During the past few weeks we have been discussing how the museum can give access to people outside of the physical building, and how to let people reach the museum without the physicality of visiting. This week focuses on a slightly different angle, how the museum worker (not the institution) interacts with people and other museum professionals. Mark Shlemmer realized that there was an existing issue of interactions between museum professionals and others and so he came up with a very interesting idea that utilizes the existing technology that is Twitter and called it @ITweetMuseum. There are many simultaneous ideas at work at the same time with this Twitter handle as Mark clearly set out in his PowerPoint. He has informal meetings of professionals in the cultural field to get them out and have a new focus and eyes on different works. He has created a method and mode of discourse that uses Twitter to pose questions and answers that anyone in the field can propose ideas as possible answers. The results of all these conversations and the discourse going around has all been catalogued by Mark himself and can be reviewed and researched for new ideas and thoughts. This is a very crucial idea. Before if one wanted to be on the front of museum dialogue they would have to visit conferences and go to lectures. @ITweetMuseum allows the museum professional to not only be a part of the dialogue, no matter his/ her level of expertise, but also do this from the comfort of their home- at the scheduled time or even weeks later.
Creating modes of discourse such as #askacurator or #museumworkersspeak, allows for an open discourse to happen and the numbers show that people are becoming involved. These people are not looking to participate with museums or institutional responses but rather they want the same level of professionalism that the job demands but also being from the personal accounts and offering a more personal touch to the conversation. When dealing with an institution there are certain boundaries that one has to stick to, people don’t want to only hear the black and white of it- they want to hear and see the grey, know what thoughts and arguments went into the decisions that are being made and what possible outcomes can be expected. These are things that as an institution it is hard to talk about because if there is a mistake then it reflects badly on the name of the museum. However, a person making a mistake happens and is not as bad and doesn’t really damage the museums rep.
It is true that many museum workers feel invisible and feel that their work is not appreciated, mainly because many people have no idea what exactly happens behind the scenes. The visits that Mark creates brings cultural professionals to museums, that are mostly not their own, allows for an acknowledgement to happen. For one museum professional to see, appreciate and acknowledge all the hard work of all the invisible people behind the scenes. Additionally, I know that sometimes one begins to work and think only about the collection or works that one is around all the time i.e. at work. Thus, it is always important to get out and view what other museums are doing and maybe see how any issues you are having are being answered or discussed and solved in other places.
I am not someone who is “savvy” with social media platforms. Sure I know how to go on and use various platforms but as a whole I don’t consider myself a poster. I use it mainly for jokes or messaging friends I have met outside of the country. That being said when I was looking at the assignment for this week, to find a few social media platforms that are interesting, I had to ask myself what platforms or whose platforms would really interest me? So for the first time in a while I went on to Twitter and started looking for serious prospects- something that would interest me and at the same time be thought proving. So I thought back as a kid what was a great fascination for me and I thought let me search for NASA. What I found was that while the pictures were amazingly cool it didn’t really interest me enough to get me thinking so I decided to move on. In college my focus was the Holocaust, and while I’ve been to many Holocaust Museums around the globe I had never been to the one in Washington D.C. When I opened up its Twitter page the first thing I saw was that the museum has reached the milestone of 40 million visitors and this got me thinking. So I decided to investigate and found out that the museum had been dedicated in 1993. Meaning that in under 25 years it had averaged over 1.7 million visitors which according to their website states that of those 40 million 10 were children. When I thought of this it got me thinking how many museums I went to as a kid and how privileged I was, when there are so many more under-privileged children who don’t get access to museums which leads to children missing out on both history and culture.
Additionally, for me one of the biggest issues in the museum field is the fact that you have to know about internships, jobs and fellowships in order to be able to access them and apply. Many times without knowing the right people it is impossible to know about them. Listening to Mark go on about the possible ease to converse and create bonds without actually meeting the person, opens up possibilities of finding out new information that @ITweetMuseum has at its fingertips. If I wanted using the lists that Mark created inside the twitter page I can branch out and find people and ask them questions in ways that personally I wouldn’t be able to do in person. I can get lazy and talk myself out of going to events and actually talking to people (what it takes to network). Being In New York, and going to Pratt offers so many options. However, it is up to the individual to grab the initiative and make the leap forward in order to be able to fully use all the opportunities at my disposal.