Creating a strategy—particularly if it involves co-creation with other stakeholders—can be a lot of work. For many people who are working solo or in a very small team, the first reaction to being tasked with “writing a strategy” is to push back and ask: “Why? What will the benefit be?”
This was one of the salient discussion points of many during the “What is Digital Strategy Now?” professional forum hosted by myself, Rob Stein, Emily-Lytle-Painter, and Max Evjen at Museums and the We 2017. Check out the full recap on the American Alliance of Museums website.
At Museums and the Web 2012, Hart, Royston, Sexton, Stein, and Wyman debated several different approaches to Digital Strategy and how museums might think about integrating (or not) digital approaches into the overarching strategies of their organizations. In the years since, we’ve seen significant approaches in digital strategy from the Tate, SFMOMA, NARA, and many others. As the whole museum becomes more digital, what approach – if any – should museums take regarding digital strategy?
What do we know about digital strategies today that differs from 2012? What worked? What failed? What does the future of digital strategy look like? What do you do in the absence of an overall strategy? How do we support digital strategies to “manage up”? How does digital strategy bring disparate staff/goals together for a greater impact? Does digital strategy require a new organizational structure?
The panelists will address these questions and others while discussing examples of overall and standalone digital strategies that succeeded, failed, or changed into overall strategies, and will explore the reasons for those outcomes.
Session attendees will split into facilitated group discussions that tackle a series of provocative questions about digital strategies and how they should or should not be implemented in museums as a means to try answer to the question: What is the digital strategy of the future? To extend the reach of the session, panelists agree to document the discussions that take place in a post-conference report online to continue to include a broad audience in the best thinking about strategy and digital.
This presentation provided an opening look at the topic of digital-age storytelling in museums, with an emphasis on web and social media outreach and the ways in which museums can be both storytellers as well as platforms for stories. I served as moderator for the panel discussion which featured 3 other case studies from the National Museum of African American History and Culture, the National Museum of American History, and the Harpers Ferry National Historic Park.
In my intro remarks, I discussed the history of online exhibitions, the advent of bulletin boards (and later, commenting) for user-generated stories, and how blogs and social media, including Twitter and Instagram, have changed the role of cultural institutions from storyteller to a platform for story sharing.
Journey Through Hallowed Ground
The Cutting Edge of Public History: New Directions in Interpretation Symposium
March 28, 2018
In a world in which a family historian can type her grandfather’s name into Ancestry.com to start building a family tree, and a journalist can Google to download public domain images, where do the collections searches, online tools, and APIs that museums and archives provide fit in? This paper outlines strategies for better serving people who are looking for the knowledge and expertise within your collections and staff. At the National Archives and Records Administration of the United States, we undertook a significant user experience (UX) research project to better understand the online experiences of professional researchers, family historians, and history enthusiasts. Research methods included audits of existing user data (e.g., Google Analytics, survey data) as well as new user interviews, usability testing, a survey, and a landscape analysis. Key findings include the fact that researchers struggle to complete their tasks using existing online tools; people researching family history are particularly unsatisfied and in need of better support; and all audiences require just-in-time help and appropriate orientation to archival research. A major challenge highlighted by this research is how to meet user expectations for item-level records while providing access to digitized records at massive scale.
Read the full paper, originally published in Museums and the Web: Selected Papers from Museums and the Web 2018.
The National Archives launched the History Hub as a pilot project so that we can test its usefulness as a crowdsourcing platform. You can think of History Hub like the Apple Support Community, but for people researching history. History Hub is a place to share information, work together, and find people based on their experience and interests. The platform offers tools like discussion boards, blogs, and community pages to bring together experts and researchers interested in American history. Experts from the National Archives and other cultural institutions as well as history enthusiasts and citizen archivists are available to help people with their research.
The goal is for History Hub to serve as a one-stop shop for crowdsourcing information related to a research subject. We are working to apply what we learn from the beta site to a longer-term solution that can be used freely by other federal government agencies and interested organizations looking to expand public participation with history. History Hub provides opportunities to reach the communities you are interested in serving and connecting them with your collections. We’re already using it to reach active communities such as volunteer transcribers and genealogists. Who else might benefit from these shared tools? How might your organization use History Hub to further your mission? Join us!
This mini unconference was hosted at MCN 2015 by myself, Phillippa Pitts, Jennifer Poleon, Margaret Sternbergh, and Jessica Warchall.
We started out with a quick #musesocial year in review, recapping top hashtags, trends, and challenges from the recent past. Next, we broke out into a mini un-conference based on social media topics the attendees selected for smaller group discussion. We took this chance to debate, discuss, and find ways to work together! Finally, we regrouped to discuss some of the key threads from our breakout groups with a focus on resources, solutions, and project ideas for us to collaborate on in the coming year.
In this case study presented at MCN 2015, I discussed the National Gallery of Art’s innovative approach to developing serial content for social media as illustrated through the #ArtAtoZ initiative.
Every two weeks, the Gallery explored a new topic in art (i.e., asymmetry, brushstroke, color, and drawing) across multiple social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest). This focus on broad topics allowed the Gallery to leverage its extensive permanent collections as well as draw upon a diverse array of staff expertise including curatorial, education, archives, conservation, and horticulture. The “A to Z” concept also afforded museum staff the ability to plan up to a year ahead, as the set of 26 topics was set at the beginning of the year. The added benefit of this structure was the ability to collaborate with other institutions and build momentum over time. From the perspective of the social media user, one was invited to dig deeply into a given topic over the course of two weeks rather than receive seemingly random bits of information each day.
Social media followers were encouraged to engage with the broad theme in myriad ways included guided looking, guessing games, and challenges to respond creatively. In this talk, I shared findings from ongoing evaluation of the initiative, including what we learned about optimizing content in order to generate the most conversation, sharing, and other engagement.
I was thrilled when I was asked to provide introductory remarks to this month’s DASER discussion on the topic of “Museums in the Digital Age.” DASER—D.C. Art Science Evening Rendezvous—is a monthly discussion forum about the intersection of art and science.)
For nearly a decade, museums have been using social media to communicate and connect with the public. As social media become more ubiquitous in museums and ingrained in our visitors’ everyday lives, old questions reemerge: How can a cultural institution best connect with a variety of audiences online?
A few weeks ago I checked something off my bucket list: get up in front of a theatre full of your brilliant colleagues and attempt to be more entertaining than the beer in their hands and the long lost pals they just reconnected with at the bar while simultaneously prodding a few serious thoughts out of their brains all the while remembering what you’re supposed to say in the brief-as-a-Beatles-song 5 minutes you have to race your words alongside slides that automatically advance every 15 seconds. In other words, I gave an Ignite talk.
I don’t know what it is about giving an Ignite talk but it is anxiety-inducing, mortifying, and thrilling all at once. And it was the kickoff to the 2013 Museum Computer Network conference so we were expected to knock it out of the park.
I spent a lot of time trying to memorize my bits—which included practicing on the plane ride with a copy of my slide notes and an iPhone recording. My visuals were all based on popular memes and, unfortunately, I forgot to print the notes WITH the visuals so I was forced to draw them while in transit. This is the sad result. (Can you guess which one is Grumpy Cat? Pepper-spraying cop? Y U No guy?)
In the end my efforts were all a bit of a waste in comparison to the magical wonder that is Don Undeen’s one-act play featuring a mask-wielding hacker, a pipe-smoking curator, and the undeniably reasonable (and lovable!) Digital Humanities Unicorn. Watch that performance, and several other incredible Ignite talks, right after mine (which starts at 15:03).
Tweeting, Tumbling, snapping photos–how can we turn typical teen behaviors in the museum into meaningful learning experiences? At the National Gallery of Art, thousands of middle and high school students visit each year. Most are not pre-registered, do not participate in formal educational programs such as tours, and are set loose on their own to explore the museum. To reach and engage this audience, the Gallery created a printed guide to the permanent collection (called #atNGA) that encourages looking carefully at works of art, making connections between art and life, exploring art as historical and cultural expression, and reflecting on the creative spirit. What makes this guide different is that each work of art is paired with a social media prompt such as: take and share a photo (via Instagram), craft a text response (via Twitter), or ponder a question with a friend. By explicitly inviting and helping to shape teens’ social media interactions with the Gallery, we hope to turn what might otherwise be a frivolous encounter into a learning experience.