Note from Beth: It is strange sometimes how social networks can have your past, present, and future collide. I met James Leventhal via Twitter and we ended up working together on a project. Through Facebook, I've been able to connect with friends from elementary school, high school, and college. Sometimes connections cross the boundaries of time.
Recently, James wrote about some interesting ways museums are using Twitter for offline/online engagement. And, one of the Twitter users who participated was a friend from high school!
The San Francisco Bay Area has seen some extraordinary museum openings over the past several years. When the New de Young opened it did a 32-hour party and community celebration, starting a trend that was then picked up by the Contemporary Jewish Museum with Dawn in 2008 and now the Oakland Museum of California (OMCA).
For a lot of folks, the Oakland Museum of California is something of a standard bearer of community engagement and the building itself is a harbinger of today’s museums.
Amongst the long list of activities that took place, one of the more interesting is that a dedicated local team of social networking museum professionals from the Oakland Museum of California (@oaklandmuseumca), the Contemporary Jewish Museum (@jewseum), the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (@sfmoma), the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (@ybca), the Exploratorium (@exploratorium), the California Academy of Sciences (@calacademy), and the Asian Art Museum (@asianartmuseum) are going to try and make the “topic” #CALIFORNIA trend on twitter. California is part of the OMCA’s mission.
When it opened in 1969, OMCA’s design by Pritzker prize–winning architect Kevin Roche was acclaimed for its bold and innovative premise: a museum that also serves as a vibrant urban park and public space.
If you follow museums on twitter, a lot of what you find is that the “institutions” are communicating with each other in ways that are novel, educational, engaging, droll or banal — reflecting the overall tone of “dialogue” in the twitterverse.
And what’s also interesting about this is how it reveals that there are typically individuals who are responsible for these “tweets.” This provides a new level of transparency for the museum worker, and a higher degree of exposure. Ironically, the “tweeters” often mask their true identities. In fact, this group of professionals in the SF Bay Area all know each other and refer to themselves as the “superfriends,” referring perhaps more to their masked identities than their kinship.
It is also interesting because museums have come to play a cherished role in our civic constructs as the development of new museums and major renovations in the SF Bay Area reveal. But they still suffer for issues of relevance. With Twitter and other so called social networking tools, the question of relevance is now in the hands of individuals, the audience even. And it is smart for museums like the OMCA to leverage their ability to make something trend, to reveal their networks. Trending topics show up on CNN.
The Oakland Museum of California has been “in the trenches,” so to speak and crowdsourcing community engagement for decades. It’s a good thing that its marketing team can tap into a technology that’s just now catching up.