Author Archives: clarisallaneza

Why is it beneficial for a museum to have twitter or facebook?

Twitter has rapidly become one of the most widely used sources of infromation in the world. Just today I saw on the news that a company called Peek is going to start selling a device that looks like an iphone, just for twittering… its insane! In the corporate world maybe twitter is a good idea to get out ideas rapidly. For a person to tweet that they just tried a pair of jeans and noticed that she’s not the same size anymore… not so much. But we are here to talk about museums and twitter/facebook. Facebook is a global social networking website that is operated and privately owned by Facebook, Inc. Here is a list of the museums on Facebook.  An article in The Art Newspaper proclaims that “Facebook is more than a fad- and museums need to learn from it” and museums should embrace the idea that “everyone is a curator”. I am attaching a portion below.  Jim Richardson,  is the managing director of Newscatle-based Sumo, a design consultancy specializing in arts and culture. Richardson published on the 202 issue of May 2009 after it was published online on April of the same year.

“Social networks and blogs are the fastest growing online activities, according to a report published in March by research firm Nielsen Online. Almost 10% of all time spent on the internet is spent on these types of sites, which Nielsen describes as “member communities”, and they are visited by more than two-thirds of the world’s online users.

This has not gone unnoticed by museums and galleries, with many creating some kind of presence on sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. But because this has primarily been done as a marketing tool, institutions are missing a far greater opportunity. By treading gently into the second generation of web development and design, known as Web 2.0, museums risk achieving little, and are effectively paying mere lip service to online social engagement. If they were to make a proper commitment to the enterprise, they could transform their relationship with audiences, change people’s perceptions of them and vastly expand the reach of their collections.

The Nielsen research shows that a major factor in the success of social networks is that they allow people to select and share content. This has become a hobby, even considered by some to be a serious creative outlet, with web users spending time “curating” their online space. Museums are well placed to appeal to this new generation of “curators” because they offer rich and interesting content that can be virtually “cut-up” and stuck back together online in numerous different ways to reflect the individual tastes of each user. If remixing, reinterpreting and sharing interesting content is, as Nielsen suggests, the kind of engaging interaction that draws people to social networks, then museums should embrace the idea that “everyone is a curator”, both online and offline.

Most of the institutions that are adapting their own websites with those facets of the social networks that so many people find attractive are in the US. The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York relaunched its website in March. It now includes links to the museum’s online users on various social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Users can also create personal online accounts, which allow them to bookmark upcoming events, create online exhibitions and “collect” works of art via their mobile phone as they walk around the gallery and view them later on the website.

Victor Samra, digital media marketing manager at MoMA, says: “It’s not enough just to broadcast information now. Sharing and participating in discussions are becoming normal activities on the web, so I think people are coming to expect it. People want to engage with content they are really passionate about, and museums have a great opportunity to provide this for them. This helps to change the perception of the museum as a building with four closed walls to an organisation with personality and a human face.”

One potential obstacle to museums sharing content online is the issue of copyright and how to protect images if they are put on the internet. Legal implications aside, from a practical point of view this approach is becoming outdated. For example, the Art Museum of Estonia has gone against convention by actively encouraging visitors to photograph its collection; the MoMA website helps users to co-create content and share these creations with friends.

All museums want to create a dialogue with their audiences, and most museum staff are well aware that the internet can be a useful tool for doing this. But museums such as MoMA that have wholeheartedly embraced the new digital environment are becoming part of the conversation, rather then just pushing content or questions at visitors and then sitting back. Online activity such as MoMA’s requires investment, both in terms of web development costs and staff time, but if this is where people are and how they are communicating, then, one can argue, museums should be there too.

Curators pride themselves on using their collections to analyse issues, provoke reactions and ask difficult questions. But these questions are no longer just being debated over a coffee or in the galleries themselves; they are also being discussed online, whether it is on social network sites such as Facebook, online discussion forums or the many blogs, and the content prompting these responses is no longer restricted to the four walls it actually inhabits. This means museums and galleries need to expand the sites where they introduce, narrate and edit their programmes.”

I believe this is truly a great article. But I would still like to throw out there the idea that keeps floating around my head… Can this all just become a big blur? Can all of this access, and participation actually make the museum disappear? There is a lot going on right now with museums and the web, in fact there is an international conference for culture and heritage on-line: Museums and the Web 2010, which is an annual conference exploring the social, cultural, design, technological, economic, and organizational issues of culture, science and heritage on-line. So the future of the museum and its relation to these social networking technologies is still very unclear, especially with all the speed of change that is occurring in the world.

Clarisa Llaneza

Evolution: Science and Art for Sale in SoHo

evolution and curiosityThis store has been a landmark in Manhattan’s SoHo art district since 1993; it “sells unique natural history collectibles usually seen only in museums. These include butterflies and beetles, fossils, seashells, skulls and skeletons, medical models, and tribal art.” More here.

The second I walked into this store it immediately reminded me of the Cabinets of Curiosity; the way the objects are presented and the whole store is structured is similar to an early museum. For those of you who are not familiar with the Cabinet of Curiosities also known as Cabinets of Wonder, or Wonder-Rooms [Wunderkammern], these were encyclopedic collections of objects whose categorical boundaries were yet to be defined in Renaissance Europe . Modern terminology would categorize the objects included as belonging to natural history, geology, ethnography, archaeology, religious or historical relics, works of art and antiquities. It was regarded as a microcosm or ‘theater of the world’, and a ‘memory theater’.

Peter Thomas stated about Charles I of England’s collection that these were “a form of propaganda”, only for the aristocrats and only some could afford having them. Besides the most famous, best documented cabinets of rulers and aristocrats, members of the merchant class and early practitioners of science in europe formed collections that were in fact the precursors to public museums.

Clarisa Llaneza

Stairway to the Past

The tenement is a New York City Museum that tells the stories of immigrants who loved in 97 Orchard Street, a tenement built in 1863 on Manhattan’s Lower East Side by a German named Lucas Glockner and it was home to nearly 7000 working class immigrants. These immigrants faced challenges that we understand better today; specially with the economic and moral crisis we are confronting: making a new life, working for a better future, starting a family with limited means. This museum tells their stories, the stories of the families that lived here; how they lived, what they accomplished and where did they came from. The second you enter the building the museum takes you to the days were there was no electricity inside the building and slowly take you through the years in a casual and very interactive way.

Ruth Abraham, an historian and social activist wanted a museum that honored America’s immigrants; but she accomplished much more. The museums mission: “The Tenement Museum promotes tolerance and historical perspective through the presentation and interpretation of the variety of immigrant and migrant experiences on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, a gateway to America”.

97 Orchard was found in ruins, after it being abandoned for over 50 years, it took a long time to gather everything together, combing through archives, compiling evidence about tenements and their lives; but after several years of research the museum began the task of restoring apartments and in 1992 they opened the first restored apartment, the 1878 home of the German-Jewish Gumpertz family. Now, they have restored 6 apartments and are looking into the future with a lot of other new projects that will expand the ideas of tenements now-a-days. Every corner of this museum is amazing, a space were you let go your imagination and go back in time. It’s a beautiful time capsule in the Lower East Side.

It’s a great and amazing experience that everyone should visit.


The Syndrome of ’92: Guggenheim Effect

In her recent book “Txoriburu”, the writer and illustrator Asun Balzola describes how her natal city was in the 40’s. She says that for her, the most curious fact of the Guggenheim effect is that “people has made it theirs, they don’t see the museum as a thing of some people in New York, but as theirs”. Plus, “the most encouraging thing is that the young people are their first fans. When you are inside of the building the light, the spirals of its architecture make the things inside just there, you can almost visit it empty and it would be the same”. Without a doubt, she concludes, the Guggenheim “has revived Bilbao, because you can see it from a lot of places. You are going around the streets and all of the sudden you can see this mount in front of you and the titanium roofs. Its amazing”.

On October 18th of 1997, the king Juan Carlos, the president of the foundation, the architect and the authorities inaugurated the museum in front of the eyes of 10,000 curious people. In its first month, a hundred thousand people met the Guggenheim, making it the third most visited museum of Spain, after El Prado and Reina Sofia, both in Madrid. Besides, of the 70,000 visitants in the first eight months (the most optimistic calculations were estimating 40,000 in a year), almost one of very four was foreign.

Eighty private companies compromised to collaborate with the museum in some way and 86 of every 100 visitors expressed the means to come back: the Guggenheim Effect was born.

Now a days, they are offering weekends special in Milan, London, to visit this colossal of glass and titanium. Taking advantage of the renovations of the airport, airlines of countries like Portugal, Belgium or Germany multiply their connections with Bilbao. Luxury Cruises dock alongside the old fishing life in the city port, where their passengers get surprised by the welcoming they receive. In what used to be a port area in which cargo containers were poling up waiting to be chartered, now arises the last grand new museum built in the 20th Century, maximum exponent of the city’s new identity.

For the first time in a long time, this population of a mostly gray and humid climate is noticed by all the world for something that is not the kidnapers or terrorist violence.