*Note: This article was published in 2010. Since then, museums have carried out many more creative engagement initiatives and online engagement has significantly increased. I keep this article live as a reminder of museums’ evolution in regard to digital engagement.
Technology is a powerful tool for cultivating community, and the merging of social and tech in museums is occurring more and more frequently. Here are my 41 favorite examples of museums building social capital through social media and technological endeavours.
Let’s start with some museums that are making the most of social media and online community engagement’s most powerful and basic building blocks:
1. Twitter. Are you following The Women’s Museum on Twitter yet (@TheWomensMuseum)? This is just one museum. There are over 871 museums on twitter.
2. Facebook. The California Science Center gets visitors involved by featuring a Fan Photo Of the Week on their Facebook page. Simple, yet effective.
3. YouTube. The Renaissance Society has its own YouTube Channel that allows folks to access gallery talks and events after they’ve happened. In fact, a lot of museums have YouTube channels.
4. Flickr. Which museums are using Flickr as a valuable photo sharing resource and a way to communicate with visitors? Here’s a taste.
5. Website. Have you noticed how many of the nation’s most visited museums feature social media information above the fold on their homepage?
6. Social Media Pages. The Art Institute of Chicago has a whole page devoted to social media and interactivity. So do many other museums, like the Smithsonian (well, they have many pages….)
7. Blogging. A crew of professional sailors teamed up with Pacific Science Center educators to sail Around the Americas. Good thing they’re so social; they used a blog to take us along for the ride.
8. Mobile Applications. The Walker Art Center in Minneapolis hosts Art on Call, which allows you to listen to tours on your cell phone. A lot of other museums offer this feature. MoMA was ahead of the curve when they created a mobile app for audio tours in 2008. They’ve recently revamped the app.
9. Foursquare. Become the Foursquare Mayor of the Vancouver Police Museum, and you and a guest receive free admission AND a 25% discount in the gift shop.
10. Virtual Conferences. The American Association for State and Local History made their annual conference accessible to folks who could not get to Oklahoma City this September by putting some of their best (in my humble opinion) conferences online in an interactive format.
Museums are taking interaction even further and building upon Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, mobile applications and web-based platforms. Check out these initiatives, competitions, and downright cool ideas (in no particular order):
11. Looking for a short-cut to becoming a museum-displayed photographer? The Denver Art Museum gives community members prime gallery realty by featuring a Flickr Cascade Installation that displays photos of the museum taken by Flickr users. Even cooler? They give proper attribution to each photographer.
12. Mixing social and tech isn’t just for older folks. The Walters Art Museum gets families talking by highlighting an interactive game featuring their lovable mascot: Waltee’s Quest: The Case of the Lost Art.
13. Please just visit the Adobe Museum of Digital Media. No need to take off your PJs or put your shoes on.
14. This list would be silly if it didn’t include the Museum of Science and Industry’s Month at the Museum. Out of 1,500 applicants, Kate has been chosen by project judges and the public to spend a full month living in the museum.
15. Now this is super sneaky. Three cheers to the International Spy Museum for creating themed geocaching adventures with a fun twist.
16. The Contemporary Jewish Museum melds art, technology, and Judaism through their new LINK initiative which bringing in monthly speakers to explore the intersection of Judaism and new technologies. I love this post about Jaron Lanier’s talk.
17. I could go on forever about how the rock stars at the Brooklyn Museum engage audiences through social media. But I’ll just give you this example. Oh! And 1stFans must be included. Okay. Done.
18. Combining Twitter and Flickr to engage visitors in science education? It’s no problem for the Museum of Life and Science in North Carolina. They created NameThatZoom- an interactive game moderated by the museum in which folks are shown flickr photos and challenged to identify those photo via twitter using the #namethatzoom hashtag.
19. Remember playing capture the flag as a kid? Try playing it as an alternate reality game at… (are you ready?)… The Smithsonian American Art Museum.
20. Meet SCREENtxt, a real-time live text messaging and photo streaming location-based social network created by The Mattress Factory and updated/created by museum visitors. Get confused there? Their blog helps explain. Oh, and I cannot forget The Mattress Factory’s iConfess!
21. Did you know that on September 1, 2010 over 340 museums took part in Ask a Curator Day on twitter and #askacurator became a trending topic?
22. If you’re a tech tinkerer, you can’t really beat tinkering at the Maker Faire in Detroit at The Henry Ford– the birthplace and showplace of one of the world’s most famous tinkerers.
23. Like to babble about art (or rather, babble about cool videos about art)? A lot of us do. And we do that on ArtBabble, thanks to these museums.
24. The planned hijack of LACMA’s twitter account by The Office star, Rainn Wilson, could easily have been called “Operation: Who’s stuffy? Not This Art Museum.”
25. When art museum directors at the Indianapolis Museum of Art and the New Orleans Museum of Art talk trash regarding the Superbowl, everybody wins.
26. The Skirball Cultural Center’s lovely Build a Better World Project encourages you to share how you are making the world a better place via Facebook, and hopes you’ll pass the message along using small decorated tokens as powerful community symbols.
27. The Smithsonian National Museum of American History tapped into talent by conducting a YouTube competition (O Say Can You Sing) featuring folks signing the National Anthem. The winner (out of over 800 entries) got to sing the anthem at the museum and at the Baltimore Orioles vs. Atlanta Braves game on Flag Day. Check out the winners contest entry below:
28. Want to see something cool? Try making The Getty’s Augsburg Display Cabinet and experience augmented reality at it’s best. As it is, this project may be high on the tech and low on the social aspect. But trust me, you’ll want to show a friend.
29. If it weren’t for twitter and YouTube, so many folks wouldn’t know about “Those About to Die, We Salute You,” the downright awesome staged battle featuring warriors represented by The Queens Museum of Art (the hosts), Brooklyn Museum, The Bronx Museum, and El Museo del Barrio.
30. This is the public wiki for the Smithsonian’s Web and New Media strategy process. Prepare to learn.
31. Folks at The Autry created Trading Post, a site to facilitate conversation between the museum and its visitors regarding current events.
32. One of the most powerful and important jobs of museums is storytelling. Please check out Culture Shock, a site full of digital stories by people in the North East of England.
33. The Australian Center for the Moving Image has created Generator, a “creative studio space for teachers and students to explore exemplary work by their peers and industry professionals. Comment, tag, and share creative work and education resources.”
34. The Auckland Museum’s Hybridiser is an interactive kiosk where visitors can create their own orchards and then share them with folks in their social networks.
35. The American Museum of Natural History’s new mobile application, Explorer, has many highlights. My favorite? It allows you to easily share finds in the museum with your own networks on Facebook or Twitter.
36. Open Museum is like “Facebook meets Blogger and Flickr for the visual arts.”
37. Could you inspire America in six words or less? The National Constitution Center asked folks to aid Barack Obama in their project, Address America.
38. We’ve covered that there are over 871 museums on twitter… but I don’t think I mentioned that museum artifacts are hitting the social media space, too– and making folks laugh in the process.
39. Follow treasure maps, decipher codes, uncover hidden objects- The Smithsonian American Art Museum’s multimedia scavenger hunt, Ghosts of a Chance, is downright cool.
40. The Guggenheim says YouTube videos may be art. In fact, they took the time to go through 23,000 video submissions to create a short list of videos to be featured in the museum.
41. The Virtual Museum of Canada allows visitors to create their own museum and point members of their online networks to the collection.