From what I have seen of the blog posts that have started to appear in my feed, it looks like many of us have enjoyed choosing our own adventures for this module (and, I imagine, a lot of us have a hefty dose of nostalgia for the theme!). In my case, I found that this was a great chance to examine technology and participatory services outside of public libraries. It was great fun to look at the way some museums and archives are moving towards the future, both by bringing their collections to the public in a virtual environment and inviting visitors to experience and contribute to their sites in person in new ways.
I felt particularly drawn to the article about the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and how they are incorporating smartphone use for their users through both social media and a revamped, mobile-friendly website. Their digital media manager noted that their efforts to draw people in through their devices have led to increased foot traffic as well as engagement because people are looking for actual experiences, so while it would be easy to think that providing collections and virtual tours online would reduce the number of actual visitors, that has not been their experience. (Titlow, 2016). Of course, that experience was shared pre-COVID; now many museums have been incorporating new opportunities to draw in online crowds during lockdowns, leaving those of us looking for online experiences much to explore. It’s easy to spend hours walking the world’s museums and archives—without any decrease in the desire to visit in perso— but I wanted to share a few I particularly enjoyed, all from my own mobile device.
- The Guggenheim Bilbao
- Palace Museum, Beijing
- National Air & Space Museum, Washington, D.C.
- The Salvatore Ferragamo Archive (I was really looking for interesting corporate archives, and although I’m not a particular Ferragamo fan, I thought this one was very well done!)
Now that live options are becoming possible again, there are many opportunities to use personal devices within museums and archives, as well. I am really excited by the prospect of using my smartphone and augmented reality to play seek and find games similar to Pokémon Go in a museum. Another example of the use of AR, the Smithsonian’s Skin & Bones app, allows users to download an app to their smartphones that turns their visit into an interactive experience, bringing their displays to life and letting the user explore additional information.
For me, the most exciting opportunity for engagement in museums and archives is the opportunity to contribute. I have used tools like the National Archives Citizen Archivist Dashboard, which invites users to participate in the tagging and transcription of records in order to increase access, to take a more active role in my own research interests. There is also potential to use mobile devices for this kind of community activity. Smartphones are being recognized as tools to increase digital access, as the number of smartphone users in the world could potentially be a powerful force for digitizing material and modern smartphone cameras can produce images near the quality of professional digitization equipment (Leetaru, 2015). Encouraging the use of technology in this way not only advances the mission of the archive, it also engages the users in a different way and gives them a deeper connection to the archive and the community. The future of museums and archives will see users as both as visitors and as contributors and prioritize ways to include them.
Leetaru, K. (2015, November 8). Digitizing the world’s libraries using smartphones. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/kalevleetaru/2015/11/08/digitizing-the-worlds-libraries-using-smartphones/?sh=40710f451b0f
Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. (2015, January 26). Skin and bones promotional video [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7agVb4IG16M&t=21s
Titlow, J.P. (2016, February 29). How a 145-year-old art museum stays relevant in the smartphone age. Fast Company. https://www.fastcompany.com/3057236/how-a-145-year-old-art-museum-stays-relevant-in-the-smartphone-age