The New York Times has an interesting article today about the use of social media like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter by museums to foster online communities built around common interest in art:

A decade ago, museum Web sites were little more than online advertisements, displaying an institution’s hours, directions, admission prices and exhibitions. But evolving technology has created new opportunities, and people like Ms. Bernstein [Chief Technology Officer at the Brooklyn Museum] are becoming critical players in helping museums exploit them.

Talk to anyone involved with museum technology and the conversation inevitably boils down to one universal word: engagement.

“It’s less about technology and more about what the visitor can bring to the equation,” said Ms. Bernstein, 37, a pixieish woman who answers questions at a rapid-fire speed. “In the end, we want people to feel ownership of this museum. We ask them to tell us what they think. They can give us a bad review; when we make a mistake they can come to our rescue. We want to engage with our community.”

While museums have long strived to be welcoming places as well as havens of learning, social media is turning them into virtual community centers. On Facebook or Twitter or almost any museum Web site, everyone has a voice, and a vote. Curators and online visitors can communicate, learning from one another. As visitors bring their hand-held devices to visits, the potential for interactivity only intensifies.

In an effort to get more people interested in art scholarship, the Indianapolis Museum of Art has put together a website at with videos from a network of museums all over the world. The site even features “Channels,” to help guide you toward new information about your arts interests, be they Robots or Renaissance Art.

While nothing is equivalent to being in the presence of a piece that was actually touched by the artist, there is something to be said for how the web has brought art into the American home, and even better, has created this broader online-community of art lovers. And if it gets people excited about visiting a museum, more power to them.

Read the whole article here.

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