#svegliamuseo is an experimental project created to “wake up” Italian museums online, exploiting the power of the web to generate a network effect. By acting primarily on online channels, #svegliamuseo convenes experts and enthusiastic by providing a platform for conversations and exchange on technologies, media and online communication in the museum and cultural sector. The voices behind #svegliamuseo are Alessandro, Aurora, Federica, Francesca and Valeria and each have graciously agreed to being interviewed!
Do you work in a museum? If not, where do you work? Tell us about your jobs.
Francesca: #svegliamuseo team is composed by five people and we all have different jobs and different backgrounds.
Actually, only Valeria and Aurora are currently working in museums. Valeria is an intern in the Mobile Strategy and Initiatives Program at the Smithsonian Institution and Aurora collaborates with the Archaeological Museum of Cremona as an educator. Alessandro is studying Communication and New Media, and both Federica and I work as social media managers for two separate web agencies in Milan.
Indeed, working in different fields is a key strength: the fact that we can share with each other different experiences enriches us and our project.
What’s your educational background?
Francesca: I have always wanted to be an Egyptologist, since the very first time I watched Indiana Jones. For this reason, I studied Archaeology for five years and, after that degree, took a Master in Marketing and Communication, trying to merge past with future.
Valeria: I worked in PR for a science museum and for a design communication agency. Then I did a Master in Museology and is interning/researching at Smithsonian Mobile.
Alessandro: I graduated in Archaeology and worked (either for free and underpaid) in Italy and abroad. I am now taking a post-graduated master in “Communication, Management and New Media” of University of San Marino.
Aurora: I graduated in Classical Archaeology and went on as a Graduate Curatorial Intern at the Getty Museum (life goal achieved: working in the Villa of the Papyri). I’m now wondering whether I should further my studies about what I love (the Romans!).
What was your ‘sticky’ moment?
Francesca: Last summer I was in charge of research on Italian museums for the agency I work for. I was asked to map museums in the north east of Italy, studying both their social networks and their websites.
For personal interest, I extended my research to the rest of Italy, and the more I searched, the worse the situation got: I found out that very few Italian museums were using social media in a proper way and that most of them didn’t use social networks at all. In most cases, their websites were obsolete – being themselves “museum material”. Sadly, also those very famous museums which were supposed to be taken as an example were lacking in digital strategy and coherent online approach. This was the moment when I got the idea of doing something to change the situation, and this is how #svegliamuseo was born!
What is the name of your blog? How long have you been blogging?
Francesca: Our blog’s name is #svegliamuseo, just like the hashtag we created to spread our mission. It means “wake up museums” and we wanted it to be as effective as possible in drawing people’s attention to museums and their lack of online communication strategies.
We started our blog six months ago and we are already receiving great feedback from the community of museum lovers and museum professionals. We have also gathered these people in two very active Facebook and Twitter communities, with more than two thousand people exchanging news, comments and tips on digital tools for culture.
What do you blog about? Why?
Valeria: Besides publishing interviews to digital media managers of museums around the world, we keep the blog updated with posts about trends in the use of new technologies in museums. We focus on social media, cases of interesting uses and strategies for specific platforms and evaluation. But we are more and more expanding the subjects to transmit the idea that we should stop approaching these tools with the “silos- thinking”: talking about social media as something completely separate from mobile or interactive kiosks in galleries is conceptually wrong. We should look at them in synergy and we would like to sensitize cultural institutions on this point. We would like our blog, which is one of the main communication vehicles of the #svegliamuseo project, to be a platform for exchange where people can access resources and discuss their ideas.
What’s your most read blog post? Tell us about it.
Aurora: Our most read blog posts must be searched for among our interviews, but before I unveil our “winner(s)” allow me a brief intro: the interviews were born as a way to get to know how social media were handled in museums abroad (to set a sort of “role model guide”), but we soon realized it would not be fair to do so without also presenting the best practices in our country – some, although few, of our museums were already “wide awake”, and their example could be even more significant for an Italian audience. So here are our two most “Liked” blog posts: on the “foreign” side the insight on the Statens Museums for Kunst in Denmark, on the Italian one the interview to one of the most looked-upon Italian museum in the digital field – the Mart Museum of Rovereto.
What’s your “go-to” blog/online museum resource?
Alessandro: The risk of drawing up a list is always to forget someone unintentionally; I hope to do my best.
My first blog “go-to” is by Jasper Visser (http://themuseumofthefuture.com/), an extraordinary Dutch professional who, along with Jim Richardson, has invented the Digital Engagement Framework; the site is full of ideas, thoughts and new approaches to engagement and strategy applicable to all latitudes.
Then there is the very useful website of Colleen Dilenschneider (http://colleendilen.com/) which – although focused on the use of social media in charity association – provides concepts and principles to study and annotate.
Another interesting virtual space-think, valuable and fun it is Suse Cairns’ blog (http://museumgeek.wordpress.com/) which is filled since April 2011 with in-depth and really appealing professional posts as well as with amusing anecdotes (of which categories “Stupidity” and “Geek Speak” as examples).
Last but not least, an indispensable resource is the Center for the Future of Museums blog (http://futureofmuseums.blogspot.com/), in which museum professionals confront each other, interact, exchange knowledge and address the problems that primarily occur in this period.
Do you tweet? Why or why not?
Aurora: We did not tweet as a “group” for half of our virtual life but we always intended for others to tweet with us (us being us-on-our-personal-profiles): we did, after all, chose to put an hashtag before our name from the very beginning. We decided to create the account @svegliamuseo only last February because we thought our community (built on Facebook) was ready to join us on Twitter. We could not have been more right: our Twitter community is growing by the day and, parallel to us, a community made of Italian museums is also flourishing – see the amazing results of this year (2014) edition of #MuseumWeek with the participation of over 100 Italian museums, most of which fairly new to Twitter. Now that the museums are there too, and a wider community of professionals has been created, we can start acting and having fun on Twitter (which, by the way, is a great tool to create quick exchanges)!
What do you see as the biggest challenge (or opportunity) facing museums today?
Valeria: As Larry Friedlander said at the opening plenary at Museums and the Web last year, museums are going through a “teenage crisis”. This concept pictures very well anguishes and uncertainties of the current transition. Museums are mutating in new forms, rethinking their roles and approaches in order to remain meaningful to contemporary society. (See the whole speech here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=edrxS6nJlzo)
Museums, and especially Italian museums, are stuck in a phase in which budget cuts generate mass panic. They think that they can’t do exciting stuff because there is no money, no staff and there is a lot of frustration about this. But what can we do then? Sit there looking at our dusty stuff and complain? Somebody famous once said, “be the change”. Leverage on the power of new media doesn’t necessarily mean buy expensive iPads and super awesome devices to get the visitors interested in your dusty stuff. Social media, in particular, allows museums to reach out to audiences, tell them fascinating stories, and create connections. The big challenge is exactly this: seeing opportunities in the current environment rather than just difficulties and being initiators. In other words, WAKE UP!
Share one piece of advice for those interested in working in the museum field:
Valeria: Museums are changing and with that, also the skills that they need to sustain the change. We loved this article from the Center for the Future of Museums about professions in cultural institutions that didn’t exist 10 years ago. Our piece of advice for people who want to work in the field is to change their mind-set: be innovators, carry out ideas with passion and do not necessarily aim at “traditional” museum-y roles. It is much more interesting to work in the “intersections” today and museums are starting to look for flexible people who are able to reinvent themselves in this sense!
Thanks for participating in Meet a Museum Blogger, Alessandro, Aurora, Federica, Francesca and Valeria!
In case you missed it, Alessandro, Aurora, Federica, Francesca and Valeria blog at #svegliamuseo.
Do you have additional questions for Alessandro, Aurora, Federica, Francesca and Valeria regarding their profile above? Feel free to start a conversation in the comments below or reach out to her directly on Twitter at @svegliamuseo. Please use the #MuseumBlogger hashtag. TY!
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