Small Towns and Big Cities: How Museums Foster Community On-line

blog, papers & publications

This paper was originally published for Museums and the Web 2010. (See citation and Creative Commons information.)

Abstract

The early years of the Internet offered museums new possibilities for reaching broader audiences, and yet the anonymous character of most on-line interaction posed significant challenges for those who sought to foster a sense of community in the digital realm. In recent years, social media and other new tools have enabled museums to more successfully cultivate on-line relationships and even blur the lines between their physical and virtual communities. Borrowing terminology from German sociologist Ferdinand Tönnies, this paper uses the archetypal qualities inherent in traditional village life (Gemeinschaft) vs. life in big cities (Gesellschaft) as a framework for understanding museum approaches to on-line community. While the formally constrained (gesellschaft) expert-novice relationship that has so long been the paradigm for museums is still valued, we find compelling reasons to also explore the potential of gemeinschaft “whole person” interactions to change the nature of community relationships with museums. Using this framework, we review examples from the National Museum of American History and other museums using technology to foster community.

Twitter for Museums: Measuring, Analyzing, Reporting

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The following was originally published as a chapter in the book, Twitter for Museums.

“Measuring, Analyzing, Reporting”

We’re still in the very early stages of defining success and determining best practices for social media measurement.1 If you’ve already dipped your toe in the Twitter water, you know that riding the swells can be exhilarating. But the dizzying pace and loose structure can also make you feel unanchored, aimless, adrift. An evaluation plan can help you set the course, steer the ship, and eventually earn your sea legs. (Inspiration for the maritime metaphors is courtesy of Twitter’s “failwhale.”)