Cultural Heritage Collections And The Creation Of Wonder


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A rapid-fire presentation showcasing several case studies of how cultural heritage institutions can use Web 2.0 tools to encourage discussion, increase engagement, and generate wonder by their users.

Presented at Cultural Connections "Rapid-Fire Presentations on Technology and Inspiration in the Digital Age", December 9, 2009, San Francisco, CA

Published in: Technology, Education
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  • Discussing how collection assets can generate user-interest, wonder, and engagement with the public
  • (slide 2) Web 2.0 perfect fit for collections Designed to foster communication and dialogue by building on information sharing and harvesting by users and staff. Rich media and information assets easily shared by users to external sites
  • (slide 3) How have archives, libraries, and museums effectively used Web2.0 for collection dissemination? video, audio, and image sharing sites features hosted on own website twitter
  • Flickr (slide 4) Library of Congress’s record of a photograph of Grand Grocery in Lincoln, Nebraska. strict metadata useful to researchers with knowledge of the information structure no way to interact with the record
  • (slide 5) same image on Flickr Same metadata and information lots of user comments and discussion back and forth
  • (slide 6) including first person information from users who would have shopped at such a store “ As a youth in the 40's these scenes are wrenching as I'd go with my dad and he'd try to convince the grocery owner of markets like these that better signs would mean better business. Both the owner and my dad so close to poverty and trying to make a better living would try to compromise to help us all to live.”
  • (slide 7) and lots of notes, including notes about the notes
  • Video sharing: YouTube and ArtBabble (slide 8) Art Institute of Chicago posted a video of the (re)creation of “Sol LeWitt's Wall Drawing Number 1257, Scribbles” One response to the video was about a copyright lawsuit surrounding John Cage’s 4’33”
  • Twitter (slide 9) Bancroft Library does a great job disseminating content from their collections by posting an item a day, often tailored to an historical event that happened on that day.
  • (slide 10) SuetheTRex – Field Museum in Chicago Humorous way to highlight one collection item by giving it a personality. Some archives have also adopted this method of “personalizing” items or historical people represented in their collections. We at the Magnes relied heavily on Twitter to help jumpstart our Rosh Hashanah e-cards project.
  • (slide 11) for that, we used Wordpress to create an e-card gallery where users could browse our large collection of vintage Jewish New Year postcards and send them to friends. It was a huge success, but without Twitter to spread the word, it would not have been as successful. Institutional websites
  • (slide 12) Blogs are another good way to expose collections. There is a designated area for curatorial information which should inspire visitor commentary. In one post, the Metropolitan Museum of Art showcased these 1920’s knee-high boots.
  • (slide 13) Users discussed current fashion trends, the wearability of these boots, the psychology of fetish, and the history of high heels. But an institution’s own online collections database can be the best source of inspiration. There are lots of examples, but to speak personally for a moment…
  • (slide 14) Recently, I personally was researching an historical personage I’m portraying at our local Dickens Fair, Marianne Compton Cust, Vicountess Alford.
  • (slide 15) I found this etching of Alford at the British Museum website. From it, I was able to develop my character and mode of dress and fine-tune my characterization. Which brings me to my final point:   Don’t be afraid of “unintended use”
  • (slide 16 ) This is the Electronic Scrapbook at the Powerhouse Museum in Australia. very high resolution scans of vintage and antique textile patterns, searchable by age, and color and all freely available via a Creative Commons license. The site went down for a few hours and the Powerhouse received a frantic email from someone in New York who was using the patterns for her own design business.
  • (slide 17) Talk about your direct impact on your visitors! Keep them coming back by having an effect on their day-to-day lives.
  • Bibliography
  • Cultural Heritage Collections And The Creation Of Wonder