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 "del.icio.us" 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.