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Essential Online Tools for Historical Societies


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Presentation to the 2013 League of Local Historical Societies & Museums Annual Meeting Building on a Strong Foundation - Friday, November 1, 2013 - Barre, Vermont

What online tools are must-haves for your local historical society? You are invited to attend a discussion on how local historical societies are using digital tools to spread history, recruit volunteers, document events, and archive their collections. Specific topics of discussion will include getting your historical society online, using social media (Facebook) for education, recruitment and research, and the importance of archiving your collection on the “cloud.

Presentation by: Rob Fish, Vermont Digital Economy Project and Adriene Katz, Shelburne Museum.

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Essential Online Tools for Historical Societies

  1. 1. ESSENTIAL ONLINE TOOLS FOR HISTORICAL SOCIETIES 2013 League of Local Historical Societies & Museums Annual Meeting Building on a Strong Foundation Friday, November 1, 2013 Barre, Vermont
  2. 2. AGENDA Intro - Why Digital Tools are Essential to Historical Societies 1) Social Media • Facebook • Twitter • Pinterest/Instagram • YouTube • Google+ Local 2) History Tools • History Pin • Dipidy • The History List • QR Codes & Smartphones • Fundraising • Digital Archiving 3) Website Essentials 4) Free tools for Nonprofits 5) Tips and Tricks 6) Q&A
  3. 3. VERMONT DIGITAL ECONOMY PROJECT Created by the Vermont Council on Rural Development, with the goal of constructing more resilient communities after the 2011 floods, the Vermont Digital Economy Project is a continuation and expansion of the work performed by eVermont. This Project will offer free support that will speed flood recovery, spur economic development and job growth, and improve community resilience to disasters. • Nonprofits Advising • Small Business Workshops • Farm and Forest Workshops • Downtown Wi-Fi Zones • Town Websites • Library interns • Community Forum and Calendar Funding and support: VDEP is funded by a grant from the federal Economic Development Administration, with substantial in-kind support from IBM, Microsoft and each of the partners.
  4. 4. ABOUT US • Rob Fish has over fifteen years of community outreach experience with various community development and advocacy projects in Maine, Vermont, and Michigan. He has also managed the web and social media presence for several groups and taught digital literacy in a small village in western Ghana. Rob has a Masters in Public Administration from the University of Vermont. Rob now advises nonprofits in the effective use of online tools on behalf of the Vermont Digital Economy Project. In his capacity as Non Profit Advisor, he has worked with historical societies and museums in Bethel, Plymouth, Rochester, Bridgewater and Ludlow. • Adriene Katz has a master's degree in Museum Studies. After museum internships in Colorado, Maine, and Utah, Adriene currently works for the Shelburne Museum. With extensive experience in social media, websites, and blogs, she is also familiar with collections management procedures, as well as the collections management software, Past Perfect and Mimsy. In October 2012, Adriene presented to the attendees of the unconference, "Archives on a Shoestring," which was held at the Vermont Historical Society, about a digital project she did while working at Rufus Porter Museum in Maine. She also wrote a social media handbook for a non-profit in Colorado. Her interests include early American history, and decorative arts.
  5. 5. CHALLENGES FACING LOCAL HISTORICAL SOCIETIES • Dwindling Volunteers - Most are volunteer run – as volunteers dwindle hours are reduced, as is the ability to curate history. New blood is needed, young people who are excited about community history. • Declining Visits and Interest - A recent national study revealed that the core audience for history museums is white, older, and upper middle class. • Lack of Funds- Local societies that rely on grants or subsidies from the local and state government increasingly faced draconian budget cuts, while competing for an ever-shrinking pool of private and government grant money..
  6. 6. WHY ARE DIGITAL TOOLS ESSENTIAL FOR LOCAL HISTORICAL SOCIETIES? • Increase access to local history • Recruit volunteers, members and donations • Protect history – a back up in case disaster strikes • Promote interaction and engagement with history • Become a community resource • Leverage mobile and geo-social technology • Audience expects you to use technology • Peer learning - connect with & be inspired by others engaging with history. • Fundraising
  7. 7. WHY SHOULD YOU INVEST IN SOCIAL MEDIA? • What are the current demographics of your historical society? • Who is your audience? Need to grow it? Who’s missing? • Who are your volunteers? Need more? Different skills? • Who are your donors? Have you tapped online donors? Pew Research first started asking about social networking site use in February 2005, just 8% of internet users—or 5% of all adults—said they used them. As of May 2013, 72% of online adults use social networking sites.
  9. 9. Facebook Events Crowdsourcing information
  10. 10. Document Current Events Contests
  11. 11. LOCAL GOOGLE+ PAGES (GOOGLE PLACES) • Displays your location on a Google Map • Enhanced Search Results • Highlight Your Collection • Increases SEO rankings • History Trails?
  12. 12. As a tweet, history moseys away from the confines of academic corners, becoming accessible to a more diverse audience. Makes history more human. Twitter is a Micro-Blogging Platform messages limited to 140 characters
  13. 13. HOW TO USE TWITTER • Promote museum exhibits and programs • Elicits questions from the public • This Day in History snippets • ―Live Tweeting‖ historical events • Make history relevant for today Through Twitter, the society can deliver a spoonful of easy-to-digest history: interesting, and free from the burden of heavy long-windedness that often stereotypes it. See more at:
  14. 14. THE RISE OF ONLINE CURATING As modern mobile technologies such as smartphones with high quality built-in cameras and access to social media networks have offered new possibilities for people to engage, participate, document and share their experiences, new photography practices have emerged.
  15. 15. With Geo-tagged photos from their locations, museums can truly understand their visitors’ behaviors. They can measure the success of particular exhibitions and tweak their displays according to the feedback received in the photos. Visitors re-categorize and document their experiences
  16. 16. TAGGED BY LOCATION OR HASHTAG • Sparks interest • User generated content • New breed of researchers and curators
  17. 17. “Pinterest lets you organize and share all the beautiful things you find on the web.” • • • • • A new audience User generated content and increased engagement Makes history fun! A hobby! Use it to build family histories History tours and developing thematic content housed at multiple historic societies. • Links with Facebook and your website
  22. 22. Think of it as a visual bookmarking system. HOW IT WORKS Each "pin" or image is linked to the site in which it was pinned from This drives content to your site Integrating Pinterest invites and reminds people to share the image -- more online attention and reaches more people TIP: Create Very Specific Boards. Creating a too general of a pinboard, like "Genealogy" will quickly fill up and become unmanageable to search and locate specific pins. Sample Ideas: Genealogy Toolkit, Plymouth Vermont Families, Bennington Battle, Tropical Storm Irene – Wilmington
  23. 23. Q • Engage students by tasking them with visiting town elders and recording oral histories. • Convert old VHS or 35MM films to increase accessibility.
  24. 24.
  25. 25. • Collaborate with other historical societies and museums. • Crowd source additional information. • Make a map of historical places in your community. • Share content on other Social Media Platforms.
  26. 26. What is Dipity? Dipity is a free digital timeline website. Users can create, share, embed and collaborate on interactive, visually engaging timelines that integrate video, audio, images, text, links, social media, location and timestamps.
  27. 27. QR CODES (QUICK RESPONSE CODES) By simply scanning a QR code decal with a smartphone, anyone can quickly pull up information about historical sites throughout the area — including photos, architectural classification, historical significance and much more. Make one at Additional ways to leverage smartphone technology • Audio Tours • Smartphone Apps • Podcasts
  28. 28. MOBILE AND CROWD-SOURCE FUNDRAISING • Accept donations at events • Sell postcards, photos, etc Since launch in 2009, 5.1 million people have pledged $853 million, funding 50,000 creative projects. • Fundraise for large projects – capital projects • Increase community involvement and ownership
  29. 29. WHY DIGITIZE? • Some items are too delicate to display/ handle • Increase access to collections • Make collection searchable • Promote collections • Public expects it • Back up just in case disaster strikes
  30. 30. • Contact information • Hours • Signup Forms • Donate Button • Keep navigation simple • Social Media • Images • Responsive – works on smartphones and desktop web browsers • Be able to manage it yourself WEBSITE ESSENTIALS
  31. 31. FREE TOOLS FOR NON-PROFITS • Google for Non-Profits • Free email, calendar, and apps • Google Adword Grants • YouTube Channel • DreamHost – free web hosting for 501(c)3 nonprofits • TechSoup - Reduced price or free software and hardware
  32. 32. TRICKS AND TIPS • Recruit interns or volunteers from local schools Students are digital natives. Use them to collect oral histories or produce videos. • Make your historical society a center for local research. Integrate wi-fi internet access and genealogical resources, such as • Don’t try to do everything! Pick the social media channels you enjoy and do it well. • Find your voice. Tell stories. Know your audience. • Develops procedures, policies and guides for social media and other digital tools.
  33. 33. RESOURCES •Vermont Digital Economy Project Non-Profit: Digital Needs Assessment •American Alliance of Museums -- Media and Technology •University of Delaware -- Sustaining Places •Webinars, through membership groups, such as New England Museum Association • – uses Facebook API to walk you through setting up a Facebook Page •On Twitter #musesocial
  34. 34. QUESTIONS? Rob Fish, Non Profit Advisor Vermont Digital Economy Project 802-488-5143 Adriene Katz Shelburne Museum 802-338-8612