Public History in 2036

There’s a great conference out at UMass Amherst next weekend, September 23-24, taking a look at the future of the public history field.

Nina Simon, author of The Participatory Museum and the blog Museum 2.0 will be doing a workshop on Saturday afternoon.

Check out the program and registration information here. [PDF]

Making it Meaningful: Interpreting Unique Places and Experiences

Passing this along to all who might be able to go – this workshop sounds amazing. One of the speakers is Kathleen McLean, co-author of the great new book The Convivial Museum. McLean and her co-author, Wendy Pollock, recently wrote about their work on Nina Simon’s Museum 2.0 blog.

Here’s the summary; check out their website for more details and registration info. And if you go, please let us know so we can do a write-up!

Making it Meaningful: Interpreting Unique Sites and ExperiencesDate: Friday, June 17, 2011
Time: 09:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Registration: $50.00
Location: Bernard Osher Foundation Auditorium and Museum Galleries

The Portland Museum of Art is pleased to host a day-long discussion focused on innovative strategies for creating meaningful experiences for visitors to unique sites such as the Winslow Homer Studio. The program features presentations by Kathleen McLean, Gail Davitt, Sandy Goldberg, Dinah Mack, and Kate Way. Lectures, discussions, and workshops will explore recent innovations in museum interpretation and offer ample opportunities for exchange among colleagues. Lunch at the Museum and a concluding reception at the Black Point Inn and the Winslow Homer Studio at Prouts Neck are included in the registration fee. For more information, please call Vanessa Nesvig at (207) 775-6148, ext. 3227.

Museums and Wikipedia

Nina Simon’s recent post at Museum 2.0 about museums using Wikipedia reminds me that I had meant to post about a recent interview with Sue Gardner, executive director of the Wikipedia Foundation.

Gardner, who spoke on NPR’s On the Media last weekend, addressed some of the challenges that Wikipedia faces for the future: increasing the diversity of its editing group, sustaining peak activity, increasing the quality of articles’ scholarship, and reaching new audiences.

Any of those sound like familiar challenges?

Here’s one of the most interesting bits:

BROOKE GLADSTONE: So how do you stop the plateau from becoming a decline?

SUE GARDNER: The first thing that you need to do is figure out what are the impediments to people’s editing that have no benefit and you just want to get rid of them. Wikipedia was started in 2001. At that time, everything you did on the Internet was difficult. Now, ten years later, it’s really easy, right? Flickr is easy. Twitter is easy. Facebook is easy. Editing Wikipedia is not as easy.

So the first thing that we did was kick off a project to increase the user friendliness of Wikipedia. And then the second thing that we’re doing is trying to create invitations and persuasive messages to people about why we think they should edit.

Gardner’s questions can and should be applied to any and all parts of a museum, from exhibit design to participatory experiences to fundraising to visiting. They signal a user-friendly attitude, which museums haven’t always had. To answer those questions, you have to think like a visitor, not like a staffer.

What do we most want people to do? How do we make it easier for them? Sometimes, it’s as simple as that.