ezine itself rapidly evolved. The difficulties (for me anyway) came in the technology and in deciding how to deliver it, particularly as the university had recently adopted a ‘corporate image’ for official material that was quite a bit different to the look and feel we were trying to achieve.
Front cover of first edition of aMUSine launched in late November. The third edition will be online in February
As this was a student initiated publication we felt that if we hosted the ezine site off-campus and emailed a teaser image of the ‘front cover’ to our own contact list (managed by Dr Andrew Simpson, Director of the Museum Studies Program) with a click through to the off-campus website once the first issue was up online, we would may be able to follow the lead of ‘grapeshot’, the official university student publication and be a bit ‘different’.
Eventually, after lots of clicking around the web, I found that Yahoo hosted ‘small business’ websites for less than $15 a month and supplied a free domain and a free design template. In a fit of ‘let’s get this thing done’, over one weekend I organised the domain name through Yahoo, purchased three months worth of web hosting, designed and published the ezine. The following week Andrew and Gina (who is our techno-whiz) consolidated an expanded contact list and ‘aMUSine’ was launched to the world!
For more information on the ins-and-outs of setting up an ezine, email Lyn Hicks