Tools for Public Participation

Easter Egg "gather" at Chucalissa

In the past couple of weeks I have come across several very cool tools to promote public engagement whether in museums or broader archaeological contexts.  First, is the recent publication of The Participatory Museum by Museum 2.0 blogger Nina Simon.  I posted earlier about Simon’s Museum 2.0 blog.  Ms. Simon is clearly on the cutting edge in the practical, hands-on, and applied participatory end of Museum work. I always enjoy her outside-the-box thinking that is firmly grounded in practice. The volume is an excellent resource to kick-start creative thinking from conceptualizing through to implementing and evaluating visitor participation.  The book is useful for both museum and field settings.  As well, her most recent posts on Museum 2.0 blog review the book’s creation process and are equally insightful on that rather unique participatory experience.

Another fantastic idea I learned about this week came from the Social Good podcast of the Chronicle of Philanthropy.  The concept is the Dashboard web page from the Indianapolis Museum of Art.  What I find so intriguing about the page is the opportunity for building transparency and relationship with volunteers, visitors, and web-surfers alike.  Here are a couple of examples I intend to use for employing this tool in archaeology.  Last year at the C.H. Nash Museum we launched monthly Volunteer Saturdays.  Thus far, with well in excess of 500 volunteer hours, we processed many thousands of artifacts.  A dashboard entry for this activity shows the volunteers that their 2 hours here and there are part of the greater whole.  Second, a dashboard entry with hours volunteered and artifacts processed shows the visitor to our website that we have an active volunteer program in which they too can take part – or minimally, appreciate that we have a dynamic presence in our community.

In the April issue of our museum’s monthly e-newsletter, Chucalissa Anoachi, we launched a project to digitize a considerable amount of our archived photographic and research records.  A dashboard entry on pages/images scanned will not only promote the active nature of the project but also point to a product that is a resource available for public use.

I see the potential of applications such as the Indianapolis Museum of Art dashboard as  a tool to move a core of folks from the being casual visitors and volunteers to stakeholders in a process.  As well, highlighting the ongoing nature our programs demonstrates our role as an active cultural resource asset in our community.

How might the Dashboard concept apply to your visitor engagement?

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Museums, Anthropology, Bicycles, Recovery, Cancer, Retired

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