We set out to create a model that combines two things: 1) the social engagement of in-person meetups, and 2) the insight from national thought leaders on the topic of museums serving their communities. And from this, we generate content: a series of videos that are annotated and easy to view. In shorthand: Meetup + Hangout = Community Content.
Some of the components in the model:
- A series of meetups. In our case, six meetups with national thought leaders in the museum field: Nina Simon (museums and relevance), Kimberly Drew (black culture and social media), Beka Economopoulos (museums and action), Elizabeth Merritt (empathy and mass migration), Rob Stein (global thinking), and Emily Graslie (museum vlogs)
- A venue for the meetups. District Hall and Roxbury Innovation Center in Boston were the perfect venues. Both are innovation centers dedicated to fostering growth in Boston’s startup community, and are affiliated with the nonprofit Venture Cafe Foundation. Both have great meeting spaces with state of the art projection, wifi, and writeable walls. And both are fun. District Hall incorporates a restaurant/bar in its larger facility, and Roxbury Innovation Center shares its larger space with the nonprofit Dudley Dough social enterprise pizza cafe.
- An organizational hub. The New England Museum Association (NEMA). NEMA was the perfect organization to serve as hub for the meetups: with a ready database of local museum professionals, an existing following on Facebook, and a deep base of experience running workshops, meetings, and meetups.
- An advisory board. Hats off to Ed Rodley, Paul Orselli, Cierra Peters, and our friends at NEMA who joined me reaching out to colleagues to participate in the sessions. (A secret agenda that I incorporated: our advisors are widely read bloggers and social media commentators, and I knew they could get word out about the project).
- An overarching theme. Our theme was “The Distributed Museum” — that is, ways that museums are not bound by their walls, but rather distributed throughout their communities. This can happen through programs, partnerships, satellite locations, and additional ways that our presenters described.
How did we do on this experiment? I’m delighted with each of the meetups we had — the Google Hangout presentations by national thought leaders were each extraordinary (and they included lively discussions with our audiences). They are all archived and indexed now on this website and our YouTube Channel. As a whole they present an extraordinary snapshot of some of the leading directions as museums extend out to their local communities.
What could we improve? Not all meetups were as well attended as others (we had anywhere from 10-60 participating). I take primary responsibility for not laying out a regular schedule of meetups at the start. After our first meetup, there was a long scheduling gap as I contemplated a master plan for who/what/when/where that became a bit intimidating. A better plan would have been to simply book all the dates with the venue at the start, and then fill those dates in with presenters to fill the structure. Also, we didn’t get as much social media participation after the events as I thought we might. Dedicating someone at the start to feeding the social media and responding would have been a great help.
Next steps: the IMLS funded portion of our project is done, but there is still the spark of interest and possibility for continuing in some form or another. Some thoughts include:
- Seek volunteers who would like to try their hand at: arranging venues, finding presenters, or doing other social media extensions of the work. We’ve heard from a few already — let us know!
- Follow up on interest from other regional museum associations throughout the US. (Note: we have a graphics toolkit available that includes the Museumhive logo, banners for Facebook, etc, that can be adapted by other museum associations. Please get in touch if interested)
- Expand to include international museum colleagues. We could as easily do a Hangout with a colleague in London as Chicago, and as Rob Stein noted in his Hangout, there are many great international museum examples.
This project was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services grant MG-45-16-0029-16. The views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this website do not necessarily represent those of the Institute of Museum and Library Services. Museumhive also is grateful for support from District Hall, a dedicated civic space where Boston’s innovation community can gather and exchange ideas.