About The Author

Mary Warner

Museum Manager for the Morrison County Historical Society, which owns and operates The Charles A. Weyerhaeuser Memorial Museum in Little Falls, MN.

I spend a fair amount of time, mostly personal, online and while there, I am continually looking for museum people hanging out within various social media networks. I’m not having much luck with this. There appears to be a dearth of museum professionals using social media (and other Web 2.0 tools). I’m more than willing to admit that this perceived shortage is not really a shortage at all. It could be that I’m not looking in the right places. In order to find Minnesota’s online museum community, I think a more direct approach is needed, thus this post.

If you are a museum professional, do you use any of the following social media/Web 2.0 tools either professionally or personally?

Blog (WordPress, Blogger, other?)






Feed Readers (Bloglines, Google Reader, etc.)

Other social media/Web 2.0 tools not on the list

If so, which ones to you use and where can you be found online? (Here’s your chance to plug your URL.) If you’d rather not answer this publically, you can send me an email at contactstaff (at) morrisoncountyhistory (dot) org.

Feel free to respond if you’re a museum professional outside of Minnesota, too. You’ll be helping us all to get hooked into the national museum community.

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24 Responses to Do You Use Social Media?

  1. Dustin Heckman says:

    I use Facebook to talk to my college buddies. Until recently I had never thought about using it for the Mower County Historical Society. However, last week I created a group to attempt to raise money through a fundraiser we were doing. So far the results have not been bad.

    Yesterday I attend an IMA Director’s Roundtable discussion in Coralville, IA. This exact question came up that Mary brought up. How can museum’s use these social network tools to better our organizations? Maybe this is an item for an MHS workshop in the future or maybe a roundtable discussion for directors to get together and discuss.


  2. Like it or not, Social Media is probably here to stay and will be a useful tool for local history. Two books I’ve been reading lately convince me that Web 2.0 tools can help create conditions for success.

    In the first book, The Medici Effect, author Franz Johansson says there are two types of ideas: directional and intersectional. Directional would be finding the next number after the decimal in a long division problem, for example. For local history that might be if the organization has tours for school children, it might offer tours to scouting groups. There isn’t a great leap made to get to the next idea. Intersectional ideas happen when seemingly unlike programs are put together. For example in 2004 the Frick Museum of Art in New York started offering classes to law enforcement investigators. Frick trained investigators to be able to read art, which then sharpened the investigator’s own skills at a crime scene.

    For the Frick story, see: http://www.aam-us.org/pubs/mn/frick.cfm

    The second book is “Who’s Your City?” by Dr. Richard Florida. While journalist Thomas Friedman heralds Web 2.0 for its ability to make the world flat in the sense that work can be done from any part of globe, Florida says the world is spiky. In terms of success most of us think of answers to quetions of what and who, as in what to do for a career and with whom should we partner? Florida suggests that the answer to where matters a lot for success. We need to be where others in our field are in order have opportunities for success. That notion struck me as similar to Johansson’s idea of entering an Intersection. However, for museum professionals spread out, our options had been limited to print and occassional meetings. Through Social Media, though, maybe we can meld Friedman and Florida to build a common area for local history professionals.

    So here’s my thought: Web 2.0 helps museum professionals create a Virtual Spike where we can find Intersectional ideas.


  3. Mary says:

    Yes, yes, yes, David. We need to meet at the intersections and I’m having trouble finding museum people online so that I can find them at the intersections. While I’m not finding a lot of us there, yet, I have found a few. Over this past weekend, I followed the tweets (Twitter posts, for those not familiar with the lingo) of Dan Cohen of George Mason University (also Director of the Center for History and New Media) while he updated everyone about what was going on at Smithsonian 2.0. I came to Dan’s tweets through Suzanne Fisher, who runs the Public Historian blog & has her own Twitter feed.

    Smithsonian 2.0 was a small conference held for a select few employees at the Smithsonian. Chris Anderson of Wired Magazine was invited to speak, as were a number of other technology/industry leaders. The goal of the conference was to try to figure out how to get everything at the Smithsonian accessible in a digital form.

    Even though very few museum professionals were in attendance (about 30), some of the ideas generated are applicable for other museums. Here is an intersection that social media can bring us to, but only if we’re online to find this sort of intersection.

    Here are links to items I’ve referred to above:

    Dan Cohen’s Twitter feed: http://twitter.com/dancohen

    Suzanne Fisher’s Twitter feed: http://twitter.com/publichistorian

    Washington Post article on Smithsonian 2.0: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/01/25/AR2009012502179.html


  4. I suppose the inherent problem with Social Media is that contact through it is considered to be something we should not be doing at work. As you know, I’ve been looking into the utility of Facebook for local history, and in floating around there it is hard to figure out what people do for a living in order to know who to follow.


  5. I think back to the “early days” of the Internet and recall how some of us sat and wondered: “Should we put up one of those web site thingys or not. After all, so many of our members don’t even know how to turn on a computer”. We all know how that turned out.

    This is timely as myself and one of my board members were just talking about doing a Facebook Page for “Friends of the COkato Museum” or similar. The idea is to reach out to those–read, younger–folks who might like what we do, but don’t necessarily find themselves stopping in for a chat. A web site can be one venue, but other options are a necessity, not just a luxury.

    Sure I use my personal Facebook page for all manner of activities (yes David, even at work!). So why not take advantage of the medium and gain more exposure, and hopefully $$ out of it?

    Hmmm, maybe I’ll make that one of my weekend projects.


  6. Todd Mahon says:

    I have a Facebook account, but to be honest I would prefer to set up a separate “professional” one as opposed to using the same one for Anoka County Historical Society stuff. I just get sort of reluctant to share so much with all sorts of different people. I believe you can filter some of what is visible in to people on Facebook, but not all of it.

    Do I really want an ACHS member to see that someone wrote about how drunk I used to get in college on my Facebook wall? Let alone I get tagged in somebody else’s photo album acting foolishly (if not appropriately for the situation)?


  7. Mary says:

    Ah, yes, I knew it would come around to this: the personal/professional conundrum. I’ve had a personal blog for over two years now and I try to keep work stuff out of it. I’ve succeeded fairly well in doing that, although sometimes it is so tempting to discuss general museum issues there. I don’t want people to assume I’m speaking on behalf of the museum when I’m putting forth personal opinion.

    While we have a blog for the museum, there was some hesitancy over the form when we first started it because blogs were known for being places online to reveal the ugly details of a person’s life (i.e. an online diary). Of course, we’ve since discovered that a blog is what we make it; the content is of our own choosing. Yet, if we make the content too sterile, if we don’t allow the personalities of blog posters to shine through, the potential audience will not be as attracted to our museum blog as they otherwise might be. They’ll stop reading if the blog isn’t appealing. People want to connect with other people online, not with press releases in blog form.

    One of the things we’ve been guilty of in the museum field overall is not allowing the personalities of those working in museums to take center stage. It’s all about the mission, after all, and most of us are keen to stay behind the scenes. (We at MCHS are as guilty of this as others. You’ll notice that we have no web page that lists board members or staff. It’s not supposed to be about us as individuals.)

    In the online world, staying behind the scenes is a sure way to a quick and quiet death. We’re not giving any of our readers a way to emotionally invest in us, which means they’re not going to invest in our mission.

    Not only do we have to navigate learning how to use new online apps, we also have to figure out the etiquette of these tools, including how to have both a personal and professional voice.


  8. One of the inherent hurdles with Facebook, as noted by Todd and others, is that once you are a “friend” of someone, pretty much the whole world can see you. Sure there are security settings, many of which I utilise. But that will not necessarily prevent sometimes less than flattering items to pop up.

    Mary’s comments about keeping the personal and professional apart are relevant. What makes it tough for someone like me is that unless I become a total hermit, I cannot keep them completely apart–much as I would like to.

    That being said, I am going to take the plunge and create a group on Facebook called “Friends of the Cokato Museum & Historical Society”. It will be open to all, so long as they are respectful. Our goal is to reach out to those who might appreciate what we do, but need another hook to get interested. Just like when we set up our web site over eleven years ago, this will be an experiment. If it works, super. If not, at least we can say we tried.

    Wish me luck!


  9. Mary says:

    I found a great post on Mashable about how to use various social media tools for personal branding. The focus is on how to create a professional personal brand, so this should be helpful for those of us in the museum field.


    The section on Facebook in the article reminded me of Todd’s concerns about being tagged in other people’s photos. Apparently there is a privacy setting that takes care of this. I’ve also noticed that I can’t leave comments on the wall of one of my friends, so, unless that’s a strange glitch, there might be a way to prevent unwanted comments, too.


  10. The Carver County Historical Society is on both Facebook and Myspace. We plan to “tweet” within a few weeks and will launch a blog (hopefully) next month. It doesn’t take much time to update these social media sites (much faster than the html coding needed for our website, which I also update regularly) and is a fun way to connect with other museums, museum professionals, former interns, and even some personal friends of mine who just want to support a non-profit. They also provide a new way for members to interact with the Historical Society without actually visiting the building, such as commenting on events or notes and uploading photos. Because you don’t necessarily have to be a member to view the page, I don’t find that it discriminates against people who may not want to join online social network.

    Just a sidebar, the MN Council of Non-Profits is hosting a conference in Minneapolis on February 20 called “New Times, New Tech” that will focus on some of these very issues. More info at http://www.mncn.org/nptech/.


  11. Maureen says:

    Do not underestimate the power of the various social media networks and other web 2.0 applications. I come from an arts background and there are many artist, art organizations and museums out there actively communicating. For some reason the history community seems to be a little slower on taking on some of these new technologies.
    The Ramsey County Historical Society has the following:
    Ask An Historian blog http://ramseycountyhistoricalsociety.blogspot.com/

    Gibbs Museum Face Book Page http://www.facebook.com/inbox/?ref=mb#/pages/St-Paul/Gibbs-Museum-of-Pioneer-Dakotah-Life/44804736829?ref=ts

    RCHS Facebook Page http://www.facebook.com/inbox/?ref=mb#/pages/St-Paul/Ramsey-County-Historical-Society/40320894881?ref=ts

    And my favorite… Flickr the social photo sharing website. It offers RCHS a way to share event photos with the public and gives the public the opportunity to comment on the photos. Folks can also share photos of their neighborhood or RCHS experiences with us by posting them to our Flickr groups.
    See the RCHS Flickr page http...@N21/
    And the Gibbs Flicker Group http://www.flickr.com/groups/gibbsmuseum/
    Each neighborhood in St. Paul has a group and the photos posted to that group run as a slideshow on the neighborhood profile page on the RCHS website. I think it is great because the public is choosing how to present the community not us.
    Here is the link to the neighborhood groups

    I do see the value and we have built it – I just wish more people would come. Any thought on how to drive folks to your already existing web 2.0 applications?


  12. Jackie Hoff says:

    Hi all – Shana asked me to comment. I do use many of these “tools” mostly to help me understand what the heck is going on out there in the virtual world. To that end I am always looking for better ways to communicate within the museum world in MN. A few weeks back I set up a NING site. I then went an created a site that I hope would be a place that museums in the state can share information about new grants, exhibitions in process, new and snazzy ideas, possibilities for collaboration and the like. So I put up a site that as of now has very limited access. It allows for many types of communication. If anyone is willing to join as a guinea pig – please do let me know.
    I must confess that I am also the state rep for AMM (Association of Midwest Museums and soon to be for MRC (Midwest Registrars Committee) – so I also have a personal need. I want to tell both of these groups what cool and exciting stuff we are doing in our state.



    Mary Warner reply on February 15th, 2009:

    Hi, Jackie – Forgive me for asking, but what Minnesota museum do you represent? Also, what is the link to your NING site?


    Jackie Hoff reply on February 23rd, 2009:

    I am with the Science Museum of Minnesota…..
    my email is jho...@smm.org


    my site is:



    Mary reply on February 25th, 2009:

    Thanks, Jackie.

  13. Mary says:

    David Grabitske kindly shared the following blog post with me. It’s from the blog Lateral Action and it lists and describes The Top 10 Social Networks for Creative People.


    While I was familiar with most of these, a few on the list were completely new, most notably The Behance Network, Shapeshifters and likemind. Anyone have any experience with these?


  14. Mary says:

    I posted the following link on another thread of this blog (Low Cost Useful Web Technology), but I think it is also appropriate for this thread. This is a post by Nina Simon of the Museum 2.0 blog and it discusses how much time it takes per week to manage social media apps. Very useful if you don’t know where to start and don’t feel like you have enough time. Incidentally, Nina also writes the Museum 2.0 column from AAM’s Museum magazine.



  15. Jackie Hoff says:

    Hi all – we (large group of folks working in MN museums) are in the final stages of picking sessions for the fall AMM/MAM conference coming to St. Paul from Sept 27-30 of this year. In reviewing sessions – it looks like we are a couple shy in the technology section. If anyone (or group) has a tech project, idea or thoughts on the topic – please send me an email ASAP.



  16. During a conversation with David G. this morning, he noted how he has tried to “join” all the groups on Facebook for area museums. So I looked and there is a nicely growing list. For those who are curious (and I home I got them all), in no particular order, they are:
    Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum
    Renville County Historical Society
    Cokato Museum & Historical Society
    Children’s Museum of Southern Minnesota
    Ramsey County Hist. Soc.
    Olmsted County Hist. Soc.
    Preservation Alliance of Minnesota
    Rice County Hist. Soc.
    Northfield Hist. Soc.
    Stearns History Museum
    Carver County Hist. Soc.
    Washington County Hist. Soc.
    Mower County Hist. Soc.
    Kandiyohi County Hist. Soc.
    Carlton County Hist. Soc.
    Otter Tail County Hist. Soc.
    Nicollet County Hist. Soc.

    If I missed any, add them to the list. Thanks!



    Dustin Heckman reply on May 5th, 2009:

    Also add the following:
    Waseca County Historical Society
    Richfield History Museum
    Ramsey County Historical Society
    Gibbs Museum

    Something to consider also with the Facebook fan pages is that you can add other fan pages to your “my favorites list” that shows up on your Facebook page. I’ve done this will all of the sites that have a fan page listed above. If you want to add other fan pages to your “favorites list” simply go to their fan page, and under their picture click the add to my favorites tab underneath become a fan. It will automatically link that fan page to yours.


  17. If you don’t mind input from North Dakota, The Dickinson Museum Center is using Blogger, Facebook, and Twitter, in addition to our website. My biggest problem has been posting information frequent enough to keep it relevant and interesting. I have a personal Facebook page that my Twitter posts upload to–so I only have to post things once for it to show up on both. Our blog postings are set up to post to the museum’s Facebook page so that I only have to do that once as well. I can invite all our fans on our Facebook page to an event and even request RSVPs–so eventually I see us using a lot more of the features than we are now.


  18. If you are having a hard time updating all your sites (because it is rather time-consuming), try a social networking tool that lets you update multiple sites at once. I use Ping (ping.fm), which supports over 40 social networking sites (including Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and many blog platforms). You send your messages to them via text, e-mail, IM or whatever way you choose and the site posts them for you. It’s a one stop shop.


  19. Mike Worcester says:

    Cross posted from “Evolution of Local History Websites”.

    In regards the proliferation of Facebook pages for museums and related organizations, the Alliance web site has as complete a list as could be assembled of those pages. T.y. to DG for having linked to so many of them already on his profile 🙂



  20. While I do not work in a museum, I work for The History Press (a publisher of local history) that works closely with a variety of historical organizations including museums and historical societies. While the history community may be slower in diving into the virtual networking world, they definitely have an on-line presence. We developed an experimental Facebook page,which we hoped would serve as a forum not only for our history authors but also the people interested in local history. We started an on-line discussion forum that has more than doubled our original fan base and has spurred great discussions. The key to success seems to be not only an accessible space for people to contribute, but also instigators of discussion (we came up with a list of topics to post each week) and advertising that this space exists. Looking at our long list of fans now, many are part of historical organizations that we have yet to work with, but they are still taking part in our local history discussion panel, which is exciting to see.


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