Keynote: Radical Transformation and Co-Created Magic at a Museum #internetlibrarian #il2014

Keynote: Nina Simon, Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History

Feels museums are behind libraries and zoos in connecting with people. Museums seem to think “we know what the good stuff is, let us give it to you.”

More people knew that the museum used to be the county jail than knew what it was currently.

Also, no money.

Web 2.0 is software that gets better the more people participate. — Tim O’Reilly. How can museums do that?

Art and history are something you do, not just something you learn about.

Comment board. Asked people to contribute “memory jars.” Exhibit of “People see me as … but really I am …”

“Social bridging.” People criticize participation as the narcissism of the “selfie generation.” But it’s about building social capital with people who aren’t like you (“bridging” in the term of Robert Putnam). Not trying to be hip or have a target audience. Put together the knitter and the graffiti artist. Don’t have family day anymore, because they want all kinds of people and ages to come in.

Experimentation: “Glow,” two-night festival of fire and light. “Fire artists” only get to do their thing at Burning Man.

Idea that things have to be perfect before it goes on display. They believe in prototyping, the “minimally viable product.”

1. Revolution is not an exercise in concentric circles. Sometimes change is about shifting. You may get a bigger circle (i.e., more visitors, fans), but lose some of the people in the smaller circle (i.e., the former group of users).

Pop-up museums in other places.

The museum is for everyone. There should be something for everyone, but that does not mean you will like everything there.

2. Invite meaningful action at all levels.

They include a wish list in e-mails (e.g., we need cardboard boxes or CDs).

People like to help. Simon was putting dollar bills in her library books. She didn’t know what the friends of the library group did.

3. Be rigorous.

Think about communities they want to reach and ask what are their assets and needs, then develop a project and look for collaborators.

Funders want to know what resulted from what you did.

Think about bridging and empowering.

4. Think platforms.

How can we invite everyone to participate?

One million giraffes: Scandinavian teenager got people to make pictures of giraffes and send photos of them.

Pop-up museums: Supposed to serve the whole county, so they go to other towns. (

5. Make space.

A risk-taker needs a space-maker to allow them to take risks.

Part of her job is running the cemetery. Homeless people help dig up historic artifacts at cemetery and work with retired history docents. It’s become a “bridging” project.

Richard Hamming on “the average scientist” not working on important problems.

“The Pocket Museum” in bathroom. Share something from your pocket and write a post-it note about it.

Small museums shouldn’t try to be like the big ones. They can be more creative and aim their work at the community rather than tourists.

Participation isn’t about “make and take,” but “make and share.”

Museum is about contemplation and participation, but the participation events get more press.

Edited to add links.


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