This is a recorded session from the 2020 AAM Virtual Annual Meeting and MuseumExpo.
This session looks at how museums can engage with their audience during times of low, no, or altered (e.g. outdoor only) attendance. We will focus on three major ideas: audience outreach and engagement through digital and virtual means; a crash course on digitization and digital preservation policy as a way of engaging your audience through sharing collections; and an abbreviated guide to hosting awesome outdoor events to put your audience at ease (and allow them physical distance). The discussion, hosted by the Historic Houses and Sites Network, will look at the challenges and opportunities involved through the lens of historic sites, a mainstay of the museum landscape that provide educational experiences for all ages.
Roy Young: Hello there and welcome to engagement strategies during times of low or no attendance. I’m right. Young, I’m an outgoing historic house sites house insights network of the American lions of museums chair. I’m also the president and CEO of James Madison’s Montpelier. Please join us at the historic house insights network to volunteer and to learn more about how you can participate.
We’re still holding true to our original session topic, but we have a few things to announce the beginning one we have upgraded or swapped out as you might say one amazing presenter for a second. Rebecca Peterson will be joining us from the sky.
When we began this session proposal, we were thinking a lot about how we might engage with our audiences. When we cannot be near them physically through our brainstorms, we found that we were some with that we were some different ways to do this, but we were all coming from different angles.
We are presenting three different approaches to social distancing engagement from three very different, but all of maple equally amazing institutions from across the United States.
Our first panelist Rebecca Peterson, as I said, is from via Skype. She will talk about the experience of bringing people together without your programming.
Many sites are opening their exterior spaces to visitors again and I know several of you on the Zoom call today have opened your sights and I hope all is gone well some questions that she will be talking about our, how can we safely reopened. During this time, Rebecca shares their perspective from Vizcaya as we collectively are figuring out awesome outdoor events in this covert 19 recovery error.
I will introduce the next two panelists when it’s their turn to speak. And I would also let you all know that in the Q&A section, you’re welcome to gather questions that you might have. So, we can ask the participants when they finish speaking.
So, Rebecca, the floor is yours.
Rebecca Peterson: Did I did. I learned to unmute. Can you all hear me?
Great, thank you. I’m going to share my screen. And while I’m doing that. I’m also just going to say I am at the sky for. Did it work.
And not miss Gaya I’m for the better bandwidth, but this guy is a National Historic Landmark seeing here and today of all days, our fire.
System doesn’t seem to one out a fire alarm system it’s going off at the most inopportune times. So, if that happens.
I will mute myself and Roy can introduce Kara for her section. But without further ado, thanks. And sorry in advance and this guy. Here’s a National Historic Landmark 34,000 square foot main house 10 acres of formal gardens and about half of the essay that isn’t yet open to the public.
Today we’re going to spend some time going through a bunch of questions that I hope will help guide you to overcome challenges and harness opportunities presented by in your events.
Like all of you when the same home orders came through this guy and cancelled all of its programming essentially for the rest of our season and we have no idea when we’ll be able to program again.
So, this is really meant to share some of our thinking about how will offer at the sky immersive and participatory experiences on site safely, given our new landscape whenever we are allowed to do that.
In the handouts. I’ve included a list of 50 questions that helped us generate some interesting thinking those questions helped us quickly move quickly through ideation sessions by identifying challenges. Early on, and they also helped us to see some exciting opportunities to experiment and to envision how we can be more innovative and progress.
With our programming as we return to normal. I’m not going to go through all of the 50 questions, but rather have chosen a few to really just show an example of how we worked through it and where we landed based on that thinking you don’t need to refer to the handout at all. I’ll throw them up on the screen like this one. Can we adapt existing programs?
Yeah, at the sky. We got successful low infrastructure programs and our history that could easily quickly and cheaply people together when we’re allowed to resume programming.
Viewing the sky, for example, is a film series that anchors in the history of both movie nights and filming at the estate.
Showing a film outside also allows for people to maintain social distancing so that seems kind of like a good fit right except that our local COVID orders dictate that we can’t be path open past sundown. So, an experience that requires film projection outside doesn’t work.
And for what it’s worth it just feels really important to note that my COVID guidelines in Miami are different, very likely different from the COVID guidelines, where you are.
And also, in this guy. His roster of programs, we’ve got super successful low-tech experiences that could work are 1920s game night requires no protection whatsoever. The program is really all about games that were played in the early 1900s.
We usually do this program at night but could just as easily host it during the daylight hours, actually, probably, maybe even more easily, given that we wouldn’t need to set up lighting.
But then sanitation and resources come into play. All of the things that we are all thinking about very likely all of the time. So, if we Zoom out just really if we Zoom out a big picture complication here is that community programming at the sky prices, if not prioritizes active participation.
We don’t often do passive programs, but rather prefer to create all kinds of opportunities where participants can both be in charge of and active during their experience.
Figuring out how to pivot while maintaining attributes important to us and to the community that returns for programs again and again it’s challenging, to say the least.
In an effort to maintain some semblance of normalcy, and to focus our resources while maximizing ROI. We continue to look to successful programs to see what if anything could be tweaked around that same time that we were looking at our existing programs, we were contacted by a local funding agency to encourage us not to withdraw an application that we’d submit several months before specifically for a public art program.
I’ll just be completely honest; nobody was more surprised than I. We just cancel that program. We just zeroed out the budget for that program so potential funding was really welcome and just really so energizing that news was so energizing and I’ll share a little bit about that program, and we’ll do the rest of my portion where you’re going to use this program as a case study for how we worked through a bunch of these questions.
Into the thousand 16 Vizcaya partnered with a New York based artist duo called processional arts workshop to create giant lanterns with our community in workshops that take place over the course of about a week.
Then those lanterns are activated in public performance on the estate participants generally have no experience in Lantern making and often have no experience in art making either, but they choose to join us because of the uniqueness of this opportunity.
The performance is unlike anything that we’ve ever done before and it’s really difficult to explain. So, I’m just going to show you, and I’m going to talk over the video a little and then I’ll stop so that we can let you watch it.
So, this program has become annual do it success in 2016. It’s part of this guy’s contemporary arts program that feels really loud. I don’t. Oh, wait. Bet land sorry analog is really my speed so sorry for this being really clunky.
So, this project is part of this guy is contemporary arts program and we call a half cap honors a history.
And tradition of commissioning site specific work for the state started over 100 years ago and the current day artists highlight stories about the state or objects, any kind of opportunity to highlight the state through their work.
The project with artists, Alex, calm and Sophie Annika hails a processional arts workshop, though, is a little different from other cap works because of its participatory foundation each year we determine a theme and we share it with Alex and Sophia who conceptualize how the piece will literally look and how it will come together.
Workshops are held as I mentioned, for a week and anyone from the community is welcome to join those workshops under the guidance of Alex and Sophia to build the lantern.
From there, anyone from the community can join to perform with those lanterns for a much larger community audience.
All in. We see about 300 people for the workshops and about 1000 people for the performance the grant that I mentioned earlier that we were told.
Not to withdrawal covers really only a fraction of what it costs to run this program in its normal iteration, but we get more creative will may have less options, right, at least in theory.
So, our challenge is kind of huge, how do we create an experience in line with our values and respects that while our community will trust us enough to break the outside world.
They need to be reassured that we value them enough to keep us all safe that we appreciate their faith and will rewarded with a stellar if somewhat different experience.
And I know that Aladdin can be distracting. So, a quick recap of where we are. The challenge at hand and the largest questions that we tackled.
With less money. What can we accomplish that still great? We can’t in good conscience or probably legally gather 1000 people. So, which is the typical attendance for this program. So, what is our audience capacity needs to be and with four years under our belt. We’ve built a following. Which means that we’re disappointing several many hundreds of people. What can we do for the folks who can’t be with us on site that evening?
We’ve landed with less workshops for fewer people. This slide is going to get more interesting. We’ve landed with less workshops for fewer people those workshops would be facilitated by the artists remotely, which means we need to host the artists in Miami for less time, which also saves less saves money.
We’ve made significantly less large lanterns than years before. And we’d supplement the performance with lanterns from past years.
Workshop purchase events could focus on small lanterns that they take home we make about 300 of those every year for participants to keep anyway and then they could bring those little lanterns back for the performance itself. So, the sharing of supplies and tools is minimized.
The performance capacity would be reduced from 1300 at its largest to 300 to ensure lots of room for social distancing and for the loads of people that we couldn’t host on site we fit performers with cameras to give a first-person perspective, never before seen by participants and we stream it so we updated our grant application and heard from the funders that they were thrilled with the intentionality with which we pivoted really specifically as a result of and that we had somehow managed to maintain what was going to be a magical experience.
Then, because like the fire alarm here at the sky. It’s just never it never goes, how you think it’s going to go. And because it’s never that simple. I heard from the artists that they weren’t comfortable traveling at all.
For what it’s worth, and again in the spirit of full disclosure. This was an obstacle that hadn’t even occurred to me as a possibility.
I knew from previous conversations with the artists that they cancelled or lost all of their work through at least September, and I was really so glad to be able to offer them a project.
And to be able to pay them well because that grant would cover almost 100% of their fee.
I hadn’t realized that while I was doing everything I could to keep people on site safe. I hadn’t even considered how the artists would actually get on site and all of the exposure that they would risk and wrote so we get more creative with less options and less resources right we’ve pivoted again.
Who knows if the funders are going to be on board, but we’ve got a plan to make lantern kits?
Or sorry, have lantern kits be picked up here at the sky and then made it home with the remote guidance of the artists and processional arts workshop and in a great way sending those kits home allows us to deepen engagement with the content that links the project and the state.
We also hire a local artist to support the project and this year’s artist as a cap alumni working with locals is one of those values that drives our work.
This year will give him more responsibility as the primary coordinator on site for the performance, which is a great opportunity for him and to have more ownership and service guy to see how it could be different in future years which we were wondering about anyway.
We’ll make the performance more exploratory than parade and encourage people to bring those little lanterns that they made at home quote on this night instead of at seven o’clock.
Which allows us to maintain social distancing because 300 people aren’t arriving all at the same time and being corralled in the same place. And then following the same narrow path.
We still have those giant lanterns from years past that we can stage. So, they maintain a vibrant atmosphere that doesn’t require performers it reduces both the amount of people on site and the choreography required for the whole experience will planet in late summer.
And we’ll hope that curfew orders are lifted by then. And if not, we’ll pivot yet again and get more creative and innovative as we go for what it’s worth. Young Frankenstein is one of my heroes.
I guess at this point it’s really important to reiterate that the COVID guidelines are changing just really so quickly, and we have no idea when we’re going to be able to gather late summer may or may not be sanctioned by then 300 people may or may not be allowed together by then.
We’re in Miami and it’ll be hurricane season by then. So, we may or may not have a hurricane, who knows.
But using these questions and continuing to work through what’s possible and align with our values ensures that whatever, whatever we do when we actually are allowed to do something, again, we’re going to be ready to do it. And we’re going to do it well.
I hope that the list of questions proves useful to you, and I wish you really all of you so much success in hosting your own awesome outdoor events.
As soon as you’re able and allowed, my contact information is here, and I welcome the opportunity to continue the discussion with any of you and to learn what you’re up to in this new and crazy done.
If you want to follow along on the journey with processional arts workshop my Instagram handle is here and I’m going to do what I can to keep that updated as things continue to unfold.
Thanks. I’m gonna, I’m going to stop sharing my screen. So, Roy can take back over. Are you there, you’re there? Hello.
Roy Young: I’m here. Thank you, Rebecca, that was great information to share. And I, I, for one, love the buoyant quality to you pivoting in terms of, I’m sure, there might have been a tear or two in there as well.
So, thank you very much. Next, we’re going to hear from Kara see check she works at the Smithsonian Institution. She’s focusing on education and fundraising.
For several years. She has served on the board and committees for her local Historical Society and has been a long-time map reviewer for a she’s a formal registrar and still likes working with collections.
Engaging with people does not always have to be in physical spaces, Kara of the Smithsonian shares their perspective on connecting with members and visitors through various formats.
Keeping museum volunteers visitors and staff engaged to museums is Bible work and is critical. And now, more than ever, this presentation leverage as many different forms of engagement to ensure that your museum is casting a wide net. Cara you’re up.
Cara: Thank you, Roy. Appreciate it good to share my screen now.
Here we go.
Here we go. Alright, I hope everybody can see that everybody hear me.
Rebecca Peterson: Hey, Kara. You Rebecca, we don’t have your screen yet. Okay.
Cara: Maybe I do that way.
Rebecca Peterson: All right, you
Cara: Okay. Um, I’m curious. I check and I currently work at the Smithsonian, but I’ve been involved in my local Historical Society and local arts organizations for many years as board member educator docent volunteer whatever they’ve needed. So, I understand both big and little museums. So, I wanted to start off by talking about the fundraising side of things and members.
One thing you can do to keep people engaged at a time like this is send out a member survey. It’s a great way to keep people engaged.
Ask for their opinions on museum operations. What was their favorite exhibit or program what they’d like you to do for them? It’s just a great way of keeping people talking with you.
Also, snail mail. People love receiving mail and it doesn’t have to be an appeal. Maybe it’s a list of K through 12 activities for all the parents are trying to figure out what to do with their kids while they’re at home with them.
I know that my office in particular has been receiving a lot of requests for caregiver types of information. So, it’s a great way to just send something out. Or maybe you highlight one object from your collection I befriended another museum that’s been doing that.
If you do want to ask for funds. Try a rapid response. Ask a friend of mine had a very successful time with this at her organization, one of our board members said we need to create an endowment for times like this. And I’m going to give $5,000 and he challenged all his fellow board members to match the challenge.
And they raised quite a bit of money in a short amount of time. So sometimes board members like something that’s very specific and directed and then you could expand it to your members and your other donors.
Also think about a virtual coffee, you can get your members together for Zoom or team meetings or whatever sharing video you’re using, people can meet with each other. They can talk with each other. Maybe they can meet new people.
I know that at the Smithsonian, we have been doing the random acts of coffee, where people have signed up and we assign people just in random groups so they can meet someone from across the institution that they never met before.
You can also offer video lectures and events and maybe for members. It’s free, but nonmembers, there’s a cost or members get it first and nonmembers get it a week later, it can be a Q AMP a with a curator.
It could be a lecture you repurpose from others. Some other time. It’s just a great way of bringing in new members and and giving them something to see or do with your organization.
You can also create joint programs with other local organizations. I know our public libraries.
You know, people aren’t going there either. So, we’ve been partnering with them on some programming or maybe a PTA, for example.
Or you could even do a book club book event where people read a book and discuss it.
Also, homework help again parents are wondering what to do with their kids. Maybe you offer a Zoom meeting once or twice a week where you can help kids with their history homework or their science homework or something like that.
And don’t forget to reach out and see what grant programs are available in your area for code 19 assistance Rebecca gave a great example.
Of a local organization that wanted to help her organization, so maybe there are things out there that you just haven’t thought about also, gift membership. This is the perfect time to send a gift membership.
Maybe you can work with some local realtors, I know that houses are still selling. Maybe we local realtors can offer a gift membership when they sell a house so that the new people, you know, have a connection to their local community.
Your volunteers your volunteers. You want to keep them engaged. They there are donors or potential donors. They offer skills or services, you might otherwise pay for their up in your frontline staff and interact with the public.maybe
So maybe you ask them to create online tours or exhibitions or other collections with digital images of their favorite objects.maybe
You can invite your volunteers to a find Waldo game or trivia game.maybe
You can use Zoom or some other tool to gather people together. You can show slides of objects in your museum and have them identify them.maybe
I had a particularly fun one with the volunteer group I belong to where they showed us small portions of objects in the museum. And we really had to scratch our heads and figure out what was that object. We’ve been passing all these years maybe.
A trivia game is particularly fun we had one group had different topics. And I actually came in second. I didn’t realize I knew that much about the museum, but it’s a great way to keep people engaged.maybe
Also, it’s important to make sure the director connects with the volunteers, even if he doesn’t just wants to be a video, but just so he can update them and what’s happening with the museum and making sure that they feel still understood and welcomed by the administrative staff offered them special opportunities or tasks to keep them engaged. Maybe they have a really in-depth knowledge of one part of your collection that maybe they can finally write down and capture in your curatorial files or for a newsletter article. Maybe they want to do an oral history if they’ve been there a really long time.
But you can come up with these fun little things where they can donate their, their knowledge. They can also create new tours for specific audiences such as I know in my local Historical Society. We have great textile collections. So, we have tours for textile enthusiasm or maybe it’s finally time to create the ADA tour. You’ve always been saying you’re going to do.
And also, you can assemble resources for use of students by working on National History Day projects. We just finished.
Almost judging for this year with breaking barriers, but maybe it’s time to work on next year’s theme of communication through history.
I know the curators I’ve worked with wait until student reaches out to them before they start compiling it. But maybe this time, you can get ahead of the curve and do it now.
And then collections, as a former register. I still like to think about collections. It’s a great time to review and update your policies.
Perhaps your disaster plan might want to add a COVID 19 or pandemics section to it.
Perhaps your interpretive plan. If you have one needs a section on what to do in the museums closed.
Or maybe you want to write one of those policies. You’ve always been meaning to get to like your housekeeping plan or social media policy.
Not only can you write it, because everyone’s attached to their computers, but you can also pass it around all the staff and volunteers to get them to comment on them.
It’s a great time to review your collections for potential dx sessions and part of the collections committee on my Historical Society. We have been doing a great job of deaccessioning items are curator sends us a list of the objects and a sense of their use have been used. Have they been exhibited? Are they in good condition and we have been voting on them online? So, it’s been great.
Also, great time for conservation work.
With social distancing you can at least invite one conservator into your building and either pass them the object or maybe it’s something that you actually want to do in house while the place is closed. We all have things like that.
And don’t forget to make your weekly visits to the facilities to make sure that whatever happens in terms of you know rain or whatever, that’s happening with you that you are making sure that your facilities are doing okay. You can also post an object of the week on your blog.
So, or maybe your newsletter and that engages volunteers members in the general public as well. And it’s a great way to do a deep dive on one object.
And people could also create online exhibitions, maybe you can create one using past labels, things like that.
So, there’s just a few I think simple easy tools for you to use for your museum, whether it’s big or small. My contact information is on the first slide. And if you have questions, I’m happy to answer them.
Roy Young: Thank you, Kara appreciate that some great recommendations to share. We’ll talk a bit in a minute, in terms of questions and answers. I would say at Montpelier, this is a new position for me. And we’ve also hosted on Zoom a series of engagements with our donors called cocktails and conversations as a way to be able to meet me and for me to learn a little bit more about our donor base.
We had 100 people engaged in a virtual book talk which we consider to be highly successful we likely would only get about 25 people to sign up for both talk during a Tuesday evening and Montpellier also did a fundraising effort called unlocking Montpelier, which allowed people to give small donations to unlock square feet of the house and unlocking each square foot down, walked a video that was embedded with critical information about the collection. Some I thought I would just throw that in there for the sake of the conversation.
Zach is up next Zachary is passionate about finding ways to make digital tools of asset to cultural organizations.
He currently serves as the museum curator at the ladder county historical society in Latta County, Idaho, where he manages the Mocambo Mansion a historic house museum, as well as the physical and digital archives Zach has worked on many digital projects for cultural institutions from QR codes on historic placards to social media strategy storytelling applications and partners of major corporations. To share cultural collections.
Right now, it is rather easy to say that the museum is going digital. But what does that mean Zachary is going to share their vision for what a digital museum can look like from the ground up. This work is designed to be a primer into creating a digital preservation plan executing that plan and sharing collections with the internet enabled public Zach, your turn.
Zachary Wnek: All right, well thanks everybody for being here today. We are super excited about this opportunity. We’re super excited to be here. So, without further ado, I am going to share my screen. So just one moment here, but I’m great. Alright.
So, well that loads all keep introducing myself a little bit. This is a presentation that I like to give to organizations that are just getting going with digital history that are just getting going with sharing some of their collections. A quick word about myself. I do work for the Lake County Historical Society here in North Central Idaho.
My perspective is one of coming from a historical institutions so largely what I’m going to talk about is with an eye towards historic photographs, because that’s my experience, but I feel like a lot of these principles can be applied to all sorts of other mediums.
So, if that is your use case just kind of bear with me a moment. And I think there’s still some good information here.
Some of these slides I’m going to go through rather quickly. I’ve got a link to I created these in Google Drive. So, I can just share that link to you, you’ll get all the slides in reviewable format so you can get anything that you missed that way, but I think it’s pretty obvious. You know, a lot of museums are going digital they’re putting out digital content trying to share as much of museum experience virtually as they can. And so, with that in mind.
We’re going to get into how and why and what, what the heck’s going on here. So,I like to think of digitization is kind of one tool in the toolbox, of course, but in order to dive in. In order to do it in a meaningful way. What we really need to do is to make sure we have a plan. Now, I think it’s fair to have multiple plans. I think starting with a digital preservation plan is a good way to get going. I think if we use our collections and think of them as our digital assets.
What I like to do is start by making what I call digital master scans or master copies of these works.
And so, before we make these master copies. It’s great to answer kind of the five W’s and get into the who, what, where, when, why, how, and all that, because it informs how we want to do this and what we want our scans to look like.
For me, like I said, I’m scanning photographs largely from the 19th and 20th century. These are pretty stable photographs I feel comfortable using a flatbed scanner.
But I realized that some of the artwork out there does not lend itself to a flatbed scanner at all. Some of the more fragile photographs and things are much better suited to use a copy stand or other means of digitization.
So, I definitely implore you to find the safest method of digitizing your records possible for your organization and for your work, but this is what works for us.
When I talk about master scans. I like to say that I scan the heck out of things and the reason I do that I was initially pushed by Google, through our partnership with Google Arts and Culture to really scan at a very high resolution and initially, I kind of thought that because I wanted to get the collection digitized quickly.
And scanning at really high resolution does not lend itself to quick scanning and so here I have two pictures. The one on the top is scan of an image at 300 DPI one at the bottom is 1200 and I started to compare them figure out why am I doing this. Why am I scanning at such high resolution and in my line of work? We get a lot of research queries from families from genealogist who want to know about, you know, Great Uncle Steve who worked at David’s department store in the menswear department and well we may not have everybody identified in these images.
We do have pictures of the menswear department at David’s. So, let’s go through and look at the fellow in the back. He’s kind of center right in the picture.
And you can see it 300 on the left his facial features are very much obscured from the pixilation process on the right, it may not be a perfect image of him, but you can really Zoom in and see his facial features.
And well to a lot of folks that could just be academic I think to other folks that can be really important and especially to their families.
Once you have all these scans. You want to organize them for us. It means organizing them in a way that mirrors the physical collection. Once you have these scans organized. This way you can really start to go through and see them. So, when a researcher says “I want…” it’s exactly the same for the physical collection to the digital collection. It’s all there. It’s all the same. And it’s all ready to go.
Once you have your wonderful scans you spend a lot of time on them. You want to be able to find them, not just in the way that you find the physical photographs but finding them digitally and this is where having really awesome metadata can make the world of difference. If you have unified metadata that is cohesive and well thought out.
All of a sudden, you can search through your collection in ways that maybe you couldn’t before. And I’ve been listening to a lot of really cool presentations here today about how you can use the metadata and the images to do some really neat things that are coming up with AI and different platforms so that you can explore that collection in ways that it would take researchers decades to do so, having really strong.
Unified metadata is very important. And I think a very big part of your digital preservation plan is, how are we going to collect metadata what fields are important to us and how can we move on through this process.
Yeah, metadata is flexible. It’s amazing. And it does take time, but when it’s right. It works very, very well. So, I encourage you to take the time to do it.
Now they’re certainly places that I’ve been in times where I’ve been working where metadata is far from unified where, you know, all sorts of folks in your database and they’re doing different things probably largely due to a lack of unified training and the lack of a digital preservation plan so keep in mind that well to a human that something like date format doesn’t make that big of a deal.
We can tell the difference between all of these different forms of January 2, 1955, a computer cannot and so, computers. He’s all of these things and tries to unify them and can’t. And what you get is our wonderful air screens that come up because the computer doesn’t understand. Remember, computers are wonderful things, but they do exactly what they tell you what you tell them to do.
That might be changing with AI that might be changing with some of the machine learning implementations that are going on but for now, we want to make sure that when we’re communicating with the computer in this way that we’re as clear and consistent as possible.
And what can be done once you have all of these things digitized. Once you have your awesome metadata.
There’s so many different ways that you can flex and use this information, you can take these photographs, put them up on digital timelines. You can share them with platforms across the world from this is our implementation with Google Arts and culture.
Here you can see some of our various formats for social media different implementation from Google Arts and culture.
Once you have the photographs in a stable environment or you have the digitized works in a stable environment, you can take that and change it to whatever system.
You need. So, for instance, one of the dangers, so to speak, of working with Google is that Google has a bad habit of getting rid of programs when they don’t like them anymore or when they decide that they want to shift into a different direction.
And for me that’s not a threat at all because what I have is the master digital images, my digital archive here in the office, I have the master metadata fields here in the office. So, I can take all of this information and very quickly transport it or migrated to a new system to a new implementation of presenting that data rather quickly. So having all of this information allows you to flex into shift in new ways that quite honestly probably aren’t invented yet.
So that’s really something to keep in mind as you’re doing all of this on the right is one of our Facebook posts center-right is Instagram and then far left is Twitter.
So, we try to use these images in as many different places as possible. Really trying to meet people where they are, because we realized that people aren’t always checking every different social media feed or blog, or you know whatever sort of awesome things we create. So, we try to enable folks wherever they are, to find our information.
So, in other implementation, I strongly recommend that folks partner with different people out there who are incredibly good at what they do. This is one of our partners.
University of Idaho library has a digital initiatives and that digital initiatives.
TEAM TOOK OUR oral history collection on cassette digitized all the cassettes.
And then transcribe them and put markers in place. So, when you go to find information from the our oral history collection.
You can search through that information. And you can also skip through to the bits that are important to you. And what I love about it.
Is that you can play it from these different segment points or the whole thing, if you prefer, and actually hear these people’s voices and hear the stories.
Exactly how they told them instead of reading a transcript. So that’s really cool. Different way of just presenting our digital materials online.
This is the other project I worked on in graduate school, taking historical vignettes historical stories from across Spokane pinning them on a map.
So that folks could use their mobile phones, tablets, whatever walk around Spokane and get a ton of really interesting, engaging information about Spokane.
And how the history inform the built environment. So really neat project there. These are just examples of what can be done once you have your records digitize ready to go, there’s really an endless possibility of things that can be done.
Social media. It’s a lot of fun. If you’re going to do it. I recommend posting at least once a day, but if you can hit three times a day that’s what social media folks say is best but keep in mind that you’ll probably need to resize your images. So, I put a link in there to a Hootsuite blog post that has all the sizing guidelines for the various social media platforms. So, you want to make sure that if you’re going to do it. It’s going to look great.
These are the tools I use for resizing images. Keep in mind when I’m resizing or making any changes to an image, I use derivative files.
So that your master scans are not impacted. These are both free tools Gimp is similar to Photoshop, but it’s free and open source.
And earthen view is free. I’m not sure if it’s open source, but it has a really strong batch image manipulation tool built into it.
So, when you’re taking say a folder, full of full of files and changing the resolution so that you can post them on social media, you can make that happen rather quickly.
And with all digital things because you all sorts of great data, which is really a great way to impress executive directors and board of directors.
And at fundraising events, the numbers look really good. So, keep track of the data. The numbers just to make sure people know that folks are engaging with your content.
Of course, digital preservation is a moving target. You can do a number of different things for us. We see in in JPEG, which I know the purists don’t like but we simply didn’t have the storage space to scan as TIFF, or to keep right images from our copy Stan photographs, so understand what works for you, keep it in your digital preservation plan and I strongly recommend updating your digital preservation plan about once every six months just to make sure that everything is on the up and up.
And lastly, and I cannot stress this enough digital records are not a replacement for original works.
Never destroy original works because they’ve been digitized and I know here I’m preaching to the choir, but this is a presentation I give to a lot of small museums and I just want to be very, very clear that we are not replacing any of the originals.
I went through a lot. So, here’s all my contact information, like I said, I’m gonna post the slide deck in both the chat and the Q&A section if I can so that you have access to it, and I believe now we have time for some questions and answers.
Roy Young: Yes, thank you, Zach. That was a great presentation. I hope you all agree, first of all, I would say there were 548 so Rock on. I think that’s a great number to have for our session. And I think these are three great examples of dealing with COVID and different levels and types of engagements.
Some very practical some more creative and some you know riddled with trial and error which is how I think we learn more effectively, I would say just quickly my email address is our young. Why are you n firstname.lastname@example.org, a few of you asked for more information about a few things that I mentioned quickly, feel free to email me.
So, I see that carrot and Zach and Rebecca are back live, so I like this question. If we could start here.
How important do you feel it is to offer new virtual programming as opposed to hyping existing content.
And so, I know that’s one that that all of our sites have dealt with, because it seemed as if it was easier just to pivot quickly and somehow digitize or record what we were doing here on site, but I’d love to hear from the three of you, what you think.
Cara: Well, actually, my office hosts a museum fellow and actually had a woman across the hall from me for about six months, who was studying just that.
And she was from the UK, so she did this very intense analysis between the UK and United States.
And her ultimate decision was that she heard from a lot of museums saying we’re digitizing everything. And now, people don’t want to come to the museum.
So, she, in her report decided that, you know, there needs to be a balance but you actually want to offer accessibility through digital, but you want to make sure that it’s not so much that people don’t actually want to come to your site.
I don’t know what she’d say now because people actually can’t go to sites but like I said she did a very detailed analysis and had a big report all about this. And so that was what she determined.
Roy Young: Rebecca, Zach.
Rebecca Peterson: I guess I should disclaim that I really am in favor of analog. It’s how I skew but through this time I’ve been really surprised to learn and sort of to embrace all of the extra and different that digital has to offer. So, I think it’s possible to supplement either a digital experience with something analog or vice versa and for this guy, this also came up in the Q&A SECTION.
This guy is really thinking about and making plans going forward for how we just embrace a hybrid experience. So, I heard when COVID, when all of the lockdown really began that you should just can the existing content for a digital form and people were doing that and they were moving really quickly museums were doing that.
And then all of a sudden it was like, but how do we continue to engage. There are people who have done all of this content before. So how do we continue to engage and in a meaningful way. And so, we really just kind of embraced slow down and create something that’s good and interesting and dynamic and you can use the digital platform. But that doesn’t, it doesn’t mean one or the other. I guess is the whole point of that long winded answer.
Roy Young: Zack any thoughts on that.
Zachary Wnek: I became to gauge and what the other folks are saying, can you repeat the question. Sorry.
Roy Young: That’s okay. I have a question that specifically for you since we’ve already gotten that one answered twice. Would you please know that that when I’m sorry? How did you handle storage on site, the cloud? What about backup and what sort of digital asset management system. Did you use…?
Zachary Wnek: Yeah, so we are a small museum, we have a budget of less than $100,000 but we do have amazing support from our local government. We are at the Lake County Historical Society.
An independent 501 C three with support county government to long way of saying that they host our digital archive on their county servers. We also have a version of complete copy of our digital archive up on the cloud that is Amazon glacier. I believe that’s kind of our last ditch effort. It is pretty cheap to use. But when you pull the files down. Of course, it costs a fair amount. And right before locked on right before I left office for two months, I made an extra copy here. This is my external hard drive and through this. I was in, I work at my home office.
And keep going that way. So, in the digital preservation world. They have this really corny saying it’s called locks lots of copies keep stuff safe.
And so, we try to have at least three full copies of our digital archive at any given time, so that we can maintain our copies. Yeah.
Roy Young: Great, great. Here’s a question from a past student of mine. Mr. Are you planning on maintaining some of these COVID response programs when you reopen so probably Rebecca, you’re the best to answer that question.
Rebecca Peterson: Sure. Yeah, we are. It goes back to how do we, a couple of things. How do we engage meaningfully right now, both for our existing audience and for a new audience?
And how do we embrace the opportunities that Colin is presenting and one of those is just kind of getting out of, out of the box, whatever your boxes getting out of it.
So yeah, absolutely. We’re thinking about what it means to do our work. Well, both analog and digitally and anything that we create right now.
Is put on a continue-on for what it looks like in the in-between time when we can open just our gardens, which we are right now. And when we’re quote “back to normal.” And how do we not just create something for this very interim period.
Roy Young: Great, thank you very much.
Zachary, I like the historic walking tour. What was the platform you used for the pin map?
Zachary Wnek: Sure, that is it’s a platform called curated escape and it’s created by public history professor Digital History Professor.
Oh boy, forgotten their name by now but you could Google curate escape. It’s kind of a layer that goes on top of another platform called omega. And from there, it’s a relatively easy program to learn we’re doing it as students were able to figure it out. Just kind of with success and failure. So, a lot of fun program to us and makes a really cool representation also has a companion app that can be downloaded on Android and iOS, so that folks can use it out in the world.
Roy Young: Great, thank you. Thank you. So, we’re about five minutes left, so I’m going to do questions as long as you possibly can.
This one says we’re noticing that people are overwhelmed by the amount of virtual offerings out there, people are on screens all day. Any advice on how to break through and get people to tune in.
Is there a certain time of day or day of the week that works best? So, I’d love to get the group’s ideas on that.
Come on, the three of you, you’ve been very sure. No, I’m gonna jump in here.
Zachary Wnek: If you kind of Google, especially when you look at things like social media. That’s why I recommend posting times a day. If you can stomach it if you know get these things scheduled so that the machine just goes and then your job as the institution is to respond to people’s questions and things. So that would be my impression, because you’re right. Everybody does log in at different times. And it’s always fun that they see information from your museum.
Cara: I would say that I’ve seen different things work for different places. I know the museum where I’m a docent has been scheduling Zoom meetings.
Sometimes on Saturday, sometimes during the week sometimes at lunchtime sometimes late in the day. So, they do it often enough where you pick the time that works best for you.
I think it also depends on what the theme is I did a very fun virtual gala Saturday night where they started with a cocktail hour, and someone was mixing cocktails.
Start off the Zoom meeting so obviously that late evening. One was would be much better time that way.
Coffee could be four or five o’clock in the afternoon. So just, I think it depends on what you what works for you and your institution. Also keep in mind people in different time zones.
I also teach at a local university and we were reminded that some of the students might be in California and we shouldn’t be doing things too early in the morning. So, try to pick a time where you think people from any time zone can access it in some way, shape, or form.
Roy Young: I would say that alcohol certainly has worked to the benefit of more of my late in the day. Zoom meetings, then the early ones. So, I would support that.
I also think that the in between part could be successful. So, I’m the new guy in town here I’m just, I’ve just been at this job now for six weeks and I would say social distancing at the house and social distancing at donor and supporters houses on their porches has been very successful. And it’s amazing how starved. People are to sip 10 feet away from you.
And Sarah, so maybe that might be an interesting way to get yourself off of zoom, but still be safe with your social or your physical distancing, as they say, we’re supposed to call it.
So let me see here where we have a couple more minutes.
Zack beyond social media. Can you provide examples of other digital platforms museums and organizations can utilize you might have already answered a portion of that?
Zachary Wnek: Yeah, there are a ton of different platforms to get you know your information in and out there. I think it’s fairly standard you know if you can just get your stuff out there. I know Google Arts and culture does accept new applications, kind of a strenuous application. But if you can work with them. It’s great because it’s free. So, the price is right.
Of course, it costs, your time. Do the metadata and do the digitizing but if you’re committed to that work, then it doesn’t cost any extra and there are also other forms of places out there to post. If you use past perfect the past perfect online module. If you use other collection software. There’s a lot of different collection stuff where a lot of different online posting tools there. Also, I would recommend writing blog posts and incorporating your collections into your blog posts. That way you can build context around the pieces I know here we have a lot of pieces that have stories that come with them and simply posting them up on Google Arts and culture does not do them justice.
Roy Young: Okay, well that’s a great place to stop. I would like to thank all of you for joining us. I’m so pleased that that our presentation reached as many of you as it did today. I did type into the chat area. My email address.
And a big pitch here, please go to the historic house insights network web page at the American Alliance of Museums and volunteer join us.
This awesome looking super special totally clever group is actually hundreds of people, big, and the only way you get to meet us all and chat with us on a regular basis is to volunteer, so stay safe. Love you all.