The Value of Twitter for Cultural Heritage Organizations

For small cultural heritage organizations that use the Public Humanities Toolbox, this blog post on the uses of Twitter for cultural heritage is a must read! Melissa Mannon outlines six reasons how small museum and cultural heritage organization professionals can use Twitter:

  1. Networking: Stay in touch with other professionals in the field
  2. Expanded Perspective: Follow professionals in closely related fields whose insights can inform your own work
  3. Support: Share ideas, promote each other’s programs and exhibits
  4. Piece of the Social Media Puzzle: Share information quickly and easily, linking to other places where folks can find out more: blogs, Facebook pages, web sites
  5. Promotion: Get the word out there, establish the voice of your institution!
  6. Collaboration: Ask your followers for help when you need advice, recommendations, or find yourself at a road block with your project

We’ve covered similar themes in the Handbook and at our presentations; we’re glad to see like-minded folks out there sharing the same insights and finding Twitter useful in their public humanities work!

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Podcast Advice from A to Z

If you or your organization are interested in creating podcasts, I highly recommend reading NAI Podcastopia, put together by some members of the National Parks Service’s new media team. The site includes pre-production checklists, recording advice, engineering and post-production editing recommendations, as well as detailed advice about how to put your MP3 file up on ITunes.  The site is totally bare-bones, but it has a lot of vital information.  For those of you wanting to wade into the world of podcasts, I can’t imagine a simpler set of instructions.

And just how might your organization use podcasts?  In the Public Humanities Toolbox Handbook (p. 47-49) we describe several potential uses of podcasts for a small organization: broadcasting lectures or public programs after a live event; creating audio tours of sites (especially sites that may not be fully staffed everyday with guides) or driving/walking tours of a community;  sharing behind-the-scenes interviews with staff and volunteers, discussing their favorite object in the collection; or sharing edited oral histories or interviews with community members.

The NPS site has a list of some of the advisers’ favorite podcasts, but I thought I’d share a few of my favorite history-related podcasts that model how various organizations, large and small, use podcasts:

  • Colonial Williamsburg’s Past and Present is a prolific series of interviews with staff who share all kinds of behind-the-scenes information that deepen listeners’ understanding of archaeology, new exhibit development, animal husbandry, and various aspects of colonial life.
  • The American Social History Project’s podcasts are a combination of recorded scholar talks and interviews with historians about their work.
  • The George Eastman Houses’s podcasts are “a place for staff, students, and volunteers at George Eastman House to share their unique experiences and insights about the Museum and everything that we do.”
  • Okay, so it’s totally beyond the scope of what a small cultural heritage institution can do, but the British Museum/BBC collaboration “A History of the World in 100 Objects” completely blew my mind in 2010.  Seriously, you just have to listen.  But what’s not beyond the scope of a committed group of small institutions is a project like “A History of Cornwall in 100 Objects“:

Throughout 2011, Museums right across Cornwall, from the Atlantic coast to the Tamar, are telling ‘A History of Cornwall in 100 Objects’ – a project inspired by HOTW…The project is being run by the Museum Development Officer team who are based at the Royal Cornwall Museum, in Truro.  The selection process has involved museums of all sizes – of which there are over 60 in the county – from tiny volunteer-run museums to major high-profile organisations.  The aim is to get local people and visitors alike to see these unique objects and learn more about Cornwall’s history.

All of the podcasts I’ve listed are available to download for free from ITunes and many, if not all, also can be streamed straight from the organization’s website.

Happy podcasting! Let us know in the comments if your organization has started or is interested in beginning a podcast series or developing a set of podcast tours.

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Vimeo: Some Considerations and Comparisons

New Tools

When Al and I started the Public Humanities Toolbox, Vimeo was not on our radar.  Since then, however, it has grown in popularity as a video-hosting service.  In our recent workshop in Providence, several participants asked about Vimeo and for comparisons to YouTube as a video-hosting service.

Both Vimeo and YouTube are free, allow you, the account-holder, to upload videos, embed video into other websites like a blog, and allow (or disallow) comments on a video.  To my mind, these are the key technical differences for small cultural heritage organizations:

  • YouTube limits individual videos to 10 minutes but allows files of up to 2 GB.  YouTube does not support QuickTime videos.  YouTube, owned by Google, has all the power of Google when it comes to showing up in search results.  If the video contains any copyright violations, YouTube may take the video down.
  • Vimeo allows videos of unlimited length, but limits users to only uploading 500 MB per week.  Depending on the number and length of videos you plan to upload to the web, this may be an important determining factor for choosing a video-hosting service.

If you are interested, this post explains more about technical differences such as video quality.  It is also worth noting that Vimeo only allows user-created content.

Several websites noted that there are important non-technical considerations to be aware of when choosing between video-hosting services, especially when it comes to the community of users for YouTube and Vimeo:

YouTube is for the masses while Vimeo has an air of refinement about it. As a result, there’s not only a better quality of video content but also a more friendly comments stream to say the very least. If you want some fair appreciation of your creation, then upload to Vimeo. YouTube is strictly for the thick-skinned. (Source)

Of course, if you do not allow comments, then this last point is not as much of a concern for your organization.  The trade-off for the community, though, is all those billions of eyeballs trained on YouTube; there, your content is very discoverable.

Some reviewers also noted that Vimeo has more of an arty, creative vibe to it, since it started out as a service for filmmakers.  Depending on your organization’s purpose or image, that may be a relevant consideration.

Finally, I found this comment on a website that might be significant for our audience, since many of our workshop participants want to use the Toolbox to reach out to activist communities:

I am an activist in many protest groups and youtube has been deleting our videos recently. (Source)

Without knowing the full backstory, or even what kind of activism the commenter is engaged in, it isn’t fair to make blanket statements about YouTube’s policies.  However, since YouTube is owned by Google, it operates with a lot of very corporate values, including taking down content that could possibly provoke a lawsuit.  Again, depending on how you intend to use video in your website or the types of companies you want to support, this may be an important consideration for you.

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JNBC Presentation Now Available

Al and I would like to thank our audience at today’s presentation in Providence.  Our lively group of participants braved rainstorms and vigilant parking officers in order to learn and share their ideas about how to create engaging websites and digital projects for small cultural heritage organizations.

The presentation we gave is embedded below.  Soon on this site we will follow up with information about Vimeo, which came up several times during the workshop, and how to “register” your site with Google Maps.  As you develop projects, let us know so we can blog about theme here. If you need more consultancy time with either Al or me, let us know so we can help you plan your next steps.

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Updated Handbook Now Available

New Tools

Al and I have been busy making a few changes to the original Handbook.  It is now available to read and download in the Workshop Materials section of the website. Participants in this Friday’s workshop at the John Nicholas Brown Center in Providence will receive a copy of the updated handbook.

This will be the last paper version of the Handbook. In the future, we’ll only make digital versions hosted in Scribd and available on this site. As we develop new tools for the Handbook, we will blog about them and add them to the site as well.  We feel this change not only is environmentally friendly and makes sense cost-wise, it also embodies the opportunities of the web to update materials easily and to distribute them far beyond our physical location.

(The Handbook is hosted in Scribd; you can learn how to embed your own materials using Scribd here.)

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Are You Following Us in an RSS-feed Reader?

New Tools

Allow me to preach the gospel of the RSS feed for a moment.

Any site that has syndicated content–i.e., any blog or site built with WordPress–has an RSS feed. Subscribing to an RSS feed is the easiest way to make sure that you are up-to-date on information, events, and changes from your favorite organizations and web authors.

You can have updates sent to an email account, but I prefer having my feeds sent to an RSS reader. (I hate cluttering my email inbox any more than it already is!) A reader will aggregate RSS feeds so that you can read through them all in one place. This eliminates the need to “make the rounds” of all your favorite websites or to create an endless system of bookmarks to check regularly.

Most readers will allow you to organize your RSS feeds by topic. Some offer social media-type features that allow you to like or share posts with others using the same aggregator service as you read them. I use Google Reader, but here’s a helpful rundown and comparison of other readers to choose from.

If you have an RSS-feed reader already, be sure to subscribe to the Public Humanities Toolbox. Al and I have decided that it makes the most sense going forward to make updates to this website and post about them in our blog, rather than put out re-issue after re-issue of the Handbook. By following our blog in your RSS aggregator, you’ll know when we update tools, add new tools, or point to new examples of tools being used by other small cultural heritage organizations.

This post isn’t just a shameless plug to encourage our readers to follow us in their RSS-feed readers. I added the “New Tools” icon because I think RSS feeds can serve small cultural heritage organizations in several helpful ways:

  • If your organization has a blog, be sure to encourage your users to subscribe to your feed. As I mentioned in the catablogs post, there may be specific instances when showing people how to subscribe to an RSS feed of your organization’s blog would serve you well. If you host workshops for targeted groups–genealogists, say, or teachers–include a quick session on RSS feeds and why they might find them useful. Consider creating a flyer about how to subscribe and what to expect of your organization’s RSS feed.
  • As a small organization, especially one interested in the burgeoning and fast-changing world of digital humanities, it’s critical to keep on top of changes and best practices. Finding a way to do this cheaply–i.e., without attending expensive conferences!–is critical. Subscribing to the RSS feeds of organizations you admire, consultants whose advice you value, or organizations that review and/or publish new digital tools, can help you keep up with new tools, methods, and questions in the field.  And it can give you ideas for where to take your digital projects next! (Twitter, as we’ve noted elsewhere, is also a way to easily keep up.)
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Changes to Facebook for Non-Profits

New Tools

In preparation for our October 1 workshop in Providence, Al and I are doing a little refurbishing to the Toolbox. Probably the biggest changes to our existing Handbook are tips on how to use Facebook. Since we first wrote the Handbook in 2008-2009, Facebook has changed quite a bit. One of those changes is to reach out to non-profit organizations that want to use Facebook by offering a step-by-step guide to setting up an account and tips and best practices for how nonprofits can use Facebook. See http://www.facebook.com/nonprofits to read more.

Consequently, we’ve updated the Handbook’s tips and instructions for using Facebook. We’ll post the whole updated Handbook soon. In the meantime, you can read our updated “(A Note on) Facebook and Social Networking” on Scribd.

Here I’ll also include a few other tips* I’ve found around the web that are not necessarily clear from Facebook’s Non-profits page:

  • Keep your page name short and accurate; you can’t change it after you create it.
  • There is a day or two lag time between the time you set up your page and when it will appear in search results for search engines such as Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc.
  • Create multiple Admins for your account (even if only one person is in charge of designing and implementing Facebook changes) so that you don’t lose access to the page. Having a Facebook page you can neither update nor delete would be very unfortunate.
  • It’s not the easiest thing in the world to delete a Facebook page. (Facebook is notoriously bad at any sort of support for people who are dissatisfied.) There are directions for how to do this through Facebook’s Help page, but really deleting all content has proven difficult for users in the past. Keep this in mind before starting a Facebook page.

In general, do your homework if you’re considering creating a Facebook page for your organization. Read thoughtful posts by authors who haven’t drunk the Facebook Kool-aid before you decide to set up your own account. As always, decide whether Facebook makes sense for your goals, for your audience (actual or intended). Also consider whether your organization has the capacity to keep up the “care and feeding” of tools like Facebook that require regular maintenance and updates in content.

(*Tips adapted from Beth’s Blog.)

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