Twitter and Museum 2.0
April 18th, 2007

Nina Simon raises on Museum 2.0 the question ‘Can Twitter do anything for museums?’ and states: “If it is adopted by a whole team, I think twitter can be quite useful internally for project management and group updates. But how could it be used uniquely for visitors in museums?”

Here are some visitor experience-focused applications I can imagine:

1. Create a twitter profile for the museum and broadcast information about programs, events, and exhibits there. This is similar to initiatives where museums create MySpace accounts, in that you are going to ‘where the people are.’ But it also can be used as a quick broadcasting system for the museum itself. My museum has a scroller on the web and in the lobby that update with information about hours, availability, and espionage facts; if we used twitter to load this information, it would be automatically archived, easy to distribute, and available to people who want to get it in other locations (i.e. to their phones or on the twitter website).

2. Use twitter for automatic updates from exhibits on status and or evaluation. One of the more interesting mashups of twitter I’ve seen is for people who have developed computerized alerts from their home (when someone is at the door, when the fridge is empty, etc.). The SMS interface makes twitter a good application for these alerts. Imagine a ‘smart exhibit’ that sends out an SMS alert each time it is used, each time a particular vote is registered, each time a button is hit, each time someone stays for X amount of time. If each exhibit had its own twitter account, it could automatically generate a web-based archive of its use and abuse.

3. Create a twitter map mashup of the museum and combine staff, automatic, and guest tweets to generate a dynamic, real-time view of what’s happening at the museum. This can be used to do some of (1) and (2) and would convey action and excitement on a museum homepage or in the lobby. Wow! They are dropping eggs over there! Someone just made a bubble as big as their body! When I look at twittervision, I am entranced by the statements being made all over the world. If the map were just of the museum I was about to visit, I would be compelled and excited by the perception of action and interaction of folks and exhibits.

4. Encourage museum visitors to link to each other through the museum network. Debatably the most ‘useful’ current application of twitter is at conferences, where people meet others, join their twitter networks, and then can easily broadcast and receive information about great sessions, after-parties, and meetup opportunities. Twitter becomes a technological tool that enables real-time, face-to-face interaction between people who are running around the conference. Why not do the same for people running around the museum?

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