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.
You know best the unique stories your collections have to tell and work hard to preserve those collections for future generations. But how do you take collections care activities from “behind the scenes” to front and center, engaging and educating the public? This was the central question addressed by a four-part series of webinars for small museums and libraries on the topic of collections care outreach. The series was hosted by Heritage Preservation‘s Connecting to Collections Online Community.
My session focused on the strategic use of social media for outreach related to collections. I talked about how to set goals, select the right platforms for your audience, create compelling content, and evaluate success. I showed examples of how organizations can leverage tools such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Vine, Tumblr, and Google Hangouts to connect with today’s audiences and engage them in meaningful conversations about collections.
I also suggested the following key questions to consider when developing a social media strategy:
- Why are you using social media? What do you hope to achieve?
- Who are your target audiences? (Tip: “Everyone” is not a useful audience segment.)
- What content can you use to connect with and engage audiences? What existing assets can be repurposed? What new content needs to be created?
- What do you want to sound like? (Tip: Try creating a list of contrasting values that illustrate the tonal qualities you want to use as guidelines. For example, “friendly, not cutesy” or “clever, not snarky.”)
- What does success mean for you? How might you find evidence of success?
The presentation deck is chock full of great examples from museums and libraries—from the Brooklyn Historical Society to the Shakespeare Library. Take a peek at the slides below or watch the webinar recording on the Connecting to Collections website for the full experience.
Have you seen other great examples of social media being deployed by cultural institutions to connect with audiences about the care and appreciation of collections? Please share in the comments.
During last week’s broadcast of The Kojo Nnamdi Show, art critic Tyler Green referenced a question that’s been floating around museums for nearly two decades: “Well, if people can see the images online, will they need to come to the museum?” It’s okay to groan if you’ve heard this one before. Green’s answer: We’ve seen an increase in attendance since museums have started putting their collections online, therefore these efforts—at least indirectly—have encouraged more people to visit and see art firsthand for themselves. So why won’t this question die?