Museums and Social Networks: an Encounter at the Louvre

The recent get-together in Paris as part of the ‘Rencontres Web Musées’, on 16 October, was in the purest spirit of 2.0: informal and participatory and with plenty of substance supplied not only by the panel but by many of the delegates. The setting, the Louvre. The subject: Museums and Web 2.0. The content: let me give you a brief overview, and you can check out the presentations on Slideshare.

I could see that as far as 2.0 is concerned the museums in France are more or less where we are here, just starting to explore and discover the immense possibilities of communication and content generation that the social networks make available to us all, but a few French museums are at the cutting edge: of note here are the 2.0 experiences of the Muséum and the Abattoirs, both in Toulouse – the first science, the second contemporary art – or the Museum of Contemporary Art in Lyon. In Paris itself it seems that the major museums haven’t really got started yet, but museums are already showing a lot of interest, and the very fact of holding the 2.0 encounter at the Louvre is a good sign. I have a hunch that within six months or a year at the outside action on the social networks will have been integrated into most centres’ communication strategy. Their potential is much too good to miss, and the breakneck speed at which they’re expanding means that you can’t just sit there open-mouthed in wonderment if you want to really get on board. It’s not at all about following a trend, it’s about being present wherever the users are, talking to people and exchanging views in a multi-directional way, with communication being not only from the museum to the public, as in the past, but from everyone to the museum and from everyone to everyone.

Out of the variety of good practices presented and concepts shared I’ll limit myself to just a small sample and invite you to look at the presentations, all of them interesting.

Samuel Bausson, webmaster of the Muséum de Toulouse and one of the architects of the Rencontres, with Yves-Armel Martin of the Centre Erasme, sees the museum as a place that is conducive to affiliation by affinity, and 2.0 as coming down off the walls and going out to meet the public where they already are. I especially liked his call to ‘get out of the logic of the display case and get into a relational logic’. Like almost all the speakers, Samuel emphasized the need to listen. This is crucial: the first thing a museum, a centre or a business must do: listen to what people say, be aware of what others are doing on 2.0. The next thing is to encourage questions and comments from visitors, get involved in the conversation and accept the contradictions. It’s essential to synchronize the museum’s times with those of the website and not to do things for the visitors but with the visitors. One evidently true conclusion: ‘pas de web 2.0 avec un fonctionnement interne en 1.0‘: there can be no Web 2.0 if the internal workings of the museum are in 1.0 (non-participatory). I recommend view his two presentations, one with the suggestive title ‘De la conservation à la conversation’ and the other, Adéquation Web 2.0 et musées, with inspired slides at the end caricaturing the objections that tend to be put on social network entries.

Presentation of Samuel Bausson, Rencontres Web-Musées at the Louvre.

Ana-Laura Baz, from the Musée de la Civilisation in Quebec, defines the museum as a meeting place of ideas and people, and proposes to engage in dialogue with different publics on the blog based on the museum productions.

Within the package of concrete experiences, in addition to an explanation of the Flickr competition we organized at the Museu Picasso and a second presentation outlining the launch of our 2.0 project, Maud Dahlem from Toulouse detailed an interesting and successful experience of an encounter between Net users and presential visitors, centred on a photography activity run by her museum.

The Musée d’art contemporain in Lyon, which receives some 200,000 visitors each year, half of them younger than 26, presented the MAC’s action on Facebook. The emphasis here was on the opportunities that Facebook provides for direct dialogue between the visitor and the museum, in a context and a language different from the usual.

The final session by Philippe Fabry was dedicated to evaluation and how to assess the impact of a presence on the social networks: in order to detect an increase in frequency and/or visibility it is essential to count the number of web users before and after the launch of the 2.0 project.

The debates brought out a lot of interesting questions and many of the doubts and uncertainties we all feel as our museums embrace 2.0, such as how to preserve the historic relationship with Net users, how to persuade the ‘bosses’ of the importance/necessity of a 2.0 presence and allocating resources to it, the return on investment, qualitative indicators, integration within the ‘official’ website or concerns about the continuity of the 2.0 project where this has been associated with the initiative and motivation of one person and not the institution as a whole.


Facebook of Museum of  Contemporary Art, Lyon.

One delegate put a significant and unusual question to one of the speakers who had succeeded in starting up her 2.0 project in a Ministry-run centre: ‘How did you do it? We are also run by the Ministry, and they didn’t let us.’ The incontestable reply was: ‘We didn’t ask for permission.’ Well done pragmatism, sad that the decision makers are still afraid of criticism when criticism is so tremendously valuable when it comes to improving and progressing. Openness and transparency, which are inherent in 2.0, should also be the qualities of a public administration that genuinely serves the citizens.

Let me wind up this summary by inviting you to look at the presentations and post your comments on this blog.

Conxa Rodà
Project Manager

What do you expect from museums on the social networks? What would you like to see them do there?


  • Xavier F.
    October 25, 2009

    Jo també penso q no trigarà massa a ser una bresència normal dels museus a les xarxes 2.0. A mi els blogs i tweets q més m’interessen són els q expliquen coses més desconegudes, no els q simplemnent informen d’activitats. el q esteu fent al Picasso ho trobo molt interessant

  • Redacció museu
    October 26, 2009

    Hola Xavier,

    Doncs tal i com comentes, si aprofitem els canals de comunicació i participació que la Xarxa ens brinda (Blog, Facebook, Twitter…) per donar a conèixer tot allò que no queda a l’abast de l’usuari i, per tant, més desconegut, aconseguirem entre tots donar un valor afegit a les iniciatives que es realitzin.

    Moltes gràcies!

  • Toni
    October 27, 2009

    no coneixia el q fan a França en 2.0. Moltes gràcies per la síntesi i els links.

  • Conxa Rodà
    October 29, 2009

    Posteriorment han aparegut dues ressenyes més fetes per altres ponents i amb més fotos als seus blogs:
    -Yves-Armel Martin (Centre Erasme) a
    -i Diane Drubay a Buzzeum

  • Jonathan
    October 29, 2009

    Great your Fauvist initiative on Flickr.
    I’d like museums acted everywhere more as participatory platforms than merely information providers. As far as I can see, the Picasso Museum is well on its way! Thank you

  • Conxa Rodà
    October 29, 2009

    Two more posts have been published by other panelists on their blogs and with more images:
    -Yves-Armel Martin (Centre Erasme)
    -and Diane Drubay a Buzzeum

  • Museum's newsroom
    October 29, 2009

    Thank you very much Jonathan!
    We will continue working in this way and hope people are encouraged to participate and show their opinion on what we propose and offer.

    Best regards.

  • Philippe Fabry
    October 20, 2009

    Hi Conxa,

    I’ve posted some comments about my keynotes (In French)

    Kind regards

  • Conxa Rodà
    November 6, 2009

    Un grand merci, Philippe,
    j’avais ajouté votre post à mes favoris, mais j’avais pas eu encore le temps de l’agreger ici. Très, très interessant!

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