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You, the Web & Wikipedia

January 31, 2011

This week’s blog post by Nina Simon on Museum 2.0 talks about museum’s posting information and content on Wikipedia, most often one of the first hits in any web search.  This brought to mind an important project we conducted at the C.H. Nash Museum in the summer of 2009.  We did a web search on the terms “Chucalissa” and “C.H. Nash Museum.”  Our purpose was to determine if the information on the internet about our institution was accurate.  Besides our own museum website, the top hits were from sites such as Trip Advisor, state travel sites, and other archaeological resource lists.  At the time, we did not have a Wikipedia page.  Over the past 20 years, our institution has radically revised programming and the overall visitor experience.  Our web search showed that for the most part, the internet information about our museum was grossly outdated.  Based in part on this outdated information, some visitors arrived expecting to see an exhibit or program that had not been offered in 15 years.  At the same time, our new exhibits and program offerings were not included in web search listings.

We addressed this problem by creating an electronic information packet with the following:

  • standard 50 and 100 word descriptive blurbs for our museum.
  • an updated information list such as hours, cost, contact information, website address.
  • a few images that most captured the current visitor experience.

Armed with this updated information:

  • We prepared a list of the top 100 site hits for the keywords “Chucalissa” and “C.H. Nash Museum” from our web search.
  • In order, we contacted the webmaster for sites with incorrect information and provided them with the updated electronic information packet.  This process was actually less difficult than we expected.  Several of the major sites took a couple of contacts before the updates were listed, but we were pleasantly surprised at the overall response to our requests.
  • We created a Wikipedia page.

As a result:

  • Upon completion of the project in 2009, the top twenty search engine hits for “Chucalissa” and the “C.H. Nash Museum” contained accurate information.  Only three sites contained accurate information before the project began.
  • The Wikipedia listing that we created is the first hit after our institutional and friends websites (both of which contain “Chucalissa” in the url).
  • We anticipated that because many of the smaller travel and info web sites simply copy content from the larger sites that our updates would eventually trickle down.

Eighteen months after the update project, a web search this morning found that seven of the top forty hits contained inaccurate information.  One is from a major site that never responded to our update request.  The other six are sites were not in our top 100 hits in 2009.  Although the situation is much improved from 2009, this morning’s web search points to the need to repeat the process on occasion.

In this mornings web search I also noted that our videos and images posted directly to YouTube and Flickr are now reflected in search engine hits.  If these videos and images lived only on our webpage they would not receive the additional web search visibility.  (This technique is also important in posting directly to Facebook pages and not just linking an offsite url for videos.  Here is a tutorial on tagging videos in Facebook.)

So, if an interested person does a web search of your institution, would the top hits they find provide the message you want them to receive?

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