Kajsa Hartig

A blog about Cultural Heritage and Digital Communication

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The broad spectrum of cultural heritage web presence

For many museum visitors, it is not always clear that museums have very diversified activities. Nor is it obvious how they are reflected in the web presence. Below some excellent websites, with very different purposes, many of which have been awarded at Best of the Web Awards, organized by the conference Museums and the Web, www.archimuse.com/mw2010. Many of the websites come from the U.S., but also England and Holland.

Art Babble: www.artbabble.org is a gold mine for everyone interested in art and it’s a collaboration between the various art museums. This website is produced inhouse by the Indianapolis Museum of Art. This website mediates art as well as make up a platform for curation.

www.philaplace.org Produced in 2010 by The Historical Society of Pennsylvania in collaboration with Night Kitchen Interactive. Phila Place is an online resource that creates commitment and convey local history in a lively way. The site is also an example of how museums are now starting to use external services like Google Maps. Phila Place is an example of how to build long lasting relationships with target audiences and at the same time be a channel for collecting stories.

Augmented reality finds its way into the museum sector. The Netherlands Architecture Institute has produced a 3D app for architecture: http://en.nai.nl/exhibitions/detailexpo/_pid/left1/_rp_left1_elementId/1_601695 And another example is the Museum of London’s app: http://www.museumoflondon.org.uk/MuseumOfLondon/Resources/app/you-are-here-app/index.html

Brooklyn Museum has early adopted use of social media in the dissemination of collections on the web. They are also working to link the digital and physical experience, an example is: http://www.brooklynmuseum.org/exhibitions/click/

Further examples of crowdsourcing is: https://www.mos.org/fireflywatch/ and http://solarstormwatch.com. Both sites convey science for the general public and transform statistics into an engaging format. In particular, Solar Storm Watch has committed a huge audience.

A favorite is: http://kids.tate.org.uk/ that engage children and young people, and create encounters with art in the museum in a way which is not otherwise available to this audience. A website you don’t leave in a hurry.

A winner in the contest ”Best of the Web Award, category” Education ”, is http://www.moma.org/meetme/index the Museum of Modern Art. The museum would like to share good practices and experience of conveying art work toAlzheimer patients.

The fact that museums have collections is for the general visitor often quite irrelevant. It is also perhaps the most difficult part of the museum activities to convey. Here are some examples:

www.europeana.eu the great European portal which presents Europe’s heritage.
http://collections.vam.ac.uk/ Historic Victoria & Albert Museum in London.
Nordic Museum, Others Institutions: www.digitaltmuseum.se
Swedish National Heritage Board: www.kringla.nu

Of course it is very rare that large institutions produce websites all by themselves. The most successful web agency in the U.S. that work with the cultural heritage sector is www.secondstory.com Second Story, Portland, Oregon, that since the mid-1990s have presented website after website with a high standard and great innovation.

Finally: One size does not fit all as they say, and creating user centric experiences is a way of following that device. It’s possible to create niche websites and still remain interesting, an approach that many museums may have to take on. But to actually attract new audiences and to get the visitors to stay as well as return, museums need to stay well informed about the situations and conditions under which the digital stray visitor actually makes contact with, or encounter, the museum. Knowing your audience is central, and deciding what to focus on. There many cultural institutions still have a long way to go.


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Get outside your comfort zone part II

As I mentioned in an earlier post I took a great step outside my comfort zone yesterday. Of course I am not the only one doing this, I want to say a belated huge thank you to the people from the web and communication business that Pro Bono spent a day with the cultural heritage sector last October, a day arranged by ABM-centrum, http://www.abm-centrum.se at Tekniska museet. People from several companies* gave workshops, presentations and participated in speed dating, giving an excellent out-of-the box insight on the cultural heritage sector.

* Participants
Philip Ahlqwist, Volontaire
Klas Jonsson, Acne Digital
Walter Naeslund, Honesty
Matthieu Hartig, free lance
Lars Johansson, Webanalys.nu
Magnus Seter, Houdini
Martin Ragnevad, Daytona

This day, and my own efforts to reach outside my comfort zone, makes me realise that the surface where museums, archives and libraries meet the audiences is very small, sometimes hardly noticeable. Can we make it grow? It’s our job to locate this surface and make sure it’s functioning and preferably growing. Lesson learned? If we are not aware what our outreach looks like, it’s an impossible task to build relationships with new audiences.

And this is really a topic for another blogpost. On my to-do-list. 🙂

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Twitter and customer relations: Two cases

Recently I carried out a small survey on social media among colleagues within the MLA-sector (museums, libraries and archives). Out of 32 responses only 1 actually saw social media as a channel for customer relations. Most common among the responses was to use social media as a channel for listening, to push information and to have a dialogue with the target groups.

Outside the cultural heritage sector, pure customer care through Twitter is growing. I have myself had two experiences as a customer where my use of Twitter actually made a difference. Well, a huge difference I would say.

Pixmania and customer care

First experience was in September 2009. I had purchased a microphone from Pixmania, a French company that is web based. They charged my credit card for the microphone but sent me a dvd instead. So, checking into their website to return the dvd I discovered that:  a) I douldn’t call to get personal service from their representatives and b) to return the dvd I had to fill in a form with a couple of mandatory fields that did not correspond to my needs. Their website completely reduced my possibilities of making a complaint. I was seemingly stuck with the dvd.

In great frustration, the microphone was expensive, I ventilated my problem on Twitter. And soon enough I actually got a personal response from a Pixmania representative. She helped me sorting out the problem and I finally got what I had ordered and paid for.

The Lufthansa experience

Second experience was in April 2010. I was travelling with my husband from Denver to Stockholm with Lufthansa. Due to the volcanic ash clouds that covered Europe at that time our stopover in Frankfurt, Germany, turned out to be an uncomfortable experience. We ended up being transported by bus to Copenhagen, and to get on the bus we had to sign a release so that Lufthansa’s responsibility for us would end in Denmark (hotels in Frankfurt were not offered).

Being dropped off in Copenhagen at 3 o’clock in the morning we had to get a hotel room (at our own expenses) for a couple of hours sleep. The volcanic ash cloud caused a lot of chaos in the air transport industry in April. I was quite aware of that, but when Lufthansa_USA two days later cheerfully tweeted about flying some celebrity for free from the US to a German beer festival (just for fun), I was rather annoyed. There were stillthousands of passengers affected by the huge delays. Not to mention we had ended up in another country than our final destination.

I tweeted out my distress and soon enough Lufthansa_USA responded and said we should contact the customer relations. So I wrote a long letter to the customer relations on April 22nd.

Almost three weeks later I still hadn’t recieved any reply from lufthansa customer relations. So, I started again to ventilate my frustration on Twitter. This was on a Sunday. To my surprise tweets from Lufthansa_DE started to show up in my Tweetdeck, regular tweets about flights being on time etc. But absolutely no response whatsoever.

After several tweets about our Lufthansa experience, still no response, but several retweets and responses from people working with social media reacting to the very big mistake by the company. One way communication through Twitter is not a great success. And not responding to direct questions is a number 1 fail.

Then, Monday morning, Lufthansa_DE apparently had other staff coming in, with mandate to actually speak on Lufthansa’s behalf. The first tweet that I recieved through a DM, 9.12 am, was:

”Good Morning, Unfortunately we cannot solve complex issues via Twitter. Pls contact customer relations instead, thanks http://t.lh.com/GPjo”

I replied at 9.32 am:

”I did, on Aril 22nd, still no reply!”

At 9.48 I recieved this:

”Thanks for your quick reply. The amount of volcano-related issues is huge, your request will be dealt with in due time.”

And at 10 am:

”Customer relations informed us that your claim is indeed filed. Working hard to reduce backlog. Thanks for your patience.”

To show my gratitude and satisfaction to finally get a response I replied at 10.04:

”Thank you for replying! :-)”

Then, the very same day I got a long letter from Lufthansa with great regrets about the situation explaning that they were not able to predict the cancellations etc. They also stated they would reimburse us for the cancelled flight, but then not reimburse our extra costs when travelling from Copenhagen to Stockholm (our final destination).

Two days later

Two days later I recieved a personal phonecall from the Lufthansa customer relations saying they would reimburse us for the hotel night in Copenhangen and for the bustrip to Stockholm. They admitted that making us signing the release in Frankfurt was not correct.


These two experiences have raised a few questions, that are relevant to any company and organisation working with customer relations. What role did Twitter have in this case? Would I still be awaiting response had I not started to tweet about our distress and frustration? Right now the single Twitter-user can make a difference and these are just two cases out of many. A likely development is that the number of people using social media to be influential in their role as customers will grow, and for the cultural heritage sector this is ofcourse important to have in mind.

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Get outside your comfort zone

With the opening plenary at MW2010 in mind I challenged myself yesterday by participating in JMW talkshow, JMW being one of the best communication agencies in Sweden right now. Being used to talk to an audience that are way within my comfort zone I have grown comfortable with their pre knowledge of the subject, and that they listen no matter what. 🙂 Of course that’s a certain way to get the edges smoothed and to stop being alert to new audiences.

The reactions to the talkshow were mixed, some engaged in the talk online and afterwards on Twitter, and some preferred a coffee break. So the audience this time did not consist of the cultural heritage sector only, but mainly people within web and communication business. One lesson to learn is that YES it’s very important to get ouside your comfort zone, challenge yourself. It’s the only way to improve communication and sharpen the message. If not, how can I defend the need for cultural institutions and the need for an over all communication and mediation of cultural heritage that is engaging and that matters to people (old audiences and new ones). I need to be able to anser the question: What’s in it for me, why should I care?

As we, within the cultural heritage sector, continue these discussions on how to improve outreach, I look forward to keeping up a dialogue with a broader group of people and to actually take further steps outside my comfort zone.