Art Museums and Social Networks Fill the MUSAC

The auditorium full, the adjacentbig-screen viewing room full as well, a total of 600 connections to the live streaming broadcast, and a really massive participation on Twitter demonstratedthe high level of interest in the topic and the willingness to learn and share among practising and trainee members ofthe museological professions.

The façade of the MUSAC Museo de Arte Contemporáneo in León, which hosted the one-day Workshop on Social Networks and Contemporary Art Centres and Museums, 1 April 2011. Photo: Conxa Rodà

Let me advance here and a summary of the event and someof the many concepts that were aired and discussed.

Javier Leiva and Javier Celaya were the morning speakers, and they set out the theoretical and practical framework with regard to organizations, publics and social networks.

In his very fresh and far from stuffy session Javier Leiva mainly spoke about digital reputation and the work of the Community manager.

The MUSAC Auditorium. Guestspeaker Javier Leiva and Araceli Corbo, whoruns the Library and set up the Workshop

Javier Celaya noted howthe website — unsigned collective publication — and the blog — signed individual articles — complement one another, and was critical of the fact that many museums approach the blog as a cut-and-paste version of their website when the whole point is to differentiate them in content and language.

The afternoon was set aside for the round-table, with the participation of Nerea García, MediaLab Prado, Pilar Gonzalo, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia (MNCARS), Lucía Calvo, Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona (CCCB), Paula Álvarez, Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Castilla y León (MUSAC) and myself from the MuseuPicasso.

A three-hourround-table! I thought, ‘Oh dear, how are we going to make it interesting enough notto “lose” the public?’In factthe time flew past, the audience participated very actively and we could have spent even longer — and in fact we did,on the way out —going into what we talked about in greater depth and discussingadditional topics that there hadn’t been time for, such as rights, mobility…

I’ll sketch out here 10 key points — ideas and questions —that came in for discussion:

1. The time formuseums to wonder whether or not to enter the social networks is long gone; the question is when and how to do it. Two good reasons to get in there now: our users talk about us on the networks, so lets talk to them. And before long those centres that don’t allow and encourage user participation will be seen asdisplaying a certain disdain for the public.

2. You have to involve the entire organization. You can’t do 2.0 with a 1.0 mindset. This usually means an organizational change. The social networks give departments that would usually have no direct contact with the public the opportunity toopen up and communicate what they do; there are good examples of blogs byconservators, restorers, registrars, etc.

3. We need toevolve from one-way communication, which many of us still use on the social networks, to conversation. Rather thanbroadcasting what we inthe museum are doing and thinking, weshould be talking about what is likely to be of interest to the public, recognizing and responding positively to what others are doingand acting as connectors, links, conversationalists.

4. Be aware of the importance of the plural team, for the sake ofbeing consistent with the whole participatory philosophy of 2.0andto ensure sustainability.

5. 2.0 Community managers are the spokespersons of the institution. It makes no sense to leave them to face this challenge on their own. If we would generally not givethe responsibility of editing the museum’s magazineto a newly recruited intern, why we do it with social networking? Interns and students on practical placements do a huge amount of excellent work, but we ought not to leave to leave themon their own; they need tools, criteria and support from the rest of the organization.

6. Wikipedists are cybervolunteers: greater cooperation between museums and Wikipedia will means a better service to users.

7. How can museums stimulate publics to be constructive, critical, prosumer and proactive? How do we encourage forms of participation that contribute valuable content and critical visionsrather than a superfluous participation that goes no further than‘I like that’?

8. Are artists and curators involved in the creation of specific contents on the social networks?

9. Each network calls for a specific treatment of content and tone. We need toknow how to adapt and tailor the message and not merely replicate the same thing on different platforms.

10. The 2.0 networks expanda potential for communication that has beenaround forever. The difference is that now everything is a lot fasterand on a global scale and we are all involved. If we can make good use of this potential, enriching understanding and encouraging participation, we will be doing more to fulfilour mission as museums.

Before I go, anote on two museums I visited inLeón.

The MUSAC, our excellent host for the Workshop, occupies a magnificent building, winner of the Mies van der Rohe Award 2007. The museum applies the precept of making the collection less ‘permanent’, as advocated by the new museology, and has a rapid changeover of exhibits and layouts. So much so — and this is a subject for debate — thatit currently has six temporary exhibitions and has none of thepermanent collection on show. Not even a small selection. Given that this is a museum and not an exhibition centre, perhaps it couldstrike more of a balance between dynamism and access to the collection, so that casual visitors would have the chance to get to know its treasures. The wide range of activities promoted by the Library and Documentation Centre deserves special mention: Well done, Araceli and Raquel!

MUSAC. Teenagers visiting the exhibition rooms. Library. Photos: Conxa Rodà

The Museo de León spans everything from prehistory to the nineteenth century. I must confess that I expected it to be a small museum with a great number of exhibits and an old-fashioned museology. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, it has a modern museology, very much focused on the visitor, with simple but effective interactive resources, signage in Braille, and an iPod audio guide. This is a museum that really does respect the visitor and is eager to show off the treasures in its collection. Admission 1.20€, audio guidefree.

Museo de León. Museum plan in relief and Braille signage in the lobby. A visitor interacting with a display explaining a stele.

Conxa Rodà
Project Management

More onthe Workshop (Spanish):
‘Sharing enriches us’
20 key points from the presentation by Javier Celaya on #cmuseos
All of the tweets of #cmuseos

What did you think of the Workshop? Would you be interested in seeing a second Workshop organized at the national level?

  • Albert
    April 5, 2011

    Companys, l’enllaç al vídeo de la conferència de Javier Leiva no funciona!

  • Museu Picasso
    April 6, 2011

    Gràcies Albert!Ja hem arreglat l’enllaç.

  • Elena Villaespesa
    April 20, 2011

    Hola, lo estoy viendo en diferido, no tuvisteis ni 5 minutos de descanso??? Muy interesante todo lo que hablasteis.

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