Surfing, Tumbling, and Pinning

I run across a lot of fun stuff surfing the wilds of the internet, much of which I stash away to share with you here in an eventual Brain Popcorn post.  Sometimes it’s from an article on my reader (and blessings on the day I decided to invest in upkeeping my RSS feeds, or I’d miss so much cool and wacky content!), and sometimes it’s a neat link on Twitter, but recently there’s been a fair amount of it on tumblr and Pinterest.  I initially resisted both sites because I need more ways to fritter away time on the internet like I need a ten-ton elephant standing on my head, but between a few influential articles and blog posts from people I admire, not to mention a few sessions at the recent National Art Educators Association conference in NYC, I decided to jump straight in.

art & nature center pinboard

Museums on Pinterest

If you search Pinterest users for ‘museum’ you get a fairly large number of results, which I initially found surprising, especially the heavy concentration of children’s museums, though in a lot of ways the art museums are a perfect fit.  I haven’t looked at all their boards, but here are a few folks doing interesting things on Pinterest:

SFMOMA – Thematic collections of elements of their collection, and one cool and self-referential board that highlights where they turn up in the press.

Metropolitan Museum of Art – More thematic collections, and I’m particularly fond of the way they used a quote in the description section of their ‘cat’ board.  (also a great resource to get to other cool museum boards: check out the list of who the Met’s following! I’m particularly keen to see what ends up on the crowdsourced Future of Museums board.)

Met Teens – The museum’s teen advisory group runs this set of boards, which they use to highlight student work (both written and visual) especially in response to museum collections, draw correlations between historical fashions and modern, and advertise upcoming teen-focused events at the museum.  Very cool!

Not convinced?  Right before I was putting this post out into the world, fellow museum enthusiast Colleen Dilenschneider over on Know Your Own Bone wrote a fantastically well-researched set of arguments about why Pinterest is a useful investment for the extended museum community: 5 Reasons for Museums to get on Pinterest right now.

Museums on Tumblr

This is a bit more of a stretch: I don’t actually find Tumblr to be as easy a site to navigate or search.  Simply tracking the ‘museum’ tag gets you interesting photos from people’s vacations, but locating specific museum projects on Tumblr is harder.

Eye Spy: Fake or Real? – This was actually the project that introduced me to Tumblr, which was a game we designed to go with our “Playing with Perception” show at PEM last year.  I really liked the format that our team put together, and I haven’t seen any similar game-style Tumblr projects out there.  (But I’d love to, so if you know of any, do tell!)

SFMOMA (again) – Their general feed is interesting, but I particularly like their ArtGameLab tag, where they share visitor photos etc. from their visitor-designed game projects accessible online and in the galleries.

Have you run across any cool organizational projects on Tumblr or Pinterest?  Share them here! 

Or, of course, you could just come find me there! (fair warning, what you see there is often what happens in my brain before it makes it into a coherent Popcorn post)

Brain Popcorn on Tumblr
Brain Popcorn on Pinterest

Recommendation: Playing to Learn

I’m always interested in what other people have to say about the connections between learning and play, and I really enjoyed this presentation (designed as if on a game board) which talks about ways to keep learning fun without being entirely lame lost in the maze of a good idea poorly executed.

Do make time to watch the section on Bloom’s Taxonomy as explained by the Pirates of the Caribbean. I laughed a lot.

Level 4: Analysis. "Me, I'm dishonest. And a dishonest man you can always trust to be dishonest. It's the honest ones you've got to watch out for."

“Children love to learn, but at some point they lose that and become adults that don’t like formal learning. Let’s explore why “play” has gotten such a bad rap and figure out how to get it back in education.” ~Maria Andersen, Playing to Learn? on Prezi

Twitter in the History Books

Last summer I wrote about how the Massachusetts Historical Society was using Twitter to re-broadcast the daily ‘tweets’ of John Quincy Adams.  (A project which is ongoing, by the way, and still fun to find out the daily activities of this long ago Bostonian and former US President.)  And in that post, I asked “What other historical figures would you love to see as a Twitterer or in some other modern guise?” (I’d love to hear the brain-poppings of Thomas Jefferson, JRR Tolkien, or Thomas Edison, to name just a few.  “Dang! Have now invented 64th way not to build lightbulb.  Must purchase more filament tomorrow.”)  The folks at the Paul Revere House have taken up the challenge  and tweet regularly as the Midnight Rider himself at @PaulRevere1734.  And for the ironic, sad, amusing, and historically inaccurate, check out Historical Tweets: @johannesG: Finally finished invention. Disappointed to learn that no one can read. (Johnnes Gutenberg, inventor of the Gutenberg Press)

However, it now turns out that future generations will be able to find out what was on the mind of folks around the world and up and down the spectrum of celebrity — from the online and backstage shenanigans of rock stars and actors to the mundane details of what you and I thought about the recent spate of natural and manmade disasters.  Late last week, The Washington Post reported that the Library of Congress is going to be archiving all of Twitter’s public tweets, on a six-month lag (to separate ‘history’ from ‘current events.’)  Though some people are naturally skeptical (and uninterested in what Al from Boise had for lunch when he visited San Francisco on a business trip), others point out that hearing people’s off-the-cuff responses, finding out what interests them at a particular time, or evidence of casual correspondence between public figures is a historical goldmine.

Also mentioned in the article is also the benefit to populist history: taking the archives and sifting through the hashtags, etc, future historians could in fact get a real picture* of societal values and interests in an increasingly fractured “information age.”  I once heard historian and author David McCullough speak, and was incredibly struck by his statement that though we live in an age which is ‘information rich,’ future historians could easily find it ‘information poor,’ especially if and when digital records are lost.  Who writes letters by hand?  Who keeps a steady handwritten journal?  he asked.  What possible tools will the future students of the past have to understand an age where newspapers begin to disappear and half our life is lived by email?  Though it does  not solve the digital-record-dilemma, perhaps the Library of Congress Twitter archive is one way to answer his–and history’s–concerns.

*And by “real,” the article and I would both like to point out, we mean “the sections of society which are aware of and interested in a communication medium like Twitter.”  All historical sources have their context and limitations, after all!

Talk to Me: Websites that Capture Museum Experiences

I’m working on the problem of experiential museums and the way they represent themselves on the internet.  Though obviously some museums have an impressive web presence on Twitter, Flickr, Facebook, etc. I’m specifically interested in museums’ own home websites, where one hopefully gets the clearest message about who these museums are and what it is like being there.

There are a number of art museums that have very impressive websites (Boston’s MFA is top of my list largely due to familiarity, but there are certainly others), however I feel that in general art museums have it easiest, being in general object-centric.  (Certainly there are exceptions, but looking at the ‘object of the week’ feature and overall focus of exciting new projects like Open Museum show that I’m not alone in thinking that the ‘stuff’ is what’s central in a lot of these places.)  Historic sites have it almost as easy, if they’re largely interested in interpreting material culture.

What about other kinds of museums?  How do living history museums, inquiry-learning discovery/science centers, children’s museums, and others that put the experience (theatrical, hands-on, or otherwise) represent themselves in a format which is so removed from their physical presence?  Is there a way to capture what it’s like to be there?  To simulate it, or at least adequately record and share it?  To spread the message and the mission so that when people get to the physical space, they understand why it is the way it is?

Off the top of my head, the Exploratorium seems to have a few of those ‘best practices’ to share, and surely there are others.

Bat-eared Foxes, photo by Floridapfe

Talk to me about museums you think do this well (or if it’s even possible) –I’m all ears.

Putting Twitter in a Historical Context?

Wait…really?  Twitter, the ‘so new you have to be part of it to look cool’ mini-status-update gadget that half the world loves to hate already?  Twitter plus history equals something interesting?


John Quincy Adams as ambassador to Russia

John Quincy Adams as ambassador to Russia

While I admit to being slightly biased about just how cool this organization is, (I worked on the interactive timeline on The Coming of the American Revolution) the Massachusetts Historical Society has gone and done something kind of fun.  This summer marks the 200th anniversary of John Quincy Adams’ voyage to Russia, to the diplomatic post appointed to him by then President Madison.  Though JQA wrote long diary entries as well, he also kept a line-a-day journal with navigational coordinates of their journey and a summary of the day’s highlights–much like today’s Facebook status updates or Twitter posts.  The MHS is doing a daily re-post of those summary entries on Twitter, and also has an overview page about the project available at their main site.

My favorite techno-gadget they’ve included is a progressive Google map tracking JQA’s progress across the Atlantic, linked from the end of most posts.

For further thought:
– What other historical figures would you love to see as a Twitterer or in some other modern guise?
– How else could you use Google maps in another context?  Historical?  To plan out the plot of a story?  Tracking sea turtles? (The New England Aquarium, another institution for which I have a positive bias, has a rehabilitation center that tracks its ‘outpatients.’)