Fresh & New(er)

discussion of issues around digital media and museums by Seb Chan

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Transformations in Cultural and Scientific Communication 2009 conference and short interview with Shelley Bernstein

January 8th, 2009 by Seb Chan

In early March at Melbourne Museum the follow-up conference to last year’s Social Media & Cultural Communication takes place. This time the conference has been re-named and slightly refocussed as Transformations in Cultural and Scientific Communication and has a great lineup of speakers from around the country and overseas.

Join leading national and international experts at the Conference to share their experiences of the Web 2.0 revolution – and how it is changing museum and library practice. The four conference sessions will explore:

1. How to communicate with non-traditional visitors, and capture new audiences.
2. How social networks allow audiences to form communities of interest.
3. How scientific knowledge can create and sustain cultural participation.
4. How organisational change is critical in a world of user-generated content and social media.

The Conference builds on the themes of the 2008 Sydney event by looking more broadly at how museums and libraries can contribute to the development of general understandings of science and culture by communities and publics. How is museum and library knowledge created and disseminated in the Web 2.0 environment?

Read the full conference information and programme and book your tickets.

I am doing a presentation as well as running a workshop on metrics and measurement for the cultural sector (which is an alpha version of the one I am running in April in the USA). If you are interested in the workshop then book in early as spots are very limited.

I’m very excited because amongst the speakers in the conference session I’m speaking in is Brooklyn Museum‘s Shelley Bernstein. I asked Shelley a couple of questions.


(pic courtesy of Shelley Bernstein)

Q: What are you going to be talking about at the conference?

I tend to be one of those neurotic presenters that changes and tweaks everything until the very last minute, so I’m not entirely sure at the moment. Every day changes my perspective just enough to keep me rethinking, so I’m still mulling things over and bet that’s going to be one long plane ride with me and my laptop. Generally, I’ll be discussing what we’ve found to be the rules of the road: community is not marketing; personal relationships are key; transparency is essential; personal face on the institution in social areas is vital; trust your audience, they rock.

Q: The Brooklyn has an enormously impressive online presence. I’m really interested in your 1st Fans initiative and also how the museum has been connecting the local community in the galleries *and* online.

1stfans is a membership program that Will Cary (our Membership Manager) and I started with the aim to lower the barrier to entry in terms of joining and supporting the museum. The idea is to engage two groups of supporters. Those in our local area who come often, but have not gotten on the membership escalator yet. Also others who may have seen what we were doing online the past several years and would consider supporting us from far away. The challenge for us to make sure the far away supporters feel just as involved with their membership as the local ones and we are experimenting with that.

For instance, during the Swoon printing event, we asked Swoon’s studio to make a handful of prints for the 1stfans we knew lived outside of the area. We knew they just couldn’t make it to Brooklyn and we wanted to go out of our way and surprise them for being early adopters, so we are shipping those prints which is pretty cool. For the next event at First Saturday, we are planning to video the event then do a Facebook Q&A with the presenter in our 1stfans FB group. I think in each case, it just requires us to think outside the box and say…OK, how can we involve the supporter half way around the world via the web? … and then perhaps go a little out of our way to create something special, so those far away supporters feel less like outsiders. Each time it will be a little different – it will depend on what each event entails and how best to adjust it for everyone…and we are learning as we go, so our 1stfans are learning with us and that’s kind of cool.

Q: Everyone is talking about how social media (and museums) will fare in the economic downturn. What is your view of this in light of recent events?

I’m obsessed with one of Surowiecki’s latest New Yorker Columns and think it’s an interesting example of how people may need to adjust their ideas of what is and is not sustainable. I’m going to be blogging about that soon, so stay tuned.

Q: Melbourne and Sydney, especially, are renowned for their diverse and well priced cuisine. Which Australian native animal are you most looking forward to eating?

Ha! Well, I’m a vegetarian, so I’m more hoping to meet a ‘roo than eat one :) I tend to raid the cookie aisles of the supermarkets in foreign countries, so I’m sure you’ll find me there endlessly fascinated by the differences in cookies Down Under.

Q: Given that you are visiting the country with the most deadly animals on the planet, which are you most afraid of – the spiders, the snakes, the jellyfish, the sharks, or the octopi?

Sharks, for sure! I grew up in the Jaws generation, but I will say I’m way more afraid of being on a boat than being in the water with a possible shark lurking about!

Read the full conference information and programme.

Tags: 3 Comments

  • Those last coupla questions were a bit outrageous, but while you were at it, what about the drop bears?

  • Seb Chan

    Hi Bob

    Hush! Drop bears will scare every one away from Australia. usually I don’t tell visitors about them until we’re out in the bush already!

  • Francesca

    Hey Shelley, I must admit I just assumed 1stfans was something for Brooklyn locals so was happy to read you’re thinking about those who follow all the BM goodness online. I’ll definately sign up now but am upset I missed the Swoon mailout – damn.

    Oh and btw it’s probably not a good idea to go bushwalking with Seb:)