How Blogs Can Help Museums To Engage With Their Users
Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) on 5 May 2008
In a recent blog post on the Cultural Interpretation & Creative Education blog Bridget McKenzie summarised the MLA and HLF views on 21st C Curation which were presented at a seminar given at UCL on 30th April 2008.
Carole Souter, CEO of the HLF informed the audience that “‘We’re getting tough with people” and went on to say that “If you tell us that 200,000 more people are going to look at your website because of it, well, so what? How do you know they have really been engaged?“. The importance of user engagement was echoed by Roy Clare, CEO of MLA. In a comment on a project funded by the NOF-digitise programme he asked: “How they [the users] would engage with it?“.
I am really pleased that such views are being expressed so clearly by senior managers of public sector bodies. In the past I’ve been concerned an an emphasis on blunt usage statistics. But now the emphasis in the museums sector is on the quality of the user experience and user engagement. And, as Bridget observed, Carole Souter’s “suggestion was that if you are going to include digitisation into an HLF bid, it would have to involve people in specific thematic projects of local interest“.
If funding will only be available for digitisation projects which enable users to actively engage with the digitised content, then this, to me, seems to be sending strong signals that a Web 2.0 approach should be taken.
And one approach to enable users to be able to engage with the content is through the provision of blogs as, in a UK context, Ingrid Beazley demonstrated at the Museums and the Web 2008 conference with a session entitled “Reach new audiences, increase numbers of visitors, and become a major part of the local community by using online social networking sites and blogs“. As described in her abstract Dulwich Picture Gallery has “experienced marked successes with our user driven, dialogue friendly Facebook and Flickr sites” and “there is considerable buzz around our plans for 2008, including the launch of our online magazine blog with which we are building a Gallery associated community“.
But how should museums go about establishing and sustaining their blogs – and also exploiting the potential of social networking services? Well I’m pleased to say that this is a topic I will be talking about at the Museum Heritage 2008 show at London Olympia on Wednesday 7th May 2008. If any readers of this blog from the museum’s sector are planning to attend this event, I’d love to chat with you. But if you can’t attend, then my slides are available on Slideshare – and are also embedded in this blog post.
Your feedback is welcome.