Tag Archives: A. Baldioli

The Museum Network

Social media has changed the way we communicate with one another.  Museums have to tap into this world of user created content to engage and expand its audience.  Today’s techno savvy museum audiences are no longer satisfied being passive consumers of content, they expect to be part of the creative process.   Social networking sites, such as facebook and twitter, bring together like-minded individuals and provides them with an outlet to share their likes, dislikes, opinions, thoughts, feelings, and outbursts with the rest of the internet.  Museums in the 21st century can use these technological tools to gather its audience on a global level and create a community around its collections and educational mission.

Facebook, with its more than 500 million members, is now the unquestioned ruler of social networking sites on the planet.  Most people log on to their facebook page to stay connected with their family, friends, colleagues, and online groups.  Numerous museums have their own facebook page as a way to pass along information to those in its network.  Museum like MoMA in New York (604,000 followers), The Met in New York (360, 000 followers), the Philadelphia Museum of Art (115,000 followers), and the Smithsonian Institution (74,000 followers) have large facebook followings.  Yet, those numbers appear miniscule when you compare it to that of some of today’s household names, such as Lady Gaga (22 million followers), Barack Obama (15 million followers), and the Jonas Brothers (5.6 million followers).

Twitter is another social networking site museums utilize to send out news on the information superhighway.  The micro-blogging site allows ones’ followers to receive, read, respond to and forward these 140 characters or fewer blurbs.  While 140 characters may not appear to be enough to covey a meaningful message, it is amazing just how much it can get across.  Like facebook, twitter is a powerful tool to inform followers about exhibitions, programs, event, and general news.  However, these blasts of information are limited to those who chose to subscribe to your feed.  Some museums have done well in cultivating an online presence via twitter.  The MoMA has some 360,000 subscribers to its feed, the Met has 150,000 subscribers, the Smithsonian has 219,000, and 22,000 people subscribe to the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s twitter feed.

The inherent benefit of using such social media tools and website is it invites the museum visitor to join the conversation.  With each facebook post and tweet, followers have a place to comment on what is being said by the museum.  Now the museum’s constituents are able to have new and substantive conversations and learning experiences with the museum without having to be within the museum’s walls.  Asking a question, posting a picture, or a adding a video are popular ways to use these tools, since they are great ways to engage the audience, spark a discussion, bring attention to the museum’s collection, spotlight the day in history, feature an emerging artists and much more.

And isn’t creating this conversation what museums aim to do?


The Mobile Museum

How can museums reach its visitors when they are unable to visit the museum?  They can reach them on their cell phone!

Mobile devices such as smart phones, iPod touches, and iPads provide an instant connection to the web virtually anywhere, and it is this type of technology museums can turn to in their efforts further reach its clientele.  The 2010 Horizon Report: Museum Edition, which “examines emerging technologies for their potential impact on and use in education and interpretation within the museum environment”, identifies mobile technologies as one of its “key trends” (The New Media Consortium, 2010).  It may seem like everyone has one of these devices, but not just yet.  Nielsen predicts that, by mid 2011, there will be more than 150 million smart phones in use in the United States, half of the predicted 300 million mobile subscribers (The Nielsen Company, 2010).

So how can museums take advantage of this technology?  Museums have to provide the necessary information visitors are looking for, along side media-rich content they look forward to, with the speed and ease today’s “anytime, anywhere” mobile users increasingly expected.  One way museums try to reach this audience is through mobile apps.  A search of Apple’s App Store came back with more than 200 museum-related mobile apps.  For instance, the American Museum of Natural History in New York developed apps to engage, enhance, extend, expand, and even entertain museum visitors when they are unable to be at the museum (http://www.amnh.org/apps/).  Another approach to reaching the mobile audience is through websites created for web browsers on mobile devices.  These mobile sites, such as Air and Space’s (mobile.nasm.si.edu) and the Brooklyn Museum’s  (www.brooklynmuseum.org/mobile/) mobile users can access the museums’ vital information regarding visitation, exhibition, directions, and events quickly and easily on their phone.

Museums can also take advantage of the ever-increasing functionality of cell phones, smart phones, and other mobile devices to provide media-rich content.  The development of cellular networks are making media streaming, watching videos, and downloading content to a mobile device easier and faster than even.  Creating videos, and sharing them via YouTube.com and its smart phone app, can help museums take visitors beyond the general museum experience.  Several museums, like LACMA (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GTsTY9t-fN8) and the Philadelphia Museum of Art (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wxxqcsCa4-4) have YouTube channels which highlight their interpretive and education oriented videos.  Podcast and video podcasts can easily be downloaded, through a variety of sources such as Apple’s iTunes app, in a matter of seconds, and then enjoyed anywhere.