Friday, June 28, 2013

Weekly Blog Roundup

Here are a few interesting posts from the museum blog world.

Tote that Barge from The Nonprofit University Blog

With the recent Tampa Bay Times article about "the worst charities in America," nonprofit accountability has taken a beating. Evaluation and outcome measurement are crucial to any nonprofit's success, but we are all stymied for a way to measure the impact of what we do in easily quantifiable ways - probably because it's impossible to boil quality experiences down to numbers. Nevertheless the overhead percentage number has been a terrible way to evaluate effectiveness for a long time now. When I see a nonprofit telling me that $0.95 of every dollar goes right to the children, I think of the underpaid, overworked, and subsequently ineffective staff members that are surviving on that $0.05. I work directly in programming, but what about all the other people at my museum who help make the work I do possible - our PR person, our membership coordinator, our development director? For that matter, how do you count that percentage? Would my salary count, or only the money I spend doing programming?

That's a long way of saying the overhead percentage is a terrible way to evaluate, and in this blog post Laura talks about why, and how some major indices such as GuideStar are pulling away from it. Hallelujah!

Rethinking the Do Not Touch Sign from Engaging Places

This is short and sweet but I LOVE the gallery of photographs that invert what people think of when they see a no photography or a do not touch sign. Fantastic.

The Perfect Game...or Not from Museumist

I will admit to being something of a skeptic when it comes to mobile games in museums. I like the idea, but so often what I see in execution is...a little too high concept? Not relational enough? I can't quite put my finger on it but they seem to be great ideas that won't always translate. In this guest post, Kellian Adams outlines brilliantly what a good mobile game should accomplish: in short, a lot of what we already, which is emphasizing connections between people and objects. She also raises the interesting question of how closely a game should be tied to its community: will the same concept work in different cities, at different institutions?
In fact, I think what we want to dream about isn’t really the perfect game at all. We want to dream about the perfect experience. The perfect response to a game.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

#hockeysaurus and Other Sports/Museum Mashups

As I write this, I'm also watching Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals, in which my Boston Bruins are facing up against the Chicago Blackhawks. I'm not a huge major sports fan, but if I had to pick a favorite it would be hockey.

eta: Figures this is posted the morning after a fairly heartbreaking loss last night. Ugh.

One of the best things about this Stanley Cup run has been the rivalry between Boston and Chicago's museums. Inter-city rivalries are particularly intense at playoff time, and it's always fun when museums join in.    Art museums have placed Superbowl bets for a few years running now, with the losing city's institution loaning a painting to the winning city.

This sort of showmanship is new to the Stanley Cup, though the Cup is the oldest of the professional sports trophies (this year it celebrates its 120th birthday).

The Chicago Institute of Art started it, posting a picture of Grant Wood's American Gothic farmers wearing Blackhawk helmets, and the Boston Museum of Fine Art responded with a neat bit of marketing, giving its samurai mascot from its current exhibition a Bruins mask.

Game 2 saw Chicago decorating a Monet and Boston responding with a postcard from its collection: "Mr. Bruin anticipates an easy victory" a hilariously appropriate image and sentiment. Game 3 saw the MFA knocking it absolutely out of the park - to mix a sports metaphor - with this tweak of The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit, one of their most famous paintings. The updated painting received thousands of likes and hundreds of comments, some of which were negative. Complaints ranged from charges that the MFA had "ruined" the painting and others questioned their donations to the MFA. One particularly cranky commenter wrote "This is ridiculous. This is my favorite painting, way to insult a genius artist. Is this what my donations and membership goes too? I think Boston has enough sports outlets, leave my art alone..... Bad idea MFA." The MFA clearly wasn't deterred, as it posted a tribute to Tuuka Rask, the Bruins goalie, in this manipulation of Gilbert Stuart's portrait of George Washington.

Meanwhile, across town and on another social media outlet, the Boston Museum of Science and Chicago's Field Museum, two of the great science museums in America, have their own rivalry: #hockeysaurus. The Field's Sue the T-Rex and the MOS's Cliff the Triceratops are bantering, bragging...and possibly flirting?

Sue started it:
Cliff took up the challenge immediately, and the two have been tweeting nearly nonstop for several days now. There are too many to list all together, but here are a few of the best.

What does this all mean? Are the MFA's commenters right, and this sort of ribbing is a frivolous use of museum resources? Or does the wild popularity of these efforts prove that they're worthwhile? Are people learning anything by following the banter between the museums? Should museums be above inter-city rivalry - by making themselves more a part of their local community, are these museums making themselves less national?

In my opinion, jokes like these are exactly what will keep museums relevant and vibrant. Boston and Chicago fans will feel like their museums are on their side; they will each feel that the other city's museums have a sense of humor and understand something they love - sports.

What do you think?

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Weekly Blog Roundup

Here's a small collection of some interesting blog entries from the museum world.

Diner en blanc at the Louvre at Out and About in Paris

So I cheated - this is not a museum blog at all, but a lifestyle blog about Paris, written by an American expat. I've followed it for some time as I once lived in France myself and it makes me nostalgic, and Mary Kay has a real knack for finding interesting experiences in a wonderful city.

This particular post caught my eye professionally because of the terrific public program possibilities. The White Dinner flashmob meets at various locations around Paris once a year and serves dinner to 8,000 invited guests, who all show up wearing white. Can you imagine a catered dinner party for 8,000 - as a flashmob? This year's was in the Louvre courtyard and I wondered if they got permission ahead of time. Either way, I would argue that the Louvre benefited; part of the goal of the dinner is:
All of the guests are familiar with the rules governing the event and know exactly what must be done before the celebration can begin. For example, invitees must arrive and depart by bus or organized public transportation, allocate seats in a very specific manner, with men on one side and women on the other, and take all of their trash away with them when they leave. The diners must enhance the value of the public space by charming passersby with the unexpected rather than detracting from it. And, most incredibly, it works.
There have been several viral examples of flashmobs recently, music, dancing, etc., and I would argue that most do "enhance the value of the public space." So how can museums cultivate what is essentially an unplanned phenomenon?

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Weekly Blog Roundup

Here are a few interesting blog posts from the museum world.

Guerrilla Interpretation, Mall Edition at The Uncataloged Museum

I had never heard of these hurricane booths the author writes about - partly because I can't remember the last time I was in a mall - but I love, love, LOVE this approach. It's smart and well thought-out and I love even the little bit of evaluation that went on to confirm that people really were absorbing and learning.

8 Things I'd Like You to Know from The Nonprofit University Blog

This is a bit pessimistic, and aimed more toward boards, but I've seen examples of most of these things in my own career. Nonprofits can and should do better.

Memo from the Revolution: Six Things I've Learned from Our Institutional Transformation from Museum 2.0

I love this. As usual, Nina has insightful, daring, and interesting things to say about nonprofit cultural institutions. In this one in particular I like her concentric circles metaphor. It's a reminder that revolution sometimes leaves things behind - and that's not necessarily the end of the world. I also wish more small institutions would implement the "no money, no bullshit" policy.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Weekly Blog Roundup

Here are some interesting posts from the museum blog world this past week.

I have a disaster plan. Now what? from the Small Museums Online Community

I have a secret obsession with disaster plans, both institutional and personal. I like to be prepared for everything. My programs have backup plans for their backup plans. This is a good post that takes that next step: once you've made the plan, how can you seek out the expertise to put things into action? It's especially timely as the post author is from Oklahoma; though no cultural institutions were badly damaged in the recent tornado hits, it's a very real possibility going forward in what promises to be a terrible season.

The Power of Story (via Data, Collections & Social Media) from Museum Minute

Another great AAM roundup, this time organized around the theme of the conference itself. Jamie's takeaway is about sharing - data, collections, and time (via social media and other connections to visitors). It's a message I wholeheartedly believe in, and it's the wave of the future for museums. Unless we open our doors and invite active participation, we're done for.

Your Summer Intern Is Here. Now What? from the Harvard Business Review Blog Network

These are all common sense suggestions, but they're so often overlooked. I LOVE them. I've been an intern and I've supervised interns, and if these suggestions were followed the experience would be exponentially better for everyone involved. I particularly like the emphasis on mentoring.