WIRE: Wikipedians in Residence Essex

Wikipedians (or Wikimedians) in Residence are volunteers who dedicate time to working in-house at a museum or gallery, creating and updating Wikipedia articles related to that organisation and its collection. They are not simply an in-house editor: the role is also about enabling the host organisation and its members to continue a productive relationship with Wikipedia and its community of editors after the Residency is finished.

Wikipedia describes the idea here
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedian_in_residence

The Fry Gallery, Stow Maries Aerodrome, Essex Police Museum, Combined Military Services Museum and Chelmsford Museum will all be hosting a Wikipedian this autumn as a part of the WIRE project.

WIRE has only just started, and we’ll report back with our learning in a few months. In the meantime, if you’d like to explore updating your museum’s Wikipedia presence (even if you haven’t set one up yourselves, check Wikipedia as a page about your museum probably already exists) you can use the guide below.

Writing for Wikipedia

Be aware that new articles are ‘patrolled’ shortly after submission and if your article is not thought to comply with Wikipedia’s guidelines it will be deleted.

Articles submitted to Wikipedia should be written from a neutral point of view. Content must be
• unbiased
• verifiable
• noteworthy
• must not breach copyright

Think of it as writing an entry for a printed encyclopaedia. Entries should be written in an informational and neutral style rather than a marketing style. If possible facts should be supported by references.

Images should be the copyright of your Museum and be prepared for them to be downloaded and used once you have added them to an article. Consider using a Creative Commons licence to retain copyright while allowing others to use the images. You can find out more about licenses here – https://creativecommons.org/licenses/ Wikipedia expects editors to grant free content licences – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Creative_Commons_license

Before you start do a search on Wikipedia to make sure that someone else hasn’t already written an entry- duplicates will be deleted.

Consider if your article will meet Wikipedia’s ‘worthy of note’ conditions. Just advertising the existence of a museum is unlikely to but adding an article on a collection probably will. Entries should be strengthened by references (preferably online) and an article with no references is likely to be deleted.

There is some good advice here – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Your_first_article

Wikipedia also provides a wizard to help with writing your first article – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Article_wizard

A good tutorial can be found here – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Tutorial

Creating an Account
It is possible to write for and edit Wikipedia without an account but there are several good reasons to create an account for your museum.
• It will give entries more authority
• A number of reliable entries from the same source will build a good online reputation
• You can pick a recognisable user name
• You will have a user page with subpage called a ‘sandbox’ where you can experiment with writing and formatting an entry before submitting it

To Create an Account
https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Special:CreateAccount&returnto=Wikipedia%3AWhy_create_an_account%3F

Logging Your Steps
It’s a good idea to keep a log of your research and make sure you have a note of all the sources you have used along with web links. This makes it easy for you to respond to any queries about your entry and will also leave useful information for the museum should you not be available.

Working with Home Educated Groups at Chelmsford Museum

Yvonne Lawrence, Chelmsford Museum, reflects on her developing work with home educated groups.

There is a large body of parents in Essex who elect to home educate their children. There are many reasons for this, and they are supported by Essex County Council and a range of self-led groups, some of whom organise formal learning sessions with Chelmsford Museums.

With museum education we are used to starting with very little prior information about the participants compared to a school teacher and when working with a group of home educated children this challenge is magnified because the age and ability range is very much larger, typically with participants aged between 4 to 12.  There may be additional special needs including those on the autistic spectrum, with ADHD, dyslexia or with social, behavioural or emotional difficulties.  Often there is a participant in the group who has a special interest in the subject who will be extremely knowledgeable alongside others who know much less.  In an ideal world we would like a full list of participants and any special needs and are working towards this, acknowledging that the situation is much more complex for the visit organiser than for a school.

Chelmsford Museum has been working in partnership with group organisers to ensure that home educated children are able to participate in our history, science and Arts Award sessions at both the main museum and at Sandford Mill. Our first big decision was to limit the group size to a maximum of 17 participants with whole group staying together during the session and led by one tutor.  Given that most participants come with an adult and perhaps a younger sibling or two, this still leads to more people in the room than a standard class and in retrospect we should perhaps have made the limit smaller-perhaps as few as ten participants.  But this would be comparatively expensive for parents/carers as we would still have to cover the tutoring costs and splitting them between fewer people means more cost per person.  Where the visit organiser wanted to book more than one session we explored ways in which younger children could book the morning session whilst older ones came to the afternoon session.  This was reasonably successful.

Home educated children have the luxury of learning at their own pace with a very flexible child-centred learning experience. Unlike a school with set break times and lunch hour, we found that the children seemed to be constantly grazing, eating snacks during the sessions.  The participants and younger siblings would then touch the artefacts, which really wasn’t doing the artefacts any good and posed a hygiene hazard.  We can’t just put our artefacts in a washing up bowl, after all!  So we worked with the group organiser to request that parents were advised of a no-eating rule in the sessions and why this was important, plus reinforcing the need to wash hands after eating.  We provided a trolley outside our education room for food and drinks; and we made a positively-worded request at the start of each session explaining why this was needed and and making it clear people were welcome to step out to eat whenever they wanted to.

To deal with the wide variety of ages, abilities and interests we adapted the format of the sessions to include a very short introduction and overview of what the session entailed with expectations for behaviour – participants and adults! People responded very positively and I think it helped everyone get the most out of the experience.  Typically setting expectations involves explaining the session format and establishing rules such as one person speaking at a time and putting their hand up if they wanted to ask a question during the introduction.  For parents it is worth mentioning active involvement, supervising their children, turning phones to silent and the eating-outside rule.  I always then check if that is OK with the group so we can all get the most out of the learning experience.  Fortunately the answer to that question has always been ‘yes’!

It can be hard to identify which children are taking part in the session so we have tried to set up a separate starter area for participants and parents/siblings. At the museum we often use foam mats on the floor for those taking part during the initial introduction, with parents/siblings seated behind and around them.  Once we establish our participants we start by asking a few questions to establish prior knowledge before introducing tables with a range of different activities linked to the topic.  It works well not to try to regiment the movement of participants as much as a school group, so we normally suggest the participants go off to explore the activities in any order giving an overall time limit to help people plan.  The tables have information cards for the adults with suggested activities, and the only advice we gave was to try to choose tables that weren’t too busy rather than all crowding around the same one.  There are times when we had to accept that a participant was finding it more interesting to sit in the corner playing games on their phone instead of taking part in the session.  They had their reasons, and we take the view that whilst it was our responsibility to provide suitable learning activities it was the participants’ responsibility to engage with them during the session and the supervising adults’ responsibility to intervene (or not) when it came to level of participation.

At the end of each session we come together to discuss what the participants had discovered and answer any questions that arose. Although most of our sessions normally run for two hours, timings are much more fluid with home educator groups and if we do finish a little earlier – or later – that is what we do.  At the end of each session, it is very rewarding to note the number of participants and parents who come up to us to thank us for running the session.  As one mum said to me recently “We appreciate what you are doing.  We know we aren’t the easiest groups to work with because we are all so different so thank you.” And that’s what makes it all worthwhile for us – being able to make that difference!

HELP … with keeping social media running for your museum

The ninth and final in our social media series by Louise Winters.

What can you do if none of the current staff or volunteers has the time or confidence to run a social media account for the museum? At a lot of smaller museums, someone at the museum asks one of their children or a younger friend to help out. Or there may be a few of you who are able to help, but none of you have enough time to do it alone.

As long as it works for the people doing it and the social media reflects the museum positively, in a way staff, volunteers and visitors are happy with that is fine. What you may find more difficult is co-ordinating between you.

Whoever helps out with social media has to have a steady stream of information about the museum, what is happening, who else works there and what kinds of things visitors like to see. If they’re not at the museum regularly they will struggle to write up enough different and interesting posts. If more than one person works on social media then you need a schedule for who is posting what and when.

Talk about it!

All people involved in social media and at least one other person who works at the museum should meet up regularly to talk about ideas for posts and agree them. This is especially important if the person or people looking after social media aren’t staff or don’t do volunteer work there. How else will they know about what is going on for your museum, or what everyone else gets excited about?

Photographs

Once you have ideas for posts, think about what photographs, videos or gifs might be good to illustrate them. You don’t have to decide yet, but if you want to take photographs of an exhibition during set up you’ll need to check with whoever is in charge and plan when you can do it. If you need to ask permission to take and share photographs it is useful to think about it ahead of time.

You can also access photographs that are completely free to use and don’t require the author to be credited (useful for Twitter where you often don’t have room for acknowledgments). Websites like

https://unsplash.com/

https://www.pexels.com/

allow you to search for and use photographs. You can also upload your own photographs and let other people use them for free.

Lastly you can search for animated pictures (or gifs) that are free to use on social media using Giphy (instructions on how to use giphy can be found here: https://giphy.com/faq).

Scheduling & publishing

Once you’ve agreed some ideas and figured out how you can get photographs, note down what you’ve agreed and who is doing what. The two simplest ways to do this are to set up an online calendar or a spreadsheet (something like Google Sheets is free and can be accessed by several people at once) that lists out your ideas for each week and who is responsible.

You will find you have lots of ideas for the next week or so, and then fewer as you get further away from now. Everyone will be able to see when you are running low on ideas. If you have a brilliant idea for Christmas then write it down, even if it’s only May! You’ll also have ideas that are spontaneous and need to be done on that day.

For things you can plan, think about scheduling your posts in advance. Facebook lets you do this directly from its website or mobile app. Twitter doesn’t, but you can use a free tool like Hootsuite to let you schedule your posts for a time in the future.

Review what you’re doing

Once you’ve started, do look at things like your number of fans / followers, the number of people who like your posts, the number of people who retweet or reshare your posts and how many people reply to your posts on social media. You will start to learn which kinds of posts people seem to respond to best and start to see how your hard work is paying off as more people find and follow your social media.

Okay, if you’ve now read all 9 of the blog posts on setting up social media firstly: thank you for reading! Secondly, what are you waiting for? Get ‘social media-ing’ for your museum 😉

http://gph.is/11EoofF

If you have any questions or ideas for things you’d like to read more about on using social media then please share them in the comments below. Also if you have any success stories or anything that worked really well please share those too, it would be great to hear them.

Please do get in touch, I love saying hello:

On Twitter: @pinkyandnobrain

By Email: me@louisewinters.com

On LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/louisewinters/

My website: http://louisewinters.com/

Rising Tide: Navigating the Future of Cultural Learning

Royal Opera House Bridge Annual Conference 2017

Chatham Historic Dockyard, 29.06.2017

I’m lucky enough in this role to attend training pretty often and I often see inspirational people discuss the importance of the work of the heritage sector and hear incredible case studies. I won’t write about all of them, but I did want to share what I learnt at Rising tide: Navigating the Future of Cultural Learning, the annual conference of Royal Opera House Bridge. This conference interrogated the role of cultural education, from dance to museums and opera to archives.

We’re all busy people, so I’ll try and keep this blog short and I haven’t included all the sessions. If you’d like to chat about anything below, just get in touch. The Royal Opera House Bridge will be publishing resources from the day, so check out their website for more details.

Why Tomorrow’s Children Need a 21st Century Enlightenment (Matthew Taylor, Chief Executive, Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce)

Matthew kicked off the conference by taking us back to the 1700s and the Age of Enlightenment. He described the three key ideas that shaped the Enlightenment:

  1. Autonomy – we are the authors of our own future and not in a chain of control that was preordained and we must simply accept our fate in life.
  2. Universalism – all humans deserve dignity.
  3. Humanism – purpose of all human endeavour is to liberate and enrich human life.

These ideas have become narrowed over time. Autonomy doesn’t just mean a free market, universalism isn’t just a metric of social justice and humanism isn’t controlled through the economy. We must revisit these values to bring them up to date:

  1. True autonomy requires self-awareness and self-discipline… not through shopping.
  2. Universalism is about empathy and engaging with those whose beliefs and ideas are different to ours.
  3. We need to identify what a good life is to understand humanism. What are we working towards?

Engagement in the creation and enjoyment of culture helps us understand these ideas.

So what is the role of cultural education? Cultural education makes three assertions:

  1. Citizens have a right to access their own, their countries’ and the world’s culture.
  2. Cultural education supports young people to develop positive ways of shaping society (and we need a robust way of measuring this impact that will appeal to budget holders).
  3. Cultural education has a role in preparing us for our future.

We are starting to move into a late material culture, with more people stating that self-expression is more important than what they own. People are coming of age in a sluggish economy and don’t expect to own more and better things than their parents. It should be our ambition to ensure that everyone has ‘good’ work with scope for development and a sense of purpose. If we shift into this new kind of economy, cultural education will be more important than ever.

To Lift All Ships (Sir Kevan Collins, Chief Executive, Education Endowment Foundation)

Sir Kevan challenged the conference with a series of provocations, but made the assertion that when people want to challenge the world, they turn to culture.

  1. Are we creating a boring and irrelevant education for children?
  2. Should we be concerned that creative subjects are becoming sidelined into extra-curricular activities for the middle-classes? For many people the educational system seems broken and there isn’t time to focus on anything but ‘core subjects’. Is this true, or is this argument to trick us into giving schools to other people to run?
  3. Is the word ‘culture’ being appropriated by people who see education as either skills for knowledge. Through setting culture as ‘knowledge’ are they able to decide what counts as culture?
  4. How can a child spend 13 years in education and fail? Huge numbers of children are failing to get a level 2 (e.g. GCSE) qualification.
  5. As the education offered to children narrows, how do we demonstrate the contribution that culture makes?

Most job growth in Britain and the world doesn’t require just one subject but needs people with broader life skills, for example relationship development, empathy and creative problem solving. A strong cultural education builds these kind of skills and supports the core subjects.

We must implement a scientific approach to measure the impact of cultural education, disseminate what we’ve learnt from projects and mobilise good projects nationally.

Empathy Lab (Miranda McKearney, social entrepreneur and co-founder of Empathy Lab and Sarah Mears, Library Manager for Essex and co-founder of Empathy Lab)

Miranda and Sarah argued that in an increasingly diverse world children must be able to thrive in diverse environments. Empathy and social skills are being squeezed out of education and these are vital to children’s attainment at school and preparation for their futures.

Research has shown that children must see and experience empathy to develop these skills. Socio-emotional skills cannot be a bolt-on but can be embedded in a child’s wider education. The Empathy Lab is trialling developing empathy skills through reading, which is at the core of educational programming in schools.

Empathy can be divided into psychological and physiological:

  1. Psychological Empathy:
    1. Cognitive – understanding that someone is upset
    2. Affective – feeling upset when someone is sad
    3. Empathetic concern – wanting to help someone in need
  2. Physiological Empathy:
    1. Endocrine system
    2. Mirror-neurons

If you’re interested in reading more about the scientific side of Empathy, check out the Empathy Lab’s website for resources.

Academics are starting to understand the relationship between reading and developing empathy. Just as the brain responds to words for smells, touches, etc as if you were smelling and touching something, your brain responds to stories as if was the real world. This means that the way we feel empathy for characters in stories, wires our brain to feel the same sensitivity for real people. This means that children can learn empathy from reading.

The Empathy Lab is trialling different approaches in schools, asking children to read books, look at how the characters felt and naming those feelings and then asking them to build this into actions. For example a group of children read a story about refugees, explored how it would feel to be a child refugee and then wrote letters to child refugees and politician. The children involved moved forward with literacy, family involvement and classroom relationships.

The Empathy Lab are looking to extend this work to museums, so watch this space.

Events and Activities at your Museum

The eighth in our social media series by Louise Winters.

We have fun stuff happening at our museum!

You’re probably already thinking about using social media to tell people about events at your museum. It’s an obvious topic and social media is perfect for it.

If you’ve already tried it, you may have found that you post one or two messages about an event and no-one seems to take any notice. A really useful tip is to remember you can (and should!) make several posts about the same event or activity over the course of a few days or even a few weeks.

One post isn’t visible for long as other people are posting on social media all the time, so repeating the message is important. Also, people often need to see or hear the same thing a few times before they can take on board new information. It’s fine to tell people several times! You can vary the message slightly by rephrasing or using a different photograph, but keep the core message the same.

How to write posts on events & activities:

  1. Basic event details

People want to know when, where and how to get involved. A great way to share this is to share a digital version of event posters or create your own digital poster. Attach this poster to every tweet, Facebook post and blog post and then there’s not excise for people to be confused about the basic information. Also write out the basic information in some of your posts to make sure it can’t be missed.

Ever head of Museum Dance Off? Not strictly an event designed for visitors to join in, but it does create many possibilities for silliness on social media 😉 Brooklands Museum in Surrey created an excellent poster to encourage followers to vote for them:

  1. Convey WHY people want to join in

Basic information is good, but I’ll easily ignore it or forget about it if I don’t know WHY I want to join in. Go back to the list you made in our first post in this series: what kind of people visit or could visit your museum? What kinds of people is this activity for and what will they get from joining in?

The Museum Explorer Passport trail is a good example of an activity to use:

Kinds of people What they get from joining in
Parents 1.       Ideas for activities to keep the kids entertained
  2.       A bit of peace while the kids explore the museum
Young children 3.       See and explore cool stuff in the museum
  4.       Enjoy a game of collecting stickers or stamps in their museum passport
Older children 5.       Competition element with friends (who can get the most stamps?)
   

Your social media posts can tell different types of people what they’ll enjoy. Each point on your list is an idea for one social media post, so in the list about there are already 5 different subjects for posts. Of course you can explain each point in different ways so you will already have a long list of posts for your social media, all about just one activity going on at the museum.

Going back to Brooklands Museum, they created posts about their Museum Dance Off entry over several weeks and they made it clear why people would want to get involved: to laugh at their daft video and help them win the competition.

Encourage interaction with visitors on social media

Specific events or activities are a great opportunity to ask visitors to interact with you on social media. If photography is allowed in your museum let visitors know at the event that you’d be very happy if they take a selfie, post it and tag your museum so you can find it later. Have you heard of #museumselfie on Twitter? The official Museum Selfie Day is on January 18th, but you can use it or ask visitors to use it any time!

And your staff and volunteers can get involved … https://twitter.com/NatGalleryCan/status/821822649072578560

Other ways you can encourage people to interact are to ask questions: both on social media and to people at the museum for the event. If you’re asking people in person, check they are happy for you to share what they say on social media and make it into a post.

Ideas for questions:

  • What are you looking forward to at the event? (before it happens)
  • Do you know anyone who’d love this? Please share with them!
  • What did you like best about the event? (after it happens)

Have you come up with any interesting ways to encourage visitors to interact with you on social media? Please share in the comments below if you have.

Please do get in touch, I love saying hello:

On Twitter: @pinkyandnobrain

By Email: me@louisewinters.com

On LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/louisewinters/

My website: http://louisewinters.com/

 

Involve Museum staff and volunteers in social media

The seventh in our social media series from Louise Winters.

When you’re looking for ideas for your museum’s social media, people who already love your museum are a brilliant source of inspiration.

Your museum’s staff and volunteers are the easiest place to start. They love the museum and they know it well. The people that help to run the museum make it what it is as much as the collections and objects. You may even get them to share any posts you write about them to their own Facebook or Twitter networks so they’re seen by a bigger audience. Even if they don’t use social media they’ll probably enjoy getting involved.

How can I involve them?

Here are some simple ideas for social media posts about the fantastic people that help to run your museum (and yes, that includes you!)

  • Photographs of staff and volunteers at work in the museum.
  • Say thank you! Post a big thank you to volunteers for their work at an event or on a specific project or even just on a busy bank holiday.
  • Ask about a colleague’s favourite object and why they like it and use this for a post with their name and a photo of them with the object (check with them they are okay with this before you do it).
  • Post a happy birthday message for a colleague on their birthday (do ask their permission first).
  • Ask a colleague how they got involved in the museum and share their story in a blog a condensed version for social media.
  • Ask colleagues about their favourite other museums to visit and write up into a short post, don’t forget to tag the museum on social media if they use it.

Some examples to show you how other museums are doing this:

 

 

 

 

 

All posts you create that are inspired by a specific colleague should include the name of the person you are talking about and tag them on the relevant social media network, if they use it. The general public like to get to know who works at the museum and find out more about them. Human beings are nosey and like knowing a bit about the real people that work in a place.

Have you ever looked at social media for the National Trust for Scotland? They’ve even set up a Twitter account to talk about volunteering and encourage volunteers to share photos of the things they enjoy doing.

 

Social media is a really good way to make sure everyone knows how important your volunteers are, and showing appreciation for your museum staff is equally important.

I’ve asked if colleagues want to get involved and not had a good response

It’s useful to remember that your colleagues often won’t realise that their own interests and stories are interesting. Their enthusiasm for the museum and working there is infectious – if you can show that they care about the museum then others who see that will care too. Be patient and keep showing colleagues what you’d like from them. That may be to share photographs they take with you or it may be to have a chat for 10 minutes about their favourite object.

Your mission is to find out what makes them light up and find a way to share that with all those potential visitors. Think about which kinds of people will find your colleague’s story interesting and aim your post at those people. Ask your colleague to share with their family and friends on social media and see what kind of response you get.

Last piece of advice: try not to be disheartened if your posts don’t immediately get a huge response. Your social media efforts will gradually build up likes and responses as you keep posting regularly. Reassure your colleagues that their help is really important for creating interesting posts.

Please do get in touch, I love saying hello:

On Twitter: @pinkyandnobrain

By Email: me@louisewinters.com

On LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/louisewinters/

My website: http://louisewinters.com/

Content Ideas for Social Media

The sixth in our social media series from Louise Winters.

Lots of people like doughnuts_v2

Using your museum’s collection as inspiration

If you’ve got your social media profiles all set up and you find yourself thinking “What on earth do I post about 5 times a week?” you are not alone. This is usually the most difficult bit of managing social media.

First thing to do is turn to what you have around you in the museum. Curating a collection is all about telling the story of your exhibits to preserve them and the stories around them for the future and your collection is a fantastic source of stories to share on social media.

Try picking a different object in your collection each week to highlight on social media. You’ll need:

  • A good photo of the object
  • An interesting fact or part of the story around this object that your followers will like
  • To write up a short bit of text for a Facebook / Twitter post that tells the fact / story
  • OR to write up a longer description for a blog telling visitors a bit about the story of the object

Here’s an example from Worthing Museum: https://twitter.com/WorthingMuseum/status/846402992811184129

How can I choose which objects to feature?

Even if your museum is small you may have a lot of exhibits: how do you know where to start? Here’s a few ideas.

  • Ask your staff what their favourite objects are and why they like them and feature one per week.
  • Ask some of your visitors each week to say what their favourite exhibit is and use their choices. Don’t forget to ask if they use social media and mention them or link to them in your post.
  • Think about events coming up at your museum, any new exhibits or collections, any important patrons and choose objects that are linked to write up a post about.
  • Think about what is going on outside the museum – any school or national holidays coming up (bank holidays, Christmas, Easter), anything seasonal (e.g. snowy weather, spring flowers), anything in the news or any TV shows that your museum is relevant to and choose objects that are linked.

The Essex Fire Museum posted some archive photos of female officers on International Women’s Day: https://www.facebook.com/pg/EssexFireMuseum/photos/?tab=album&album_id=1001441896656224

As an example of something a bit different: Social media for the Tate galleries talk about the weather using paintings from their collections https://twitter.com/Tate/status/822414664306950144

Ask yourself what will be interesting to people who might come to visit? What can you have some fun with to catch the attention of social media users? How can you catch the attention of people who wouldn’t normally visit your museum and cultivate a more diverse audience for your museum?

How do I tell the story in only a few words?

As you’ll know if you’ve read the blogs on writing for Facebook & Twitter, you need to be concise! On Twitter you only have 140 characters and on Facebook only the first part of your post will be shown in the timeline.

Here’s a few thoughts to help you keep your information about the object concise:

  • Definitely include a photo of the object in your post so followers can see the object
  • Remember you don’t have to write in a formal way
  • Pick a few evocative or interesting words that describe your object and focus on them
  • Try describing the object in 5 words only, this way you don’t need to write a full sentence, you could just write the 5 words and invite followers to comment on your photo and share their own 5 word descriptions.

Let us know how you get and share your own thoughts on how to create content for social media for your museum on by leaving a comment below.

Please do get in touch, I love saying hello:

On Twitter: @pinkyandnobrain

By Email: me@louisewinters.com

On LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/louisewinters/

My website: http://louisewinters.com/