Museums, New Media and the Triple Bottom Line

family-around-computer-thumbby James G. Leventhal

This post may not have a beginning or an end.  Really, it's just a stroll through some discussions I've been hearing about museums and technology.  And it is about how greater outreach by museums is important in challenging times, and how the nonprofit model is taking hold in the 21st century.

Marjorie Schwarzer recently reminded us of the impact that museums can have in difficult economic times, and with their use of technological outreach in her piece on Depression-era outreach in Museum magazine:

The Buffalo Museum of Science in 1932 conceived a radical new program: roto-radio, which was then adopted across the nation. On roto-radio day, the local daily newspaper published a photo spread from the local museum. That same evening, the museum broadcast a talk by a curator that was linked to the pictures. As families huddled around their radio, they learned about many strange and wonderful things: mastodons, natural gas, Australian topography.

Now, technology firms are bringing the lessons of the nonprofit world – missions that matter and meaning beyond profit – to the for-profit world, even creating profits for nonprofit technology firms.  Wait, nonprofit technology firms?!

Wikipedia's a nonprofit and technology, outreach and nonprofits all came together this past spring for Wikipedia Loves Art:

Wikipedia Loves Art, the name being a play off Valentine's Day, is a scavenger hunt and free content photography contest among museums and cultural institutions worldwide, and aimed at illustrating Wikipedia articles. The event is planned to run for the whole month of February 2009.

And before you think positive-thinking, nonprofit technology firms ain't got no legs, please take note that the Wikimedia Foundation bagged Orange -- the major international telecommunications firm -- as a "client":

On Wednesday, the Wikimedia Foundation — the organization that runs online community-edited encyclopedia Wikipedia — announced its first large content partnership with a major company, Orange, the European telecom brand of France Telecom….The deal will allow Orange to develop co-branded Wiki channels on its mobile and Web portals. The two will also begin working together to develop new services and features around content from Wikipedia….For Orange, the motivation is simple: Wikipedia is popular with Web users, more so in Europe than any other part of the world. …But for the nonprofit Wikimedia, partnering up is more complex. Orange will share some revenue out of the deal with the foundation, but Ms. Owen declined to reveal the specific terms. Wikimedia currently raises most of its money — $6.2 million last year — through donations from users. But it will need more resources if its traffic continues to soar.

ZeroOneAt the Vancouver Police Museum they just won a kind of “Pimp my Ride” competition put out by Zero One Design called "Sponsor a Museum":

After evaluating 31 applications from museums across Canada, Zero One Design of Victoria BC congratulates the Vancouver Police Museum on being selected in the Sponsor a Museum program which will upgrade their online presence, collection management system, and website.

front-sinstourTo begin with the Vancouver Police Museum’s work is none to shabby (not like "Pimp my Ride)…you’d have to figure that Zero One Design can learn a thing or two from the Museum!

And the museum where I work – the Magnes – will be showcased at a Creative Commons salon in San Francisco next Wednesday, June 24th in San Francisco.

Recognize this logo?  It's how Creative Commons it's helping orgs for free all over the internet.

Recognize this logo? It's how Creative Commons it's helping orgs for free all over the internet.

Don't know Creative Commons?  It's a very serious and focused organization that dedicates itself to "saving the world from failed sharing.":

Creative Commons is a nonprofit corporation dedicated to making it easier for people to share and build upon the work of others, consistent with the rules of copyright.  We provide free licenses and other legal tools to mark creative work with the freedom the creator wants it to carry, so others can share, remix, use commercially, or any combination thereof.

So to come back around to this theme of sustainability.  What are they calling it in the for-profit world – it’s the “triple bottom line.” A term coined by John Elkington of Volans Ventures.

The triple bottom line (...also known as "people, planet, profit") captures an expanded spectrum of values and criteria for measuring organizational (and societal) success: economic, ecological and social.

And technology and the use of open source are having a big impact at museums of all sizes.  It's big boon to smaller museums. Click here to view an excellent presentation by Kaia Landon called "Technology for Small Museums."

And one of the things she focuses on is Omeka.

Omeka is a free and open source collections based web-based publishing platform for scholars, librarians, archivists, museum professionals, educators, and cultural enthusiasts. Its “five-minute setup” makes launching an online exhibition as easy as launching a blog. Omeka is designed with non-IT specialists in mind, allowing users to focus on content and interpretation rather than programming. It brings Web 2.0 technologies and approaches to academic and cultural websites to foster user interaction and participation. It makes top-shelf design easy with a simple and flexible templating system. Its robust open-source developer and user communities underwrite Omeka’s stability and sustainability.

Open source?  Media Foundations?  Has this thread sparked off any thoughts or comments?  What struck a chord?  There's gotta be some fresh fodder out there for WMA's New and Notable...




Hi James and a thoughtful post as usual. There's an event being held in August for the cultural sector through the auspices of Wikimedia Australia that your thoughts will feed nicely into - GLAM-WIKI: Finding the Common Ground.

Here's more about that event from the organiser Liam Wyatt: "This is a Wikimedia Australia event, a world first for the Wikimedia movement, to bring together the cultural sector with the Wikimedia community to learn from each other and work out ways we can better collaborate. I hope that it will form the basis for a long and productive global conversation over the years."

We'll be using Museum 3.0 to report on the event as well as the Twitter hash tag #GALM-WIKI

I think young people nowdays must work on keeping their own culture by preserving national values.
This could be achieved by keeping these values in a museum.
The Politechnics University Museum site was realized by a few students beeing published temporarily here:
It represents a science museum in where we can find varius hystorical technical models.
For improovments of the site wich is just a scale model you can write us a message on the
Contact Form.
Thanks for your support.

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Just want to see if you are a robot.