The social possibilities provided by the Web are immense. They stretch far beyond Facebook or Twitter. The web, really, is a social tool and the first three projects presented showed the diverse possibilities for interaction that the Web provides.
'A History of The World in 100 Objects'
This is a project that I've blogged about here before. Concerns were raised at the time as to what the purpose of the project actually was. I don't think the publicity really presented the story in full - it's an incredibly interesting project. It isn't just limited to the Radio 4 programme presented by Neil MacGregor, but stretches far beyond that. CBBC will be broadcasting a programme called 'Relic: Guardians of the Museum'. From the objects chosen, a website is being generated which tells the story of the objects and allows people to read and comment whilst listening to the broadcast, an opportunities to link to the British Museum website. Not only this, but museums and regional BBC networks from across the country - and indeed, it is hoped, across the world - are involved in partnerships to create their own local versions of this site, which the public can contribute to. The public will also be able to contribute objects important to them to the main website, which is hoped to run from next year until at least the Cultural Olympiad in 2012.
Tower Hamlets Summer University
Tower Hamlets is an inspiring educative and social project. Originally beginning as an anti-crime initiative, over the last 14 years it has provided free summertime courses for young people in the East End of London. But the name is something of a misnomer - it is nothing to do with Tower Hamlets Borough Council and actually operates all the year around and since April 2007 they have been operating across all the London Boroughs.
Their use of social networking site such as Facebook, and Tumblr is inspiring. There are certainly problems in using such websites - issues of child protection and the possibilities of negative feedback presented in a public place are some of the things which Denise Drake, the speaker, highlighted. You have to carefully manage yourself. Negativity must be responded to positively, not simply deleted or ignored. You should maintain a professional distance between your work and personal online identities, and you should always treat people with the same respect that you would in real life.
But how can such techniques be applied to museums? I think with the increasing interactivity that the web allows, the rules that Denise Drake applies to her work hold true for museums - not just for those who manage education programmes, but also those who manage websites and blogs to which the public can contribute.
Always treat people with respect
treat Comments as rapidly as possible
make sure the content is relevant and timely
always expect the unexpected.
Forget who your audience is – use the right register of voice
Don't remove negative comments
Don't appear online after work – this could be seen as unprofessional.
There are many resources that are available - E-mint, the Facebook Developers Page and Mashable: The Social Media Guide
Go on and join in!
Wikipedia Loves Art 2009/ Britain Loves Wikipedia 2010
Started by Brooklyn Museum in 2009, Wikipedia Loves Art invited people to go to museums to take photographs of objects chosen to illustrate particular subjects. Though intended as a data gathering exercise for Wikipedia, it became a huge participatory event - becoming something of a competition to see how many photos people could upload! Flickr, Twitter and Facebook communities all arose and the collaboration and engagement between people, collections and museums increased exponentially...
The only UK participant was the V&A and they are now spearheading a campaign in the UK for Britain Loves Wikipedia 2010. I wonder how much participation we'll get here?
An interesting question for you to ponder which arose from the Q&A...should museums use the content that is there, or should they build it? What do you think of these projects? I'd really like to hear your views.
The Attic (a name which commemorates our first physical location) is, first and foremost, a site for the research students of the School of Museum Studies at the University of Leicester: a virtual community which aims to include all students, be they campus-based and full-time, or distance-learning and overseas. But we welcome contributions from students of museum studies - and allied subject areas - from outside the School and from around the world. Here you will find a lot of serious stuff, like exhibition and research seminar reviews, conference alerts and calls for papers, but there's also some 'fluff'; the things that inspire, distract and keep us going. After all, while we may be dead serious academic types, we're human too.