Museum 2.0 Blog

Without a doubt, the blog I look forward to reading most is Nina Simon’s Museum 2.0.   Much of the content does not seem relevant to an archaeological or history museum or for our medium-smallish size museum.  But a lot of what I get from Nina’s blog is like my coursework in linguistics as an undergraduate – it’s just good to think and often applicable in surprising ways.  I get that some of our reluctance to fully engage with the potential of Web 2.0 is lack of knowledge.  I recollect in 1995 only 2 of the 10 facutly members in the Anthropology Department where I was adjuncting had email.  One prof still insisted on typing his manuscripts on his IBM Selectric.  But when he found out that, via the internet, he could get daily newspapers from Mexico City, his research area, the typewriter went into storage.    So, if you are just sticking your toe in the water, let me give you a couple of examples from the Museum 2.0 blog that might get you to take the plunge:

Nina also writes a column for Museum, the magazine of the American Association of Museums and is currently completing a book on the participatory museum experience.

What are your experiences with Web 2.0 when it comes to Public Outreach?

The Louisiana Division of Archaeology

The Louisiana Division of Archaeology has long been a leader in Public Outreach and Education in Archaeology.  Their website hosts a tremendous list of resources.  For example, one of their recent publications Poverty Point Expeditions , is a classroom workbook and available online from the Division.  Written by educator Debbie Buco, the workbook uses archaeology based at the Poverty Point site for lesson plans in a wide range of subject areas including natural and social sciences and the humanities.  The lesson plans are complete with step-by-step instructions, worksheets, materials and time estimates needed for completing the projects.  Each lesson is tied to the Louisiana State Curriculum Standards.  Over the past several years, the Division also produced the books Classroom Archaeology (Middle School), Adventures in Classroom Archaeology (K-12), and a picture book for elementary school children Louisiana Indians from Long Ago.

The Louisiana Division of Archaeology is also a leader in creating virtual on-line versions of all their books and pamphlets.  Perhaps most exciting is the recently published Indians Mounds of Northeast Louisiana: A Driving Trail Guide.  The guide can be downloaded as a pdf file.  The culmination of an eight-year project, the guide contains 4 driving trails in the northeast quarter of the state that lead visitors to several dozen publicly visible prehistoric earthwork sites.  Each site is described through a topographic map, cultural affiliation, and other pertinent information.  The Guide provides the public with an understanding of the regional significance, accomplishment, and legacy of American Indians for the past 5000 years.  The conical and flat top mounds that dot the Louisiana landscape take on added meaning as a cultural resource truly worthy of preservation.

The Louisiana Division of Archaeology website also includes information on Archaeoloigy Month programs, traveling exhibits, the preservation of cultural resources, the Regional and Station Archaeology Programs, and links to numerous other sites of archaeological, Native American, and preservation interests.

The publications listed above may also be ordered directly through the Division by completing this form

Future of Museums

One of my favorite websites to find good things to think about is at the Center for the Future of Museums.  Of most utility is the email Dispatches from the Center for Museums you can subscribe to and receive weekly updates.  

So what have they got?  Each Dispatch contains links to a dozen or so different articles or websites that stimulate thinking out how we will carry our missions into the future.  Things I read in the recent Dispatch that were relevant or “good to think” for me around issues of Public Outreach and Education included:

  • America’s Information Consumption Soars – Article in the San Francisco Chronicle – I found this interesting in demonstrating that the actual amount of information we receive today is dramatically increased with digital technologies.  How do we mesh our public outreach with the way folks are receiving this information today?  This all reminds me of a free webinar I listened to earlier this year on the AAM website that dealt with Gaming and Museums.  The basic thesis was that if we could get youth (and others) to invest the amount of time currently spent in gaming for pleasure on gaming for social good, then the sky is the limit . . . 
  •  Ten Crucial Consumer Trends for 2010 – from the website trendwatching.com – A list and discussion of trends, about half of which I found good to think about, such as:  Business as Usual – How the end of the Recession will not bring about a return to the past; Real Time Reviews – How the good and bad of what we do in our presentaiton and events is judged by the visitor and immediately spread through digital media to the world; and how digital interactions can ultimately be turned into real time interactions – certainly a goal we wish to move toward in Public Outreach efforts
  • The Use of Handheld Guides in Museums – from Learning Times – I really enjoyed this piece.  The handheld/audio tour is an issue we continue to grapple with at the C.H. Nash Museum.  We take up at what point are we pushing more interacivity on our visitors than they want?  How do we balance different visitor learning styles?

All this and more comes once a week to your in box. 

What other tools do you use to find ideas that are “good to think” about for Public Outreach?

Social Media – Facebook, enewsletters, blogs . . . oh my!

At the C.H. Nash Museum at Chucalissa in Memphis, Tennessee, United States – we are slowly moving into digital media through our website, enewsletter and Facebook page – all with a good bit of success. Perhaps one of the best features of digital media is the viral nature of the process. For example, with our newsletter Chucalissa Anoachi – in two years we have gone from 0 to about 1500 subscribers. The newsletter is also linked in various University of Memphis regular electronic communications that are sent to thousands of additional individuals. The newsletter is linked to our website homepage and Facebook page. We print 50 or so hard copies a month just to have in the Museum. For the newsletter, the total time investment each month to write/produce, load to our website, email the link to subscribers, and maintain the address database is approximately 5 hours. Given the targeted nature of the audience, I am convinced the time and energy of the process is a good use of resources.

We are also appreciate that a website, newsletter, Facebook page, and blog should not simply consist of the same material in different formats. Each tool works toward a specific Outreach task of our Mission.

What are your experiences with Social/Digital Media?

Podcasts for Outreach via Social Media

I listen to a lot of podcasts – most often when driving or riding bike. A couple that are particularly helpful to me for public outreach and marketing are Social Good and Digital Marketers Quick and Dirty Tips for Growing Your Business with Digital Tools. Both can be downloaded form iTunes – just search on the titles.

Social Good is hosted by the Chronicle of Philanthropy and provides insights on how nonprofit groups can more effectively use social-media to spread their messages and/or raise money. Although the slant is often toward fundraising the tools are useful for any outreach effort where you are attempting to engage the public. Recent podcasts discussed topics included: How to use Facebook to attract supporters; Effective video on a small budget; Creating an internal online culture; Developing online relationships with donors; and Communicating with volunteers online. Each weekly or so podcast runs12-15 minutes.

The Digital Marketer is part of the Quick and Dirty Tips suite of podcasts that includes the award winning Grammar Girl. The Digital Marketer focus is just that – how to market, promote, and publicize your event, organization, or whatever through digital media. With over 75 weekly episodes produced to date, recent episodes discussed: Enhancing your Facebook page; The places to get blog post ideas; A bunch of podcasts on Twitter; Using Google Apps and Google Analytics; Building your personal brand online; Tips for making e-newsletters work; Leveraging your rss feeds; and Social media productivity issues. I find that about 50% of these podcasts are relevant to my own work at the C.H. Nash Museum. Each podcasts runs 6-8 minutes.

What podcasts do you find most useful?

Getting Started . . .

In early November of 2009, I participated in a session at the Southeastern Archaeological Conference held in Mobile, Alabama.  The session was organized by Jayur Mehta, an Anthropology Graduate Student at Tulane, and Cassandra Rae Harper, an Outreach Coordinator for the Florida Public Archaeology Network.  The session focused on taking Archaeology into the Community.  The individual papers addressed a wide range of issues including a traveling ArchaeoBus, site visitor programs, archaeology fairs, museum exhibit development, Native American representation, archaeology in the classrooms, and more.  The session was a blast!  I learned a lot was able to meet folks with an interest in what I think of as applied archaeology and engaged scholarship – basically a reciprocal and symbiotic relationship between us as museum/archaeology folks and the communities who through their tax dollars are our employers.

Besides exposure to innovative and creative ideas, a couple of other things stood out to me about the session.  First, ours was the only session at the Conference that directly addressed archaeology or museums as educational resources for the broader community.   Second, the first speaker at the session, Nancy Hawkins Outreach Director at the Louisiana Division of Archaeology and a 20-year plus advocate for Public Outreach, commented that it was nice to see “the choir” assembled – noting the small but loyal cadre of advocates for the mission. 

However, coming away from the Conference, I am optimistic that there are quite a few more singers in the choir in the Southeast United States.  When I got back to Memphis, I sent off an email to the session participants.  I was grateful for being invited to participate in the session, and as the new kid in the room, had a bunch of ideas.  One important idea was that the session participants stay in dialogue, reach out to others, and continue the conversation.  This blog is meant to be a part of that process.

 My hope is that folks will contribute their experiences, what works, what does not work, new innovations, opportunities and so forth . . . but enough rambling, on with the show!

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