Tuesday 9 December 2008


Avid Twitterer and art blogger Tyler Green has struck out at the inanity being spouted forth by museums who are twittering.

To paraphrase Green - maybe y'all could just tweet about art? Museums sometimes seem to fall into one of two traps (and sometimes both in alternate tweets). Either you feel like you're being feed 140-characters of marketing plug, or you're wondering why the hell you're listening in on someone's private life during work time.

Don't get me wrong. I tweet about work. But I don't tweet on behalf of my workplace. See the distinction?

So, if you're NZ gallery or museum that's thinking about Twittering in the new year (and I would encourage you to consider this- it's one of the fastest, cheapest ways of entering the new-ish web world) here are some things things that I as a Twitter user want you to do:

  • be informative - tell me about new acquisitions, interesting projects, vacancies
  • be visual - link to installation shots or video
  • be helpful - remind me of special events, and the opening and closing of exhibitions
  • be generous - tweet about other people's events and exhibitions if they align with your own (I want to think staff at my local gallery have their finger on the pulse)
  • be genuine - treat me like your friend, not your target audience

Having said this - I wonder if The Big Idea is thinking of tweeting vacancies as part of their site overhaul? It would be a very savvy move.


Anonymous said...

You have misrepresented the facts. These tweets were NOT sent on behalf of a museum, but an individual who works at a museum. There is a significant difference. Believe it or not, museum employees are normal human beings who talk about their work as well as a myriad of other interests--"inanane" and otherwise.

Anonymous said...

Maybe you should also add 'be considerate'. The @wcl_library tweets come past like spam virtually every 20 minutes, it's like they're cataloguing each new book using Twitter! I want highlights, not every book.

Richard McCoy said...


I'm not sure I agree with all of this, though. I thought the examples above fairly well fit into what you want out of a museum.

Both personal and information. I don't think I would have been aware of that fascinating Kauffman story if not for twitter. It's not surprising to me that a PR person would be reading PR weekly and occasionally geek out about an odd story about the humanizing of a pirate.

I mean, what if the pirates had twitter accounts?

Courtney Johnston said...

Okay, I concede - that was probably a bad screenshot to pick. And I'm as guilty as any other workplace Twitterer of mixing work-related announcements, random observations, attempts at humour and link-feeding in my stream.

I guess it comes down to intent. Like Staplegun, the WCL stream drove me nuts & I quit following almost immediately - esp. when they wouldn't let me DM them.

All these new technologies take a while to bed in, and for people on both ends to find the sweet spot that combines useful information (which is why I'd follow an institutional Twitter stream) and personality (which is why I'd find the following enjoyable - and presumably, why the person inside the institution pushing the tweets out is bothering to do it).

Anyone have a favourite museum/gallery/other Twitter?

Courtney Johnston said...

Oh, and Richard - another observation.

We have a phrase in new Zealand - the tyranny of distance. There aren't any NZ institutions (or employees) twittering that I know of, and so I'm making my assumptions based on some of the US galleries and museums I follow. The distance (and the deficits of my knowledge regarding American art and the American art-scene - there's only so many RSS feeds a girl can follow!) mean that a lot of the tweets go over my head - therefore seem less "useful".

It's a really interesting area. I picked up this post on tweeting politely this morning - inevitably via Twitter - and while it's tongue-in-cheek, it also has some nuggets of good advice.

Having thought this through more clearly - as an audience member, I would quite like the galleries I follow to set up dedicated Twitter streams that I could elect to follow, if I wish to keep up to date with their (public) activities. It'd be a useful addition to my life. I guess this was the point I would have come to if I spent more than 7 minutes blogging and crafted more thought-through posts!

Richard McCoy said...

That link was a good read. I really don't know why I mess with twitter. Though, in the end, it's cool mainly because I can, for example, connect with you in NZ back here in the middle of US.

I though that Tyler Green's post was pretty harsh about insisting that museums talk about art all the time. I work around art all the time and find other conversations just as interesting so I'm happy to hear about nonsense and diversions from other folks in museums.

Thanks for the thoughtful response.

Courtney Johnston said...

hey, thanks Richard. I agree - even if sometimes we get a bit of long-distance crackle in the communications, it's pretty amazing that we have them!