Webstock 2010 – Shelley Bernstein from Brooklyn Museum

I had the pleasure of attending my second Webstock conference in Wellington last week. Shelley Bernstein, Chief of Technology at Brooklyn Museum was the standout speaker – I came away really impressed by the museum’s use of social media to further its “community-oriented mission through projects including free public wireless access, podcasts, cell phone audio tours, projects for mobile devices and putting the Brooklyn Museum collection online”.

Some cool examples she mentioned included:


The museum’s done a number of things to get involved with patrons who are using the location-aware app/game, FourSquare.

  • They’ve used the Foursquare API to create a Brooklyn Museum landing page which is worth checking out. It aggregates the comments and suggestions made by people who’ve checked in at the museum. For example: “Saturdays are tough because of the crowds. Naturally the earlier the better and I find it best to start at the top floor and work your way down. (Alex). They’ve also added staff picks of local eateries. The page displays a gallery of recent visitors to the museum by grabbing the user icons of people who have used Foursquare to ‘check in’ at the museum, which is a nice touch.
  • They also offer a reward to the patron who achieves Mayor of the museum on the first Saturday of the month; and they’re working with Foursquare to create a special Brooklyn Museum badge which patrons can unlock.

#mummywrap on Twitter

  • The Museum’s conservators live tweeted the CT scanning of several mummies from its collection. They posted pictures and answered questions live. “Layer 8 has lots of ties – seems to be a lattice, but hard to tell how to put back together #mummywrap” (the museum tweets from @Brooklyn Museum)

Crowdsourcing recommendations and tags and feedback

  • Brooklyn Museum Posse – the museum has made its online collection interactive by allowing patrons to create tags & recommendations for items. Shelley gave a great example of the great effects this interactivity with the public can have – it was via a patron’s comment on its online collection that Museum staff discovered that the TV series True Blood included a statue inspired by a piece in their collection. Their initial blog post about it resulted in a conversation with the Production Designer, providing fodder for cool and timely social media discussion.
  • BklynMuse –  A community-powered recommendation system/gallery guide.  Posse members who have created “sets” of favourite items  can access them as they tour the gallery. “Those same sets can be shared and featured for other visitors to see, so your voice…your notes…your selections…may be highlighted, in all their Posse glory, for all to see.”
  • Video comment kiosks – The museum replaced their comment books with video kiosks, in which visitors can record their own comments to video. These are shared on the web (hit the link to see the collection of comments).

I came away with a lot of neat ideas for using social media to further the outreach of museums and galleries – which I know will be useful in my teaching as I get a lot of curatorship students enrolling in my digital publishing courses. I also really liked the look of 1stfans –  a “socially networked museum membership” which offers meetups, artist created content via Twitter.

Thank you, Shelley, for your thoughtful and information-packed talk.

I’d also like to say thanks to Google’s Open Source Program for sponsoring my Webstock registration. Especial thanks to Leslie and Cat for making it happen. :)

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