Category Archives: Social media

Videos: Keep it London vs Lives Rooted in Places

Historic England, the overseas equivalent of our preservation organizations in the US, recently launched a “Keep it London” campaign to help shape the planning of its nation’s capital, urging that, “the city must evolve by building on its unique character and identity, rather than by turning into a generic city.” The campaign contains the usual list of recommendations, solicitation for contributions and letters, and offers of updates through email and social media.  More interesting, however, is the “I am London” video that accompanies the campaign.  Listen carefully and in four minutes, you never hear the words, “history,” “preservation,” “old,” “save,” or “historic.” Instead, the faces and voices of dozens of diverse people personify buildings, giving these mute places emotion and personality.  Compare that to the approach used by the US National Trust for Historic Preservation in their video, “Lives Rooted in Places.”

Who’s the target audience for each video? Which video would resonate better with your members and donors? With your community and neighbors? Which one speaks better to outsiders than insiders?  What emotions are involved? Do they tell viewers what to think or feel, or do they let them unfold in the viewer?

Is Twitter Effectively Engaging Your Audiences?

twitter-afpWith the new year on the horizon, I’ve been evaluating my projects from the last year to determine how I can help historic places better connect to their audiences. For the past two years, I’ve used Twitter to share news about history, historic sites, historic preservation, and history museums.  Each morning I scan the New York Times and other newspapers for stories, aiming to tweet about three stories daily to my @maxvanbalgooy account so that my followers can quickly learn what’s happening.  The result? I have created 4,180 tweets and attracted nearly 500 Followers since I joined Twitter in June 2009.  This blog, on the other hand, has 1000 subscribers, so it seems my time is better spent on my blog than Twitter.  It could be very different for you, but how do we decide if Twitter is effectively engaging your audiences?

A useful place to start is with the metrics that Twitter provides: Followers and Likes.  Likes are a low level of engagement because they only require that readers support a specific tweet or find it especially useful or enjoyable—but that’s it. Followers are a mid-level form of engagement because it means that a reader wants to engage with you and read everything that you tweet (“read” is probably overstating things; “scan” is more appropriate for Twitter). Retweets engage at a high level because your Followers share your tweet to their Followers (did you follow that? it’s about the impact of the multiplier effect)—unfortunately, there’s no easy way to measure Retweets (but boy, we would have more impact if we promoted Retweeting instead of Liking).

To better understand how effectively Twitter can engage audiences, I collected statistics for a variety of major history organizations to measure Tweets, Followers, and Likes as of today (December 8, 2016) to develop the following chart: Continue reading

Wikipedia Welcoming Historic Sites and Landmarks This Month

wike-loves-monuments-2016Wikipedia, the most frequently used source for information on the Internet, just launched a month-long campaign to improve its coverage of historic and cultural sites in the United States.  Called, “Wiki Loves Monuments,” it is an international photo competition where participants capture cultural heritage monuments and upload their photographs to Wikipedia. For the first time in several years, Wiki Loves Monuments is back in the United States. The contest is inspired by the successful 2010 pilot in the Netherlands, which resulted in 12,500 freely licensed images of monuments that can now be used in Wikipedia and by anybody for any purpose. The 2012 contest in 35 countries resulted in more than 350,000 images submitted by over 15,000 participants, adding to the sum of all human knowledge gathered on Wikipedia.  The contest ends on September 30, 2016.

Anyone is welcome to contribute to the project by uploading photos they’ve taken of cultural and historical sites throughout the United States. Once September is over, the best photos will win cash prizes and will be submitted to the international competition.  In addition to taking photos, Wikipedia is also encouraging editors to write Wikipedia articles on historical sites and monuments as part of the event.  They are also developing state-level guides to historic sites and have already created versions for California, Ohio, and Washington.  Here’s a chance to fix that skimpy or inaccurate entry about your site or show a stunning photo (in my home state of Maryland, Belvoir is a particularly awful example).  Better yet, engage those photographers among your members to help you promote your site and others in your community.  Just remember, you’re putting this into the World Wide Web, so content will be freely and easily used by others (what will Getty Images do?).

If you’re looking for inspiration, Wikipedia is providing links to the National Register of Historic Places, Historic Civil Engineering Landmarks, and Daughters of the American Revolution Sites (hey, where are the Colonial Dames?).

Professional Development is Taking on New Forms This Month

Historic Annapolis logoProfessional development (aka staff training) is one of the key elements for developing capacity at house museums and historic sites, but it’s often considered a luxury because of the cost.  This month, for example, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Preservation Maryland, and Historic Annapolis are hosting a two-day workshop, “Preservation Leadership Training: Invitation to Evolve” on September 8-9, 2016 in Annapolis, Maryland and next week, the American Association for State and Local History and Michigan Museums Association are hosting their conference, “The Spirit of Rebirth” in Detroit, Michigan.  Both demonstrate the continuing trend of partnerships among organizations to provide professional development to increase attendance, reduce expenses, and improve the quality.  I’m not sure if others do this, but I can only commit to two conferences per year: one is always AASLH and the other rotates among one of the other organizations where I’m a member.

But lately, I’ve noticed new forms of training popping Continue reading

Google’s New Data Gallery Suggests Directions for Historic Sites

Screen Shot 2016-07-15 at 10.16.58 AMGoogle has regularly shared findings from studies conducted from various sources (including its own analytics from searches and YouTube) in Think with Google, which I receive as an email a couple times each month as a subscription.  They’ve now gathered those studies together in a new Data Gallery which, of course, can be searched by topic.  There’s nothing for “museums,” “historic sites,” or “tourism,” but there is lots for “travel & hospitality.”  You can also narrow your search by industry (e.g., “travel & hospitality”), by platform (e.g., mobile, video), by themes (e.g., consumer trends, Millennials, U.S.).

A quick browse through the “travel & hospitality” shows the growing importance of video.  For example, their research shows that two out of three U. S. consumers watch online travel videos when they’re thinking about taking a trip and nearly 90 percent of YouTube travel searches focus on destinations, attractions/points of interest or general travel ideas.  This suggests that historic sites and house museums need to Continue reading

An App That Easily Merges Oral History and Images

My recording about a bird nest on the Galapagos Islands using PixStori.

My recording about a bird nest on the Galapagos Islands using PixStori.

At the National Council on Public History conference last week in Baltimore, Michael Frisch of the University of Buffalo introduced PixStori, a iOS app that he helped develop that easily shares photographs with audio recordings.  Frisch is a leader among oral history practitioners and he developed the app as a way for people to record short oral histories to accompany photographs.

Users pull up a photo from their iPhone or iPad and then record a short message (up to 20 minutes), which can then be shared via email, Twitter, or Facebook.  I experimented with a photo of a bird and it’s remarkably easy to use.  It’s definitely fun for sharing photos, but I can easily see museums and archives using it to share historic images or documents with a comment by an historian or help promote an upcoming event.  But I can also see how it might be used in-house to record visitor reaction to proposed exhibit or to send a message to your staff about a site emergency. It appears that the recordings are stored at PixStori, so recipients don’t need to have the app installed but do need an internet connection to see and hear the file. The app is available free for iOS devices and an Android version is underway.

Can the Folger Library Figure Out Its Schizophrenic Photo Policy?

Photo booth at the exhibit that prohibits photography at the Folger Library.

Photo booth at the exhibit that prohibits photography at the Folger Library.

The Folger Library in Washington, DC is one of my favorite places because it’s about books and Elizabethan England, two things that fascinate me.  As an historian, books are not an unusual passion but as an American historian, I’m interested in the Elizabethan period because of the comparisons to our Colonial era.  So every time the Folger mounts an exhibit in their gallery, I go no matter the topic and want to document what I’ve seen and learned through photos (and share them with you!).  And yet, while copyright protects none of the material on exhibit, the guards frequently stop me from taking photos and one time I even had to prove I deleted the images from my camera.  The latest exhibit on Shakespeare was photo-prohibited because it was on loan, but again, none of the materials were protected by copyright (all pre-dated 1700). Ironically, at the entrance to the exhibit is a special booth where visitors were asked to share videos or photos of themselves talking about Shakespeare on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Huh? To thine own selfie be true, as long as it doesn’t include any actual historic objects on exhibit.

IMG_0499That’s such a contrast to other museums in DC which encourage photography.  The “Wonder” exhibit at the Renwick Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, is filled with contemporary art, which is typically tied up in a particularly rabid form of copyright protection, encourages photography with signs mounted in nearly every gallery. Somehow they’ve figured out how to allow photography by the public without jeopardizing their collections, reputation, or loan agreements.

Museums and libraries have to figure out how to embrace photography.*  While overall attendance has dropped for the past thirty years, interest in photography has grown by leaps in bounds.**  Indeed, it’s the only cultural or artistic activity that’s growing in the US and by prohibiting it unconditionally, museums and libraries are only further distancing themselves from the rest of America.

*The Rauschenberg Foundation recently developed a radical but thoughtful photography policy, which is described in the New York Times.

**National Endowment for the Arts, “Survey of Public Participation in the Arts,” 2012.

 

Unconference in DC Poised to Transform Museums


Openlab is convening an unconference, talks, and a planning workshop in Washington, DC on December 1-2 to “to accelerate the speed and impact of transformational change in the GLAM (gallery, library, archive, and museum) sector” in order to “to increase and disseminate knowledge; to encourage civic dialogue and engagement; and to support individuals in their right to access and participate in culture.”  The brain child of Michael Peter Edson of the Smithsonian, much of OpenLab’s work seems to be focused on using digital technologies to solve age-old questions, such as “what needs to change in galleries, libraries, archives, and museums?” and “what is missing in the current funding and support landscape for GLAMs and the humanities?”  It’s all a bit nebulous and unclear, but that’s the core nature of an unconference. Nevertheless, it’s one of many concurrent efforts to increase the impact of museums in society (and yes, we’re still in the fragmented stage).

The first day on December 1 (today) is the unconference and a series of Ignite talks from 2-7 pm in Arlington, Virginia that’s free and open to the public.  The second day, however, Continue reading

President Lincoln’s Cottage Tackles Immigration

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President Lincoln’s Cottage, the presidential summer retreat just a few miles north of the US Capitol, recently opened an exhibit in their visitor education center the compares immigration issues in the 19th century to the present day.  Titled, “American by Belief,” the introductory label reads:

The United States of America is, and always has been, a nation of immigrants. Abraham Lincoln recognized immigrants as one of America’s greatest resources and its best hope for the future. He believed America, in return, owed immigrants the full realization of its founding promises and a fair chance to succeed.

Our world is different than Lincoln’s. But what continues to bring immigrants here would look familiar to him: an opportunity to rise higher, improve themselves, live safely under the rule of law, become citizens, and count themselves as American by right of belief.

This is a small temporary exhibit, perhaps 200 square feet at most, and primarily consists of panels featuring text and images (no historic objects).  In the center of the room is a map of the world made of pegs, which visitors can use to link places associated with them using colored rubber bands (this looks cool but I’m not sure Continue reading

What’s the Twack Record for Your Tweets?

Followers Dashboard from Twitter.

Followers Dashboard from Twitter.

The growth of social media has added new layers of complexity to the promotional efforts at museums and historic sites.  Along with mailing newsletters and event announcements and maintaining a website, we feel an increasing need to connect with our supporters through blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.  But is all this work having any impact? How can I better use these tools to engage my audiences?

You may have noticed that I’ve been experimenting with Twitter this past year, adding a feed to the sidebar of my blog and sending out about three tweets each morning on news related to museums and historic sites using @maxvanbalgooy (@engagingplaces was already taken) and tagging them with #museum or #preservation.  It’s nice to see the number of Followers grow and merit a Favorite or Retweet occasionally (thanks Bob!), but what’s the impact?  You may find some answers in the Followers dashboard that Twitter recently launched.

The dashboard provides several analytical tools that not only highlights Continue reading