If you've been hiding under one of those handy internet-rocks for a while, Pinterest is a social sharing site on which members create 'boards' of images gleaned from around the web, which can then be followed and liked by other members; individual items can also be 'repinned' from another member's board to your own. The site is very popular with designers, stylists, crafters, and the kind of people who tumble pretty shiny things. Like Tumblr, there's a certain element of look-at-me-and-my-exquisite/quirky-taste.
I started using the site because I wanted to see how heritage items would fare on it. Would they pique the curiosity of members? What would prove of the most interest (pinterest?)? Could pinning an item from a website lead people back to the source? Might all this lead people to start investigating heritage material for themselves?
More than a year and a half after leaving the National Library, where I worked on several channels aimed to open up the collections to a wider online audience (like the @NLNZ twitter account, and getting the Library on Flickr Commons), these are questions I still spend a lot of time thinking about. And, to be honest, I spend a lot of time scouring the collections, through Digital New Zealand and National Library Beta. I constantly find things that tickle my fancy, start a Wikipedia trawling session, puzzle me, move me: above all, I find things that require sharing.
So, I have started using Pinterest.
I'm only a couple of days in. I've set up boards for old photos of hats and hairstyles, beautiful commercial and social marketing posters, Kobi Bosshard, Karl Fritsch, and hotties from history (because I'm still disappointed about not being able to add Bob Semple to My Daguerreotype Boyfriend). From the little bits of activity I've seen so far, graphic design is by far and away the most popular content, and colourful also attracts attention (so more Karl Fritsch, less Kobi Bosshard).
If I were still at the Library, and not doing this myself, I'd be far more active - searching the site, following boards, repinning and commenting away merrily. As it is, the site's content is by and large not to my personal interest: I'm not going to while away time as I do on Goodreads. I have started following a couple of existing (real world) friends, and following SFMOMA's It's hip to be square board (totally to my liking).
From my brief experiment, I'd say Pinterest is definitely worth collecting institutions' attention. It's easy to sign up (although it's interesting that you create accounts by authorising connections to your Facebook or Twitter account: you're a bit buggered if you haven't started taking those basic steps) (also, you have to wait days to have your membership activated - WTF?). The bookmarklet tool is convenient to use (and highlighting text on a page automatically inserts it into the item's description on the site). And maybe most importantly, copyright seems to be well managed.
The community rules encourage good acknowledgement of sources and accurate links back to the original item. Individual items display their original source prominently. You can tailor your description to include all the source acknowledgements you like. There are ways of seeing all the items from a specific site. The Copyright page has clear instructions for anyone who feels their work is being misused. This won't be nearly enough for some institutions, but really - it's time to come play in the real world.
This blogpost has (painstakingly detailed) instructions for getting started on the site; this one identifies a couple of museums that are already on there. I feel like my (aging now) questions you should ask yourself before setting up one of these channels for your organisation still hold pretty firm:
- Why do you want to do this? What's the big good reason for doing this, and can your aims be achieved using any existing tools?
- What are you offering? Where will the content come from, and is there anything you have to do to ensure you can use it or make it?
- Who is this for? Who is the audience you're reaching out to, how will you engage with them, and do they want to hear from you?
- Who will be doing this? Any form of outreach needs staff with some time allocated to the endeavour, and a knack for tweaking people's interest.