On 1 September over 340 museums and galleries from 23 countries let their curators loose for the unique worldwide question and answer session, Ask A Curator Day which let members of the public put questions to curators via social platform, Twitter.
Interested parties sent thousands of tweets to museums or galleries of their choice; including the hash-tag #askacurator in their 140 characters.
The day was such a success with #askacurator being the top trending topic on Twitter for part of that day!
Ask A Curator follows a similar successful event called Follow a Museum which took place in February this year. Follow a Museum urged social savvy users to follow a museum’s Twitter feed, with the hash-tag #followamuseum. Both events come from museum marketing specialist Jim Richardson.
Nine museums and galleries from New Zealand participated in the inaugural event. We asked a couple of people from the sector how the day went:
Ema Tavola, Manager of Fresh Gallery Otara
Q: What was your overall experience of Ask A Curator Day?
A: It was an excellent experience for me – I work in relative isolation from other galleries, institutions and curators being based in South Auckland, so we connect with the wider world largely via the Internet. Yet, I had never done so in such a ‘live’ fashion – it was a real buzz to have a real-time feed of questions and comments coming from all around the world. There was an amazing range of institutions and my colleague and I were intrigued by institutions like the Museum of Childhood and the Tree Museum. We took the opportunity to add lots of institutions and individuals to Fresh Gallery Otara’s Twitter community.
Q: What was the most challenging part?
A: That would probably be responding to questions with a pretty severe word limit, and finally getting my head around using hash tags. I liked the speed of reading and responding and the way institutions become so accountable to the voice of their audiences. The Ask A Curator Day initiative has heightened my awareness for the power of Twitter as a tool for connecting, engaging and influencing communities on a different level from the more static platforms.
Q: What were the highlights of the experience?
A: A highlight was the informality of ‘conversation’ – that the fast paced, chat mode of the conversation meant humour was at times introduced and not censored. The questions, “when is it time for a curator to retire” made me laugh!
Q: Why did you decide to join the twittersphre?
A: It’s provided us with an exciting opportunity to publicise what we do on a daily basis, snippets of conversations that FGO and the exhibitions stimulate, websites, artists and happenings that inspire us and inform our service delivery. Being a facility of Manukau City Council, we don’t have our own website, so social media platforms are hugely important.
Neil Semple, Projects Manager, Christchurch Art Gallery
Q: What was the strangest question someone asked?
A: All of the questions were pretty straightforward. The most speculative was “Who’s going to win the Walters Prize?”
Q: Were there any challenges the day posed?
A: Given that many of the questions were quite philosophical and discursive, trying to get meaningful responses inside 118 characters, which was all that was left after the #hashtag and our @name.
Q: Would you participate in the day again and why?
A: Yes, it was a lot of fun, an intellectual challenge, and a great way to involve our supporters in the life of the gallery.
Beyond that, the spam that affected the northern hemisphere after the topic trended didn’t affect us as our contribution was too early — in fact, Christchurch Art Gallery was the first museum in the world to answer a question! We enjoyed receiving questions from around the world, in real time.
We look forward to 2011’s dose!