Conversations with Visitors: Social Media and Museums

Conversations with Visitors

Authored two chapters: “Measuring, Analysing and Reporting” and “Case Study: National Museum of American History.”

In its 360 pages, Conversations with Visitors shares the experience of some of the world’s leading international thinkers and doers in the field of social media and museums. Together, these essays provide sound, practice-based advice on communicating with, involving, challenging, and analysing museum visitors (and non-visitors) through the use of many different types and styles of social media.

Social Media and Organizational Change

This paper was originally published for Museums and the Web 2011. It was co-authored by Dana Allen-Greil, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution, USA; Susan Edwards and Jack Ludden, J. Paul Getty Trust, USA; and Eric Johnson, Monticello, USA. (See citation and Creative Commons information.)

Abstract

Social media are altering how museums interact with the public. But how are they affecting the ways that museum professionals approach their jobs? How are large organizations dealing with new pressures for a more nimble, experimental approach to content creation, and a more personal level of engagement with staff? How do museums manage the ‘brand’ with so many people creating content, while also being flexible and bringing out the many voices in an institution? With the authors’ multiple perspectives, this paper highlights some of the ways that social media are changing the ways that staff communicate and work together, and addresses issues such as whether to distribute management of social media content across an organization or to centralize efforts; how to find tactics for educating and training staff about what social media are; and how social media can further the mission, set new expectations for current staffing positions held within the museum, and promote a cultural shift that embraces collaborative, agile ways of interacting with our peers and our audiences.

Keywords: social media, leadership, management, strategy, organizational structure

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

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.

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