Social Networking for Conservators

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Many in the heritage industry are embracing social media as a means of connecting to the public, and one another, there are a small, but growing, number of conservators who have joined in this communication explosion. Sadly the conservation profession as a whole remains somewhat wary of embracing social media. Though not to be downhearted there are many individuals, and small groups, who have a clear grasp of the fundamental nature of web 2.0 and have been flying the flag for conservation, developing what can legitimately be called a ‘conservation cyberspace’, it is a few of those projects that I shall highlight here.

Dan’s favorite approaches to social media by conservators

Facebook

It appears that the most widely used social media platform by conservators is facebook. This site boasts a huge range of groups that are associated with conservation issues; whether they are extensions of professional organizations such as International Institute for Conservation (IIC), or, non-aligned groups such as the highly successful Art Conservation Advocates, these types of groups seem to specialize in posting lots of interesting news stories, which in many ways is a continuation of the older broadcast method of ‘outreach’, in addition Art Conservation Advocates posts information such as; job postings, internship postings, conference calls, and such like. I particularly appreciate the idea behind this group as advocacy is something that social media can be a useful tool for. I’m not normally one for selling things and advertising, however, I’ll make an exception for one of my favourite crafty conservation-themed groups on facebook, the Inherent Vice Squad, who also have a website and blog, they use social media to help market their unique and popular products to the conservation community. These products are all a lot of fun, and I doubt many conservators would have ever heard of them had it not been for social media.

Twitter and Paper.li

The number of conservators, and conservation labs, on twitter continues to increase at a slow but steady pace. I’ve found it a useful means of quickly seeking answers, and for sharing interesting stories. However, I do find that keeping up with an ever increasing number of people is too time consuming for my busy schedule. Therefore, I have been quite intrigued by what I think is one of the most interesting things to come out of twitter recently; paper.li. This site allows you to set up a daily newspaper-like feed of either yours, or, a list of tweets that you follow. I may be wrong, but I believe amongst conservators Richard McCoy (Associate Conservator at the IMA) was the first to start up such a daily newspaper, his is entitled Art Conservation Daily. This is a great new way to interact with tweets.

Wiki’s

I think wiki’s might be the most significant development in social media for the professional conservation field. In many ways the wiki as a website has become synonymous with its most famous exponent – the online encyclopedia Wikipedia. To which there are a growing number of entries that are concerned with conservation, and I would continue to encourage conservators to use and add to this online encyclopedia. Wikipedia also hosts numerous projects to develop content, including Wikipedia Saves Public Art, which is
probably the first explicitly conservation themed project, providing a workable model for documenting works of art in the public sphere.

However, Wikipedia is not the only use of Wiki’s within the conservation field. Wiki’s have been shown to be a useful method of sharing information pertaining to testing specific products, with the Pemulen TR2 Wiki being an excellent example. This wiki was developed by Nancie Ravenel who also developed the Social Media 4 Collections Care Wiki, based on her presentation: “Technology and Social Media for Collections Care”, for the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS) Connecting to Collections forum, June 17, 2009, Buffalo, NY. This is a great wiki that provides an ongoing bibliography concerning social media within the conservation, collections care field.

Blogs:

As a blogger I don’t really want to get into ranking blogs, however, there is one blog worth a special mention for the sheer number of fantastic free online resources that the blog has located and made available in one location for the profession, and that is: Art Conservation Research.

Podcasts:

I’m very excited by Minding the Museum, which is a new museum conservation podcast website. It has only had one issue out so far, but it is a site I’ll be keeping an eye on to see how it develops. The website itself doesn’t strictly speaking fall within the realm of social media, in that it is distinctly lacking in interactivity, however, it is likely that podcasts will be shared, posted, forwarded, and discussed on any number of other
platforms.

What’s Missing?

The one major thing that is missing is a website that uses Web 2.0 for something “more” in much the way Voices of the Past does for the wider Heritage field. At the moment I don’t feel there is enough interest amongst conservators to develop such a site, and there certainly isn’t institutional support for such a project. Yet I can’t help thinking it won’t be long before we see something of it’s kind.

So, those were some of my favorite social media sites that represent conservation cyberspace, what do you think of them, and what are your favorites?

Photo teaser elements courtesy of Dan Cull and luc legay on Flickr

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3 thoughts on “Social Networking for Conservators

  1. Hi Dan,
    That certainly is a great list to start with, and thanks for mentioning two initiatives that I started. I don't blame you for not wanting to rank conservators blogs. While some excellent blogs have become quieter others are starting up, representing a wide diversity of experience in the field and area of specialization. I think that's exciting and you and Jeff Guin do a great job highlighting some of those newer voices through your blogs.

    While the wikis I created have seen some interaction, I'd certainly welcome more. I'll be interested to see how the AIC wikis and Preservapedia, both funded by NCPTT develop.

    Art conservation, art storage solutions, and topics surrounding conservation outreach are represented on SlideShare. While I haven't seen conversations about presentations occur on that platform, I have seen them sprout up on others in response to a SlideShare upload. As you may remember, Kevin Driedger added audio to his presentation "Socially Networked Preservation" given at the Michigan Library Consortium's preservation conference so that we all could discuss the talk on Twitter.
    Similarly, with photo and video sharing sites like Flickr and YouTube, while they do offer the opportunity for discussion via comments, I find that they are chiefly used as a place to dock images while professional discussion around them tends to happen in other arenas.

  2. Hi Nancie,

    Thanks for your comments.

    You're right! I really should have included Slideshare http://www.slideshare.net/ as it's increasingly becoming a popular tool for conservators, I've used it several times as well. Although I am not aware of anyway in which all the conservation content is collected together on there (is there?), which would probably help it become an even more useful resource.

    To be honest with Flickr I still feel there aren't that many conservators using it for anything other than dumping photo's – there are some and I know you all at Shelburne use it quite creatively, I just kind of wish more institutions would be open to such uses. The only exception I can think of is that conferences often work out ways to collect and collate photo's from their events. I didn't want to mention You Tube as I would have thought that's almost as omnipresent as google now for most of us! I know I've found it a very useful research tool, its like doing fieldwork without needing to leave the lab!

    Cheers, Dan

  3. Hi Daniel,

    Thank you for mentioning IVS. We are very flattered 🙂

    I think since social media and internet are rather new entities, we have to wait for a new generation of conservators to come to the scene in order to have more information on the web and use of social media to carry conservation information among conservators. And that seems to be working slowly but well. Thanks to conservators who are working on this issue.

    Best, Ozge

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