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Museums and the Web

An annual conference exploring the social, cultural, design, technological, economic, and organizational issues of culture, science and heritage on-line.

Monticello

Institution: 

The Thomas Jefferson Foundation

Designer: 

Night Kitchen Interactive

Category: 

Social Media

Why

Project Goal: The Thomas Jefferson Foundation wanted to promote on-site visitation to Monticello and expand its audience reach by creating a vibrant online destination that engages a global audience in dialogue around Jefferson’s ideas, the Monticello house and gardens, and plantation life.

Creative use of social media: Most historical institutions are unwilling to let go of their authoritative voice and limit visitor interaction to a minor section of their websites. The redesign of Monticello.org was centered on the integration of social media to allow staff and Jefferson enthusiasts to comment, favorite, and tag content throughout the website as they learned fascinating new things about Monticello, Thomas Jefferson, and the Foundation.

The result is a website that reflects the voices of Monticello’s broader community. The “Blog & Community” section (http://www.monticello.org/site/blog-and-community) provides quick access to the most favorited pages, tags, fan profiles, as well as recent comments and blog posts.

Since its official launch in January 2011, the Community has grown to over 300 fans and Monticello’s Facebook presence has increased by 500 (bringing the total to over Facebook 7,000 fans to date). Through on-going communication efforts via YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook, the Thomas Jefferson Foundation hopes that more of its followers from other social media channels will participate in the conversations on its main website. The comments, tags, and favorites provided by members of the community offer quick access to content of most interest, thereby facilitating exploration of the site’s content by other online visitors.

Reason for nominating the site: Monticello.org sets an example for other cultural institutions seeking ways to engage with their audiences online. Most of these organizations recognize the value of social media but are uncertain as to how to facilitate such interactions online. They are also accustomed to having an authoritative institutional voice. By allowing social interactions to occur throughout the website, Monticello.org demonstrates an unprecedented use of social media by a historical and cultural heritage institution.

By integrating the voices of individual staff members into Monticello’s web presence, the Foundation has created a more multidimensional institutional voice that will encourage visitors, scholars, students, and Jefferson enthusiasts to participate in its community both online and on-site.