Last week, at the annual meeting of the American Association for State and Local History in Indianapolis, Indiana, Drayton Hall Director of Museum Interpretation Craig Tuminaro presented a session he organized on how historic sites are using technology and social networking tools in innovative and productive ways. Craig was joined by Kara Edie, Visitors Services and Marketing Coordinator at the General Lew Wallace Study & Museum, and Erin Carlson Mast, Curator and Site Adminsitrator at President Lincoln’s Cottage, who shared their experiences and thoughts on working with social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, and how their visitors – on-line and off – have interacted with their blogs and learned more about their sites.
One of the main questions the session presented was how sites can be strategic in their use of these new tools, and how the investments of time and resources that staff at historic sites make in these tools can be measured. Here are some of the other questions Craig and the other presenters explored in the session:
- Is it enough to establish a presence, or do visitors and/or on-line users expect something more?
- Is the Web becoming “a participatory ghetto, a dumping ground of experimentation ?”* If so, is it time to move beyond experimentation?
- In this time of economic uncertainly, is it still acceptable to invest in new endeavors when the payoff is perhaps uncertain or unproven?
- How can we evaluate the impact of this experimentation – in technology, in social media, in other web-based endeavors – at our sites?
- How can historic sites determine what is a reasonable “return on investment,” and how do you establish realistic expectations?
- Are the “new” audiences – fans, commentators, bloggers – turning into visitors, members, donors, or supporters?
*Nina Simon, “Bait and Switch,” Museum, July-August 2009, 33.
You can listen to a podcast of the entire session by clicking here. After brief presentations by the three speakers, a lively discussion followed on what’s working (and what isn’t). Notes from that discussion were taken and are attached in the following pdf: AASLH Web Tech Engage Q&A Points.
We’d love to hear what you think. Are you a Facebook fan of Drayton Hall? If so, have you visited Drayton Hall? Have you become a Friend of Drayton Hall? If we began to tweet, would you follow us on Twitter? What other social networking sites would benefit Drayton Hall?