A few weeks ago, European #MuseumWeek took place on Twitter. #MuseumWeek was 7 different themes developed during 7 days, about Museums, heritage, works of art, the public and points of view about culture and uses. It was a private initiative from Twitter, lead by 12 Parisians museums and joined by many other French museums. At first, the project was a French one, but some days before the beginning, Spanish, Italian and British cultural institutions joined #MuseumWeek. France had 7 themes, and other European countries had 7 other themes, not always linked during the same day.
My article will expose some of my point of view, but obviously a whole analysis takes a a much longer article. So I will highlight key issues.
How we can work, and what we can do ?
The context of the week was really difficult. Twitter contacted some Parisians museums a few weeks before the operation, and we had a very short time to prepare 7 days of content!
For a long time, I have wanted to write something about “why heritage institutions are not start-ups,” but I haven’t had the time to do that yet… but this #MuseumWeek episode is a perfect example of issues that cause this different of corporate culture. So: if agencies can work in a very short time on iterative projects, museums have a harder time. We need to work with several colleagues from the institution: curators, mediator, press officer, top management… It takes time. It takes a long time. It takes too much time… but it necessary because an institution is an opinion leader in some way, an official voice and not just the voice of the Community Manager, for example.
We have also some issues with content: at Centre Pompidou, we need to secure rights to use each picture. And, guess what? That takes time, too! And money.
In addition to these usual issues, we had to deal with particular issues for this #MuseumWeek. 7 hashtags for 7 themes are all a challenge: how can we match those with Centre Pompidou’s strategy and content?
#LoveMW was very tough! We didn’t use to share with our public just sensitive approach : we decided upon #LoveMW to create more engagement and thinking about art. So, we won’t just ask: “what do you love?” Of course, it’s important information to collect. But, during a long day? Hum… I’m not sure. So we decided to program a kind of FlashMob on the Piazza in front of Centre Pompidou, drawing hearts on the floor and inviting people to do selfies and express with creativity their love of our museum.
Two other examples: during the first day, we called upon people from Centre Pompidou community to a livetweet into the backstage. It was a way to involve them, and not just reproduce the goal of #JourDeFermeture (a French hashtag showing the backstage, too!). And for the last day, dedicated to visitor creativity, we ask them to create a cadavre exquis just on Twitter.
A huge opportunity for museums ?
First I was very suspicious about this week. I said that to Twitter France and colleagues from others museums. I for example asked, from a public institution, why we have to work to a private project without any return on (time) investment. Or if we want to work on a such big project with the ministry… but nobody heard me.
My point is : of course, we can work for a private company such as Twitter; Centre Pompidou creates the main part of his social strategy on this social media for the moment. It’s obviously a good point for innovation to mix different points of view doing that. However we have to keep in mind that Twitter and others can live with two different things: data and content. Data is provided by people using content, and content is provided by users. And who are users? People, of course, with the User Generated Content (UGC), and brands or institutions such as museums that managed some UGC, too.
Obviously, if Twitter asked museums to create content during a looooooong week, there is a return on investment: they maybe will use analysis on the flow of data, interactions, and so one. Of course, I don’t know if they are able to do that, but indeed is not very important to me. (French) public cultural institutions have to understand that the further economic model of the cultural field needs to be consistent with the global digital economy. And, this economy will be based on content, data, and the analysis of these two things, won’t it?
So, public cultural institutions can offer these things to Twitter, I repeat it again: this is not the problem. But, what does Twitter offer to them in return?
There are some results, aren’t there?
This week happened in the end of March. Now, it’s time for results!
For Centre Pompidou, we did a not-so-enthusiastic analysis : we won audience, but not much more than a usual week. We created more interactions, that’s obvious, because the attention about culture had really increased and that is interesting. But we can see that the new audience wasn’t engaged on the content in the long term. Analysis from a searcher (Antoine Courtin) seems to show that the #Museogeeks community in France was a very large part of the audience during this week. Can we say this week was a corporate week? Is it really a good idea to engage new audiences or to work on better defining ones already engaged, and engage them more? We have to think that to invest the right time and effort to reach known goals.
But, talking with colleagues about #MuseumWeek during a meeting of #Cmmin (a French community of heritage community manager, initiated by Florence Vielfaure from French Ministry of Culture), points of view are pretty different. Some of smaller institutions had better audience results, and I understood that the effort of Centre Pompidou being a part of this operation is not just good for itself but for the heritage community! And that’s the more interesting reason to be part of it, in my opinion. We need to create a user experience of heritage on social media, and this kind of week is an important step to do this.
Now, we have to work on modalities to touch the right public!
Centre Pompidou launched a special Tumblr a few months ago : people are invited to post pictures about a theme linked with the Centre Pompidou schedule. The picture represents a Paper Toy, a paper character customized by the user. Even it’s a game, with 3 special prizes (catalog, album and bags of the Roy Lichtenstein’s exhibition), what is the point of this project regarding to the Centre Pompidou strategy on social medias ? And how does it work?
A quick presentation :
The game takes place on Tumblr. We chose this platform because It was possible to use a personalized template for the design – we created one with responsive design, which is important to allow usage from anywhere, anytime, anyone… It wasn’t simple to develop it, but we had a talented developer! For example, it was important to understand how it’s possible to create a participative interface, and adapt the design and functions: Tumblr seems to be a regular website, but it’s very different and there are many limits during development. So, it’s possible to create an interface for the contribution with Tumblr, and it’s interesting for Centre Pompidou having this on the social media, because it’s one of the most interesting community about graphic culture.
So, the Centre Pompidou purpose is not to push some official content from the institution, or content from artists: it’s to let people say their interpretation of the contemporary creation. For example, the first theme related to Le Nouveau Festival, a transdisciplinary festival of which the theme was « languages », this year. So, people sent pictures of characters talking, singing, watching TV… or with a QR code!
Now, the new theme is about Roy Lichtenstein. Thinking of his practice of engraving, I looked with colleagues for an artist with a special technique: drawing with a pen. It is a more popular practice than engraving, but it can be linked to the exhibition’s theme : artist’s experiments.
I asked Isabelle Kessedjan to create the first character and imagine the first story, and we filmed her with the time laps system to create a teaser. This short film was used to promote the game and to explain it.
Why create such a blog ?
One of the important points of this blog is obvious: to create interaction between audience and Centre Pompidou. This interaction is based on the Centre Pompidou schedule, allowing users explore different themes and communicate about exhibitions, festivals, and so on. But, why realize that through this kind of Tumblr?
The digital project of Centre Pompidou is focused on involving people in the creation of content. A lot of projects are designed for a textual approach of the creation, like the Centre Pompidou experience on Twitter or the partnership with Wikimedia France I already talked about here. But, words are just one way to communicate! Pictures are a strong and unexplored means to do that for Centre Pompidou.
Why can’t we use pictures as much as we want? Simply because of the complicated aspect of the French copyright ! It costs a lot (for a short time) and it’s necessary to ask a lot of authorizations (from the artist of course, but also from collecting societies which are very strong…); there’s no fair use! So I have always regretted not using pictures on social medias. Letting people create pictures and share them through this type of project is an original way to be on Tumblr, a platform is largely dedicated to design and graphic creation. And it’s really necessary for Centre Pompidou to prove that themes which are treated with words for a part of the audience could be treated with pictures for the other part of the audience.
How does it work?
People had to use the paper toy’s pattern by Tougui, a French artist. It’s the same each time, blank and after having downloaded it, ready to be customized. The base of the model is a geometrical shape, able to be used in different positions to imagine different kinds of legs. And the trunk (or the head… it’s the same part) is also an ambivalent geometrical shape. There is a large surface to draw on : the character had to be designed for newbies and easy use.
Each theme suggest a new type of character. For the moment, it’s about imagining a story to explain why a Roy Lichtenstein’s character is crying. The first step is to think about a funny, artsy, special or true story, then to invent a way of describing it with this character: in which background? With an accessory or not? Will he say anything? There are a lot of decisions to make, it’s not easy to write a scenario in a unique comic strip box!
Then, it’s the time for glue and scissor.
Or you can delegate this to your child, your nephews, or anyone else.
Then, it’s time for the picture! I already know that a participant built just one paper toy and preferred to duplicate it with Photoshop to create a situation with tow paper toys… why not, but it’s not necessarily easier for anyone. Anyway, when you have a picture, you can post it on http://centrepompidou.tumblr.com and tag it with the key word of the moment : #Lichtenstein. I will receive a notification and validate it. Now, you’re in the running for the prize!
Two weeks ago, Centre Pompidou and Wikimedia France signed a new partnership: it’s the next step of a former project begun in 2011. This first test was completely different because it involved a small number of participants, art works and workshops. But the project succeeded: 4 articles were created with the infobox – this formal part of the page is important, because it allows the exchange of data and includes these on the semantic web.
There was a long time between this former project and the new one. The digital staff of Centre Pompidou was busy, working on the launch of this new website. But now, it works and it’s a huge project!
The partnership is designed with two principle goals: the first is the creation of articles on Wikipedia, and the second is the building of the Centre Pompidou community. To reach it, the partnership has 3 parts:
The technological aspect
This first part has not started yet. Wikimedia and Centre Pompidou will be able to create links between the two websites. This part will be facilitated by the Dbpedia project of Wikimedia France, which allows the data of Wikipedia to be crawled by other websites, like the one of Centre Pompidou for example. But to use the data of the free encyclopedia, Centre Pompidou has to study the viability of the process, quality of data, and a lot of others things. It’s not so easy for an institution which includes a museum known for scientific excellency to accept this kind of crowdsourced data and information. So Centre Pompidou will launch this technological aspect when the two others have ended.
We have to notice that contemporary art is not the best treated theme on Wikipedia: the project is to improve it. So, it’s necessary to work on this before using data on the Centre Pompidou websiteof course: that’s the purpose of the second part of the project!
This second part is actually divided into three parts.
First, there are workshops for audience. 20 workshops of 2 hours are planned, with classes about the interface and spirit of the free encyclopedia, and classes about the writing of contemporary art texts dedicated to audience. There will be a lot of visits with curators and documentation prepared by librarians from Bibliothèque Publique d’Information and Bibliothèque Kandinsky. The program is as important as a university cursus but each participant can personalize it, picking up classes from his needs. They will also choose the subject of the article from a large list of works of art from Centre Pompidou collection.
The first goal is to write 50 articles on Wikipedia, including 2 “good articles”, and 2 “quality articles”. The second goal is to observe the dynamic of the group, the involvement of each participant, and how it’s possible to make quality contributors from basic public.
Second, there are workshops for Centre Pompidou professionals. They will be focused on different forms of publishing, including digital publishing. The group will ask a lot of questions with case studies: what is the impact of collaboration on publishing? Is it possible to use creative commons and other free licenses on the publishing activity, even on paper? Can we imagine a new business model for publishing while the business model for the Internet is beginning to be dominant?
And a last part was added recently, to compare the first kind of workshops with more traditional ones. It will involve researchers linked to Bibliothèque Kandinsky, the library of the museum for people with accreditation. It will be composed of just 5 longer workshops, including a short moment of learning of the interface like in the others. The subject of articles will be 10 former Centre Pompidou exhibitions. So these last 5 workshops will be more strictly framed and composed by professionals or future professionals, so it will be very interesting to compare dynamics of collaboration during these workshops.
Workshops are a very important part of the project, but another one is conferences : they are important steps in the project! Each conference is composed of two moments: the first is a balance sheet of workshops, and the second is a theorical approach to the theme. For example, the second conference will be about publishing and will begin showing the results of the professional workshops. After, 3 specialists from the the publishing industry will debate on a round table.
The first conference, last week, was about digital labour and Louise Merzeau (professor at Paris X University), Antonio Casilli (Professor at ParisTech) and Henri Verdier (director of Etalab) debated about changes and benefits of the collaborative work for cultural institutions.
The last conference will be about the “digital forgotten”, to ask if an institution dedicated to preservation and curation can use the Internet to reach it’s goals.
Conferences are a way to interrogate the new and massive adoption of collaborative projects. It’s particularly important in France, when culture is still a part of the legitimate and dominant class, instead of temptatives of democratization.
As the architect of this project…
I’m really proud that Alain Seban, President of Centre Pompidou, encourages it. It’s a part of the idea of a digital Centre Pompidou, an area where publics can find personalized information about art, at any moment. This digital Centre Pompidou will include different interfaces, like the web site, the future app, digital and social networks and so on. The project is an important step in involving publics in the production of contents and in creating a polyphonic area, where the voice of the museum will be added to the voices of users. It will be an area with different points of view where anyone could find any information, fitted to his needs and his abilities to understand any kind of language.
There are a lot of things to say about it yet, but I think the most important is to know how significant the opening of such an institution, is considering the work of non-professionals and even art lovers.