Serving researchers in a self-service world

Published Writing, Talk/Presentation

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.

View slides.

Variety, Evocative Labels, and Clever Interactives Make for a Memorable Group Visit to the British Galleries at the Victoria and Albert Museum

Published Writing

Note: This exhibition critique first appeared in Exhibitionist (Spring 2014) Vol.33.1 and is reproduced with permission. Download PDF of article.

Sneak Peek! New Media issue of Exhibitionist Journal

Published Writing

Each jam-packed issue of Exhibitionist contains articles on exhibition development, theory and practice, book reviews, exhibition critiques, and nuts and bolts advice. The Fall 2013 issue will be of particular interest to you, dear readers, because it focuses on new mediahow emerging technologies are making museums more mobile, personal, global, customized, compact, and widespread all at once. I contributed two pieces to the issue and I’m thrilled to share the otherwise-only-available-in-print articles with you here.

The Heart Truth Poster

The Heart Truth: Using Social Media to Reach and Motivate Women to Address Risk Factors for Heart Disease

Published Writing, Talk/Presentation

This poster presentation was co-authored with Megan Yarmuth, Jennifer Wayman, Sarah Temple, Ann Taubenheim, Ph.D., for the Digital Health Communications (DHCX) conference in February 2012.

Objective
To educate women about heart disease and prompt action against key risk factors by empowering women to spread The Heart Truth® via social media tools.

Background
The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) launched a national social marketing campaign—The Heart Truth®—in 2002 to increase women’s awareness of their #1 killer and prompt them to take action to reduce their risk.

In 2007, The Heart Truth® campaign began to utilize social media to disseminate messages, foster online community,
and promote events and resources to reach and motivate women to lower their personal risk for heart disease. Each year, social media efforts have been expanded to include new channels and tactics in support of the NHLBI campaign and key events such as National Wear Red Day® and the Red Dress Collection Fashion Show.

The Heart Truth Poster

Conversations with Visitors

Conversations with Visitors: Social Media and Museums

Published Writing

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

Blog Post, Published Writing

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

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

Blog Post, Published Writing

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 case study: National Museum of American History

Published Writing

Why Twitter? The beginning

It started out as a way to cover live events during the National Museum of American History’s (NMAH) November 2008 reopening weekend. Following a 2-year renovation-related closure, we knew that the museum’s fans were eager to see the doors reopen. Planned festivities included a dedication ceremony with then-President George W. Bush and a ribbon-cutting opening day celebration featuring General Colin Powell (Ret.). We wanted to provide a fan’s-eye view of the celebration even for those who could only join us virtually. We looked to various social media outlets to accomplish this access, launching a new blog, Facebook page, Flickr group, and Twitter account.

The Shorty Awards honor the best people and organizations on Twitter. One NMAH follower shares the reason behind her vote.

Twitter for Museums: Measuring, Analyzing, Reporting

Blog Post, Published Writing

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.”)