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.