The other day I found myself alone in a museum (not that strange a thing in my line of work). I was having such a great time that I decided to share my experience with some friends and colleagues. It seemed like a good time to show people what I was looking at and explain how I was feeling about it.
I got my phone out and took some pictures of the objects and exhibition in front of me. After sending an image to a few friends via text I also tweeted it and placed it on Instagram. I emailed my parents something I thought they’d like too. Before long I had created a Vine video, updated my Facebook status, checked myself in at the museum online and sent a Snapchat of a gallery interactive exhibits to a a few mates.
Then I realised I’d spent 15 minutes looking at my phone and not at objects or displays.
There’s been quite a bit in the heritage press recently about people enjoying the genuine article – we know from visitor research the seeing the real thing, however insignificant it might look, is a big driver for learning and social outcomes. Museums are encouraged to create experiences where their visitors can engage directly with real objects, and I’m a big supporter of this. Telling stories using objects is a large part of my job, after all.
But then I suppose museums also have a role to communicate in an increasingly diverging online world, where social media can compliment our visits and experiences. So I don’t feel bad that I locked myself in to my phone for a while.
Spreading the word about great objects and displays is worthwhile. But don’t forget to keep on looking at objects.