Monday, April 20, 2009

Getting buy-in to the museum world from web 2.0 users

A nagging question at this year’s Museums and the Web 2009 has been what are the benefits of Web 2.0 in the museum context.

Two papers gave examples of projects where social media sites had generated major interest in their museum. Paula Bray, from our very own Powerhouse Museum, which continues to be a place watched for web innovation, talked to the Flickr Creative Commons project whereby the Tyrrell photographic collection of glass plate negatives showing images of Sydney in the late 19th century was placed on Flickr. Starting with 200 images, it has quickly grown to almost 1000. The response from day one has been vast, drawing a whole new audience to the Museum’s web site, and with it increased visitation to the Museum itself. As well, the photographic collection, which has never been on display, now has visibility, and information about it is being provided by the Flickr audience.

Meanwhile at the Ontario Science Centre in Toronto, a grand plan was hatched to organise a 2008 meeting of YouTube users. The idea came about through the Centre’s pilot project of creating and posting science communication videos. To encourage greater engagement with the Centre, a meeting was planned for 8th August 2008, or 888 as it became known. The Centre laid on a program of events and over 400 Youtubers turned up for the week end, and Youtubed away. Thus not only was a new audience brought in physically, but the existence of the Science Centre became known to a much bigger audience, with some 660,000 views of 888 event related clips in the following month. Even those who live for on-line communities like a bit of the physical interaction now and then.

Interestingly, only a tiny percentage of the clips were about the Centre and its collections, i.e. whilst the Youtubers may have loved the event, they showed little interest in the collections.

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