Museums and Web 2.0

Museums – small or large – local or global can make use of web 2.0. Blogging and podcasting are ideally suited to aid a museum in it’s objectives of marketing and education. Large museums have ‘virtual’ exhibits, but many smaller museums have been faced with challenges in getting their message and collections out on the web – mainly due to budget constraints. For many of these local and regional museums funding is based on donations and grants. When you need to struggle to keep the lights on, expanding your on-line presence and virtual exhibits can be just a dream. With blogs and podcasting though, a musem can now get online with little to no cash outlay and reap the benefits of web 2.0. Us history buffs also reap the benefits as well by having access to artifacts and information we wouldn’t otherwise have known existed.

Last night I met with a local museum board to evangilize the value of blogging and podcasting. As with all my presentations to non-profit groups, I extolled the value of getting online with these tools and accentuated the low costs invloved with free hosting, volunteer help from the community and user generated content.

In researching how museums use blogs and podcasting I came across the following links:

The Museum Detective, from New Zealand. What a fantasic blog! A great example for museums to follow – very content rich…audio, photos, links…it has it all.

From their blogroll I came across the Museum Pod – Podcast Portal, a podcast directory of museums including arts, history, music and cultures. The list included the famous locations such as the Smithsonian but also local and regional museums. Imagine that, a longtail of museums! When I showed this to the museum board last night, some were excited that their little museum could be listed right up there with the ROM and the Guggenheim.

So where can museums benefit from blogging and podcasting?

Courtesy Joanna Cobley, the Museum Detective, here are Seven Reasons Museums Should Podcast.

From the marketing perspective blogs can be used to inform the community about upcoming events, recap recent events, feature collections with the general goal of showing your museum as being active and vibrant.

Audio and video podcasting uses? Audio tours, in depth reference material for your collections, capturing recollections and history from your seniors and elders who were living what we now know as history. Remember, it dosen’t need to be fancy or a big production. Just sit down with a senior and let them talk. Many of us know seniors who are great story tellers. Let’s capture their stories while we still can. When they go, they take their stories with them. That would be a great shame.

Capturing these events in blogs and podcasts is a great way to archive these events. Unless there is a major global disaster, this digital content will be around for a long time. With blogs and podcasts, your content is easy to store, categorize and publish.

Get the community involved with content contributions. This past weekend they had a celebration for Canada Day. I asked if anyone took photos – three folks said yes. My suggestion was to turn them into a slide show, add music, narration, put a title at the front and credits at the end and they would have their first podcast. All from community generated content. The point was to show them that it was that easy. No fancy production crews, no costly post production – the content is everywhere, we just need to tap into it.

How about music? We talked about podsafe music and copyright, but what would be great is to get some of the local musicians to play and record them. There are lots of old time fiddle players around the area – why not feature them as the opening music for your episode?

Get young people involved with your museum by recruiting them to work on blog, audio and video podcast projects. The digital generation knows about this stuff, so here is a way to get them to come out and contribute to the museum. With any luck they’ll learn that it’s a fun place to be, and not the dusty boring place that some people think. History museums are full of old stuff but the museum experience can be a new and exciting event.

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