Saturday, May 19, 2007

Reflections

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. Museumblogs.org 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 museumblogs.org 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.

1 comment:

Rebecca said...

To be fair, the Burke photo show blogs no longer work because of UW server issues encountered across campus since a major upgrade this year. These inactive blogs were not prioritized for the big switch, but their time will come.

You heard me say much the same about the original blogs -- that they were hardly the peak of civic engagement. But they did proove to be useful for teachers (our original intent), and I wonder if that's an audience worth trying to serve with museum blogs. I think few museum blogs do, at this point. But I know many teachers in this region who would probably regularly use interactive, discussion-based web resources to try to advance their students' ability to articulate and examine the themes in the units they study. In the same way that universities use message board systems now for class discussions. Hmm. Makes me wonder if this is an audience worth considering again for museum bloggers.

If I were to take on research in this area, I'd go to the audiences. Who is reading museum blogs? Why are they reading them? What kind of content do they want to see and how will they use the content? For entertainment? For learning? For selecting activities? What other kinds of blogs do they read?

It's easy to write a blog that I would want to read, but by the fact that I work in museums, I'm already biased towards an interest in museum-talk. But what about the casual web user? Why should they care about a museum blog?

Good luck with your defense, Lynn.