Museums and the Web

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

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Cooking The Exhibition Chefs

Liberty Science Center
in-house, Wayne LaBar using Ning template

Cooking The Exhibition Chefs http://www. cooking utilizes the popular and easily accessible Ning system to create a social media website to experiment and investigate whether such a site can be a platform to broadly engage the public in the exhibition development process of a museum. In particular it is being used to bring interested individuals to help develop the Cooking Exhibition which will examine the science and technology that underlies this subject. Clearly the nature and activity on social media sites offers opportunities to bring the public deeper into what has been primarily a closed process. Additionally, the openness and transparency necessary to engage individuals on a social media site creates opportunities to involve organizations and others beyond the general public. Finally by using the Ning platform this experiment is one that can be recreated by both large and small museums, and is evidence of the fact that increasingly on the web today there are tools that allow even low resource institutions an opportunity to have greater impact and explore new processes. IN fact this site was done with no IT support and completely by a person whom has never programmed in html or with other web tools.

First, it is clear from examining the growing list of members of the site profiles/members/ that in 18 months this effort has attracted a widely geographic and expertise diverse number of individuals, bringing together people whom clearly are both potential visitors of the exhibition but also people that may never see the exhibition.  We have the famous and the unknown. For an exhibition still in design phase we have exposed and involved a wider group of individuals in the project than ever before – from museum experts to cooking experts. This seems to be indicating that interest in a subject can generate people’s involvement in a museums design project over the web.

The social site allows for the involvement of the members physically into the exhibition process through the team openly providing information on the scheduling of all meetings through the site. http://www. cooking  These meeting announcements provide information allowing for members to join actual physical meetings by coming to the museum itself (which has happened) or by calling in and linking to a shared computer (the most common).

Review and commenting on exhibition design  and content is a strong part of how individuals are being involved in the exhibition development process . While often shrouded in confidentiality at this point of the project, these reviews both in written form on the site as well as at meetings through teleconference have improved the exhibition ideas. The result of having more independent minds involved in the process has improved and quickened their improvement and design process. In fact this section has been used to have members review competitive grants as well.

The blog component profiles/blog/list , and to a lesser extent the notes section notes have been additional  items on the social site that have truly transformed our exhibition process. By creating a site where anyone can post information concerning the subject of cooking, we have been able to expand the amount of content that can be considered for the exhibition. Additionally, it has increased the potential number of contacts and individuals that we can reach out to and whom potentially can help make the exhibition possible. Through this effort we have reached experts to funders.

Additional items that have also added extra dimensiona and additional ways for the public to be involved include the photos and video sections.

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