Call it a “trend,” but it’s really just the right thing to do.
Many organizations and agencies in the public eye– including some embedded deep in historical constructs and often perceived as inaccessible, archaic, even corrupt– are striving to demystify their work and become more transparent.
The Seattle Police Department recently sent 12 hours of emergency calls to their followers over Twitter, showcasing “a day in the life of the Seattle Police.” The department was experimenting with new ways to engage with the public and be more open about the role they play in their community.
Similarly, San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom announced earlier this year that San Francisco residents can now send messages to their city government about anything from for street cleaning and potholes to garbage can maintenance via Twitter.
My favorite example of this is a very non-social media approach.
The Winnipeg Free Press (Canada) opened a café/annex where 3 staff members (journalists and editors) work, giving the public direct access to newspaper staff. Not only does the café offer locally sourced, organic food, it encourages community engagement and dialogue– including special events like book readings, live music, and a place to watch election results come in in real-time. Reporter Lindsey Wiebe says “it’s about turning the organization outwards.”
There are a lot of cool things you can say about the Winnipeg Free Press News Café: it’s visible, accessible, unexpected, transparent, and a window into something even regular newspaper readers don’t get to see. (And, of course, it’s all of that plus a place to grab lunch and a cup of coffee. This multi-purpose functionality, similar to the recent expose.your.museum post about laundry, makes it a part of and not separate from daily life.)
What could a public annex look like for your museum?
Would you co-brand it to match your cultural… or would it be totally different?
Similar to a pop-up or a mobile museum, this extends our thinking beyond the constraints of set physical space and positions us instead as part of larger landscapes and broader community. But this is very different than a pop-up or a mobile museum. It’s not an exhibition. It’s about the staff, the organization, the work we do.
Who would work there? You marketing team? Program staff? A wikipedian-in-residence? Your director? (Maybe not preservation or curatorial staff… but maybe! I’m totally volunteering if my museum does this, by the way.)
What else would you offer? Participatory facets– like voting on current news stories to be addressed at your science center, or what person in local history has most influenced your town? Would there be games, a bookstore, music, events… or just a quiet cup of coffee?
Don’t have the cash for a coffee shop in your city center? What about sub-letting or squatting in existing spaces? You could try a local elementary school, or a booth at a community event, a fair, or a festival. Or maybe you join with other local cultural institutions and alternate months. Less committed? One day a month you could have a member of staff working out of local coffee houses; sort of rotating mobile office. Advertise it on Facebook and Twitter.
Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry (MSI) has “Month at the Museum” (first Kate, now Kevin)– an incredible experience exposing a non-museum person (and, by extension, the whole world) to an all-access, behind-the-scenes look at MSI… but what if you turned that inside-out?
What might some time outside the museum do for those of us who are so regularly bound within one?
Thanks to Springwise (yet again!) for inspiration this week.
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