No photography allowed in the exhibits at the National Archives?
Last weekend I went to see “Spirited Republic,” a temporary exhibit at the National Archives about the history of alcohol in the United States. I’m interested in the history of food and knew the Archives would dig up some interesting materials. It was a worthwhile visit but ugh, right at the entrance is a sign declaring “no photography.” This isn’t unusual for temporary exhibits because they may contain materials that are protected by copyright or have objects on loan. In this exhibit, however, everything was drawn from the collections of the Archives or had fallen out of copyright. If I went around the building to the Research Room, I could retrieve any of the items on display and make photographs without question. Secondly, most of the items are historic governmental or administrative documents, which don’t encourage selfies or other distractions. Photographs would most likely be taken by people who were really interested in the subject and wanted an image for reference. If they’re worried about light damage, people can be warned not to take flash photos (and studies by conservators show that flash photography has to reach excessive levels to cause significant damage, so this is usually an unfounded concern). If they’re worried about security, everyone has already been screened in the usual DC way and guards are posted throughout the exhibit. Finally, photography is one of the only areas of creative activity that’s growing in the US (bucking the declines in sewing, painting, pottery, or music according to studies by the National Endowment for the Arts) and the Archives has a rich trove of content for inspiration (and it helps publicize their exhibits and collections). The “no photography” makes absolutely no sense at the National Archives. Instead, the National Archives should assume that photography will be allowed unless there are specific and legitimate reasons not to do so. Just follow the same rules as in your Research Rooms.
Prohibitions on photography isn’t the only stumbling block to public access and historical interpretation at the National Archives–I’m sensing a growing use of Continue reading →
The American Alliance of Museums announced the winners of its 2013 Museum Publications Design Competition, which identifies the best in graphic design in fifteen different categories. This is a juried competition and we send our congratulations to all, but especially to (given the bias of this blog):
Drake Well Museum for their journal, Oilfield
Kentucky Historical Society for educational resources.
US Holocaust Memorial Museum for their 2011-12 annual report
Museum of Flight (Seattle) for their 2011 annual report
Museum of the City of New York for the journal, City Courant
National Archives for their Girl Scout Welcome Activity Badge Cards
Peabody Essex Museum for their members magazine, Connections
Peabody Essex Museum for invitations to the Cultural Conversation and Ansel Adams events
Peabody Essex Museum for educational resources
Shaker Museum (Mount Lebanon) for the 2012/13 annual journal
I love good design and I applaud all the winners. One thing about design contests, however, is that they’re only about design Continue reading →
Working in historic house museums often can often seem like an isolated job but not in the nation’s capital, where there is the Historic House Museum Consortium of Washington, DC, an active association of forty sites that mutually support and promote each other. Every two years they also host a half-day symposium that attracts about one hundred museum guides, docents, and interpreters. This year it was held on September 17 at the impressive George Washington Masonic Memorial in Alexandria, Virginia and I joined Dr. George McDaniel of Drayton Hall and Rebecca Martin of the National Archives to talk about various aspects of tours and the visitor experience:
George laid out that the visitor experience is much more than the tour and extends to the visitors’ planning, arrival, and departure. He emphasized the importance of little things, such as the directional signage, staff hospitality, and the condition of grounds and restrooms can have on visitors’ attitudes even before the tour starts
In “Before You Get Engaged: Advice for Lovers of History and Historic Sites,” a light-hearted perspective on visitor engagement, I discussed three issues to consider before getting engaged with visitors: don’t marry a stranger (know your audience), don’t share everything you know about a site on a tour (keep it mysterious), and let them know what you care about (keep your passion alive).
"What's Next for Social Media" Forum at the National Archives.
The National Archives brought together a diverse panel of practitioners and critics of social media to discuss some of the challenges and opportunities for communication with the public in, “What’s Next in the Social Media Revolution?” at its Seventh Annual William G. McGowan Forum on Communications on Friday, November 4. A really informative (and free!) evening and for historic sites there were these particularly useful insights and recommendations:
Social media is not just for socializing, but can inform and motivate. Alex Howard, the Government 2.0 Correspondent for O’Reilly Media, provided a quick history of social media noting that many of them are very new (Flickr, Facebook, LinkedIn, Digg launched in 2004; YouTube and Twitter in 2006) but the turning point was the Iran elections in 2009, which showed that the use of social media could have tremendous impacts on society. My advice: your organization may not have the capacity to use social media actively right now, but Continue reading →
Pamela Wright of the National Archives describes the forthcoming Citizen Archivist Dashboard.
At the Seventh Annual William G. McGowan Forum on Communications on November 4, the National Archives previewed their Citizen Archivist Dashboard, a single place where users can actively participate in the work of the institution (the Archivist of the United States debuted it earlier in his blog). Pamela Wright, Chief Digital Access Strategist at the National Archives, stated that this would be a way to develop deeper levels of engagement with its users beyond the basic performance measures of “likes” and “followers”. Scheduled to launch in December, it will use crowd-sourcing strategies to improve access and understanding of its enormous collections by allowing visitors to: Continue reading →