Do You Follow: Impacts and Implications of Social Media in Museums
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As cultural institutions once founded on privacy, protocol and practice, museums must now choose how best to navigate the transparency presented by social media including Facebook, YouTube, Flickr and Twitter. When the Ontario based organization Archives and Museum Informatics held its first “Museums and the Web” conference in 1997, nascent concerns emphasized the frame rather than the function of social media - who will use the Internet rather than how. Over the last twelve years, major museums such as New York’s Museum of Modern Art have evolved from a static web presence to the cultivation of a participatory museum culture through the skillful implementation of social media. The Australian Museum is conducting an online blog experiment to determine if they are able to engage their audience in exhibition development. Social media is a participatory platform fortified by freedom of expression. This platform can alternate between pedestal and soapbox as users are given a public forum for personal ideologies. Though public in nature, museums are notoriously private in practice. Logic suggests that such a lack of transparency leads easily to a disconnect from constituents and hinders the development of a community base. Engagement in social media revives the original conception of museum as forum. This research project examines the issues surrounding the shifting discourse between museum and patron and the impact of social media on the development of a museum community.