Guest Blogger / MuseumMinute

Guest Post: Igniting Culture with @unmuseum

This week’s Museum Minute is brought to you by Jenn Nelson (@unmuseum).

Jenn is a graduate of Western University in Canada. She holds a BA in History and Political Science from Huron University College at Western and an MA in Public History. Jenn has worked for several museums and heritage institutions including National Museums Scotland and National Library of Scotland, Banting House National Historic Site of Canada and the Ontario Heritage Trust. She has a strong passion for social media and believes it is an excellent tool to provide outreach to the cultural community.

Jenn is the organizer of Ignite Culture, an event that creates a networking and information sharing opportunity for culture enthusiasts. She is a geek, can wiggle her ears and once sold Rachel McAdams potatoes.

I’m extremely passionate about heritage and culture and it’s important to me that others have an opportunity to share their knowledge, skills and passion too. I firmly believe that in order to foster passion about heritage and culture, we (as heritage and culture enthusiasts) need to facilitate the conversation.

Ignite Culture has been the culmination of four months of blood, sweat and tears – but it was an extremely rewarding experience and well worth it. We have had two events so far (in Toronto and in London, Ontario) and plan to have many more.

Ignite Culture was an idea that I had been wanting to do for a while. So, instead of thinking about it, I just decided to do it. The main reason for its creation was that I was looking for networking opportunities for culture professionals that not only provided a space to network, but provided a platform for culture enthusiasts to showcase their skills and knowledge in a relaxed environment.

It was extremely important for me to make this event accessible to all. The trap that many young professionals find themselves in is that they want and need to network, in order to obtain meaningful employment, but often cannot afford to pay the high costs to attend events that provide this sort of opportunity. Being in this position myself, I felt the wrath of this vicious cycle for the first time, and it’s not the most comfortable of places to be in. I felt like something needed to be done, and Ignite Culture was the answer.

The event consists of a group of speakers who present for 5 minutes with 20 slides that auto-advance every 15 seconds. We’ve had presentations on everything from tweed rides to the culture of body tattooing. This was an excellent opportunity for participants to share what they’re passionate about and for people who rarely speak in public, to practice their public speaking skills in front of an audience that was extremely supportive and fully engaged.

I have to admit that I really didn’t think this event would go viral, but I guess that’s what happens when you run an ignite event.

I’m an avid user and strong believer in social media and so it was important for me to fully utilize these tools to promote and document this event. The only marketing I did was through social media. The first event was sold out and the second hosted almost 400 people.

At our event in Toronto, I asked the group to tweet about the event in real-time using #igniteculture. This turned out to be a huge success and before the night had ended, we had even trended on Twitter in Canada, which is a statistic I am quite proud of for my first (of what I plan to be many) Ignite Culture events.

What have I learned from this experience? Well, several things. The first being is that if you find opportunities are lacking, create your own. If you want to do something, just do it. The only thing that is stopping you is yourself.

Secondly, culture needs to be made accessible to all. There are many ways that we can do this. Put your thinking caps on and make it happen.

Lastly, there is so much passion and knowledge in my generation (21-35) and we’re not using it. As I’ve said in my post on being a young museum professional, give us a chance. We’re a breath of fresh air; things are changing, so change with us. We want to make things better!

I’d like to thank Jamie for giving me this opportunity to guest blog. I hope you enjoyed reading it!

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