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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.

MEMA : using tags, posts, and tweets to help users build a personal narrative of the Teeny Harris Exhibition


Museum visitors have different perspectives and interests based on how they relate their personal experiences and knowledge to the objects on display in the museum. Many museums and cultural institutions would like to collect these perspectives to complement and augment the content of the museum’s official interpretation. With the temporal and spatial constraints of a user’s visit to a museum exhibition, it has been difficult to collect as much information as the museum would like to obtain from visitors. The emergence of the Social Web has inspired a number of museums to extend the experience of their exhibits by using social features to engage users to contribute opinions and feedback about their museum experience. However, current usage of social technologies focus mostly on the information flow from museums to visitors by the use of blogs and other social media in order to increase the visitors’ awareness of museums’ events and collections.

Although a fraction of existing projects attempt to engage online users as contributors, most often the opportunities to contribute are limited to simple commenting, tagging and microblogging artifacts because of their appealing immediacy and portability. They allow users to publish small elements of content and instantaneously broadcast them to other users of the service. The content produced through those fast feedback mechanisms has been analyzed from many directions. Those studies clearly indicate that those short messages from commenting, tagging, and microbloging not only reflect individual and collective responses in real time but also can capture profound and personal meaning for the contributor. As a result, the short messages might be important components as base for composing personal narratives for a specific object or exhibition. 

MEMA (Museum Exhibition MAnagement) is a personalized and interactive community-oriented system with mobile and Web features. MEMA supports a rich feature set that facilitates the sharing of users’ feeling/opinions of the exhibition experience through their mobile devices and further helps the creation of users’ personal narratives with tags, posts, tweets, and other microblogging artifacts. MEMA is built upon a collection with approximately 80,000 photographs by Charles "Teenie" Harris, a photographer for an influential local newspaper, the Pittsburgh Courier.

This paper focuses on providing a convenient way for users to share information and to use short messages from potential microblogging technologies to increase the chances of getting users to contribute their own narratives. The paper explores a solution for achieving the goal of gathering users’ personal narratives and experiences by collecting their short messages from diverse social media including Twitter and Facebook through mobile devices  In this study, we are conducting an empirical experiment starting on October 29th, coinciding with the opening of the exhibition “Teenie Harris, Photographer: An American Story”.  Actual visitors to the exhibition will be our subjects. All of their activities will be recorded in our session logs. We expect to see that the proposed solution could assist narrative creating in terms of convenience and efficiency.


Demonstration - show your project


yiling's picture
Yi-ling Lin is currently a Ph.D. student of Information Sciences at the University of Pittsburgh and works in Personalized Adaptive Web Systems (PAWS) lab on educational and cultural heritage projects. I have been working in the field of human interactive systems, information retrieval and social...
realw's picture
Don't have the time now, will fill in more later.
shiningbai's picture
Graduate Student of School of Information Science, University of Pittsburgh; Quality Control Manager of COMISYS, Beijing, China Software Engineer of SinoSoft, Beijing, China Bachelor of Engineering, School of Software Engineering, Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications
YuanyuanYe's picture
I am a graduate student majored in Information Science, currently participating in project MEMA, which is related to museum, culture, and micro blog.
cecilia_z's picture
Museums enable people to explore collections for inspiration, learning and enjoyment.A museum in a city is always my favorite part of this city.