Print Page   |   Contact Us   |   Sign In
World News Archive (2008)
Blog Home All Blogs
Search all posts for:   


View all (98) posts »

Killer Statue — Psyched About the Site!

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, March 12, 2008
Updated: Monday, January 13, 2014

The Indianapolis Museum of Art has its own video channel on YouTube. The Oakland Museum of California reaches out to online tastemakers to help push events. The Brooklyn Museum of Art has built its own application on the social networking site Facebook, allowing people to share images of museum artwork.

These and other museums have discovered social media in a big way. It's no longer enough for a museum to put up a Web site and hope that people find it. Many museums are discovering that the Web 2.0 world lets them advance their mission online to bring in new and often younger visitors and to educate a wider audience.

"We used to engage people through catalogs, but coffee tables aren't where people are engaging anymore," said James G. Leventhal, director of development and marketing at the Judah L. Magnes Museum in Berkeley, Calif., which is focused on Jewish life and culture. "Sincere social engagement happens on computers now."

The Magnes started a Facebook group last year, and within five weeks, more than 100 people joined. It uses the group to promote new shows, encourage visitors to post photos taken at the museum and comment on artwork.

"Museums face a number of challenges in trying to make their collections relevant and accessible to people, and a big one is the physical barrier — in order to see it, you have to go to the museum," said Jennifer Trant, a partner in Archives and Museums Informatics, a Toronto consulting firm. "If you can take the work out of its physical context and put it in a place where people can manipulate it, that helps the museum's mission."

Museums do not have to be large to use social networking technology. Much of it is free and relatively easy to use. "Certain tools level the playing field," Mr. Leventhal said. "We can do the same things as the big museums."

Adam R. Rozan, who wrote a master's thesis on social networking at Harvard Extension School and is now a marketing manager at the Oakland Museum of California, calls younger people "digital natives," saying they grew up with the technology and spend a lot of time online.

"It's about engagement," Mr. Rozan said. "Here's your audience. Here is where they are. Go meet them there."

The College Group at the Met, for instance, plans activities at the Metropolitan Museum of Art by advertising them online. On Flickr, you can see photos of college students vamping in togas at an evening in the Met's Greek and Roman galleries. Donna Williams, chief audience development officer at the Met, coordinates the College Group, which has 25 members from universities in the tristate area. Its mission is "to promote the museum's encyclopedic collection and programs to local students, increasing students' attendance and engagement with the Met and ultimately building interest in the visual arts among new generations," Ms. Williams said.

Dave Evans, a vice president at Digital Voodoo, a social-media consulting firm in Austin, Tex., said the online tools created ways for museums to let people share their experiences, thereby increasing attendance as well as distributing content at lower costs. Many museums are blogging and podcasting, and now they are allowing visitors to bring in cameras and hoping they will share their reactions online.

Such work often dovetails with a museum's mission. Unlike, say, a sports team, which wants to put people in seats, a museum often exists to educate or enlighten, a goal that can be accomplished offline or online.

Rather than discouraging museum admissions, putting works online can help attract visitors.

"The content is followed differently online," said Shelley Bernstein, manager of information systems for the Brooklyn Museum of Art. "The more you put out, the more likely people are to get interested and come in. I don't think it's seen as a replacement. It's seen as a way to get people interested."

The Brooklyn Museum wants to avoid the appearance that these online efforts are marketing, and it even gives away many images, Ms. Bernstein said. The technical staff developed an application, ArtShare, which Facebook members can use to put some images on their profile pages. The museum then made the application free, meaning Facebook members can use ArtShare to put pictures from participating museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Indianapolis Museum of Art, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis and the National Library of Australia, on their pages at no cost.

"We don't want to seem like we're trying to be overly viral or that we're marketing," Ms. Bernstein said. "We just want to be nice community members."

Judging from a Facebook group that follows museum participation, an estimated several dozen museums around the world are involved in social networking. Ms. Bernstein said that museums had tried MySpace and didn't like it, but that Facebook was gaining in acceptance.

Ms. Trant, the museum consultant, runs a conference called Museums and the Web; the next one, scheduled for April in Montreal, will feature social networking as a main theme.

"You can safely say most museums are interested," Ms. Trant said in an e-mail.

Not all the implications of putting art on the social Web are desirable. Ms. Bernstein said the museum had 10,000 "friends" on MySpace and shared its art there, but that it had wrestled with a huge volume of spam, too.

Museums have long contended with issues regarding copyright, inappropriate and even obscene use of their images and online discussions that have degenerated into disrespectful commentary. Museums have come up with many solutions, from establishing and trying to enforce copyright policies to forming an Art Museum Image Consortium, which allows educational use but cracks down on infringement. "In many cases, the value of having your collection known outweighs the worry about commercial use, particularly when the images being released on the public Web really aren't large enough to do that much with," Ms. Trant said in an e-mail.

The social-media world has a different language than more august institutions. In Flickr's Commons project, for instance, the site invites people to label or comment on the Library of Congress's photos and adds, "This is for the good of humanity, dude!!"

Flickr members have responded. Some photos, for instance, feature women working in factories during World War II. While the library classified them as "women — employment," Flickr members have tagged them "Rosie the Riveter."

The members' posts vary widely. More than 30 people have commented on a 1911 picture of the baseball player Germany Schaeffer holding an enormous camera, with one person identifying the camera, another offering biographical information on the player and another adding cheekily, "That camera is going on my Amazon wish list right now."

Flickr's Commons project harnesses an important aspect of social networking, Ms. Trant said, which is the "power of the crowd."

"Everybody tags a couple of photos, and they can accomplish something you never could do curatorially," she said. When it works well, the amateurs complement the professionals.

When Web dialogue gets out of hand, Ms. Trant said, "Museums have to have policy and procedures in place, so that they can act appropriately." She added: "Debate is good, derision is not. Behavior in a museum Web space should be no different than in a museum's other public spaces."

But she said that once a museum makes its works available on sites like Facebook, where users have their own pages, the institution can no longer demand control.

By Dan Frost
For The New York Times

This post has not been tagged.

Share |
Permalink | Comments (0)
Thank you for taking the time to participate in the survey below.

Membership Management Software  ::  Legal