Monday, April 19, 2010

Museums & the Web 2010: a few rules of thumb

Museums and the Web is an annual museum/tech conference that caters mostly to developers. Archimuse, runs the conference and does a good job of capturing the detail from sessions on the site

Here are a couple of quick hits from my time in Denver– much of this we’ve written about before, but it’s worth repeating:

If you want visitors to contribute to your on-line project, hang out in the spaces where they are and respond. Don’t expect to put up a visitor created content experience or participatory design web site if you aren’t there yourself.

For example, if you want a lot of followers on your Facebook page, then you have to find like-minded folks, friend them, post relevant info to their needs (that of course reinforces your identity) and follow up. Keep the party alive.

All aspects of a website reinforce your institution, not just the graphics. Christina DePaolo from the Seattle Art Museum suggested that everything from the text on your site (no matter how informal), to the experience of surfing it, needs to reflect your institution or brand. Do so cohesively.

Sometimes, every department wants their content on the home page, but that can make for a lousy intro. If you’re still having a hard time determining what goes where, Dana Mitroff Silvers of the SFMOMA suggested that you try bringing the public in to help.

When you’re too close to the trees, make topic cards and bring them out onto the floor– let the public take a stab at organizing them into content “buckets.

Connect with your collection/exhibits on your website (even if it’s not out on the floor) and do it in a variety of ways. Finding both obvious and unexpected ways to connect back and forth to your physical collection is ideal. 

Nate Solas from the Walker Art Center suggested if you are going to provide “deep links” into your site's content, be sure to give visitors a sense of where they arrived. They may be coming from a Google search.

Speaking of which, next let's look at why it's good idea for museums to do justice to their search feature.

Image courtesy of Creative Commons license from

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