Posts Tagged ‘social media’

Join us in #collectionfishing on Twitter

The Collections Australia Network has been collectionfishing on Twitter. Each day a different organisation organically comes up with a theme for the day. Participants fossick around online collections for related material. Synesthesia took hold of the cultural sector online last week with the days of the week taking on different colours. Te Papa, New Zealand, started the week off with blue, Museum Victoria saw Tuesday as blue / red and Wednesday as red, CAN nominated Thursday as green and Friday yellow.

CAN is using #collectionfishing as a form of collection research, as its starting point for sourcing psychiatric hospital collections that could be uploaded to the CAN collection database.


Monday / Blue: @staterecordsnsw licence for the Coolamon Golf Club (Blue Light Disco)
Tuesday / Blue:@museumvictoria Oh the nostalgia, a lovely Bondi Blue iMac
Wednesday / Red: @CAN001 Old Gippstown on CAN A slightly different drum with red and blue
Thursday / Green: @CAN001 from the UTAS Fine Art Collection on CAN, thanks to Rachel Rose, Spit Bay, Heard Island
Friday / Yellow: @TePapaColOnline What will make you iron faster? Yellow racing stripes Iron, His Masters Voice, circa 1955

@MigrationMuseum, South Australia, took photographs within its exhibition space of a collection of items from the Polonia Soccer Club and uploaded it to Twitpic. Very resourceful – proof that anyone can play this game and participants are not confined to those with collections online. @lifeasdaddy, aka Bob Meade, is a well-known citizen researcher of cultural collections. He has been yelling out cries of encouragement from the sideline but we would love him to search across the nation’s collections on CAN and tweet them.

To participate, search a cultural collection online with the theme of the day in mind. Briefly describe the item, add a tinyurl to take the reader directly to the artefact (shorten the web link at the website and finish the tweet with #collectionfishing. Remember, CAN is looking for any reference to mental illness or psychiatric hospital collections.


Long Tails: Why Participate Online?

While pondering the few gem-like comments on the CAN blog some questions arose about the type of action, participation and commentators (and commentary) is out there in the Australian collecting sector via social media. There are guidelines aplenty online to help people to establish and participate in social networks using social media tools – see Darragh Doyle’s how to comment on a blog and Caroline Middlebrook’s blog commenting strategy as just two examples. There are blog lists relating to the Australian collecting sector I’ve scooped up as a small sample (e.g. archives, museums, libraries) to reflect the diversity in a part of the Australian collecting blogosphere. There are also some useful guidelines readily available online aimed at particular collecting domains or organisation types — see the blog about a social media manual being developed in the UK by Jim Richardson which appears to be drawing upon these institutional policy documents and guides for the museum sector.
The Long Tail and Learning


What seems to be missing is the discussion of the ‘why would I/we?’ factor and what those motivations and (in)actions reveal about the participants and the wider community. Nina Simon discusses this question at the tail end of a blog on the use of social media by museums and some interesting debate crops up in the comments on this blogpost. There are different questions to ask of oneself about what the motivations and benefits are in establishing or participating online and using social media, for work, or as a citizen. Noticeably (and impressively) there has been strong online feedback on the Australian National Cultural Policy (dialogue open until 1 Feb 2010). Glancing over the open feedback gives an immediate sense that these open online commentators are confident in their thoughts about policy direction and in using social media as citizens in a democratic manner. It would seem unusual to have anything but strong feedback in any case (perhaps worth remembering the polarised nature of public comment or feedback on issues of public interest is about asserting ones views rather than about neutrality and acquiescence). It is though useful to be reminded that what is openly available is not the total picture of the feedback offered and the open commentary may at this point have a certain characteristics of its own by comparison with feedback not published online.
The Long Tail of Fans


The larger questions potentially are: how much of Australian digital/social activity is through social media technologies per se and how much is happening through the collecting organisations, the practitioners and the interested public to make for thriving onsite and online communities? An allied question is how big are Australians on offering opinions and dialogue – and is that rate and type of commentary different and/or similar to other cultures? There are theses to be written no doubt in time on that front (if not already written or in process) on patterns particular to Australian participants. A search on Google and then on the Australian Digital Theses Program reveals a doctoral thesis developed at Griffith University by Gordon Fletcher about the cultural significance of web exchange through analysing popular search terms. To quote from Gordon Fletcher’s thesis abstract:


“Critical analysis of these higher order categories reveals six cultural traits that predominant in the apparently wide array of search terms; freeness, participation, do-it-yourself/customisation, anonymity/privacy, perversion and information richness. The thesis argues that these traits are part of a cultural complex that directly reflects the underlying motivations of contemporary western mainstream culture.”.


There are very good practical reasons to examine the resources committed to onsite and online priorities. Necessarily those priorities are linked to the strategic objectives of organisations and less formally so the aims of individuals. There are also cultural reasons for people to be quick or slow to comment, happy with openness or privacy in offering commentary, and desire and/or comfort levels with particular levels of openness or privacy. In terms of balance I am reminded of the value of perceiving consensus (some kind of peak in the bell curve or cluster of opinion) and the value of diversity, that is, what the long tail of commentating and commentary, and diversity in commentators, online can offer.


Myth and reality (social media sites/networks): Ingrid Mason


The reasons for not using social media sites/networks in collecting organisations to engage visitors or new audiences range: a perception that digital technology and social media sites/networks are for young people (myth); the thought that putting time into social media sites/networks is time “wasted” when there are “real people” to engage with in “real spaces” (the time spent on these sites/networks can also pay off in dividends); social media sites/networks are perceived as “entertainment” rather than as a means of “community engagement” (which is a key goal) and internet access from work computers to these networks/sites is blocked; a level of unfamiliarity with social media sites/networks is inhibiting and doing research is in the “too hard basket” (a good reason to learn from others’ efforts); and the idea that going online is “risky” and social media sites/networks (that’s why testing it out is such a good idea).


It isn’t easy to dispel myths and change organisational policies on internet use. The only way to address myth is to provide evidence to the contrary – see Seb Chan’s blogs on Australian internet use and the generational myth. I encourage those in the sector working under conditions of internet restrictions to contest this issue with their organisational IT sections by developing and providing a business case to validate the requirement for access to specific social media sites/networks. The logic being these sites/networks are working tools and spaces and widen access to the collection, provide relevant and practical ways to communicate with current and new audiences and in short — deliver value to the organisation. The question “What is the cost/benefit of using social media sites/networks?” needs to be thought through and answered well so that the reason to change policy is clear.


Sector participants are whole-heartedly encouraged to mull the examples in this blog; to venture into these spaces and look around and find out: what the social networking/media sites are; what people “do” in these places; and why people spend time on and contribute content to social networking and media sites this. It is better to take a look at this with one’s own eyes. In the interim, the short answers are, people participate in social media sites/networks because it gives them satisfaction (otherwise they wouldn’t use these sites or resources) and a sense of community (engagement and interaction is what makes these spaces and resources social!). Doesn’t sound too radically different to why people like to visit collecting organisations and volunteer in them does it?


As a brief starting point, what people do – in a quick summary – is:

Blog — reflect, absorb, write and comment e.g. Blogspot, WordPress, LiveJournal, etc including microblogging — leave (in brief) notes, messages, comments e.g. Twitter, Posterous, etc

Network — debate, advise, share, comment and send notices e.g. Facebook, Ning, MySpace, etc

Generate content — upload content to share with others, comment or tag or reuse the content e.g. YouTube, Vimeo, Flickr, Slideshare

If using these sites/networks is suitable then the next step is to look at implementing these technologies/working spaces in phases, that is: do research, undertake a pilot, evaluate the pilot (lessons learned and potential value), consider implementing their use in business-as-usual, and then conduct periodic reviews.


Finally some real examples to draw from:

ArtBabble: Indianapolis Museum of Art
“ArtBabble was created so others will join in spreading the world of art through video.”

Be Heard Forever: National Library of New Zealand “By sending your music to the National Library’s Legal Deposit team, you guarantee it will be looked after, stored properly, and available to future generations of New Zealanders long after you’re gone.”

Tyrell Collection on Flickr Commons: Powerhouse Museum “The Museum is uploading photographs from its large collections of glass plate negatives. These images go up without alteration or cropping. We continue to add new images every week and, where possible, we are mapping them too! We need your help – if you know more about the locations or people in these photos, or can help tag them, it would be great!”

Library Labs: National Library of Australia “Over the next few weeks and on 27 March itself, National Library staff will be twittering, flickring, podcasting, vodcasting and blogging in an attempt to discover what significance social networking might have for us.”

Museum 3.0: Australian Museum “Museum 3.0: a network for those interested in the future of cultural institutions such as museums, galleries, science centres and other collecting bodies.”


Michael Jackson exhibit turned into a shrine at the Powerhouse Museum

Many people are talking about dynamic and progressive ways of bringing objects to life on the Web. But there is often a disparity between what is happening online and on the floor of the galleries, libraries, archives and museums (GLAM). When visitors come to a cultural institution they often say- ‘I expected a dynamic and energised museum, more like its website’.

The Powerhouse Museum has recognised this issue and has taken steps to be responsive to its community. Within five hours of the announcement of Michael Jackson’s death, the official crew jacket from the ‘Bad’ tour in 1987 was put out on display in the main foyer as a tribute to the “King of Pop”. The monogrammed jacket was donated by the Museum’s staff member Adam Takesce – it was given to him during the ‘Bad’ tour while he worked for CBS records. This was part of the Museum’s display set up in the star’s honour which included a Michael Jackson doll, swap cards, the Thriller album cover and a condolence book for visitors to write messages in. The marketing department sent out a press release attracting instant media attention, from extensive national coverage on the ABC, TV channels 7, 9, and 10 and Peter Cox gave five radio interviews that linked to the forthcoming 80s exhibition. The display has been turned into a shrine by fans who, in just a week, have nearly filled the book with messages and have left flowers and a card. Online supported the Museum exhibit with Erika Dicker’s Object of the Week blog publishing a piece about Jackson.

The Powerhouse Museum’s actions were inspired by ‘agent for change’ Elaine Gurian – author of the book The Blue Ocean Museum. Elaine describes ‘museums as soup kitchens’ that need to serve the needs of their community. She suggested the GLAM sector needs to find a balance between thinking like a media agency (reacting to events in society) and behaving like a social commentator (interpreting these events from a distance). This way people will look up to GLAMs in times of change. They will remain experts. Not through top-down instruction but through facilitation, interpretation and community building. Nina Simon has discussed this idea in further detail on her Museum 2.0 blog.


Part 5: CAN interviews Australian War Memorial on social media

Those fascinated by the death of the German fighter pilot Red Baron, also known as Manfred von Richthofen, will welcome the Australian War Memorial’s social media program. Web manager Liz Holcombe uploaded the video of the Red Baron’s funeral to the AWM YouTube channel last year and made links between the collection objects relating to this story on AWM blog Who killed the Red Baron? and on their webpage titled 1918 Australia in France. The video has received almost 25,000 views and the comment section is evidence that the public love the opportunity to debate and discuss the fine details of the Red Baron’s death. Canadian pilot, Roy Brown claimed he had shot Germany’s most prized pilot in 21 April 1918 from the ground. While Private Alfred Fowler, with the 40th Australian Battalion, claimed to have seen the bullets shot by the 11th Battalion pierce the cockpit. While it is believed it was Australian soldier killed the Red Baron, the details continue to be debated.

Watch the interview with Liz Holcombe on our collectionsaustralia YouTube channel about her social media strategy. She discusses how she uses Flickr, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

German fighter pilot Red Baron, also known as Manfred von Richthofen

Her main focus has been to intertwine all of the social media tools so that people can just be a member of one or two of the sites and not miss anything. For ANZAC Day this year, the AWM paid for ads on Facebook for the first time promoting their activities. They used Twitter to send out notifications on what was happening. Attendance to the actual event in Canberra jumped from about 3500 to 5000 visitors. In this video interview Liz breaks down who her audience is, how she evaluates viewer behaviour and how CAN’s use of social media works to promote the Australian War Memorial’s collection. As seen in our blog last week, the war memorial is using Flickr as an exhibition research tool. They have invited members of the public to share their wartime love stories in the Flickr group Australian War Memorial: Love and War. These images will work to generate interest in the exhibition and possibly unearth value exhibition material.

Liz will start our series of guest blogs this week with a piece on ‘Gardening the Web’.

Sarah Rhodes


Local objects global stories – our Museums Australia conference paper 2009

How do collections and objects “speak” to audiences? How can museums present their collections online in ways that can be resourced and sustained at a local level? Collections Australia Network national project manager Ingrid Mason presented this paper at the 2009 Museums Australia conference to discuss how galleries, libraries, archives and libraries (GLAMs) can bring their collections to life online and engage new audiences. Ingrid’s powerpoint presentation is now available on the collectionsaustralia Slideshare channel for people who could not make it to the conference in Newcastle last month.

It is an inspiring discussion about how the online presence of digitised collections opens up limitless possibilities. By relinquishing control of context, objects can embark on their own journey. Curators, researchers, students and the general public can reinterpret these objects, offering fresh perpectives and contributing valuable information. As Ingrid says in her presentation: ‘New territory… new stories… new practices’.

CAN national project manager Ingrid Mason

An institution must be canny about how it approaches its online strategy. It needs to work within its capacity and in line with its values and mission or mandate – taking into account its funding body’s needs while also establishing who its core audience is.

Museums can hope online collections will add value to current visitor experiences but what about the needs of the unexpected visitors? Little is known about new audiences so the strategy must be continually reassessed.

Shelley Bernstein, at the Brooklyn Museum emphasises that the Digital Media department needs to take risks, try new tactics, make mistakes and re-evaluate. Paula Bray, Visual & Digitisation Services manager at the Powerhouse Museum, has demonstrated that risk-taking can lead to unexpected yet positive results. She applied a no-known copyright restriction to a collection of 19th century glass plate negatives and uploaded them to the photo-sharing website Flickr. The ABC found the Tyrrell Collection on the Flickr Commons and invited the Powerhouse to collaborate on the Sydney Sidetracks project. Sidetracks is an interactive map offering historical stories based on public collections and archives. The Manchester Art Gallery was instructed by the national government to use online collections to reach wider audiences. Not only were visitor numbers falling but sections of the population were under-represented. Kim Gowland and Jane Wilcox invested in extensive audience segmentation analysis through meetings, online forums, surveys and by commissioning research. This enabled them to develop strategies for each audience type from ‘kids-first families’ and ‘learning families’ to ‘lifestylers’ and ‘third-spacers’.

We will be blogging about the Powerhouse Museum Flickr Commons and the Manchester Art Gallery MA conference presentations over the next week so stay tuned. You could even subscribe to our RSS feed by clicking the orange icon at the top right-hand side of the page.

So the most important thing to remember is that the online collection – social media partnership is an ongoing experiment where the only rule is to continually re-evaluate your strategy.

Sarah Rhodes


Virtual-delegates at the Museum and the Web 2009

For those who cannot attend the Museum and the Web 2009 conference in Indianapolis, social media tools can link you to the action. In past years, participants were limited to blogging on the MW website but this year the use of social media will mean backchannel (or online dialogue) will play a significant role. Groups have been set up on Twitter, Flickr, LinkedIn, delicious and Facebook to enable better networking opportunities. You can even link up RSS feeds with conference updates. These social media applications are for people interested in marking themselves as key players in the industry, sharing ideas and meeting like-minded people.

There are several papers and workshops on social media tools accessible to the public.

Great Expectations: Sustaining Participation in Social Media Spaces by Angelina Russo, Swinburne University of Technology, Victoria and Darren Peacock, University of South Australia, Adelaide.

Planning for social media by Seb Chan, head of Digtial Services and Research, Powerhouse Museum, Sydney and Angelina Russo, Swinburne University of Technology, Victoria.

Down to Earth. Social Media and Institutional Change by Vincent de Keijzer, Gemeentemuseum, The Hague, The Netherlands and Patricia Deiser, Museum voor Communicatie, The Netherlands.

Of particular interest is a paper presented by Maxwell Anderson, of the Indianapolis Museum of Art called Moving from Virtual to Visceral. Anderson will discuss how museum’s can translate their on-site experiences online to penetrate through media clutter.

Sarah Rhodes