Welcome to the Tweeting Museum!What is the tweeting museum, you may ask. Well, the Tweeting Museum isn't a museum that tweets. No. It's an entire museum staff tweeting! This is what we're doing at my institution - The Medical Museion
MM is place with a quite a bit of history, gorgeous buildings, and a magnificent collection of medical history…
…and also a pioneer in social media – we are the tweeting museum…
Allow me to introduce you to some of our staff…There’s Louise, who is an associate professor of science communicationThomas who is our directorBente, a exhibition curatorAdrian, a graduate studentAdam, another associate professorAnd Nanna who’s a conSERvatOr…
So how is this different from any other individual tweeting? How are these tweets associated with or attributed to the organization? All employees who are on Twitter are listed on our institutional account, as to vouch for the account being associated with the Medical Museion…And yes, we do have an inst account, but it is mostly used for announcing events, new exhibitions, etc. AND retweeting staff tweets…
Let’s have a look at one of our employees, Nanna, who’s a conSERvatOrNanna began using Twitter as a medium for documenting her work as well as showing behind-the-scenes work of the museum to a broader public. She carries with her a smartphone to be able to take photos and tweet them on the spot. This enables a unique way of telling a story while engaging with objects…
Here’s a few examples of her tweets that are a mix of historical facts about objects, the conservation process as well as her own thoughts and feeling about working with the objects…And you’ll notice right away that they are informal and often with a very personal touch.
Nanna includes photos in most of her tweets to illustrate the process of working with objects. Here you can see some examples of restoration work of objects previously exhibited.
The stream of tweets as well as video clips and additional photos is later compiled into coherent blog posts using Storify.I can just bring up on of the more recent ones – in which Nanna has worked on a collection of bottles containing amino acids and peptides from a lab established in 1875She explains in detail the overall process of the work and goes into crazy details of reattaching lose labels, etc. which may seem very nerdy to some of us, but it is what she loves doing and that’s what we want her tweets to reflect.
Why did we start doing this?Why? A lot of interesting stuff goes on in a museum that doesn’t necessarily reach people who might be interested. We a modern museum and we don’t want to hide anything.The tweets are per definition more personal and informal. And we can reach people that we might not otherwise have.And finally it is often a lot of FUN!How has this come in place? How did we start this?Well, social media has played an important role at our institution for a long time. An academic research blog was started in 2004 and in 2008 we expanded this to include blog posts from technical and admin staff as well to reflect the activities of the entire museum. Our staff has been encouraged and even expected to document their work by contributing to the blog.More recently we have started realizing that blog posts aren't necessarily the right platform for everyone. Writing blog posts is time consuming and can be overwhelming for beginners. Twitter on the other hand is limited to 140 characters and allows you to share instantly. This has proven a very successful way of documenting our activities and reaching further than we would have otherwise.
I asked Nanna what she feels is in it for her, and her response was quite impressive.- First, it adds to the profile of the museum by bringing out the invisible work of a conservatorShe has a lot of interaction with ppl who are interested in the work, history or the objects. These may prove useful later on.The use of storify has become a easy way for me to document my work. Basically, Storify now works as a portfolio for me.Tweeting has eliminated the need for me to take additional notes. If I need information for a report, I can just come back to my tweets or Storify.This is an outlet for me that I didn’t have before. I get to add my personal touch to the profile of the museum and be part of how the world views us.
So what is our official policy? Do we tell people what they can and can't do? Actually no. Instead we make sure to provide proper training and tools that employees need to do it right. Have we had any problems? No. Sometimes I do see tweets where I think: OK this would never have worked on an institutional account, but it DOES on an individual account.We are also looking in expanding this idea to our platforms. Some employees are very visually oriented and platforms such as Instagram, Pinterest, and Vine may be more relevant.Other considerations: this works very well for a small museum, but it not work as well for larger institutions. Some people might also worry about impact and ROI which we haven’t and there might be issues with measuring these.
The Tweeting Museum
* By Daniel Noesgaard (@dnnyboy), Medical Museion, Copenhagen, Denmark 20 April 2013 at Museums & The Web 2013 in Portland, OR