Today, as many museum readers might know, was Ask a Curator Day, a worldwide event on Twitter. Museums signed up, volunteering to answer any and all questions via Twitter. I dipped in and out all day, as the questions and answers rolled across the globe, from New Zealand and Australia, through Europe, and then on to the Western Hemisphere. It was the top trending topic on Twitter for a while, and the questions and answers make fascinating reading.
But I was particularly interested in the questions put to history museums. In looking at the list, for US museums at least, history museums were underrepresented in terms of the proportion of history museums as compared to museums overall. Why? Are history museums less likely to use Twitter? are their supporters, fans, people interested in history less likely to use? Hundreds of questions were posed generally to curators and I really appreciated the small history museums that took the time to weigh in on entering the field, the best part of the job and the like. I'd be interested in hear from those history museums who did participate about how they heard about it and why they chose to.
Ask a Curator reinforced the idea that we can never know what our audience is interested in. We plan, we script, we prototype, we focus group--but then, surprising questions! For instance:
- Where can I find a good collection of antique maps and globes in the Boston area
- To the Police Museum, Vancouver:
- Do you have any info about my great-grandfather Chief Constable WW (Billy) Foster?
- What is the oldest known color photo?
- What resources do you suggest for research on specific lighthouses and their keepers?
- What do curators think of the ending of the western narrative?
- From the Chekhov Museum in Russia to the Imperial War Museum in London: What Russian artifacts do you have in your collection?
- To Monticello: Do you know how many times TJ traveled to New England?
- Do you have a link to a site that outlines the work you do with people at risk of social inclusion?
- Any Alaska museums--do you do anything special to attract visitors in winter?
- To the Lower East Side Tenement Museum: why r so many tenements on the LES build around the same size? 5 to 6 floors. Was that a law requirement?
And a special thanks to the event's organizer, Jim Richardson--a truly amazing effort!