This weekend the Smithsonian took a major step forward. About two dozen outside web/business experts, "digerati" highly regarded in the online world, helped lay down a vision for how to connect with this and the next generation of museum visitors.
Yes, SI is already out there--on Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and on myriad other social networks--but somehow it's not enough. We don't have a cohesive presence, and we're not optimizing our brand. Enter the digerati to provide some good, old-fashioned advice that was helpful, inspiring, and at times, a bit acrid. Here's what they had to say. These tidbits might just be applicable for your museum too.
1. Engage with your visitors, don't just speak to them. Open a forum, and keep it flowing.
2. Don't worry about losing an authoritative curatorial voice. Realize that people understand the difference between Joe Public's version of the story and an expert curator's.
3. At the same time, realize that there's value in that non-authoritative voice and in the art of storytelling. Change your perception about what kinds of information people really want to know.
4. Don't be stingy with content. More, more, more, more, more. (Get the idea?)
5. Shift your attention from objects to a simple diffusion of knowledge.
6. Measure quality vs. quantity. So what if only 100 people downloaded your latest podcast? That select group can make a big difference.
7. Erase the barrier between the physical and online experience. Read this one again, and say it out loud, please.
8. Be more accessible to everyone. Don't assume that you know your audience.
9. Be prepared to engage the world on their terms, not yours. 99.9% doesn't live in an academic vacuum.
10. Let go of expectations of perfection. Sometimes, "good enough" is great.
11. The web is messy. You can't control the flow of information. Let it happen. Just float.
Want more on the conference? Check out http://smithsonian20.si.edu/ and the posts created by Typepad (the provider powering this blog) http://featured.typepad.com/blogs/2009/01/smithsonian-20.html
Special thanks to David Recordon, from the parent company of this blogging service (Six Apart), for attending the sessions and providing some excellent insight. And, special thanks to Jeff Kanter from Facebook for allowing us to post his picture!