Museums Opening Up to Communities Using Web 2.0: Promise or Reality?

By Lavina Shahani, Niki Nikonanou and Maria Economou.

Published by The International Journal of the Inclusive Museum

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

As social edifices in the sphere of cultural production, today’s museums are increasingly becoming advocates of inclusion and incubators of community. As a result, there has been an increased interest and subsequent change in the way museums mediate among and between communities. One of these changes is the way museums and cultural institutions use emerging Web 2.0 technologies as a means of communication. By extending past the sole use of content provider offered with traditional Web 1.0 technologies, several museums are embracing and experimenting with Web 2.0 technology for its ability to emphasize community and visitor participation. Through the application of museum centered Internet-based services such as social networking sites, RSS feeds, podcasts, and blogs, users can actively engage and influence the organization, creation, and sharing of online content. Undoubtedly, these online platforms infused with concepts of collaboration, community and open dialogue offer the potential to transform our capacity to experience and interact with the museum as well as each other. But to what extent has this potential been realized so far? By seeking to contextualize these social dynamics involved in applying Web 2.0 technologies into the museum, this paper aims to expand our understanding and uses of the various possibilities of social media. Through using a number of case studies from museums with existing Web 2.0 applications, it will discuss how the model of museum communication is changing and will also analyze a number of important issues raised by the use of these technological tools (such as ownership authenticity and control of cultural information, relationship between communities and museum staff, and institutional policies).

Keywords: Museums, Communities, Web 2.0, Social Media

International Journal of the Inclusive Museum, Volume 1, Issue 4, pp.57-66. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.231MB).

Lavina Shahani

Marie Curie Research Fellow, Department of Cultural Technology and Communication, University of the Aegean, Mytilene, Greece

Lavina Shahani holds a Bachelors of Arts in Art History from The University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) and a Master of Arts in Art Gallery and Museum Studies from Manchester University. Lavina’s experience and interests in community-based cultural projects have been informed by her various work experience at both Museums and Not-for-Profit organizations. She has worked as a docent at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles and as a project assistant at the Manchester Museum on the community engagement film series “Collective Conversations.” She has also been a development intern at New York’s Lower Manhattan Cultural Council and just recently finished a visual arts internship with VSA arts, an affiliate of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts working with artists with disabilities. Currently, Lavina has been appointed as the 5th Marie Curie Research Fellow at the University of the Aegean and is researching issues of communities and how this relationship is reshaped by the use of new technologies.

Dr. Niki Nikonanou

Assistant Professor, Department of Cultural Technology and Communication, University of the Aegean, Mytilene, Greece

Dr. Niki Nikonanou is assistant Professor (Museum Education) at the Department of Cultural Technology and Communication of the University of the Aegean. She graduated from the the Philosophical School of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and she followed postgraduate studies at the University of Cologne (education, history of art and museum education). She has a Master Degree in Art History and a PhD in Museum education of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. Since 1994 she works with museums, educational and cultural institutions in the designing of educational activities, development of communication strategies and organization of exhibitions. She is research partner in many programmes (e.g. Socrates, Euromed Heritage II, III) of the University of the Aegean, the Aristotle University (Thessaloniki) and other institutions. She has participated in international conferences and seminars and is an author of various articles in scientific publications and periodicals. Her research fields cover issues of museology, communication and education in museums and other cultural institutions.

Dr. Maria Economou

Assistant Professor, Department of Cultural Technology and Communication, University of the Aegean, Mytilene, Greece

Dr. Maria Economou is assistant professor (Museology and New Technologies) at the Department of Cultural Technology and Communication of the University of the Aegean. She studied Archaeology and History of Art at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. She carried out an MA in Museum Studies at the University of Leicester, UK and completed her doctoral research at the University of Oxford. She worked as a lecturer at the University of Manchester (School of Arts, Histories and Cultures) and the University of Glasgow (Humanities Advanced Technology and Information Institute) and as assistant curator (responsible for Information Technology) at the Pitt Rivers Museum of the University of Oxford. She has collaborated with various cultural organisations around the world and has published extensively on museological issues, particularly on the application of new technologies in museums, evaluation and visitor studies, and the digitisation of collections.


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