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!