Museum as Platform: Envisioning Visitors as Creators & Contributors
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No, this is not the crowd-sourced exhibition from the Brooklyn Museum. click! photography changes everything is a program by the Smithsonian Photography Initiative and guest curator, Marvin Heiferman.
Click! is still in the early phases of including contributions from the public (6 months)1
click! started with an idea around photography and its role in shaping how we understand our culture and our lives. More and more people have access to digital tool to make, share, and distribute photos easilyWe consume mass amounts of photosIts a tool to document our lives, history, events
From Marvin Heiferman, Our project is about images, but equally important to the project are the ideas that generate images, our uses of them, our responses to them. Interestingly, in an over-the-top visual culture like ours, theres not a whole lot of dialog around the role photographic images play in culture.
2Installation View of Smithsonian Photography Exhibition Art Section, by Thomas Smillie, SIAHayden Survey Party Picnicking, by William Henry Jackson, 1872, Smithsonian Institution Archives
Bodianus rufus, Juvenile (Spanish Hogfish)Belize Larval-Fish Group 2005Neptune, False-Color Image, National Air and Space Museum, Center for Earth and Planetary Sciences
The Smithsonians collections represent this history of photography and documentation in all different disciplinesSI used it to document expeditions, exhibitions, collectionsWe currently use it to document fish species and planets.
3Daguerreotype of Architect's Model of the Smithsonian Institution Castle, Unidentified photographer,1846, National Museum of American History, Behring Center,Division of Information Technology and Communications
Smithsonian has 19 museums, 9 research centersSmithsonian has over 13 million images in some seven hundred collections throughout our museums and research centers. The collections are organized by museum and disciplinefor instance, the National Museum of Natural History holds natural science images in its collections, the National Air and Space Museum houses images of flight in its archives, and the National Museum of African Art holds photographs of Africa in its collections.
The Smithsonian Photography Initiative, located in the Smithsonian Institution main archives, is a pan-SI program dedicated to increasing the publics access to and understanding of the photography collections from the Smithsonian.
4goalsHost a discussion about photography AND anthropologyAstrophysicsdatingmediamedicinephilosophysports, etc.
Make it inclusive cross-disciplinary, many perspectives
Relate it to Smithsonian Photo Collections
Get people to think more critically about the photos they consume everyday. We live in a visual culture Even if people arent taking photos, they are looking at them all the time in ads, movies, webs.
From Marvin Heiferman, Because the project is both interdisciplinary and online, were able to investigate ideas/issues/questions with a perspective thats broader than would be possible in more conventional museum presentations about the medium. 5challengesInclude many voices AND maintain click! ideas
click! is more about photo context than content
When your audience is everyone, how do you reach them?
We want multiple voices, but need to get people to think about things more broadly
Smithsonian is for everyone, but this isnt necessarily an easy idea for people to grasp.6
First phase, we invited contributors (ongoing) who can talk about the role of photos in what they do (different disciplines, inside and outside SI)
Seeded site with these contributions (public launch March 2008)Diane Granito, co-founder of Heart Gallery America and adoption outreach specialist p photography used to help kids get adopted
Also invited curators, researchers, and collections managers throughout the Smithsonian.
Jacqueline Sewer at our new Museum of African American History and Culture8
Related each story back to SIs photos9
October 2008, opened contributions to general public, published documentaries about SI photography and how it relates to click! exhibition themes. Seeded visitor contributions with stories from the National Writing Project. Sent invite out to the members of the SPI e-newsletter
Opened companion site on Flickr to see if we could tap into that audience for submissions. 13
We realized that after that initial push, we were going to need a way to keep remind people that we wanted their input.Early 2009, we launched the marketing campaign. Every two months, we pick a new theme for a call-for-entry (Inauguration, Womens History Month, International Year of Astronomy), reach out to blogs with SMR, traditional press, and send out an e-newsletter to subscribers.
Also have banners, click! RSS story feed15
And people can share stories via social networking sites.
16visitor contributed content (6 mos.)SourceSubmittedAccepted% Accepted : Submitted
Pre-Launch: National Writing Project
17317%Launch17529%CFE: Inauguration300%CFE: Womens History Month6116%Other *7900%Total1209**6%*Majority submitted via Flickr** In 6 month time frame
Not much volume overallPartnership with NWP- goodInitial launch good resultsCFE w/ press smaller overall, but good returnOther mostly via flickr, sharing photos is front and center, not storiesCaveat: Weve only done one thematic call with marketing.
17statsFebruary 2009March 2009Visits: 23,937
Visits: 54,368Avg. Visit Duration: 0:20:28 Avg. Visit Duration: 0:20:03
Page Views: 63,428Page Views: 91,925
Starting online marketing, Our web stats doubled from February to March! More people know about it = more potential contributors.18are we reaching creators?Forrester's Social Technographics
Going back to the Forrester levels of participation chart, we are coming close to reaching the creator group when we partner with an educational organization and do the social media releases and outreach. Although, overall numbers arent overwhelming. 19
We now have 52 stories both from invited guests and the public, 9 from the public20curators perspectiveQUESTION: Have submissions from the general public enhanced/contributed to your curatorial goals for click! I?
ANSWER: When theyve been good, they haveSince we see so many pictures, and spend so much time either looking and not looking at them, its a BIG challenge to get people to take a step back and to try and figure out how and why they work Which is why were working so hard to get beyond the cool picture discourse.
Marvin Heiferman, Curator, click! photography changes everything
I posed this question to our curator21
Were also involved in the Smithsonians photos on the Flickr Commons site where a lot of typical photo dialog happens. 22
cool photo dialog happens all over and its a good thing. Were in the business to inspire!23
To be fair, its not all cool photo dialog on the Commons by any means.24
I love the comment inviting us to share this photo with a group called, Systemic Botany (not for pretty flower images)25staff effort for public submissionsMarketing 14 hrs/week Monitoring 4 hrs/weekCuratorial Minimal
open questionsWill thematic calls-for-entry along with targeted marketing get the stories?
Are we asking for too much?
how can we include the rest?
We need to look into including the critics, collectors, and joiners. INTIMIDATION! We have highly-credentialed people already up on click! and it could be intimidating.28click.si.edu