Monday, December 03, 2007

Blog Alert

Missoula, Montana. I've been there. Stayed over one night while driving cross country. A couple of months ago I stumbled across a blog from Missoula. The blog of the Missoula Art Museum, as it happens. And it is titled: Fix. Get Yours. As in your art fix.

I've noticed that I pay more and more attention to this blog. It only occasionally references what's going on in the museum, but the way it's written and the topics it covers make me want to check out more of Missoula, specifically MAM, the next time I'm there. Why? Because it's engaging. The folks writing this blog seem really into what they're writing about. It's just kinda hip. It has an energy. And, since it's my main source of information about MAM, I think that maybe the museum has the same sort of energy and interest. A lot of blogs lack that energy and enthusiasm, or they lose it over time. So far Fix has maintained their enthusiasm since June. I hope they keep it up.


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Ad placement

Blogger tells me this will be post #99. Not bad. It also tells me I haven't posted since November 7th - 20 days ago. That's not so great.

Every several months I get the urge to go out searching for new museum blogs, and I google search and I google search and wade through pages and pages of results... I was doing this, quite a while ago now, and I noticed something.

If I search for "museum blog" on google, the Ralph Stanley Museum Blog has a sponsored link on the results page. It's an interesting tact. They don't have a sponsored link on the results page for "museum blogs" though. Nor do they have one when you search for "Ralph Stanley," interestingly enough.

I don't know what I think of this tactic. It's interesting, certainly, but I can' imagine it's terribly effective in directing traffic to the blog. My google analytics doesn't show anyone search for "museum blog" in the last month, though there is one search for "museum blogs." And this blog is on the same page for both (third).

It does separate the Ralph Stanley Museum blog from the crowd of results, but it's such a specific search to choose. Then again, it's an interesting way to publicize a museum blog (although the Ralph Stanley Museum blog tends toward being an events board), and one I'd not considered until I noticed this. With a wider application of the ad to a greater variety of search results, it might have some noticeable efficacy. Then again, maybe not.


Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Putting my money where my mouth is

As part of my job, I've been asked to think about the design of our website (which does not exist yet) and consider how more interactive possibilities might be incorporated. A link to my collections management blog, obviously, or if we could get it in the frames without leaving the main site would be better.

But what else? Podcasts are out (don't have the time, the tech, or the passion). Something where people can talk back, but not just a link to an email address. Full out forums are too big and too... well... dated (not that they don't work, but those are really designed for super committed special interest groups). Starting a Flickr account would be awesomely cool - and flickr has some widgets that look great on blogs and which could be interesting on a museum website. Twitter? Twitter seems cool and hip and all that, but is the user base really large enough that people would understand it and buy into it?

I think what I want is like "Guestbook 2.0" or a mini forum board. Where people can leave feedback and it shows up on the site immediately and can be responded to by museum personnel (ie, me), but requires little to no tech savvy from the end user, but doesn't look, er, lame. A guestbook with comment threading? Does such a thing exist?

And what else? Easy to use, easy to understand, and minimal work investment on our end. I know you're creative people reading this feed; let me pick your brains.

Edit: Gadunk! A Facebook group/profile! This IS a college campus after all. That whole guestbook 2.0? I want something like The Wall from Facebook to be on the site (except comment threading instead of wall-to-walls). Now where does one get such a thing....


Sunday, October 28, 2007

Tag! You're it!

You know what's useful? Tagging. It must be, because we use it all over the place - flickr, blog posts, on our email, everywhere. And when you get down to it, filing in a filing cabinet is just tagging, albeit only one tag in one place. Unless you have cross-reference paper files, in which case I salute your ambition.

So when I got excited about the Powerhouse Museum's project to tag its collection online, it's not surprising. (By the way, are there other such endeavors I'm not aware of?) It has been asked of me, though, why would anyone just go and tag that? That's boring. It's one thing to tag it for your personal use, but tagging other people's stuff. Yawn.

Fair enough, I sputter, but, but it's COOL!

A couple of weeks ago, I discovered Google's Image Labeler. And was almost immediately obsessed with it. It's tagging. You're tagging images from all across the internet. But it's a game! You're paired randomly with someone else from somewhere else, and you need to match the words you use to describe the images. Some words are worth more than other. Man is 50 points, guy is something like 60, and boombox is 140. And you only have two minutes to match as many as you can and earn points.

I didn't think of it as doing a service to google by tagging; I thought of it as trying to get the high score (which I did hold once for about 8 hours - it broke my obsession, thank the heavens). If it were feasible this would be an excellent way to increase use of museum tagging projects.

Of course, there's the whole problem of reality. Museum tagging sites (probably) don't get the kind of traffic google does, so the near instant pairing up of internet users would not be possible. But are there other incentives? How do we make tagging fun? Is it possible if you don't have Google-sized traffic? I don't have answers.


Wednesday, October 24, 2007

How to Study Museums

I just caught wind (via Musematic) of a new MA in Museum Studies offered by John Hopkins University. A new program is not surprising - museum programs and Museum Studies MAs seem to be proliferating like very slow academic bunnies. What is surprising is that the MA is almost entirely online except for an on-site summer seminar.

I have three reactions to this:

1. This MA recognizes that technology and the interwebs are important for museums. A classmate of mine conducted a survey and found that technology in museums is the least covered topic in museum programs nationally. So the recognition of that and the addressing of it is important.

2. How cool. An online MA for museum studies. I would totally love to take some of those courses, but am so not going to pay for that. But it's really appropriate to people in the field who may not be able to devote the kind of class time needed at a brick and mortar instition.

3. How the heck can you have a museum studies program outside of a museum? The most important thing to me, as a relative museum outsider to the museum field at the outset of my graduate work, was having that chance to live and breathe museums for two years. To gain significant practical experience while addressing museum theory. For me, it's unimaginable to have gotten my degree with such limited requirements for hands on.

I think it's very interesting. But I don't think it's the best degree for a young person out of undergrad to pursue. Every spring, the Museum-L listserv has an influx of graduates worrying about getting a job. And the advice is, inevitably, get hands on experience, get your foot in the door. Those are two things I find problematic with this degree. It's up to the student to develop those two opportunities. That was true at mine too, but there were clear doors. I worry that, if the student is a stay-at-home-mom with limited time to volunteer or be involved in the program, that she will have a difficult time actually putting her degree to work.

Nonetheless, I think it's an interesting idea, a good thing for people in certain places, and covers topics which are largely lacking in scholarly museum education.


Wednesday, October 03, 2007

A beginner's guide to cool museum stuff online

I am really lucky. The folks involved in creating the museum at which I work are interested in the potential of new media for involving the community. But, they don't have as much exposure to the cool kinds of things museums are doing as, say, me! So a couple of weeks ago I put together this sort of "beginner's guide" for one of the professors with whom I work. And I thought I'd share. I think, if you read this, you probably know which applications and institutions I'm the most impressed with, but, hey, why not? :D


The Brooklyn Museum has a great all around approach to new media and community: CLICK

Australia's Powerhouse Museum is doing exciting things with their collections online, not just having them there, but allowing visitors to "tag" the online entries with keywords they find useful: CLICK

Eye Level, blog of the Smithsonian American Art Museum: CLICK

The Walker museum in Minneapolis has 6 blogs and are quite good. I especially like OffCenter and the New Media Initiatives blogs: CLICK

The Science Museum of Minnesota has a pretty cool area called Science Buzz with a blog that posts current science stories, polls, and offers registered users the chance to post at top level. There are also interactive kiosks inside the museum from which visitors can comment: CLICK

The Victoria and Albert has a section on knitting which incorporates their collection, but goes beyond it: CLICK The V&A also have a couple of artist blogs.

That's an overview of some of what's out there. The Powerhouse and Science Buzz are two of the most exciting things, in my opinion. Many museums are podcasting; many are creating facebook groups or profiles; some museums are venturing into Second Life; and some are playing with Twitter. Pretty much, any new application which catches on with a segment of the population, museums are starting to experiment with.

Leslie of had a pretty good series on museums and social networking sites: CLICK

Nina Simon of Museum 2.0 writes very thoughtful and thought provoking posts at her blog: CLICK

Two final things: If you want to look around at museum blogs, has a list of 208 museum and museum-related blogs. And the sidebar of my thesis blog has about 100 museum blogs, not all of which are on


Whatcha think? What did I miss that's supah cool?

Oh! I got up the nerve to submit an abstract to MW2008. It's not really anything new, but I thought it might be an appropriate place to share my thesis research. If it did get accepted, I think I'd put up a new, modified survey to beef up that side of things. I won't be heartbroken if it doesn't make it in, but it'll be pretty nifty if it did. Anywho. I'm hoping to go either way.


Monday, September 24, 2007

Wales all around

Over at my job blog I was talking about whale ear bones (cough*shamelessplug*cough), and now I'm going to talk about Wales.

You know, the country! Wales has had my attention recently. Knitting podcaster Brenda Dayne is based out of Wales. The Doctor Who spinoff Torchwood is based out of Cardiff (and it looks like they do a lot of on location filming - I am such a Doctor Who nerd).

Wales is a small country. It has a population less than half that of Wisconsin. And yet, yet! it has two museums with blogs, at least.

First up is Amgueddfa Blog, of the National Museum Wales which posts in both English and Welsh. I can't read a word of Welsh, but I love the look of the language. Can't post much of a review, as there's not been a lot of action since I subscribed, but it looks like there was some fun archaeology stuff over the summer.

And then there's Behind the Scenes at the Oldest Museum in Wales from the Swansea Museum. Sadly, this blog has been dormant for nearly a year, but there are some really lovely photos up in the old posts. It would be great if they'd renew the photo posts, since high quality photos are so much fun to look at.

So, way to go Wales!


Friday, September 14, 2007

Another announcement! and organizational musings

Another one of those posts that a better blogger would split into two separate posts.

Lots of announcements here lately!

I just wanted to let y'all know that I've been invited, and have accepted, to become a contributer to Musematic. Glad to be joining the ranks!

What does this make? That's four and one half blogs! (Museumatic being a half, since it's not all me, all the time.) Well, last night I dropped it down to three and a half, letting go of my languishing knitting blog in favor of Ravelry.

Clicky for bigger.

Ravelry is sort of like LibraryThing for knitters and crocheters. It's still in beta, so you can't fully poke around. I'm kind of fascinated by these organizational tools for the masses. Ravelry allows me to catalog my yarn, my needles, my projects, my books, just about everything, in a fairly extensive way. In some respects, it's like PastPerfect with a social networking side of things.

Now there's an idea. What would a social networked collections management system look like? Would it be a mating of database with listserv? Would there be forums for the small museum? For the curator/registrar? For the collections manager/director? For the dedicated volunteer? ..... Would anyone use it?

It's kind of fun to think about. What if you could comment on other folks collections? As a curatorial tool, it could be very powerful. But realistically, there's just so much sensitive information in these kinds of databases, that it could become difficult to maintain it separately. Not to mention, there's so much going down in the world of caring for collections that the idea of social networking is almost laughable. Although, such a thing would have the potential to envelop the three types of social media communities proposed by the Radical blog in a recent post. Hmmmmm.......


Reconsidering Second Life

In the last issue of Museum News there was that happy colorful exploration of Web 2.0. In this most recent issue, there's an article on museums in Second Life. I remain highly skeptical about Second Life. When I logged in sometime last year, I was frustrated by lag and texturing problems. Either my broadband or my year old laptop were unable to handle the requirements. I continue to feel the technological requirements of the environment make it a less than ideal space in which to reach a broad audience.

But I'm here to say something good about Second Life. Gasp! The article in Museum News - "My Raven-Haired Avatar Flies through the Museum" - had an example which made me pause. When the Exploratorium in San Francisco set up an internet broadcast of a solar eclipse along with a concurrent event in Second Life, they discovered something. Although many people visited the website to watch the webcast, they watched for an average of 7 minutes.

Those who came to the Second World event, about 60 to 70, stayed for the entire hour. They were engaged and asked questions.

This is the most compelling argument for Second Life I have yet heard. Quality of visitor interaction. Yet, I still wonder about the trade offs in terms of cost to develop and maintain an in-world space... But I'm open to being persuaded.


Thursday, September 13, 2007

Up and running!

With the blessings of my supervisors, I have now started a Collections Management blog! I have been in my position as Collections Manager for the Anthropology Department at Central Washington University for nearly four weeks now, and it's high time I started blogging about it! So check out Adventures in Collection Management. If I am not mistaken, I think this is the first Collections Management blog associated with a museum (well, museum in the making). There are blogs about Collections objects, but I haven't seen anything like what I intend to do - a little bit personal reaction, a little bit chronicle, a little bit instructional discussion.

There's only one post - I registered the url about half an hour ago - but keep it on your radars. I'm excited.


Sunday, September 09, 2007

Updated Links List!

My sidebar links became obsolete almost as soon as I first posted it. I have finally revised it to include all the new museum blogs I have found. There are now about 100 museum blogs in the sidebar! Yowsa! Not all are active, but they're self identified as blogs.

Since I am no longer doing academic research, I am getting a little bit loosey goosey with the definition of museum for the purpose of blogging. Essentially, if it takes itself at least mostly seriously, I will consider it. Besides those museums are usually the most fun.

Anyway, check it out. Am I missing anything?


Saturday, September 08, 2007

Scan Once, Scan Right

Are you or your institution looking to scan a slide collection? Are you interested in knowing more about digital imaging? Do you not know your DPI from your .jpg? Then check out Scan Once, Scan Right, the most excellent thesis project of one of my Museology classmates, Larissa, goddess of digitization.

Although the thesis addresses a specific project, Larissa envisions it as "something that other museums or institutions could use as a guide or starting point for their own projects."


Thursday, September 06, 2007

Brooklyn Strikes again!

Anyone who saw the session with the good folks from the Brooklyn Museum was pretty blown away by how, well, awesome they are. The Brooklyn Museum has a huge backing of community involvement and web forward thinking. And awesome Flickr use.

And now they have blogs! Have they been around a long time? Did I miss them?

feminist.bloggers@brooklynmuseum - Feminist art, news, and events from the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art


bloggers@brooklynmuseum - a behind the scenes blog.

Both blogs have full text syndication. How I love full text syndication. I hate stubs, I hate clicking through, I really do.

Plus, and this is really cool, you too can be on the Brooklyn Museum's blogging community, if you ask nicely.

I look forward to seeing how these blogs read!


Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Will you be my friend?

I've noted a lot of talk in the past months about the internet and the changing meaning of friendship. I haven't actually gotten to reading what people are writing, and once I do, I'll return with a follow up post.

But these are my raw thoughts in their usual semi-coherent form.

I started blogging because one of my friends was doing it, and he was doing it on a site which combines the internet-special idea of "friending" with independent blogging - Livejournal. So I signed up, identified him as my friend, and have, in the intervening four year, accumulated around 50 individual "LJ friends," some of whom I know in real life, some of whom I have since met, and some whom I have never met but am, nonetheless, good friends with.

And all these social network sites which revolve around the idea of friending - they are all incredibly popular. And even reading a blog on a regular basis offers the idea of intimacy, of getting to know someone a little bit.

But, I wonder, can museums be your friend? This is why that issue of voice is so crucial. If there's not a real person communicating about the museum in a genuine way, I think it's harder to gain that friend-like trust. Maybe I'm wrong. But I don't feel a strong connection to the museum blogs I read, not really. I feel a stronger connection to the museum-related blogs I read, where it feels more individual, more specific. And I assume myself to be representative of others, so this is how it must be, right?

It's something to think about though... if Web 2.0 is about social connection, social collaboration and interaction, how can an institution which might shift personality with each new director maintain a sense of the personal in a blog? Or should it? I'm just not sure.


Saturday, August 25, 2007

Astronomers spend millions, find nothing

I know this is a museum blog blog, so to continue under that premise, I will link to the Buzz Blog post: Nothing to Write Home About. Plus they linked to it before I saw it on BBC News.

Mostly, I think this is super cool. I'm a great big nerd, a well rounded great big nerd. And Sci-fi is one of my nerd foci. So when astronomers are willing to admit they found nothing, I think that's awesome. When it's a nothing that's a billion light years wide, devoid of even dark matter, that is super awesome. BBC Article Link.

There's my news contribution for today.


Then there's the Unicorn Museum which is a slick satire of the Creation Museum. Hey, I like unicorns as much as the next guy.


Monday, August 20, 2007


Anyone else notice that has hit 200 blogs?

This is gettin' big people....


Sunday, August 19, 2007

Truth time

I gotta be honest. For the past month or so, I have not been in ur museum blogz. But now I'm back home, settling in to a more regular lifestyle, and I'm ready to dive back in.

I just ran through my feeds. I did not read them, oh me oh my no. You all are a productive lot. I pretty much glanced at the most recent post and moved on. I read my blogs via bloglines. I am more likely, by several times, to read a post if it is syndicated in full text and not just title or title and snippet. This applies to all my feeds, not just museum and museum-related.

While I was out of blog range, I did get a chance to visit the John Michael Kohler Arts Center which is putting on an amazing show right now - all about environmental artists, mostly of the outsider and visionary persuasion. They've taken out their usual standard galleries (Art and Industry industry gallery, the Hmong Gallery, the Kohler House setting) and used the entired building as a showcase for their amazing collection of environmental artists. I do believe most of the stuff in the show belonged to them. I loved it. I've long been a fan of Eugene von Bruenchenheim, but I became acquainted with Levi Fisher Ames, Stella Waitzkin, and Emery Blagdon, among others.

I grew up in Sheboygan County, where the JMKAC is located, and I am consistently amazed by the kind of exhibition they produce and their adherence to recognizing outsider and self taught artists. I would wholly recommend making a by-trip to see this show if you have the opportunity.

Of course, I may be biased. I used to work there. And the Kohler Foundation once awarded me an art scholarship. Nonetheless, I think this is pretty cool. Plus they produced a hoodie with Bruenchenheim's chicken bone chairs on the back which I do intend to purchase.


Wednesday, August 15, 2007

We're coming to a museum near you.

Remember that video I posted ages ago - the I-generation? Probably not. But the premise is that folks my age and younger are often pretty well connected to the internet and technology things.

Well, we've finished our museum degrees and are out looking for jobs. Some of us have found them (yay!), some of us are still looking (just keep swimming, just keep swimming), but we're all probably going to get there in the end. For example, I have two friends that are still in the interview process. Both of them, although their interests lay in collections management, are interested in updating their potential employers' web presence.

We represent the intersection of web savvy and university trained museum professional. It seems that many museum tech people have not been trained originally as museum professionals - nothing wrong with that, just saying. Given that we are something of a shift, or even an intersection, I think it will be interesting to see what happens. Are we isolated? (No, probably not, as at least two other folks we graduated with are very involved with podcasting.) Will the degree-bearing museum person with an interest in technology shift what the museum online world looks like? (I'd wager no, actually, because, while we are passionate, most of us can't code to save our lives.) But I think there is potential. Something to keep an eye out for, in any case.

When I think of blogging for my new institution (which I haven't even started yet, due to circumstances), I imagine a blog which is, at first, very informal. Possibly even personal. Basically, I think of me blogging about my job. About the day to day of collection managing a previously undermanaged collection. And I imagine a tone very close to the tone of this blog. Because it is hard for me to blog things I am excited about without having this crazy, half-developed, decidedly non-refined tone.

Anyway, watch out for us. We're coming.


Tuesday, July 31, 2007


Expect radio silence from this corner of the blogosphere for the next several weeks. Sometimes you have to drop everything and then try to put the pieces back together.

I'm sure you'll get on fine without me. May I recommend perusing the xkcd webcomic if you are looking for something to fill the time?


Tuesday, July 17, 2007


Props to the Wood County Historical Center for blogging collections. The linked post is the third ever on their blog, and I found it fascinating. It takes a piece that might not get out on the exhibit floor, gives a lot of background (with photo examples), and shows how something as, well, down right weird as a whiskbroom holder (weird in the modern era of DustBusters, anyway) can tell us a great deal about social life and relations over a hundred years ago.

I find the writing sounds quite formal, but they break it down into easy to digest sections. So props Wood County Historical Center, I look forward to reading more.


Monday, July 16, 2007


I gotta say, sometimes I feel like a poser. (Poser? Who even says that anymore? That's so 1992. Wannabe is a little more contemporary.) I pretend to be all up on museums and technology and play at it a little bit. But I'm not hardcore. Sure, I'm a believer, I'm an evangelist, but I couldn't write you any code. I could make you some nice HTML links, but that's the extent of my power.

So what am I doing here? Why am I playing in the techie playground?

Because this is where the cool stuff happens. The exhibits playground, the collections playground, those are nice, those are classic. They've got the see-saw and the swing set and a couple of tetherball poles. But the techie playground has the super cool twisty tube slide and everything is brightly colored.

Like I mentioned in my last post, I'm going to be a collections manager. Collections was always my goal. I got sidetracked by museums and the web because of the coolness factor and the lack of discussion (written discussion, anyway). While I am passionate about collections, there's something much more exciting about the rate of change and the open potential of technology. I do believe in the importance of the object, oh yes, but I bet we can make the object a lot more interesting when we use new online applications to play with it.

*sorry about the empty "read more"s at the end of these posts. My script is broken. I'm going to try and fix it. Not by myself. I'll be following instructions - like I said, no code for me. Rock! I am excellent at following instructions!


Thursday, July 12, 2007

Personal News below

Okay, this is another one of those pesky posts about me.

I went and got myself a real job, as a Collections Manager for a University museum that is still in development. I'm quite excited about it. :D

No word on if we'll be blogging yet. I brought it up in my interview. We'll see.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled semi-topical blog.


Wednesday, July 11, 2007

New words to use

I notice that a lot of museum blogs don't update that frequently. Maybe it's that there aren't enough words in the English language.

But fear not! For Merriam Webster has inducted 20 new words into the Dictionary. My favorite? Ginormous. And little did I know that ginormous did not originate with Will Ferrell in the movie Elf, but was in fact first recorded in "Partridge Dict. Forces' Slang" according to the Oxford English Dictionary which already lists ginormous as a word.

My second favorite is smackdown.

Does this relate to museum blogging? No, not really. Well, maybe we could put something together involving the control of knowledge by the establishment/popular production of knowledge, but I'm not going to bother. I just wanted the 20 of you who read this to know that ginormous is really and truly (and officially!) a real word.


Monday, July 09, 2007

Print and Pixels

I just got my copy of the July/August Museum News. I flipped to the table of contents, only vaguely interested, but what did I find?! An article entitled "Museums and Web 2.0." Boy does the layout make web 2.0 look fun and kicky.

It quotes Nina Simon, Brooklyn Museum, Indianapolis Museum of Art and MoMA. It offers an overview of the idea of Web 2.0, Wikipedia, YouTube, and MySpace. It suggests that you make sure your museum has a Wikipedia entry, and warns against, honestly, being dumb. Don't post video of your security guards punching in entry codes! Okay, I know that's written in jest, but still.

It also introduces the idea of trusting the visitor. AKA radical trust. "You trust users not to upload inappropriate content; if they do you trust other users to report it..."

While I appreciate the very relaxed tone of the article - I imagine it's purposefully written in a semi-informal blog style - I'm a little surprised that the article focussed so strongly on Wikipedia when museums tend to have little interaction with it. Also surprised that podcasting and blogging aren't mentioned as part of the Web 2.0. Perhaps because there's not a single service you can point to for those? And Facebook, too, because I tend to imagine that Facebook is going to reach more of a traditional museum-going audience than MySpace. But perhaps that's the advantage of MySpace - reaching someone you probably wouldn't.... like that 14 year old emo kid over there. Oh, and is "TMI" really "teen" speak? Because TMI is in frequent use on certain boards I frequent where a significant part of the community is over 40.

Still, it's nice to see AAM produce anything written on internet technology since the last book they published on the subject was 8 years ago. It may as well have been 38 given the way things change. Raising awareness is probably a good thing, at the very least, even if it's only a start. Nonetheless, I will wait for the sequel to the article and look forward to the letters to the editor in the next issue.

I'm just hoping that Nina will write a book for us one of these days. ;)


Sunday, July 08, 2007

Cool! Medical images!

The Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine has made their collection of medical images spanning 2000 years available via a Creative Commons license.

Like this image, Napoleon Bonaparte's Toothbrush:


Everything is Miscellaneous

Are you guys catching this? Leslie Madsen-Brooks is posting a multi-part series on Museums and Social Networking sites. So far, three parts are posted: 1. Introduction and Facebook, 2. Myspace, and 3. Flickr. She's offering a lot of great observations and pulling together a lot of writing and links. I'm looking forward to the next installment featuring social networking services of a different color: YouTube, Twitter, and LinkedIn.


I'm currently reading Everything is Miscellaneous: The Power of the New Digital Disorder. It's one of those really entertaining, interesting, and provoking reads. I haven't yet had a chance to synthesize it, but one thing that really seems to stand out is the potential for messy data. And I mean messy data in a good way. Weinberger speaks of the "new digital disorder" as a third order method of organization - a method not bound by the rules of a two dimension paper based system.

Of course, in order to open up, say, digital collections to third order methods of organization, like tagging, museums need to have their second order organization in hand. A lot of museums can't say that their collections are completely cataloged in databases such as ARGUS or PastPerfect. And if the museum doesn't have control over its objects, it isn't sensical to start to relinquish that control to tagging projects.

And then, when you do have your second order ducks in a row, how do you get people to participate? As the sidebar to the Powerhouse Bulk Collections tagger states: "One of the key problems we have identified with social tagging of our collection is that there just isn't enough tagging going on and although the tags that are added do have significant benefit in terms of making certain collection records more easily discoverable only about 3000 records have been tagged so far." Yeah. What do people get from tagging? Tagging personal images, blog entries, bookmarks, what have you, has a use for the average person on the Internet. Tagging stuff for kicks? That's what museum people might do, not your average Myspace user.

Same problem as always: It's cool, we know why we're doing it, but how come no one's coming to play with us? The Powerhouse Museum is trying to address this issue by aiming the bulk tagger application to museum professionals and amateur groups.

Or, next to each collections object, have one of those nice buttons that say "Digg This" or "" so that the tagging is done through already beneficial applications and then find a way to mine that data.... Except for all those tags that'll just say "museum."


Tuesday, July 03, 2007

I agree

YES! Web 2.0 stuff is cool, but for crying out loud, be thoughtful. Know what you're doing, but, more importantly, know why you're doing it.

My thesis research showed that a lot of blogs were started because someone thought the museum ought to have one. In some of those cases that someone seemed to have a strong vision of what the blog would become - and those are usually pretty successful, noticed blogs. In others, the blog became a bit miscellaneous and may be on the road to failure unless someone can come up with a purpose, a reason for it.

Of course, reasons don't guarantee successfulness. I know of at least one museum with a well thought out blog that I don't entirely buy into as successful yet. Perhaps in time.

Just because it's fast and easy doesn't mean you should do it. Oh, you should do it, but have a purpose. And a community to connect to.


Saturday, June 30, 2007

Flickr-y goodness

Woah. So Making Conversation with Museums made a post on May 20th that I somehow completely missed in my then thesis-induced haze. Luckily, bloglines belched it up for me this morning, because it is so cool!

The Tate is using Flickr. The Tate is using Flickr to involve the public in creating exhibit content. Dude. That's awesome! How cool is that, really? All of the images submitted will be on screens throughout. Additionally, 40 photographs will be chosen and will be curated as part of the exhibition's website.

This means that anyone can become part of the process. Potentially, a 14 year from the North could have her image become part of the Tate. Or someone who's never been to the Tate. You don't even need to live in Britain to take part! although the image most have been taken in Britain. The potential for school groups, for marginalized groups, for groups that don't attend museums to have a voice, to have an impact, is present. Way to go Tate!

The Tate's page about the exhibition.

Tate's flickr group "How We Are Now"


Friday, June 29, 2007

Everybody's got a theme!

What is it with day of the week themes for blogging? Game Friday, Metaverse Friday... And don't get me started on the knit bloggers day of the week obsession - which I won't go into, because we are museum professionals here, not knitters. It's hard to knit and catalogue objects at the same time....

Back to the question at hand: Why do we love themes? I think it's the love of structure. As a people, we like to know what's going to happen and when it's going to happen. If we're at a museum, we (generally) like to know which way we're headed and why. Paleontological museums usually start in the distant past and work up to the present. I'm quite certain I would be confused and frustrated if they choose certain alternative structures - like grouping eras by rhyming! or average number of papers published per creature! Certain alternative structures could make sense - like examining by life form - but it would be more difficult to understand the large picture.

So, structure is good. Structure in blogging is useful. *gasp* Did I just say that? Me, with my willy-nilly way? Structure is useful? Yes. Yes it has its uses. I like weekly features. I even like posts with specific images that signal certain non-weekly features. It gives me a sense of "oh yes, I know what's coming next, I'll be sure to read that." Alternatively it could give me a sense of "oh yes, I know what's coming next, that's usually rubbish. NEXT!." So that danger is present. I would wager the same issue crops up in exhibit texts.

Another potential danger with structure is too much structure. Museums love structure. We thrive on structure. We NEED structure to fulfill our missions. It's necessary. But when blogs become over-structured, with too many headers and features, they run the risk of becoming online, staggered, magazines. In my opinion, blogs should not be overrun by article style writing. Good writing is invaluable, absolutely, although definitions of what "good writing" is depends greatly on the reader.

I am hugely resistant to over-policying, over-proceduring, over-structuring blogs. While I acknowledge that policy, procedure, and structure are good and useful, I feel as if, when it comes to blogs, museums are tempted to maintain the usual amount of control. Too much institutional control, and a museum blog runs the risk of becoming boring. I know there are many restrictions, but museums bloggers usually do a good job of walking the line between policy and boring. Would I blog institutionally the same way I blog here? Probably not.

I could beat this horse to death a dozen times, and I might have already. But I feel as if it's a central source of tension between the institution of the museum and the format of the blog.


Topic change! To paraphrase the immortal words of Denise Williams: Let's hear it for the girls! Leslie Madden-Brooks of Museum Blogging highlights the women of the museum blogosphere. Does the women-to-men ratio in museum blogging accurately reflect the women-to-men ratio of museum professionals? I'm not sure it does quite yet (in my class of 24, there were 3 men). But we've got things to say and we're saying them.


Monday, June 25, 2007

Museum Blogs: New and Unusual

I'm getting a bit indiscriminate in what I'll calling a museum blog. I think my working definition is "if it takes itself seriously as a museum, it's good enough for me."

This means I get to read the Dr. Pepper Museum Blog and the Jack Kirby Museum Blog, both of which are fun. I'm not entirely clear on how museum-y these museums are, but I'm glad to know they're out there.

A recent search for "Museum Blog" on google turned up some more institutions I'd never heard of writing blogs:

The Bradford Washington American Mountaineering Museum: I really like the tone of this blog. These folks are just building their museum. It reminds me a bit of the Creation Museum Blog - it's effective in the way they talk casually about what's going, but display their excitement at the same time. I bet mountaineering has a strong community base - I wonder if the BWAMM has found a way to tap into/connect with that community?

The Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum: A maritime museum in Arkansas? I had no idea! The tone is a bit formal, somewhat reserved and museum-y. What I love about this blog (which has apparently been operating since July of 2005!) is that they're talking about their collections, giving some information on objects and new accessions. I was just complaining that I don't see enough of that. I know nothing about Arkansas' connection with all things maritime, but I get interested reading about the stories of the objects.

I was going to share a third, but the blog is really more a regurgitation of the museum's event calendar, and I'm not excited about that. So no link for you, unnamed museum!


Friday, June 22, 2007

To be or not to be?

What do you do with a thesis blog when you finish your thesis? (I got the official grad school email, by the way. I'll have my piece of paper in 3-4 months. You'll just have to take my word for it until then (unlike LeVar Burton or Lt. Jordi LaForge, whose word you don't have to take (I'm sorry, that was a particularly lame reference, even for me, queen of nerdery))

I'm not sure what to do with this place. I don't want to give it up, cause I like you guys. Even if I think I got called fat in Italian. I don't speak Italian. But what to do with it? How to stay relevant? I've got a few ideas:

1. Become a link style blog. Read museum blogs, pointing out stuff I think is cool. Pros: Not really being done. Cons: Dear gourdesses there are so many museum blogs! Plus I think it would lose some of my voice, which could be a pro if you hate this rambly thing I've got going.

2. Try and get academic with it. Make posts trying to be all analytical and insightful. Pros: People love this stuff. Cons: It's not me. Sure, I've been in school FOREVER, but I'm just not cut out to be analytical; I see too many sides to things.

3. Just keep on keeping on. Do what I want. Some links, a little analysis, maybe blog reviews. Pros: I like doing this. It's messy, it's fun, and there's variety. Cons: It's messy. I might be taken less seriously than blogs which are more formal, and I would like to be taken seriously.

Really, I think I'll end up going with option number 3. But what are your thoughts? What would you like to see here?

And one more thing: That title bar. Maybe I ought to change that a bit now. Options (after the colon is the subtitle bit)!
1. Im in ur museum blogz: Readin' and analyzin'
2. Im in ur museum blogz: Online Culture and Museums
3. Aw, I dunno. I really like that "Im in ur" thing despite the fact that it'll date this like nobody's business. Suggestions?


Friday, June 08, 2007

Don't watch this space

Because I am going to be pretty much AFK for the next several days. I won't even have my laptop with me! *gasp!* I'm not sure I'll have much time to come up for air, much less time to read my feeds.

After that I think we'll tackle the problem of what to do with a thesis blog when the thesis is finished. For now, a flower:

prarie mountain flower
Mountain meadow flower - Goose Hill something or other, Deception Pass State Park, WA. April 20, 2007.

Confidential to Soledad: I am able to access the thesis document running Windows XP, Firefox, and using Adobe Reader. Let me know if it still doesn't work and I can try emailing a copy when I return from AFK


Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Thesis thesis thesis

Direct link to the 141 page .pdf of my thesis: Constructing Connections: A Museological Approach to Blogging

93 pages of content, 50 of appendices (primarily the survey responses).

Thank you to everyone who helped me out with the survey and were responsive to this blog. I appreciate it.

Museums have long had an online presence. Recently, museums have begun experimenting with forms of online communication beyond the traditional website. One approach which many museums are exploring is blogging. Blogs are websites which are frequently updated, have posts in reverse chronological order, and have links to other website. Interlinked blogs form an online community called the blogosphere, and museums are joining in. At this writing, more than 50 museums maintain blogs, and that number is rising. What little literature exists on museums and blogs focuses primarily on how museums can start blogs and drive traffic to them. Museological literature lacks discussion attempting to ground blogging in applicable theory. This thesis begins that conversation by asking if blogging is an appropriate and beneficial practice for museums. Three interdisciplinary areas of theory – education, communication, and public relations – are examined to determine the appropriateness of blogging practice for museums. A general survey of museum bloggers and case study analyses of four museum blogs ascertains if blogging can be a beneficial practice for museums. In so doing, this thesis offers museums a document they can consider in their discussions of internet strategy while also laying groundwork for future in-depth analysis of museum blogging. Taking a museological approach, this thesis finds blogging to be appropriate and beneficial for museums.


Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Mmmm metablogging

So if I blog erin82's metablogging, am I a metametablogger?

erin82 of Henry Art Gallery's HankBlog talks about voice, audience, and the messiness of blogging. Maybe the messiness comment is my own.

Maybe it's the archaeologist in me (I have a degree in that too) but I love how hands on and dirty (not in that way) blogging can be. The unrefined nature of what I conceive of blogs to be. Interesting situations can arise from this, as erin82 points out, but when blogs are run with a heavy hand (cougheye levelcough), I find they begin to lose their appeal.


Monday, June 04, 2007

I has thesis!

I defended my thesis on Friday....


And I passed. I can, indeed, has thesis. (Click here if you do not get it. Well, that might not help, but maybe you'll get the idea.)

I wasn't given any revisions, just a few grammatical errors were pointed out. It was excellent. What was really gratifying to see is that it sparked discussion. The Q&A went on for nearly as long as my talk. I got really interesting questions on the topics of branding/institutional voice, calling blogs by other names (virtual exhibits?), and policy issues. There seemed to be a lot of concern about control.

In my opinion, things are much more interesting when you relinquish control. Some of the comment threads on Buzz Blog are very cool - especially when you can feel that school groups are really getting into it from the kiosks. And I don't know what sort of institutional control is exerted over the Exploratorium Explainers, but they voices in the posts are so genuine and spontaneous - they sounds like people just writing a blog. WHICH IS WHAT A BLOG SHOULD BE. Often I feel some blogs are written far too much in the style of an article; it's what keeps me from fully embracing the Burke Museum Blog (sorry Rebecca).

But maybe different things appeal to different people.

The point of this post was to let you know that I don't have my document for you now, but I should have it soon. I know you're waiting on pins and needles. Maybe tomorrow. :)


Thursday, May 31, 2007

One more thing

Video of 500 years of the female face in art.

From the Juxtapoz website via Boing Boing.

This is amazing - Web 2.0 and art. I could watch this video a few times and learn more about portraiture in a couple of minutes than I did in my entire Art History class in college.


T-minus 28 hours

Little more than a day now until I defend my thesis. If you are interested in museums and blogs and will be in the Seattle area, feel free to pop in. Details are in a post a couple down.


Richard Urban of Musematic has created a Google Group for museum researchers, the museum research group. I'll be very interested to see what kind of research is going on in the great wide world of museums.


Sunday, May 27, 2007

We are the future

We are the future. And we want your collections to be accessible online. And we want them indexed on search engines so we can find them.

I'm sitting here in the Wallingford Chocolati (chocolate, espresso, and wireless. What more could I want?) with Larissa, the Museology program digitization queen. We're here with the purpose of creating our defense presentations, but we haven't quite gotten to that point.

We've been sidelined talking about the places where our theses interact. Larissa's all about digitization of collections and public access to those online. And I'm all about, well, blogging. Duh.

Why are there no blogs that take you behind the scenes in collections? Why? Or are there and I've missed them? Every once in a while I'll see them take a peek, but rarely. Most museum visitors are not aware that there is vast collections storage beneath their feet, much less of the COMPLETELY AWESOME stuff that goes on in collections and is held in the collections (is my bias showing? Oops.). I think that Glenbow's Dear Miss Griffis does a pretty cool job of using their archives as their blog, but this is not what I'm talking about.

Can we juxtapose the Botany Photo of the Day blog with the Powerhouse Museum's Collection Database with your average blog? Yeah yeah yeah, I know there are copyright restrictions - I'm thinking of historical collections primarily, not art. If I weren't a museum person, that is what I would want to see. Cool old stuff. Not just the 3" by 4" placard of information from an exhibit, but the story. Stories. Museum 2.0 just had a thought provoking post on the power of stories.

What are the really successful blogs? Boingboing? Yeah. It's the places where you find all the cool little stories that not too many others know.

Am I being totally coherent? No. But I am excited by the possibilities! It's not only the possibility of making collections accessible to the public, it's making collections accessible online for researchers, for everyone. It's using Flickr to encourage accessibility and invite participation.

This is what I want the future of collections to be. Collections so often gets the short end of the stick, but the potential. The potential is huge. So much potential countered by so much institutional Fear. But look out museum world. We're coming and we see the potential and we have the Trust.


Friday, May 25, 2007

It's Official! I has a defense!

You are cordially invited to attend Lynn Bethke's thesis presentation
entitled, "Constructing Connections: A Museological Approach to
Blogging." Lynn's presentation will be held on June 1st at 2:30pm in
the Burke Room.

Constructing Connections:
A Museological Approach to Blogging
Presentation by Lynn Bethke
June 1, 2007
Burke Museum, Burke Room, 2:30 pm.

Museums have long had an online presence. Recently, museums have begun experimenting with forms of online communication beyond the traditional website. One approach which many museums are exploring is blogging. Blogs are websites which are frequently updated, have posts in reverse chronological order, and have links to other website. Interlinked blogs form an online community called the blogosphere, and museums are joining in. At this writing, more than 50 museums maintain blogs, and that number is rising. What little literature exists on museums and blogs focuses primarily on how museums can start blogs and drive traffic to them. Museological literature lacks discussion attempting to ground blogging in applicable theory. This thesis begins that conversation by asking if blogging is an appropriate and beneficial practice for museums. Three interdisciplinary areas of theory – education, communication, and public relations – are examined to determine the appropriateness of blogging practice for museums. A general survey of museum bloggers and case study analyses of four museum blogs ascertains if blogging can be a beneficial practice for museums. In so doing, this thesis offers museums a document they can consider in their discussions of internet strategy while also laying groundwork for future in-depth analysis of museum blogging. Taking a museological approach, this thesis finds blogging to be appropriate and beneficial for museums.


Thursday, May 24, 2007

Changing of the Hosts

I removed my Rethinking Museums material from I wasn't particularly happy with the esnips set up I had. I've moved the paper and presentation to my google pages, which gives me the illusion of control over my material. Click here to visit them.


Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Quick! Look over there!

Whoops! Still no museum blog content. Here's a pretty picture instead.

2007 May 18, Diablo 020

Yes. That's a real place. And it is far far far more amazing than my years old camera translates. It's an overlook of Diablo Lake along SR20 in Washington state. OMG. Amazing.

Upcoming entries will include:

- Official defense announcement (now with 100% more abstract!)

- .pdf of my whole shebang thesis (pending defense and passing thereof)

- trying to figure out what to do with this blog when this thesis process is over (or am I putting the cart before the horse? I've been having trouble with that. That and counting chickens.).

Someday there will be content.


Saturday, May 19, 2007

Copyright and Fair Use

Perhaps the most entertaining discussion of copyright I've seen:

A Fair-y Use Tale

Using clips from disney movies, often only one word, Eric Faden constructs an explanation of copyright and fair use. This got BoingBoing-ed this morning and I'm having trouble getting the page to load (either takes forever or just doesn't at all), but hopefully this problem will ebb as the weekend progresses.

Edit: Found a copy of the film on YouTube:




I emailed my "final draft" to my committee on Wednesday night.

When I hit upon my thesis idea, cleverly conceived as "doing something with museums and blogs," I didn't know that many museums had blogs. I knew the Burke was trying a blog to go with hosting the Wildlife Photographer of the Year. (I would have linked to the blog, but it's gone now. Tsk tsk.) But I found it abysmal - a picture with teacher questions eliciting student responses, if any. I thought, "this isn't how museums should blog! Museums should be more hip to the jive in terms of blogging. None of this worksheet material, give me content!"

A quick google search turned up Ideum's Survey of Museum Blogs and Community Sites. And I was pleased to see that museums were blogging.

When I started this thesis, the museum blogosphere was manageable; I was able to subscribe to read feeds from all the museum blogs without becoming overwhelmed. But now. Now it is overwhelming. is tracking 164 museum and museum related blogs, and I'm not even sure they're picking up all the museum blogs that are out there. The blog for the Museum of the American Cocktail? The Ralph Stanley Museum blog? Of course, I don't know what definition of museum MuseumBlogs is operating under, so it's possible these fall outside the range of the definition. But they're here and they're posting.

A quick count of gives me 71 institutional musuem blogs (although I'm just going by the "institution" listing sounding like a museum name. That is a lot. And I'm thinking this number is low. I'm thinking that there are a lot of upstart blogs - a lot of baby blogs after MW2007, and probably a second round after AAM. Not to mention the exhibition blogs and blogs from smaller museums which may or may not fit definitions of museums.

The kind of paper I tried to write, a ground floor kind of paper, is not what is needed anymore. Research at a greater depth, real content analysis, something comparing and contrasting museum, zoo, and library blogs. The possibilities/ramification of museums and cultural institutions on Facebook and MySpace (I would love to read this paper, by the way. Somebody should write it.). The next level of research needs to happen.

I'll be pdf-ing my thesis after it's in its final final form (sometime after the first of June), and posting the file. What does my thesis actually do? It offers up some theories that are of use to museums and which apply to blogging (establishes blogging as a museologically appropriate practice) and offers four case studies of museum blogs as they existed from January through March of 2007. The case studies show that blogging can be a beneficial practice for museums (well, I think they do). Ground level stuff, but I hadn't found it wrapped up in a nice package like that yet.

If I were starting a thesis of museum blogging at this point, I'm not sure where I would start. Perhaps not as general as I did. I think, at this point, we can start getting into the specifics of the things.


Saturday, May 12, 2007


If you're looking for some kind of intelligent discussion about museums and blogs, you can go ahead and skip this entry. This entry is reserved for the personal ramblings of the author and not for intelligent contributions to the museum community.


I'm working against the clock. I set a goal to have my "final" draft to committee by May 15h. And now that 2/3 of my committee have given me comments on my draft, I'm having a bit of a crisis of faith.

There are a lot of things which need to be done to make this thesis business respectable. One of my main problems is making assertions but not supporting them adequately. For some of them I should be able to cite, but many of the assertions are based on my observations of museum representatives at conferences, through their survey responses, or through their blogs. I struggled with my authority as a quasi-expert on the subject in the winter and came to the conclusion that I could say some things based on my personal knowledge, but now I'm having trouble with that again.

Part of me is wondering why in the world I choose a topic so far from my comfort zone (english, anthropology, literature, collections management) and tried to write a major paper on a subject I was only interested in, as opposed to experienced in. Part of me is using this blog to procrastinate actually revising my paper. Ha!

Okay, back to the salt mines.


Sunday, May 06, 2007

The I-Generation

One of my LJ friends posted a link to this nerdcore video:

And it fits in with what I've been thinking about lately. Trust vs. fear. Younger vs. older.

When I presented at Rethinking Museums last Thursday, there were some interesting questions, some stemming from my use of the Creation Museum Blog as an example. Museums are afraid of the appropriation of their words and images from blogs by other organizations with goals counter to those of the museums. I have trouble understanding this fear. That is, I understand the fear, but I have trouble understanding how it can be contextualized anew. Museums had this fear when they first started going online, but they decided the benefits outweighed the costs. And, even with the fear, words and images can be appropriated from printed material. I don't fully understand why this is fear is being transferred to social web application. And it frustrates me.

I've called it The Fear. Museums have The Fear. But maybe it's me and my generation; we have The Trust. We grew up with or got involved at a relatively young age with the internet and then with social applications. We Trust others online. We share information, personal opinions, stories, photos, and more with people online who are "strangers." Some my best friends today, I met online first.

Maybe I can really only speak for myself in this capacity, but I Trust. I Trust that people are basically good and basically well intentioned. I know that my words could be appropriated for use beyond my control. But it's beyond my control, and there might be someone out there who finds what I have to say interesting and useful. It's worth the cost.

I've heard people older than myself say that they were scared at how trusting younger people are. So I wonder if this Trust v. Fear thing comes down to Younger v. Older (gross generalizations, of course). As the younger people of today gain footholds in museums, I wonder what will come out of it. More of the cool open tagging initiatives like the Powerhouse Museum has? More blogs? Avenues for freely uploading visitor produced podcasts? Something else? And what about people who've been doing social networking since they were 12 and didn't start easing into it at 18? What is their worldview? What kind of initiatives comes to someone who literally grew up participating online?

The future is wide open. I trust it.


Thursday, May 03, 2007

Rethinking Museums Presentation

I'm offering up my PowerPoint for Rethinking Museums in a .pdf format. Here it is! Okay, so it's the eSnips folder, but you're looking for the one cleverly labeled "Rethinking Museums Presentations." Very sneaky.

A note: I acknowledge that my sources are not cited within the powerpoint. That's because you should read the dang paper. Some info lifted directly from the .pdf of the Radical Trust presentation and from How Can We Measure the Influence of the Blogosphere? by Kathy Gill. Other than that, it's mostly hodge podged.

I'll be interested to see what kind of response there is at the Tech panel. Erin is presenting on podcasts, especially those of the Henry Art Gallery (scroll to the bottom of the page), Rebecca Durkin is talking about the Burke Blog, and David Giblin is talking about the digitization efforts at the Herbarium. I'll be interested to see where the ensuing discussion leads.

Hope I saw you there!


Monday, April 30, 2007

One two three... Here ya go

Okay. I looked high and low over the internet for a file storage site that seemed okey dokey. eSnips is where I ended up at. If you know of better, free, shareable online file hosting, please let me know. I'd really prefer something with unique URLs for each file, instead of folders.

Without further ado, I offer you my Rethinking Museums Paper. It's a version of the first half of my thesis, which talks somewhat about theories and museum practice and blogging. I know it's not a revolution, but, hey, it took a long time. :D

(That link takes you to a folder from which you can download the .pdf of the paper. I hope.)

ETA (05/01) NEW AND IMPROVED! .pdf actually made with Adobe! Relatively non-permissive Creative Commons license added to scare the plagarizers.


Sunday, April 29, 2007

Hip Hip Hooray

Hip hip hooray, she says. I've decided that my first official draft of my thesis is done. I'll send it off in an email to my committee early tomorrow morning. That way it's at the top of the weekend email pile. Until their revisions come back, it's time to relax. I spent half of last week far too wound up.

But of course there's the little matter of a conference presentation on Thursday. I had probably ought to get to work on my PowerPoint for that. But not today. And probably not tomorrow. I'm thinking Tuesday. Don't look at me like that. The conference paper is written. This is just a powerpoint.

Business: I hereby declare the survey officially closed. Thanks for your help. I appreciate it.


Friday, April 27, 2007

Last Call

Last call for my survey!

No matter if you're a hip cat or a squarester, if you blog for a museum and are free this Friday evening, I want to hear from you! For more information, click here.

Heck, even if you don't blog for a museum, you're welcome to take it, although I don't know what incentive you have to do so. And it won't make much sense. And I probably will just look at your responses to the more general questions (like, what do you see as the future of museums and blogs?)

And for those of you who have taken the survey, thank you so much. So far I have 11 responses from 10 institutions. A lucky four of those are profiled in my thesis. Aren't you just dying to know who they are? All in good time, my pretties, all in good time.

(I am no good being professional. Maybe I ought to tone down the quirky on this blog. Lay off the hamster macros for a while...)


Hamster Macros

I dig Google Analytics. I just get tickled pink by seeing how many hits I had each day and what Google searches bring up my site. Mostly it's "im in ur" searches, but it's often "rethinking museums" (which is happening next week by the way - the conference), and sometimes searches looking specifically for the blog, or for my name.

The thing about the searches is cool, because you can see what your audience wants. Apparently, they want hamster macros (another search hit of late). But, if I were an institution, I would be more critical about these tidbits of information. If you're a museum blog and you're not tracking search hits, you should be. Most of you are. But it's fun too! Mellow and profitable! (2 points to id that reference, comfypants excluded)

Search terms can also let you know what potential communities might be interested in making contacts. I could do a joint museum blog blog and hamster macro blog. It would be confusing and have a targeted audience of 2? 3? I think Perian is with me, but I don't know who else would be. I'm writing flakey, but you get the idea.

I think I need to go join the zombie horde and get on with my thesis revisions. BRAINS! BRAINS!


Wednesday, April 25, 2007


There's a really provocative post up at Museum 2.0 about museum studies graduate programs. You should go check it out, though for the life of me I don't know why you're read this and not read Museum 2.0.

I would try and articulate something right now, but, you know what? I do feel a bit like a zombie. And I could use some brains right about now. Make sure you read all the comments too.


Tuesday, April 24, 2007

More personal rambling

Maybe later I'll be able to talk intelligently about museum blogging. Maybe in about a month and a half.

Let me tell you a secret, internet. I'm afraid that my thesis isn't good enough. And I feel that I have legitimate reason to feel that way. #1 I'm not doing anything revolutionary. I'm, more or less, stating the obvious. Even though I haven't found it stated the long way yet. #2 It's only at 64 pages long. I thought these things were supposed to be longer. Because, duh, length = value. (please to be noting sarcasm).

Okay. Pity party over. The first thing is the only one that's bothering me. The thesis is supposed to make a "museological contribution" and, from the viewpoint of the program, I'm doing that. But I think my efforts at academia are pretty laughable. Wait! I thought I declared the pity party over! Go home, pity party goers!

Clean Cup!


My draft is weighing in at 64 pages, pre-revising. And, actually, revising may bring it down if I choose to condense some of the longer epistemology and communication sections.

I am struggling with "scholarly sources." Maybe because I don't know the language for how blogging is discussed in sociology or communications. I've got loads of articles from a PR journal, but, honestly, I'm citing a lot of text book. Because the theories I'm offering up are so basic. Plus Museology is primarily a discipline of text books; the scholarly, academic journals are fewer and far between. So, I don't know. Maybe it'll slide once I get things better cited. I do want to fall to my knees and thank Jennifer and David for making all the Museums and the Webs papers available online, because I have found that to be pretty much the only source of writing on museums and technologies outside of blogs and books from 1998. And blogging is less of a scholarly source than conference proceedings, despite the astuteness of many bloggers out there.


I wrote a couple paragraphs on radical trust today. I stuck them in the PR section. I want to bring in more strongly the themes I carried away from MW2007 of the potential of building community if you can tap into it, and having a reason to do it. The reason it gets hard is because it is Extremely easy for me to fall into "you should do this" mode. Revising is going to be an interesting process, I can see....


One last thing, I promise. I think I'm going to post my Rethinking Museums paper here, you know, once I get that finished. It'll be a first toss of my baby to the sharks.


Sunday, April 22, 2007

Happy dance!

Although I have a ton more work to do

Although I have a ton more writing to do

Although I have A LOT to do yet

I've finished a draft.


(go go hamster macros! I love

I just wrapped up a draft of my second half. A draft of a first half plus a draft of a second half equals complete draft!

Of course, in a lot of ways, it still looks like something the cat dragged in. I'm going to go over it a bit more later tonight, do a little rough editting, send it off to committee. Then Monday starts the work of revising the document into something that looks like a Master's thesis. Even a little bit like it will do.



Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Oh my.

I just reserved a room for my thesis defense. I will be defending in the Burke Room at the Burke Museum on Friday June 1st, 2:30ish (time confirmation to come later). You are all cordially invited. Or tell your Seattle area friends; the more the merrier.

This is serious, people. I'd best write this thing.


I will be presenting a version of the first half of my paper at Rethinking Museums as part of the Museums and Technology Panel on Thursday morning, May 3rd. Tell your Seattle area friends, or come yourself. I mean, hey, it's a free conference. Gotta love it.


Tuesday, April 17, 2007

No title today, sorry

# notes:

Looks like there's a new blog at the Smithsonian: Office of Exhibits Central. There was an announcement on the Livejournal museum communities. Looks like they've been posting for a while though. I suspect an Eye Level style model for posting and start up. It's the Smithsonian, after all.


Connecting with Communities. That's what this is all about. And let's have a little case study of what happens when you do connect with a community.

MBT - visits and pageviews

That's from my Google Analytics. In the past week I had a chance to connect with the museum and the web community. I handed out a few business cards (MOO cards rock!), put a few cards up on the jobs wanted board, and got mentioned in a couple presentations. And look what happened. An explosion. Normally I'm lucky to get about 8 direct hits to the blog. But almost 90? Wow.

I'm realistic. I may have grabbed a couple new readers, but most are probably poking their heads in. If my goal was to stay well connected with this community, I would get my URL out there more, go to more conferences, leave more comments on other blogs (as it is, I leave almost none *shameface*). But I'm pretty well wrapped up in my own little world right now. Maybe later, when I need to figure out where to go with this blog, maybe then I'll get active and try and get internet-famous.


I think I've got a thesis title. Whaddya think of this?: "Constructing Connections: A Museological Approach to Blogging." It's a little more refined than "I'm in Ur Museum Website, Readin' and Analyzin' Ur Blogz" (bless its geeky little heart). The bit after the colon may be refined, but I think Constructing Connections gets at a few key concepts of blogs, so it's very plausible.


Sunday, April 15, 2007

Revelation and Reflection

I mentioned an Aha moment on Day 3. I know you're dying from the suspense.

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I've been missing something basic, something I should have been completely aware of from the get-go: my audience.

I don't remember exactly what was said, but I suddenly discovered this. I need to be writing my thesis for museum staff who need something coherent to bring to their administration to demonstrate that blogging is in line with mission and has benefits (and this could be extended in argument to all social technology really). This gives my thesis a purpose. It gives it a reason more than me telling my committee things I already know. It's fantastic!

The things I took away from this conference are:

- not all museums are ready to blog or should blog (for *blog* read *embrace social media*)
- museums need to be ready (and willing!!!) to connect with their audiences if they do blog
- speaking of audiences, museums may have to face the fact that a blog will not draw in a crowd, but might make the few already paying attention more highly invested, or cause a new small crowd to gain interest. These are valid reasons for a new project.

- very few museums have embraced radical trust. They're edging that way, but the fear is strong with them. And fear leads to the dark side. (Who has the fear? The Smithsonian, for one, which leads to many people saying it doesn't really feel like a blog.)
- to blog most effectively, radical trust is essential. The Smithsonian is the Smithsonian and people are going to read them because they are the Smithsonian. Reverse order time stamped entries do not a community make.

- microaudiences are key to utilizing the social web. Geocaching has loads of committed cachers. If museums started pulling in the GPS/Geocaching community, it would be amazing. I'm sure there are other communities offering possibilities to museums which can be connected with.

- the language of use has to change. Museums are talking about getting their visitors to do this or that. "Our visitors will rate the images" or some such. Museums need simply to create and facilitate the opportunity for engagement. Not everyone wants to have a museum as part of their social life. Sometimes they just want to be casual acquaintances. Or window shoppers. Sometimes I felt like museums are waiting to pounce on/exploit their visitors. It was an uncomfortable feeling.

- museum blogs are no longer going to be special and unique snowflakes. There is a snowstorm brewing. In the end, some of those snowflakes are going to melt away. Others are going to become parts of glaciers and be with us a long time. (okay, maybe glacier is a bad metaphor to use here, especially for the agility blogging offers, but this is what I got folks)

- And it's not about the technology, it's about what the technology allows us to do. This should have always been obvious, but sometimes it feels like some are getting caught up in a stampede toward social media when it may not be appropriate or useful for that particular institution.

Two final things, real quick I promise:
1. I don't believe in Second Life. What institutions like the Exploratorium are doing is way cool, but I don't feel as if Second Life has the same potential as other social media. I feel that, in a lot of ways, SL is too prohibitive in costs and technology for a lot of audiences. I'm usually pretty hip to the jive, but SL is hard.

2. Optional tagging for collections ala the Powerhouse Museum is AWESOME! It really does give a purpose to digitization, lets museums know what visitors are interested in, and, importantly, democratizes collections and curator speak. OMG awesome.


Saturday, April 14, 2007

MW2007: Days 3

Day 3 was not so eventful as Day 2, primarily because I didn't arrive at the conference until about 2:15 when I grabbed a mocha and settled in a couch to knit with Larissa.

Around 3:30 we headed to the cookie break, grabbed a cookie, and got roped into handing out evaluations. We are loyal volunteers.

The closing plenary was nice. Something Seb said provoked an "A-HA" moment which will be blogged about in the coming days. One commenter mentioned that there are a lot of Hows being discussed and many fewer Whys; I felt validated.

The closing reception was held at The De Young Museum, which was very lovely. I was completely taken in by the Vivienne Westwood exhibit. Having become much more knowledgeable about textile design through both Project Runway and my own knitting, I found it fascinating. Although I was disappointed when a dress that was quite clearly crochet was labeled as a hand knit. Research, people, research.

The De Young's new building has a tower with some simply phenomenal views of the San Francisco. I took, approximately, a bajillion photos. But have yet to upload them, so it is simply a taunt at this point.

All in all, I quite enjoyed this conference. I hope I have the opportunity to attend next year, although so much is up in the air when it comes to my immediate future that I can't commit to anything. I really enjoyed the opportunity to meet all the people I met (okay, except the one guy who made me cry, I could have done without that) and to really feel like part of a movement. Power to the people.


MW2007: Days 2

Since the wireless in my hostel is sketchy, day 2 is late.

Again, there's no need to really go over the sessions, since they're all around this part of the internet. I went to the Birds of a Feather breakfast where I had a nice talk with some folks from University Museums. After that I ran to the IMLS session.

Following the IMLS dooley was Radical Trust: The State of the Museum Blogosphere. It was very cool. The gathering in the room was massive. I'm not sure what to say about it, but it was very cool that they took the time to update their numbers from their published ones. Their powerpoint is available online. I was tickled to pieces to see a screencap of this site, with it's terrible long title, in one of the slides. I was as giddy as a schoolgirl. I suppose I am yet a school girl, so it wasn't entirely inappropriate.

Afterwards I went along to the Bloggers meet up where I got to hang out with some of the heppest cats in the museum blogosphere. I sat next to Erin82 of the Hankblog (who I go to school with but is still a hep cat), Leslie, Geoff, and Nate, as well as Pilar, Trisha, and Witt, who may or may not have blogs that I haven't linked to. Sorry folks, it's late.

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The lunch was fun, and it was really great to put faces to blogs. I can't imagine what a meet-up like this might look like next year.

After that I went to a coupla sessions and the best of the web awards. I don't have anything to say about those, so I won't.

The reception for Day 2 was held at the Exploratorium! SCIENCE! I suppose these things are for networking, but I grabbed some food and my pal Larissa and I headed out to play with SCIENCE!

I don't know what these are, but they were purdy!
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Personally, I found the theremin most exciting.
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Although I had to take a picture of this and tell it that "I am not a number" (3 points for knowing this reference).
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And there was more, but that's enough for here.


Thursday, April 12, 2007

Day 1: MW2007

So this is not liveblogging. This is... something much different. It's deadblogging? I don't know, but I sure am beat. I didn't realize conferences were so tiring! My last one certainly wasn't. I guess this won't so much be blogging about the conference as my perceptions of it. All the papers are online anyway.

Bread Animals

Brewster Kahle of the Internet Archive totally rocked my socks at this morning's opening plenary. The potential for hosted material is astounding! I'm sure you can find a better summary elsewhere, at Museum Blogging, perhaps. It was awesome though. Go superlatives!

The Web 2.0 session was really engaging. Jeff of Eye Level gave an enlightening talk about how Eye Level operates. Shelley and Nicole from the Brooklyn Museum rocked my socks with the awesomeness that operates out of that place. And then I started to get tired. And stayed tired through Community Created Content and Tagging and Terms.

I am tickled to death that this corner of the internet has managed to get me recognized by total strangers. Today, Bryan Kennedy of Science Buzz did a double take and said "you're ..... " and I confirmed I was indeed in his museum, reading and analyzing his blogs. And at the Graduate Student Forum, this guy sat across the table and said "How's your blogging research going?" I cocked my head and squinted at him "Do I know you?" Turns out to be Richard Urban from Musematic. All is madness.

The graduate student forum turned out to be quite intimate. It was nice, but very small. There is the usual amount of feeling inferior to grandiose research. I'm still in this mode of, um, I'm just doing this cause I think it ought to be said and I can't find where it's been said before.

I'm very excited about the Radical Trust session tomorrow: I think it's going to be massive. And awesome. Massively awesome.

Predictions and Observations
Okay. So you know what? I don't think museums have got this whole concept of radical trust. I think museums are terrified to let users contribute content (including comments), with a few exceptions, who tend to be quite successful. Eye Level's comment screening is almost draconian. Not that they're censoring criticism, but it is a VERY Heavily Controlled blog. But Eye Level manages to seem to work. SAAM seems to have achieved its goals, anyway. Nonetheless, it has the fear, I think.

Despite this fear (or at least lack of trust), I see a barrage of new museum blogs coming out in the next 6 months. And I see most of them failing. Because of this fear. I think many of them are going to have a case of institutional petrification and will not be agile enough to move and adapt with the internet. These are blogs that will be blogs for blogging's sake, or will be trying to translate (relatively successful) offline programming into an online format which will dramatically reduce it's efficacy. I'm wondering if there won't be a backlash from the older, less trusting, less participatory web savvy attendees next year or the one after, complaining about how blogging failed for them. Because I was, frankly, a little startled by some of the points of conversation brought by attendees in the blogging workshop.

That's all for now. I need to sleep sometime.


Wednesday, April 11, 2007

MW2007: Day -1, a report from the front lines of volunteers

Today started awesomely as I had the chance to sit in on Beyond Blogging: Is It Community Yet?, a workshop run by the lovely and talented gentlemen who keep the Walker blogs awesome, Nate, Justin, and Brent. It was so nice to see people who know blogs and know what they're talking about get up and talk about the things I'm always talking about. The guys were awesome and their wiki notes are available online. It's posted to their New Media Initiatives Blog, so I guess it's not a sooper dooper sekrit. Check it out, lots of good info there.

And I had one of those meta moments, sitting in the workshop, seeing my name in the presentation, although I would again pass credit to Julian Dibbell. It was pretty nifty.

I also had the opportunity to speak with Gail Durbin from the Victoria and Albert Museum over the coffee break. We spoke about both blogs and knitting, two of my favorite subjects. The V&A has a knitting page where users can contribute content. Check it out!

Spherey surfs the internet
The workshop said adding images makes more interesting posts. I love images in posts, but rarely include them. I shall endeavor to add more and more random images.

My day got less exciting from there, as I did a three hour shift on the registrations desk, followed by a further two hours collecting tickets at the door of the SF MOMA conference reception. I had one very unpleasant experience with a gentleman at the door, but I was helped by the wandering through the Picasso exhibit that followed, as well as the random encounters with favorite artists Guston, Klee, and new discovery Clyfford still (although the one image online is not representative of the kinds that I found fascinating). It had been a long time since I'd been in a major art museum. I adore wandering from piece to piece, allowing myself to be pulled in by whatever attracts by attention.

For tomorrow: Grad Student Research Forum ( *looks around sneaky-like* now with secret reception afterwards. I didn't tell you.).


Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Woot Woot!

I'm in San Francisco!

Sea Lions

If you're joining me for MW2007, and you're thinking about doing some touristing at Fisherman's Wharf, might I suggest a visit to Musee Mecanique? It's free, and so amazing. A collection of old time and contemporary arcade machines and early mechanized scenes, which are ALL IN WORKING ORDER and you can USE. It's one of those really interesting things: Preservation or Use? Only through Use do we get the full effect of the object, but with Preservation we can understand them longer. I have to say, using them was so cool! I didn't read any of the signage, but I came out with a better understanding and appreciation of early mechanized entertainments.

Like this one. Put in a quarter and there's a scene with dwarves heading to the mines and a mushroom house, all very neatly mechanized.

Or this one. Put in your quarter and it lights up to reveal a spinning fun house mirror.
See the Horrible Monster

The element of wonder at this exhibit was high. There was so much to see and it's the sort of thing you find one of here or there, usually not in working order. If you have the chance, go.