USA Trip 2010: Impressions from a land far far away

By: Dr Lynda Kelly, Category: Museullaneous, Date: 28 May 2010

Been travelling in the States. First to Washington to present the George Brown Goode Memorial Lecture at the Smithsonian (talk titled How Web 2.0 is Changing the Nature of Museum Work), then to the American Association of Museums Conference in Los Angeles (presentation titled The Museum’s new website: transforming educational audiences). Here’s my notes/impressions of the state of our sector.

The digital world

  • We all agree it will fundamentally change the nature of or work but unsure how
  • Still some levels of management control over online content delivery as they fail to understand the nature of the web
  • Mobile is the future
  • The large institutions in the States are doing interesting work around iPhone apps and mobile technology
  • Seem to be pockets of highly creative, innovative people working in this field, yet often still not being listened to across the organisation
  • Websites should be seen as a platform for social learning
  • Will Foursquare be the new Twitter?
  • Start with a strategy that must be an action plan, not just more talk
  • Challenge is traditional institutional slowness and conservatism vs. the pace of change in technology and the digital world
  • Flickr is great way to do crowdsourcing
  • Meet controversy head on – don’t try to hide it, explain it
  • Need to break out of pour silos and have an exit strategy for a digital project
  • Twittering at conferences can be very useful (go to the hashtags #aam10, #djump, #tcel and #edtmuseums for some interesting commentary)
  • Social media and online marketing has been shown to be effective – large part of movie marketing is now via the blogosphere


  • Audience has to be at the centre of all we do – understand them before thinking about the technology
  • Brands are dead – user is king!
  • Given that, museum brands are valued, especially in the blogosphere
  • Millenials are seeking understanding, the ways they learn are collaborative and participatory, they expect input and exchange
  • Don’t teach audiences, engage with them
  • It takes work and effort to build an online community, but it reaps rewards as they start to self-manage
  • PR is moving from being expert opinion to peer-generated and dialogue-driven

How we work

  • Consider the organisation the way the world see it, not how it sees itself
  • People will access content from wherever they are and their own timeframes and spaces – need to provide our content in many forms
  • Collaboration both across the institution, between institutions and with external parties will be the norm
  • Consider applying a ‘crowd-sourcing’ model to managing internal projects
  • A large pocket of education people in the States recognise that online learning is the same as the ways museum education is being approached – i.e. learner centred and museum as facilitator, do they think this in Australia? Education people are also driving lots of the digital projects

Finally via @mpedson of the Smithsonian: “The field needs emerging museum professionals to go for it” and from me (@lyndakelly61): “The field needs visionaries at all levels of our institutions, don’t just sit around talking, get out there & give it a go”.

Thanks to Swinburne University of Technology (Melbourne) and the Smithsonian Institute for Museum Studies (Washington DC) for supporting this trip.

Australian Museum website resources are linked on the right-hand side of this page. Here’s some other links:

Here's also the notes from my AAM session.


Lynda Kelly - 1.05 PM, 31 May 2010

Thanks Nancy. I admit I didn't have a clue how to spell "millennial" but did a Google with that spelling and I see what you mean!!

Loved being on your continent, and I also look forward to further chats.

NancyProctor - 5.05 AM, 31 May 2010
Great summary - and I appreciate the brevity of the bullet points! I have to nit-pick one point given your appreciation of good spelling: Millenials - do you know what it means with one 'n'? (Not what you intended, I think...) Wonderful having you on our continent. Looking forward to more f2f and digital conversations!
Lynda Kelly - 8.05 AM, 30 May 2010

Here's a great set of conference notes from Stephanie Weaver, Experienceology.

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