Are Bloggers Mostly Educators?

Museum bloggers converse over morning coffee at AAM 2014.

Museum bloggers converse over morning coffee at AAM 2014.

Blogging is a new form of communication, often falling somewhere between professional journalism and personal journaling.  There are lots of people who love museums and historic sites, and they’ve spawned lots of blogs devoted exclusively to them (including this one).  To give you a sense of this specialized blogosphere, Jamie Glavic at Museum Minute has conducted more than seventy (70!) interviews with museum bloggers.

Last month at the American Alliance of Museums annual meeting in Seattle, Jamie convened an informal gathering of a dozen museum bloggers to meet and chat about their work over morning coffee.  I wasn’t able to catch everyone’s name, but the conversation included Rowanne Henry of Museum Stories, Chris O’Connor of the Royal BC Museum, Ed Rodley of Thinking About Museums, Jennifer Foley of Runs with Visitors, Scott Tennent at Unframed, Annelisa Stephan at the Getty Museum, and Kellian Adams at Green Door Labs.

I noticed that most of them were educators, not curators, conservators, collections managers, or administrators, which launched a discussion about the circumstances that seem to be creating this social media distinction in the museum field, including:

  • curators and conservators don’t consider blogging as scholarship; it’s not regarded equal to an article or exhibit catalog for measuring job performance or professional development.
  • blogs provide a place where educators can be heard and voice their opinions; curators dominate conversations in museums
  • blogs require a different type of writing; curators use a language couched in academia, which usually isn’t suitable for blogs
  • blogging isn’t a priority for the organization
  • blogging doesn’t work well in the institutional culture of museums; blogging requires some comfort with risk and letting go

What do you think? Does the cultural divide between educators and curators continue online? Are the distinctions around museum blogging accurate and true? Share your thoughts in the comments below.


7 thoughts on “Are Bloggers Mostly Educators?

  1. katiestringer

    Really interesting. I started out as a museum educator early in my career, I suppose, and I love blogging. Granted, my blogs span everything from travel, to disaster planning, tourism, accessibility, collections management, and education… I guess I’m now an “administrator” though I’ve had experience in just about every aspect of museums. Also, I think as a part of the younger “millennial” generation (please don’t ever call me a millennial) and at the insistence of a professor in graduate school, the importance and value of blogs and online presence just seems natural. And now with my historic site, which as 2 staff members, I’ve passed the importance of blogging and social media onto the institution.


  2. Jack Shoulder

    Interesting – I suppose Educators are more about sharing and passing on the knowledge than curators, but there are some museums who do do blogging really well. Even with curatorial staff. The Horniman in London is a good example of this, but digital communication is something that the do very well anyway. It depends whether someone is writing from a personal side of things, or with their job very much in mind.


  3. Monta Lee Dakin

    Hadn’t really thought about any of this until your article. I have my favorite bloggers and enjoy them very much. As reading them has been a nice addition to my work day, I hope others will catch the blogging fever and take the risk and let go!


  4. robertlfs

    Interesting post. I often think of blogging as being externally vs. internally focused. I am curious if those folks who blog also post on, FB, tweet and so forth. I think of my own academic department, and that certainly is the case. Within academia, there is growing tension between the traditionalists holding fast for hard copy peer reviewed journals as the only thing worth spilling ink on, and the advocates for user-generated content and open access/authority. I suspect that breaks down in the same way for museums as well, although the user-generated folks seem much more advanced in cultural heritage work than in higher ed.

    I am coming up on some 250 weekly (more-or-less) posts for my blog over the past 4.5 years. I think back when I started doing a bi-monthly podcast about nine years ago called Archaeology Overlooked. Back then, I had stories to tell that I thought were interesting and that other folks might like to hear. I think today I push more of an agenda around community engagement with cultural heritage studies, but it still comes down to storytelling and wanting to share with others. Blogging is a perfect venue for doing so.


  5. Tim Grove

    Thanks for a great post Max. Really interesting question. I know your focus is not institutional blogs, but a note about one: At Air and Space curators have mostly embraced our institutional blog and the blog administrators don’t have to ask for posts any more. Sadly I have a hard time getting education staff to write posts about our work.


  6. K

    Although I’m an educator at an historic site, many of the blogs I read are from folks with more of a collections care background, which perhaps says more about my personal interests than anything else. That being said, a number of organizations now view the blog format as a more visitor-friendly way to share information and often include posts from various members of their staff, from the administrator to the summer intern. We try hard to have our site FB posts reflect a similar assortment of information and therefore share authorship.
    Max- thanks for your insight into the blogosphere, I look forward to the continued discussion.


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