Museums Online (small museums that is)

December 21, 2009 by

Hello! I am the Museum Education and Tour Coordinator at the Oberlin Heritage Center.  We are a small historical society / museum in Oberlin, OH and we just a launched a new website.  I have three big questions I’ll be asking at THATcamp:  1.  How can a small musuem/archive such as ours connect with educators to facilitate student digital projects (I like the sound of Mr. Gutowski’s 72 OVI project)?  2. How are small non-profits using web 2.0 and social networking to their greatest advantage?   3. What are some of the digital information management systems that people are using that would be appropriate for musuems of our size? 

We use our website and the database program FileMaker to post historic images, city directories, architectural inventories, and various historical information.  Are there better ways to do it?  Of course!  I know there are some great systems out there.   But what will work for us – an organization with 5 staff members, a really great volunteer force, some tech-savy college interns, and a wealth of history to share?

I’d be happy to discuss the development of our website, our new cemetery database, our admitedly weak attempts at blogging, and the many challenges any small history organization faces when expanding their web presence.  But in reading other posts I get the feeling that many of you are beyond that stage.  So, I instead offer to serve as “little guy” at THATcamp, asking pointed questions about cost, resources, and sustainability, and shamelessly stealing ideas to share with fellow small history organizations, many of which have even less of a web presence than we do.  And I will alwasy be ready to encouragingly say, “Don’t be afraid!  It’s okay to think big and start small.”

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6 Responses to Museums Online (small museums that is)

  1. Erin Bell on December 28, 2009 at 2:13 pm

    This should be a very exciting conversation. I know I love talking about projects that are free/open source, community-based, and (relatively) easy to build/manage/maintain by non-experts. To that end I really like Omeka for image repositories, and WordPress for blogs. They are easy enough to use that students, with a little instruction, can actually create/contribute content. I think several people at THATCamp have worked with students on such projects, and have experience with social web outreach, so I’m sure you’ll find a variety of approaches and opinions.

  2. stitcheanl on December 28, 2009 at 4:41 pm

    I have enjoyed visiting your actual and virtual sites. I look forward to talking with you at the conference.

    I have used filemaker as an internal database for many purposes. I usually export the data for use on the web though. You might look into the Ohio’s Heritage Northeast portal ( on CSU’s contentDM site. They provide free access to Historical Societies in the area. I have a filemaker database already set up to create exports for ContentDM that even include georeferenced links to Google Maps and Bing (as long as you have an address or coordinates for the picture). You would have to add some additional metadata to fit contentDM standards, but the work you already have done could be exported easily.

  3. oberlinheritage on December 29, 2009 at 5:31 pm

    Thanks already for the great suggestions! I have been watching tutorials on Omeka and exploring the latest mapping capabilities of Google and Bing. How difficult would it be to work with Omeka if our webserver is no longer on site? Our website is now hosted by a web design/host company that has bettter servers and security. We upload info through a content management module and have the option of doing FTP as well.

    Next I will explore how these program may tie into PastPerfect, our collections software. I’ve also started dreaming up ideas for an upcoming spring break camp and possibly teaching the kids how to upload content and create mini-web exhibits.

  4. Liz Murphy Thomas on January 7, 2010 at 3:16 pm

    As the director of a modestly-budgeted university gallery, I can definitely contribute on question #2 and hopefully learn more myself! Looking forward to this!

  5. […] questions further, but I’m especially curious how my questions relate to those presented by Elizabeth Schultz, Candace Nast, Marjorie McLellan, Andrea Odiorne, Justin Hons, Stephen Titchenal, Doug Lambert, […]

  6. […] these questions further, but I’m especially curious how my questions relate to those presented by Elizabeth Schultz, Candace Nast, Marjorie McLellan, Andrea Odiorne, Justin Hons, Stephen Titchenal, Doug Lambert, […]

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