Few people would doubt the rising power and influence of social networks such as Myspace and Facebook. Millions of people use them to communicate and express themselves. That some of the UK's greatest museums should be represented is clear. It just seems they don't know how to go about it.
The answer is not to create their own social networking website. Trying to find what you want on the Natural History Museum website should convince you that it's best to leave social networking to the experts.
But more than that it comes down to what people want. I don't want to use a hundred different accounts across a hundred different sites (even with OpenID). I'd much rather our institutions, once they have seen the need for social networking, to fit it into what I do already.
Creating a museum page on Facebook would allow me to stay up to date with what's going on. You could even create groups for different departments, or for people who have been to see a certain exhibition.
Social networking has the added advantage of breaking down barriers. I have had people contacting me about phasmids on Facebook that wouldn't have been sent to me in other setting. Quite often this results in me having scientifically useful data.
So I guess the answer is two-fold. First, embrace what people are already doing. Secondly, don't prevent your staff from referencing their employer on social networking sites (as one nameless museum has) - especially when the possibilities of them doing amazing things is so great.
Sunday, 1 March 2009
Creative Spaces: Museum Social Not working?
I work on projects related to technology and taxonomy at the Natural History Museum, and as an advisor for the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature. My interests are in entomology (stick insects, cockroaches and insect acoustics) and how technology can change the way research is done in biology and museums. Big fan of open access, open data and open hardware.
Copyright Ed Baker