Creating a Dialogue

A significant message to come out of the Smithsonian 2.0 discussions was the need to facilitate a dialogue between our staff and our visitors, both on-line and on site. At the Luce Foundation Center at the American Art Museum, we think we’re already pretty good at that. People can comment on our Web site and in-gallery kiosks, or they can talk to people at the always-staffed information desk. We document everything and have made many changes in direct response to visitor feedback. (If you want a list of every question or comment we’ve received at the information desk since July 1, 2006, we can get you that!) We’re talking to people on Facebook and the museum’s blog, and created an exciting conversation through the ARG Ghosts of a Chance. But the conference really got me thinking that it would be wonderful to involve our visitors in true behind-the-scenes activites. Can we do this in a way that is engaging for the participant, but also honestly useful and not too time-consuming for the staff?

We came up with an idea that we think might be successful. When an artwork leaves the Luce Center (to go elsewhere in the museum, to go out on loan, or to go to the Lunder Conservation Center) and will be gone for more than twelve months, we need to replace it. Can the public help? We think they can, and created this page as a test run. What do you think?

7 thoughts on “Creating a Dialogue

  1. I think the page is fun–it will be interesting to see what kind of public feedback you get!
    In terms of engaging the public in behind-the-scenes activities, I’ve found myself thinking a lot about the idea of a “what am I doing today”-type blog. This idea was mentioned in passing during the conference, but stuck with me for some reason. The suggestion was that SI staff from around the institution could post a paragraph or two and/or a photo of what they are doing on a given day…no long description about what a registrar, botanist, or exhibit designer does as a whole (that’s what Wikipedia is for!) but just a quick snapshot kind of thing. (ie: photos of crates being unloaded from a truck, a summary of a design meeting, or discussion of the hunt for a new beetle.)It would require very little staff time (people could post every few weeks or so), and would be an interesting “behind the scenes” picture of what is going on around the Smithsonian on any given day. It would be interesting to see where something like that goes, and if enough staff would be willing to buy in.

  2. I think it’s a terrific idea. And if participants are given a brief (150 character) space to justify their selection, you may find a premise for a later ‘people’s choice’ exhibition with ready-made, possibly thoughtful, captions.

  3. This is great idea. Another one would be similar to the one Tatiana (what a wonderful name) mentioned above. I remember the my group had as part of the Smithsonian 2.0 weekend when we visited the collection storage facility. I found myslef wishing that the private tour we were given was being broadcast to all of my firends! Wouldn’t be cool if there were quick backstage looks where people could then have a dialogue with the curator of that collection? Yum!

  4. This is a great idea Georgina and I like how you implemented it in a simple and low-maintenance way. We have had similar thoughts to connect the online and on-site experience. I also like what MN Historical Society did with their MN 150 exhibit. http://www.mnhs.org/exhibits/mn150/ It would be great if multiple SI museums collaborated on an exhibition built via public input.

  5. I love the idea of getting objects out of storage and being something of a participatory/assisted curatorial process on the part of visitors. Great way to include visitors’ opinions in an approach that reflects their values and interests.

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