Internet Librarian Rough Cut: Tuesday Keynote – Radical Collaboration – Nina Simon

This was one of the best keynotes I have ever been to. If you need a conference session on involving the community in your institution I HIGHLY RECOMMEND trying to get Nina Simon of the Santa Cruz Art and History Museum to talk to your group.

Here are my raw notes from the keynote. They’re offered in the belief that posting something rough right away is better than something more polished a month from now. Feel free to fight me on this, especially if you don’t find the notes useful.


Slides are online (Not as of press time and they are probably not as meaningful without the talk)

Nina spoke from floor rather than podium

Three years ago, Santa Cruz museum was broke and more people knew it used to be the jail, but not that it was currently a museum.

She is author of Museum 2.0 blog. General outlook – every visit to museum can potentially make it better.

PARTICIPATION – Art and history are things people do, not just shown.

Museum programs are created by others, facilitated by staff.

Art ex – Memory Jars from participation.

Every way you in engage in art and history is valid

SOCIAL BRIDGING – Content creation is also opportunity to meet others. This concept is linked to social capital.

______ – Last 60 years have seen lack of social bridging experience. [Bonding experiences vs bridging experiences]

One event brought knitters and graphitti artists together.

If they have a music event, they’ll put rap and opera together.

Santa Cruz dropped family days because they want to create intergenerational experiences.

[Note – Nina Simon might be a great speaker]

EXPERIMENTATION – Risk taking is life. They put on an exhibit of fire art.

Done three times without casualties

SC – Reject putting things out when perfect – iterate, minimum acceptable to start

2010-11 17K visitors – loss

2011 – 37 K

2012 – 41 K

They’re getting more visitors and making money.

Also experiencing upswing on social side.

This has not come without pain.

Note 1 – Revoluton is not an exercise in concentric circle

Political cartoon – accusations of dumbing down led to knowledge people were paying attention.

SC Museum had to shift. See circle. Purple circle old, yellow new? Required recentering their programs.

Pop-Up Museum event at a Bar – F my Ex – bring something from a failed relationship. While event was successful, suggests NOT putting F into your flyers.

SC Museum sells itself as a community resource – see comment that starts of “I’m closer to the stodgy traditional” – Think of museum board members like board members for soup kitchen – supporters but not necessarily users

Note 2 – Invite meaningful action at all levels

SC has a wishlist in their e-mail newsletter – ask for boxes let to sizable cardboard castle. Creates opportunities to participation.

[NOTE: Really need to join my local friends group.]

Note 3 – Be Rigorous

Had criticism of being too flightly. Be sure of why you’re doing what you’re doing. SC Museum does a lot of community dialog.

[Nina Simon – Another potential speaker for DirLead/Future AkLA]

Need a better model then “we produce programming”/Mission Accomplished

Museum Goal – Our community grows stronger and more connected.

Note 4: Think Platforms

Pop up museums, crowdsourcing – things that can scale

Note: 5 Make Space

Risk Takers need Space Maker

(South Carolina example)

SC Museum also runs Evergreen Cemetary in Santa Cruz.

When Nina took over, was druggie space and very overgrown.

Partnered with Homeless Center a half mile from Cemetary. So every Monday, homeless and other volunteers do cemetary restoration – including 75 year old docents and homeless guys (library research, landscaping, etc)

No paid staff do this. They just created space for people who want to run with it.

Q&A comments

Small institutions should try to leverage their smallness. No small coffee shop aspires to be Starbucks.

Note: Look up Pocket Museum from SC

Accept that you may lose control of presentation as you become more participatory.

Santacruzmah is on Flickr

Do “Make and Share” not “Make and Take” – See Ed Martinez: “Forage Species”

Use artists and experts to create invitations for participations.

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