Museums and the social web
January 29, 2008 11:42 AM   Subscribe

Can you help me find great examples of museums making use of free social web apps?

I'm preparing a presentation on how museums, particularly small museums, can make use of the power of free social web applications to build relationships and raise institutional profiles. I'd like to find really good examples of museums making use of the post-blog generation of web apps. Here are some examples of the type of thing I'd like to find more of:

The Brooklyn Museum invites users to upload their own pictures of the Brookyn Bridge to a Flickr pool which is then linked to an exhibit partially hosted on their website.
Mystic Seaport creates a few episodes of a web show for YouTube.
The Library of Congress uploads a photo collection to Flickr to seek identifying information and experiment with tagging.
The Chicago History Museum presents a documentary on low-riders commissioned for their car exhibit on YouTube.
The Chumash Indian Museum on VoiceThread
The Second Louvre - the Louvre itself recreated on Second Life (not free to develop, of course, but interesting anyhow as an example of one direction things can go for brick-and-mortar museums).

The only things I'm not interested in taking a look at are things that museums are doing completely on their own websites, and blogs, unless the blogs are somehow uniquely fantastic and paradigm-changing.

Also, If you have any thoughts about how museums could make innovative use of these applications, I'm all ears!
posted by Miko to Computers & Internet (14 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
The Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery recently sent out emails to folks who tagged their photos to the NPG pool. Here's what they plan to do:
We intend to promote NPG's Flickr area on our website ( and invite the public to submit their photos. We also plan to launch a museum blog in the coming weeks that would also feature a link to the Flickr area. We might also feature selected Flickr photos on both sites on a regular basis. These would be fully credited of course.
So, something like a running contest for recognition by the museum. I dig the DCist's Photo of the Day interactivity, so it may take off for museums as well.
posted by cowbellemoo at 11:53 AM on January 29, 2008

The V&A and other London museums make some use of flickr.
posted by zamboni at 11:59 AM on January 29, 2008

Have you read this three part blog entry called Percolations: Museums and Social Networking Sites? There are lots of examples there, including flickr, myspace, and facebook. And you've probably already heard of e-artcasting (a research project about social technologies in art museums), but on the slim chance that you haven't...
posted by iconomy at 12:00 PM on January 29, 2008

Drexel Archives has a Flickr account for photos of student life from the 70s/80s:

You might want to check out the proceedings of the Museums and the Web conference, which are available online, for any case studies:

The 'steve' group (user/audience tagging of museum images) has some apps and research papers on user tagging available on their site:

There's quite an overlap between M+W and steve.
posted by carter at 12:10 PM on January 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

A couple more that might interest you:

The Brooklyn Museum's Twitter.

The Powerhouse Museum has an interactive exhibit and allows visitors to the website to tag the exhibit entries.

I found both of those via Im in Ur Museum Blogz, which has lots more.
posted by iconomy at 12:18 PM on January 29, 2008

The Smithsonian American Art Museum is also making use of a flickr photostream. We also are starting to publish these photos on our blog. And, interestingly, this blog post (and the artwork highlighted by the flickr photo) inspired a reader to make their own artwork and blog about it.
posted by Taken Outtacontext at 12:20 PM on January 29, 2008

The Exploratorium in San Francisco has a Second Life presence
posted by mikepop at 1:09 PM on January 29, 2008

Hey, that's me! I'm on the steve steering committee and a frequent Museums and the Web presenter. MeFiMail me if you want to arrange a phone call or something.

For the most part, larger museums are cautious and slow moving beasts and are much happier creating their own worlds that they can moderate as if curating an exhibition. We're still learning how to work with the unfiltered feedback that this alleged 2.0 represents. Small museums generally don't have the staff to dedicate to things like this.

I sometimes dream about quitting my job and spending all my time helping smaller institutions leverage social sites like these and taking over the Art Historical Canon. There's a huge untapped potential there.
posted by advicepig at 1:50 PM on January 29, 2008

This may be a little too obvious, but some museums are starting to have presences on facebook. For example, I'm a "fan" of my hometown art museum. I did a quick search and it looks like 84 museums have set up pages. Not sure what all they're doing with them, but some of it must be interesting!
posted by dizziest at 1:56 PM on January 29, 2008

Response by poster: larger museums are cautious and slow moving beasts

Ain't that the truth! I'm trying to chip away at some of the hesitation and fear surrounding these applications.

I sometimes dream about quitting my job and spending all my time helping smaller institutions leverage social sites like these...

Exactly what I'm aiming for. THis really does represent a huge resource to the small, creative museum willing to take a few risks. 2.0 won't be this 'edgy' for very long, and a huge advantage will go those museums - like the Brooklym Museum - who are willing to explore the potential of social sites, figure out the pitfalls, and build connections among people who other museums are completely missing with traditional print-based and meatspace approaches.

Thanks to all for the responses, and keep 'em coming! This is very helpful (and fun).
posted by Miko at 2:35 PM on January 29, 2008

The Brooklyn Museum does so much with social web apps. Notice the link to flickr on this page:, which takes you to a pool which lots of people have contributed to. They really encourage the collaborative aspects of these sites -- they're not just using them as a dumping ground for images. I first came to know of their flickr efforts when they invited me to add a photo I had taken in the museum to a group pool of theirs. It's really great that they're encouraging rather than restricting user photography.
posted by tractorfeed at 9:11 PM on January 29, 2008

Oh and their main flickr page is here:
posted by tractorfeed at 9:13 PM on January 29, 2008

Response by poster: I wish I could find a few more history museums making use of these. In general, science museums are always the closest to the cutting edge of technology. Art museums swiftly follow. But history museums really lag. I suspect part of the reason is the field culture, but part of it is also the challenge of working with material that is necessarily narrative rather than immediately apprehensible through vision.

These applications have promise to me because they tap individual emotion and memory, elements of good narrative.
posted by Miko at 6:37 AM on January 30, 2008

Response by poster: Oh, and look what the Brooklyn Museum links to: ArtShare, a Facebook app that lets you display art from museums worldwide.
posted by Miko at 6:39 AM on January 30, 2008

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