Museums and Twitter: A PC Idea

Every once in a while a great idea comes out of merging unique items – peanut butter and jelly, chocolate and peanut butter, salt water and taffy all come to mind. I recently had a revelation when I crossed Nina Simon’s and Koven Smith’s write ups about institutions using Twitter with a few sites I recently came across.

twitter_logo

A few weeks ago I found myself on a site called F*** You 2008. The site aggregates Twitter messages with the term “f***you2008” by searching for the phrase in recent tweets using what appears to be some fancy Ruby scripting. For the most part these messages include expressive comments about money lost, jobs lost, or any other unfortunate event associated with 2008. While I don’t totally agree with the language used on the site, though it is pretty funny, I was intrigued by how it was able to display comments directed at a specific subject.

Another site I came across recently almost does the same thing! www.dearie6.com asks it’s visitors to follow on Twitter the user profile of DearIE6. Once you are following that profile you can send direct messages to it which in turn will be displayed on the site www.dearie6.com. This site is a place where people can comment on their frustrations with the bug-ridden V.6 Internet Explorer browser.

I came across both sites after I had read the recent Twitter related posts on the Museum 2.0 blog and at www.kovenjsmith.com. Both articles address the institutional voice and how it should be leveraged in an online social space such as Twitter. Nina talks about creating a unique experience in your institution around Twitter by posting funny things overheard, behind the scenes info, or interesting facts about the building. This got me thinking…

Since I have a budget of nill-to-none at the museum I’m always trying to think of ways to use the internet to benefit our programs and collection at a low price point. I’ve recently been thinking about ways of commenting on works of art in the permanent collection and how this could be achieved in an engaging and interactive way.

Enter F***you2008 and DearIE6.

Hung Liu - Chinese Profile (Collection of SJMA)

Hung Liu - Chinese Profile (Collection of SJMA)

Let’s say that I wanted to have a page devoted to Hung Liu’s Chinese Profile in our permanent collection. The museum would sign up for a Twitter account with the username @ChineseProfile or @SJMA_ChineseProfile. Visitors, both onsite and online, could then send comments or thoughts via the direct message feature on Twitter which would show up on the @ChineseProfile user page. This would have to happen after the visitor signed up for the service and then started to follow @ChineseProfile. A museum could create a Twitter page specific to an artwork in the collection where people could actively engage with others around the artwork. The work could even engage them back through a curator, registrar, preparator, or all three!

Example Wireframe

Example Wireframe

I like the idea of taking things a step further by utilizing the APIs or widgets offered by many of these web services to bring the experience to our your own website as well. You could create a page on your institutions site and pull the dialogue to it through some scripting with the Twitter APIs. Additionally on the page you could have a large image of the work, maybe a Wikipedia entry describing the work, etc. To illustrate, I have drawn up a wireframe example which you can view in-full by clicking on the thumbnail.

Obviously one of the biggest challenges with utilizing Twitter is the generational gap and trying to gain the art perspective of the older technology-challenged museum visitor. While they might have heard about Twitter by watching CNN or reading about it in this thing called a newspaper, they might never have signed up for any services on the Internet. Then to try and explain the concept of an “@” message sounds even more difficult.

I’m not sure if this is a truly unique idea. Are any museums doing it or something similar? I’d really like to know. I share this information with the larger museum community with the hopes that someone might attempt it and report back. Unfortunately, in my new limited capacity (half-time due to budget issues) I don’t think I will have the opportunity to attempt it! Let me/us know if it works out!

You can follow me on Twitter at www.twitter.com/cmalexander

Leave a Reply

*Required