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The hidden force of social media. Or how to use it as a tool for organisational change

The use of social media is usually associated with sharing contents and experiences with people from outside the museum. I would like to raise awareness of the high potential social media has as a tool for institu

tional development, able to foster real and profound change inside the museum.

Remind that social media has always to be part of a larger institutional strategy, which ultimately aims at accomplishing the museum’s mission. I’ would highlighten three key concepts.

Social media is a powerful tool for:

1. Knowledge management to reach internal cohesion.

Members of staff, regardless their tasks or position, need to have sound knowledge about their museum in order to align their specific activities with the broader interest of the institution. In reality, though, most museums are structured in departments with staff little prone to share information. Being transversal by nature, social media is an excellent tool to involve people in the creation of content and distribute the knowledge inside the museum. A museum fostering the use of social media among its staff gains a better connected, hence stronger, team.


2. Continuing education.

Staff development is rarely a well organised and implemented issue in museums.  With an environment evolving fast it is crucial that people receive regular training. Social media is an exceptional tool for continuing education, providing users with information about recent trends on specific issues, debates with colleagues around the world and with interesting material, just to name a few.


3. True internationalisation of the museum.

If a museum wishes to have a strong international outreach, one person doing the job will not be enough. True internationalisation is achieved once every member of staff is able to see his/her work not only in a local perspective, but also through the eyes of users from abroad. Social media is probably the best tool for international communication and interaction.


Do you have any first hand experiences in using social media for the institutional development of your museum?

Towards a sustainable museum education

According to a recent study (in Spanish), one out of three university students in Spain have never visited a museum. It is a surprising data. We actually assume that students should have had more and easier access to museums than any other group of the same age. So what has been going wrong there? Who are the guilty ones – museums, parents, the university, society as a whole?

Assumption 1: Nowadays higher education is more accessible than ever, so people from weak social backgrounds where museum visits are not common are studying at university.

Assumption 2: When these students were small children, so about 15 years ago, many museums still did not have educational departments. Maybe within ten years, most of the students will be able to say that yes, they have visited a museum at least once in their life.

But again, should this satisfy us? I’d say no, because what matters is not visiting a museum, what matters is learning something there, is taking out something, a piece of information, a positive emotion, something that will stay with the person throughout his or her life. In the best case, this memory makes the person come back to this same or any other institution. In the very best case, the person will transmit his or her knowledge and lived experience to friends, parents, own children, etc.

Family visiting the Museu Frederic Marès, Barcelona

A large number of museums do offer educational activities for school children and many museums save visitor statistics thanks to these school activities. That’s all fine, but we should rethink museum education and creating very best cases: we should actively foster a sustainable museum education, one that will live on beyond the individual who receives it.

It’s a difficult task, that’s for sure, but maybe we can simply start by surveying the current museum education, especially the one addressed at schools.

Museums should try to create a culture of visiting museums, something that forms part of people’s life. Too ambitious? Maybe, but we might be able to avoid situations such as these: “Where have all the children gone, Britain’s galleries wonder” writes The Independent a couple of weeks ago.

And we might have stopped wondering by then.

TweetsReview – 3

In the first of this TweetsReview series I explained – in Catalan at that time – why I decided to start the series. The story goes back a couple of months ago when I was involved in some discussions on the social media mix, i.e. the proper balance of all the 2.0 tools within a communication strategy. Participants agreed that Facebook and Twitter were very powerful, but that information was lost in a few hours and that it was quite difficult to recover interesting information distributed through these channels. In a blog, however, the information is kept and remains accessible over time. That’s why I started the series “TweetsReview” as a selection of my most interesting tweets during a certain period of time.

4 Jul The virtual Museum of the City. Great participatory feature: create and present electronic exhibits about cities.
This 100% virtual museum is, in its own words, “the world’s only virtual museum of cities, showing the things that make a city great: its design, its history, its transportation, its cultural influence”. It is basically a 1.0 website, but what I found most interesting is the “Get involved” feature: everyone is invited to build and submit an exhibit. I am curious to see the first exhibitions there!

29 Jun BBC’s new web: Your paintings – Uncovering the nation’s art collection. Featuring great social tagging!
BBC has launched a new web which aims at putting 200’000 pieces of UK’s art collection online. Very user-friendly, with guided video tours by experts and a great social tagging feature “Help tag the nation’s oil paintings”, starting in summer 2011. Yes, I am a big fan of social tagging and I wish more museum websites would propose it. The Brooklyn Museum is, as for many other 2.0 features, a fantastic example of social tagging.

24 Jun Wow! RT @artinfodotcom: A Museum That Does Take-Out?: How the Leeds #Art Gallery’s Public Lending Plan Works:
I first couldn’t believe it: just go to the museum and take your favored painting back home for a while (and little money). So innovative! But…what about conservation issues? I cannot think of many museums that could seriously envisage such a scheme.

3 Jun Thomas #Hirschhorn ‘s website for his work at Swiss Pavilion @la_Biennale “to propose an inside view”
Thomas Hirschhorn launched this specific website to give more background information on his work “Crystal of Resistance” exposed at the Venice Biennale 2011, Swiss Pavilion. I think it interesting to get an insight view of an artist’s creative process, for instance through 79 sketches online, well worth a browse. There is much more material: videos, studio and set-up pictures, etc. It really helps to get familiar with the work, even without travelling to Venice.

Thomas Hirschhorn’s Chrystal of Resistance

And finally, a recommendation to visit an exhibition in Barcelona:
17 Jun
L’efecte del cine. Somni. @FundaciolaCaixa BCN. Vídeos, pel•lícules i instal•lacions d’alta qualitat. Molt recomanable!
This exhibition at the CaixaForum in Barcelona gathers some fantastic works: video art, film and installations, all of high quality. I especially liked and installation by Anthony McCall You and I Horizontal II, 2006.

Installation by Anthony McCall

How to involve the public at an early stage of exhibition making

An example from Barcelona

Participation, together with interaction, has been a trendy topic in the museum world over the past recent years. It seems difficult nowadays to conceive an exhibition without any participatory element, even though many exhibitions and also websites remain a one-way oriented, museum-public, affair.

This cannot be said of the Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona (CCCB), which is preparing Global Screen, an exhibition to explore the power of the screen in today’s society. As an interesting feature, CCCB has started to involve the public well before the exhibition opens (in January 2012). Last week it organized a workshop allowing the public to become familiar with the issue and the exhibition itself.

During the first session, members of Telenoika, an “audiovisual creative open community” as they describe themselves, introduced us to the world of Vjing, video attacks and Mapping. The latter consists of video screenings on historic buildings. Check out a few exciting examples of Mapping created by Telenoika. What I found interesting was the re-definition of the screen, mainly understood as forming part of a cinema, TV, computer, mobile, etc. Telenoika deliberately extends the boundaries of the concept projecting on any surface, which can receive videos.

Members of Telenoika between many different screensMembers of Telenoika between many different screens

In the evening, the two curators Gilles Lipovetsky and Jean Serroy, talked about the seven areas, around which the exhibition will be structured:

–          History screen

–          Politics screen

–          Sport screen

–          Advertisement screen

–          Excess screen

–          Game screen

–          Surveillance screen

CCCB not only allows us to get to know the exhibition areas through their curators, but also launches a main participatory feature: everyone will be invited to send in videos and images related to the seven screens through an online platform starting in October. The process will be managed by the CCCB’s own research and innovation department, CCCBLab, and should culminate in a parallel exhibition, which later will be incorporated in the main exhibition. Through this participation, the users become co-curators of the exhibition.

I find this process most interesting. CCCB has already set up projects where people could send in pictures through an online platform, which then became part of the exhibition, such as The City of Horrors and the current online project: Brangulí was here. What about you?

It might have been the good experiences with these projects that led CCCB to go one step further in the case of Global Screen, involve users at an earlier stage and give them even more weight within the exhibition.

I only hope that users do not get tired of so much participation. It would be interesting to know if many people repeat participation and to what extent a different project is capable of capturing new users, and new visitors. Statistics, if well run and cared of, will tell us.

In any case, I’ll get my camera out, ready for participation.