Written by Erin Branham.
Today I received a survey from the California Association of Museums Online Community asking me about how I interact online and what they could do to build a more robust online community. This, along with a recent conversation in a department meeting at my institution about where the really interesting professional conversations are now happening for museum educators (books? journal articles? listservs? online forums? blogs? conferences?), got me to thinking.
When I began in the field, there were certain authors of books, and occasionally journal articles, who greatly shaped my thinking and practice. Today, given the slow pace of book publication and the extreme dearth of journals that are useful for museum educators, my greatest influencers are bloggers and posters. Though the number of specifically museum education related blogs is (lamentably) very small, LinkedIn has good discussion forums, and museum-related blogs are many. A recent post on the Center for the Future of Museums discusses the professional advantages of blogging, as well as giving a few tips on how to build a successful professional blog.
I heartily believe the field of museum education must be more visible online. Just in the past couple of weeks, we’ve had the marvelous article on the benefits of museum field trips on EducationNext, which deserves a robust discussion in our field; that is, the kind that happens in other museum-related areas. Witness the intense online conversation that has coalesced around the two diametrically opposed opinion articles about museums in the last 6 weeks: Judith Dobrynski’s New York Times piece High Culture Goes Hands-on (museums are too interactive! There’s no room for quiet contemplation anymore!) and James Durston’s CNN article Why I Hate Museums (museums are boring! Give me a story! Show, don’t tell!) Would you like a fascinating look into both your colleagues and the general audience? Read the comment sections on both of those articles, or the various blog posts responding to them. Such as Art Museum Teaching, Dennis Kois, Ed Rodley, Flux Boston, Adrianne Russell, Robert Connelly, Dana Allen-Greil, Museum Minute – and I’m sure there are ones I’ve missed. While many on the bloggers above engage with topics that are of tremendous importance to museum educators, only one of these blogs is actually BY museum educators.
So I’m wondering, who do you look to professionally to keep you informed, and to inspire you? What are you reading and who’s writing it? Where do you exchange useful ideas, engage in debate, challenge yourself in thinking about your practice? If you are active online professionally, what are the advantages and disadvantages?