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Museums in Social Media & the Web

By News Team Posted Under News

It was terrific to attend the inaugural Museums Australia (Vic) State Conference, meet people from across Victoria, put faces to names and hear about numerous exciting projects. Here are the links and references cited in my talk in the Social Media & Web session.





Facebook,  Twitter,  Flickr, Pinterest... the list goes on.




  • If you're not sure where to start - and if you're already well entrenched - take a look at the Let’s Get Real report by Culture24. It's full of information and tools to keep your organisation's primary objectives in mind when committing resources to social media.



  • Not convinced? The largest survey of the American public into the reach of social media in the US showed that "...web and mobile platforms (including social media) are disproportionately influencing your museum’s visitation and attendance". This write-up is both interesting and insightful.














Digital publishing options are becoming more agile and museum content now claims space in non-museum websites:




Search results for 'Moomba' in Pinterest
A search for 'Moomba' in Pinterest returned a result from the National Archives of Australia (on right).




So, if people are able to find your venue information, what else does your websiteoffer? Instead of spending time and money maintaining it, why not focus on getting your digital archive in order so you can more effectively piggy back on other people's publishing platforms? This is a little facetious, but not entirely. Here are some thought provokers:






  • Mia Ridge does a great job simplifying and analysing the various purposes of museum websites (including acknowledging the practicalities for under-resourced organisations) in her write-up from a 2011 Museum Computer Network conference session.




The galleries, libraries, archives and museums sector is the custodian of beautiful and engaging material. The Internet, as it gets more immersive, it is finally catching up with us!!! If you are rebuilding your website, think about being generous with what you offer.






  • Mitchell Whitelaw, in his Visualising Culture TEDx talk, explores how cultural heritage websites can continue our role of providing the "joy of discovery."  His work on data visualisations is also relevant to the section below about the uses and value of data. View slides from Mitchell's 2011 NDF presentation on generous interfaces here.






Visitation stats for Culture Victoria confirm emerging trends in mobile uptake in Australia. Of the ~16,000 visits for March 2012, 8% were from mobile devices (almost 4x that for March 2011). The majority of devices were Internet enabled and, as 75% of our visitors are from Australia, were Apple products, reflecting Australia's high uptake of the iGadget.

A recent study by Google confirmed Australians as early adopters of technology, with 40% of us - about 8.5 million people - now using smartphones. However, according to this SMH article 4 out of 5 Australian websites are not optimised for mobiles.

The world now buys more smartphones than computers (desktops, laptops and tablets) and India has more mobiles than toilets (though the article doesn't specify the platforms used).

When creating content it's not always feasible to cater for multiple platforms. So, do what  you can, in particular checking which devices your audience favours.




  • This article by Christina Warren provides good practical advice on where to start when optimising content across platforms.





  • For a wealth of information about mobile technologies for museums and cultural sites visit the MuseumMobile Wiki.




When it comes down to it, our digital material is... just data.




This slide was accompanied by a narrative on Postmodernism, Millennials' search habits and the Semantic Web... Yep, truth!




As our content centres around our collections, collection data has become paramount. If you have a solid digital catalogue, you have the power! And, the good news is: you can decide how much of it to publish - your entire catalogue doesn't have to be perfectly perfect.

Why not select a portion of the collection and publish it to an appropriate environment. Some projects that Culture Victoria has relationships with (and can assist you to get involved with) are:








  • Digital NZ (we all love home - who knows, when the Kiwis come here on holiday they just might visit your museum to see something familiar!)








If you need help wrestling an aspect of your data to the ground and have a strong community of interest, you might think about a crowdsourcing project:




  • This thoughtful article by Trevor Owen reviews various projects and explores crowdsourcing as a way to engage audiences.



  • This Best of 3 blog post gives a rundown of the Christchurch Art Gallery project and the V&A project




Who is this man? Why is he in the coffee? Where was it served? These are the sorts of questions we ask. Until recently, search engines have not. Instead of looking at each piece of data (face, cup, coffee, spoon, table) as an entity and identifying the relationship or context between them as we do, search engines have generally worked by analysing incoming links to a web page (ie not the content actually on it). But this is changing, and the Semantic Web is slowly emerging. This article by Lance Ulanoff provides a good overview of changes underway by major search engines.

An Application Programming Interface (API) can be applied to a data set (eg. your collection records) to define the way data can be used. This allows for interoperability with other data, and is a step along the way to the Semantic Web.

For example, the CV collection search page uses the OpenSearch API to return collection results from ACMI, Museum Victoria, and the Victorian Heritage Database. The search function also uses a Google Mini application to 'scrape' results from museum websites. These sorts of linked open data functions are becoming more common and more intelligent and will, ultimately, provide more effective information discovery and sharing. Some existing linked open data and Semantic Web projects:




  • Europeana is linking the data of heritage collections across Europe









  • The LODLAM website tracks linked open data activities around the world (including Victoria) with a focus on practical and actionable approaches.




I did a quick and dirty survey of the social media and web activity of the 70-80 people attending the session. These were the results:




  • Percentage of organisations with a Facebook page: 80%



  • Percentage of organisations with a Twitter account: 70%



  • Percentage of people Tweeting (personally or professionally): 12%



  • Percentage of organisations with a Flickr Stream: 15%



  • Percentage of people who have played with Pinterest: 6%



  • Percentage of organisations that DON'T have a website: 6%



  • Percentage of organisations with a website that DO track visitation from mobile devices: 7%



  • Percentage of organisations that DON'T have a digital catalogue: 8%



  • Percentage of organisations that have implemented an API: 0%





  • Percentage of Millennials in the room: 2% (+ 1 wannabee!). The study of millennials' information search behaviour referred to in the talk is here.



And on that last dot point... stay young at heart all and keep playing in the digital space. It's yours for the taking!

PS, for other good summaries of the conference visit Stephanie Rosestone's blog and the Cataloguing in Gippsland blog.

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