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. :)