This month on the 1091 project we look back to last week’s American Institute of Conservation’s Annual Conference. Melissa Tedone from Iowa State University (and co-conspirator of the 1091 Project) and I were part of a panel discussion called Communicating Conservation. The panel was put together by Nancie Ravenel from the Shelburne Museum and included myself, Melissa, Heidi Sobol from the Royal Ontario Museum, and Rosa Lowinger, conservator in private practice. A brief synopsis of the panel can be found on Conservators Converse thanks to Rose Cull.
Our presentation covered what social media we use, why we use it, our audiences, what assessment tools we use, and what good ideas we have developed including the 1091 Project. I want to share some of my observations from the discussion.
Questions were raised: Is blogging “education” or “outreach”? Should we highlight our own work or should we teach best practices to the public? Are we talking to clients or to colleagues? I think we do all of the above to various degrees depending on our mission.
Duke University’s main mission is education. The Library’s mission is to support faculty and student research. Our Department’s mission is to make our resources available both now and in the future. We use social media to demonstrate to our library, university and the public how we support both the Library’s and the University’s missions. We also use these platforms to educate the public, and to have conversations with colleagues so that we, too, can learn and improve our programs.
This may not be the same mission as a conservator in private practice or someone who works in a museum and their use of social media may differ because of that. I do think there are many similarities in our missions and certainly the communication between colleagues is made easier through social media. Knowing your mission and your audience is key to successful blogging.
Audience: Intended and Real
Because the lab is in the lower level of our building behind a secured door our work sometimes feels secretive and hidden. When we first started this blog we wanted to show our library colleagues what we do and how we connect to their work and the library as a whole. The analysis of our stats showed that while we were being read by a few people within our library (mostly other bloggers), we were mainly being read by our conservation colleagues and the public.
This analysis lead to questions:
- How can we increase our readership within our library (beyond other bloggers)?
- How can we collaborate more with our colleagues across the country?
- What information should we be providing for the public?
- How do we serve all these readers in an effective and engaging way?
The first bullet point I’m still trying to improve. We are successfully blogging collaboratively with Devil’s Tale. Our “What’s In The Lab” series has been popular and allows both Devil’s Tale and Preservation Underground to reach new audiences.
The 1091 Project is a successful example of how we can collaborate with colleagues dispersed across a wide geographical area. I would love to hear ideas on how we can expand this collaborative blogging effort even further.
We provide information on best practices for preserving personal collections especially during Preservation Week. Our posts generally highlight what it is conservators do and I think simply presenting our projects is interesting to a wide variety of audiences.
Still running through my mind is the issue of feedback. Melissa and I both receive a lot of great comments via email after each post. While we love to have these conversations privately, the point of social media is the online conversation between people. How can we encourage more feedback to our blogs? What kinds of posts would you like to see that would prompt more conversation?
There is much more to say and talk about and it was really fun to work with Melissa and the rest of the panel in person! Read Melissa’s post on Parks Library Preservation and for more conference coverage read updates on Conservators Converse and Preservation and Conservation Administration News (full disclosure, I am co-editor and author of PCAN).