Can we create a culture of philanthropy?

After two semesters in the Museum Studies program, I realized that I was to follow the “museum management” course of study, and ultimately pursue a career in museum fundraising. (In case you missed it, you can read more about my background here!) Paired with the museum-focused courses, I also take courses in the public policy school, as I am working towards a certificate in nonprofit management as well. The focus of many of my courses is (unsurprisingly) fundraising and philanthropy in the nonprofit sector. It would be impossible for me to take these courses, and not reflect on the philanthropic giving that is closest to me, being my own.

We discuss different generations of donors in my courses, and it is recognized that my (millennial) generation is up against many factors that might not make us the most philanthropic. Many of us have massive amounts of student debt, that is not going to be repaid anytime soon because entry level job salaries are often times laughable. Especially if you aspire to work in the nonprofit sector (like me!). But, there is also an understood desire to give back, and desire to support groups that we care about. Personally, while it does seem a little bit aggressive for my undergraduate college to be calling for donations very soon after graduation, I plan on giving as soon as I am done with school and I have a steady income. Before I started taking these courses and studying the field, I don’t think I would’ve been so eager to give.

The wonderful Nina Simon related similar sentiments in this blog post, titled “Can we talk about money?”. She details that once she became a museum director and had to start soliciting donors (a MAJOR part of a directors job) she and her husband began thinking of their own giving. She also describes the anxiety inducing moment of actually asking for money, something that I frequently consider as I look towards my goals of being a major gift officer and later a fundraising director. I imagine how awkward the situation must be, or how embarrassing it would be to be shut down. But I had a professor once tell the class, philanthropic-minded people were always going to give, it is just a matter of convincing them to support your organization. That changed my frame of thinking, rather than begging for money, you are making your case for support.

Simon also brings up the fact that “…not everyone is comfortable talking about philanthropy, or about money. When we do so in our field, we’re often focused on pay inequities for the work that we do. But pay and philanthropy are two separate topics. We should be willing to talk about both.” This is baffling that philanthropy and fundraising is not discussed more in the museum/nonprofit field because it is necessary to survive! The number of people who believe that because the Smithsonian Institution is a federal entity they don’t need to seek outside funding is is significantly higher than I expected. Even within the museum field, it should be recognized that in order for all departments to function, collections, exhibits, curation, etc. they need to be funded. Luckily museums are reacting to this necessity and fundraising departments are growing, and hiring more experts to help grow funding. But I think there needs to be much wider spread education concerning philanthropy and philanthropic giving, because there is a deficit and misconception, and the nonprofits we all know and love need to be funded!

And with that, I leave you with this – bfd

Week 5

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On Digitization

Last month marks one year since I enrolled in the Museum Studies program, and in almost every class I have taken we have discussed the subject of collection digitization. This is (generally) the practice of photographing the collection objects, and putting them online to be accessible to audiences around the world. While the practice sounds easy enough, and one can think of many positives of increased access, there are many hurdles that must be surpassed for a museum to even think about starting the process of digitizing a collection.

The reason this subject came to mind this week is because I came across this article from Hyperallergic concerning the  Museum of Modern Art digitizing more than 3,500 exhibition archives. Available on public domain GitHub the museum has provided access to “Primary documents such as press releases, annotated image checklists, installation shots, and even entire catalogs…”. From the founding of the museum in 1929 all the way through present day, this initiative is quite impressive and I am sure will prove to be a great resource.

At the opening of this post, I detailed that I believed digitization to be the practice of photographing the collection objects and increasing access to them online. But, MoMA has provided access to archives that provide all different types of information in forms other than images, and important pieces of the collection that aren’t necessarily objects. This is a subject that we have not covered in class, and a practice that I think if widely implemented, could be invaluable to other museums. While it is interesting to have access to MoMA exhibition catalogs from the 1930s and 1940s, to have access to planning documents could help other institutions learn from their mistakes and successes.

So, this brings me understand that there are benefits to digitization that go beyond the sharing of collection images, and reach further than external audiences. Museum staff can benefit from the digitization and sharing of the millions of documents that support the end product that is the exhibition. Because, as we know, there is so much more that goes into exhibitions than what ends up in the gallery spaces.

I have seen other museums joining MoMA in this practice, such as the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Starting about two years ago, they have uploaded a Digital Strategy Repository to GitHub, and are continuing to update it as their practices, and technology, changes. I lived in Pittsburgh for 4 years during my undergraduate studies, and the Warhol was always one of my favorite museums. The then-director Eric Shiner was innovative and truly a visionary, leading amazing change in the institution.

While promising and exciting, archival and internal digitization has not been as quick or as widespread as the digitization of museum collections. The Google Art and Culture Project has made huge strides in digitizing museum collections all over the world, partnering with more than 1,100 institutions to produce images and museum tours. They even have an app! I will leave you with this short video demonstrating the beauty and detail that this program provides:

 

And of course, all of this digitization can be easily and successfully shared by social media managers in museums around the world.

Week 4

 

The Guggenheim and Social Media

This week we are tasked to question and observe how museums use social media. I have decided to step out of the confines of Washington, DC and take a look at the Guggenheim‘s use of social media. This is a museum in New York City that I have visited many times, that I personally love. They are a prime candidate to greatly benefit from social media, as a museum “devoted to the art of the 20th century and beyond”, they have optimal chances to present captivating and beautiful images across platforms. Below you will find a quick analysis of all of the platforms I could find.

Twitter

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  • 1.93M followers
  • Joined January 2008

This is the social media platform that has the largest following (potentially because of it’s age?). While at first I was surprised, because I previously mentioned I thought the museum would benefit from visual forms of social media, but upon closer analysis, the Guggenheim always tweets a photo with their text. Covering topics from objects, events, blogs, and historical posts, the Twitter feed is varied but interesting. They include links to the website for more information, as well as hashtags that are related to exhibitions and community conversations. I can see the Guggenheim’s Twitter as being a catch-all destination for audiences around the world. Whether they are New York City residents looking for more exhibit information, scholars looking for more academic information, or someone on the other side of the world without access to the museum space, there is a little bit of something for everyone.

Instagram

Screen Shot 2016-09-14 at 10.59.50 AM.png

  • 1M followers

My personal favorite, the layout of the Instagram interface is one that is entirely focused on images. But – when comparing to their Twitter feed – the museum posts the same content! It appears that Twitter is slightly more frequent, and they will give more information concerning events in New York. But the posts that you see above are also shared on Twitter identically. It makes sense when one considers the time it takes for someone to manage many social media platforms, and also has me rethinking Twitter and its ability to convey information through images.

Facebook

screen-shot-2016-09-14-at-11-21-47-am

  • 757,471 Likes
  • 258,584 Check Ins
  • 4.6 out of 5 Stars

At risk of sounding redundant, I will just say that the Facebook page echoes posts on the Twitter and Instagram. While it is not identical, there is similar content across the platforms. I was surprised that the number of “Likes” is so much lower than the two first platforms, considering our class discussion that Facebook is the most accessible as well as understood platform. One audience I see the Facebook page greatly benefitting is tourists and drop in visitors. Facebook pages for businesses have the capacity to post reviews, hours, directions, etc. These things are lacking from the Twitter and Instagram, and provide helpful and necessary information to digital audiences.

Blogs

The Guggenheim website has a blog section that is very extensive and robust. Posting almost once a week there posts coming from experts from inside the museum. This is an opportunity for the museum to expand its communication with the audience, and really show the expertise that the museum staff embody.

Finally….Snapchat

  • No account that I could find 😦

All in all, the Guggenheim has a very extensive and well developed social media presence! While there is crossover between platforms, that is to be expected and there is enough new content on each page that it does not become repetitive. Analyzing the Guggenheim’s use of Twitter has made me change my initial thoughts about the use of Twitter and images, but I am disappointed they don’t have a Snapchat!

Week 3

Welcome!

Hello! Welcome to my blog, where I will be discussing all things related to the museum world and social media. This semester for my course “Museums and Social Media” I have been tasked with writing weekly blogs relating to the course material, and anything related that inspires us.

Before I get into those posts, let me formally introduce myself! I am in my second year of the masters of Museum Studies program at the George Washington University. I am following a “museum management” track, with an additional certificate in nonprofit management. The pairing of these two academic studies will help me as I work towards my goal of a career in museum fundraising.

Since moving to Washington DC in August 2015 I have had two internships in fundraising – one at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, and one at the National Portrait Gallery. This fall I am very excited to be back at the Air and Space Museum, working with the membership group the National Air and Space Society.

Before arriving in the District I earned my undergraduate degree from Carnegie Mellon University, majoring in Global Studies and French. While in Pittsburgh I was a member of the varsity swim team, and I also had an internship at the Carnegie Museum of Art. Originally from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Pittsburgh was my first experience in city living, as well as “real” snowy winters! During my junior year I studied abroad in Paris, and fell in love with the city and the culture.

I am so excited to be taking this course this semester. I am Instagram-obsessed, and I really see the value and potential in using social media in a museum setting. While I am not particularly looking for a career in communications or social media, I think this knowledge is invaluable for any museum staff member to know. This is my first ever try at a blog, so we’ll see how it goes!

Week 2