Flickr, guest posts, social media strategy

Interview with Georgina Goodlander: Fill the Gap Flickr Campaign

8 Comments 16 July 2009

Fill the Gap: Case 55B (July 09)

Fill the Gap: Case 55B (July 09)

How do you truly involve the general public and ask them to engage, online with art?  If you are the Luce Foundation Center for American Art, you offer the public the ability to become “citizen curators.” The Luce Foundation Center occupies 20,400 square feet of the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s space.  It is an open study/storage facility displaying about thirty-three hundred objects from the collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. In essence, it is visible storage for the museum. The Smithsonian American Art Museum lends work out, often for 12 months to other institutions, leaving gaps in the display units. The Luce Foundation Center is responsible for selecting the art that will fill the gaps.

What is the Luce Foundation Center doing? Crowdsourcing the art selection process, and opening it up to the public. Absolutely brilliant!

The Luce Foundation Center created a Flickr campaign to literally “Fill the Gap” in the gallery case. When there is a need to fill a gap, the Luce Center posts a photo on its Flickr site of a gallery case that has a “gap” in the art, includes the dimensions of the gap, and asks the public to search its online catalogue for ideas. Participants search for pieces on the Luce Center’s website – it has 41,000 cataloged pieces of art on its website – and suggest replacement pieces from the catalogue.

I thought this was such an innovative use of Flickr that I incorporated it into a previous blog post about arts organizations using Flickr creatively. I also contacted Georgina to learn more the campaign’s inspiration, how the Luce Center is utilizing the “Listen, Learn, Adapt” methodology during the campaign, and any advice she would give other institutions creating Flickr campaigns. She kindly answered all of the questions below:

Q. What is the relationship of the Luce Foundation Center to the Smithsonian American Art Museum?

A. The Luce Foundation Center is part of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, displaying around 3,300 works from its collection. Luce Foundation Center staff members are responsible for almost all operations within the Center, including making recommendations for the artworks that replace those that leave. If an artwork leaves for less than 12 months, we do not replace it. We simply put up a sign that tells the visitor where the artwork is (on loan to another museum, on view elsewhere in the building, or in the conservation center for treatment). We are storage, after all. However, if an artwork leaves for more than 12 months we do replace it.

Q. What was the inspiration for Fill The Gap?

A. The last year or so has been very busy, with over 40 paintings and objects departing long-term for a variety of reasons. As a result, there are some gaps that we don’t have the time to give the attention that they deserve, or we have tried to find replacements and have been unable to come up with anything with which we are happy. The inspiration for the Flickr “Fill the Gap” project actually came from a talk given by Clay Shirky at the Smithsonian 2.0 conference in January 2009, in which he talked about how Flickr is a great tool to facilitate communities. I realized that this would be the perfect environment for us to solicit the public’s help in filling some of our long-standing gaps.

Q. What are the objectives of the campaign?

A. Our objective is to have the public select works to fill gaps in the Luce Foundation Center display, while also revealing a little of how the museum operates.

Q. What would you consider the biggest successes of the campaign and the biggest disappointments?

A. The biggest success is that we have had participants making excellent suggestions and that we have successfully filled three gaps since the project’s inception. The biggest disappointment is that there aren’t more people joining in, but considering that we are asking people to invest quite a bit of time and energy, this wasn’t too surprising.

Q. What have you learned and how will you incorporate those lessons into the campaign as it continues?

A. Our intern Jessica Hass is working on a low-tech version that will be in the physical museum and will invite visitors to “vote” for their favorite out of around 20-30 possible replacements. We will then post the winning (and approved) object to the Flickr site.

Hopefully the project will evolve to offer different types of participation. Those that don’t have a lot of time might vote for an object based on a pool selected by us, but those that want to dig deeper would start from scratch with the entire museum collection to choose from. I definitely anticipate further modifications to both the online and on-site versions as we explore different ideas and gather feedback accordingly. No project is ever static in the Luce Foundation Center!

Q. Do you have advice for an organization using Flickr as a campaign  platform?

A. If you plan to solicit user content and comments, you need to assign at least one person to monitor and respond to these. People using social media tools like Flickr expect quick responses!

Georgina Goodlander is the Manager of the Luce Foundation Center at the Smithsonian American Art Museum.  She manages all aspects of the Luce Foundation Center, from staff, visitor services, and public programs to interpretation and new media. Georgina and her staff are pictured in this photo, below.

Tierney Sneeringer, Bridget Callahan, Edward Bray, and Georgina Goodlander

Tierney Sneeringer, Bridget Callahan, Edward Bray, and Georgina Goodlander

What do you think about Fill the Gap? How has this campaign inspired you? What will you do with Flickr creatively?

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  • This is really interesting and I wish I had known about how to use Flickr strategically like this a few years ago when we launched an “Art Project” for a new cancer building for my hospital.

    Because we serve a poor population, there was little thought given to what would go up on the walls of the brand new cancer facility we built. But my boss and others were big believers in the therapeutic impact of art on everyone, regardless of race or income.

    Having something like this Flickr site would have allowed more community input on the pieces selected. Although we serve the poor we’re actually situated in an upscale community with lots of art galleries. While the effort turned out great, a Firckr campaign might have helped to fill in our own gaps and involved more of the community, especially potential donors.

    Lesson learned!

    [Reply]

  • This is really interesting and I wish I had known about how to use Flickr strategically like this a few years ago when we launched an “Art Project” for a new cancer building for my hospital.

    Because we serve a poor population, there was little thought given to what would go up on the walls of the brand new cancer facility we built. But my boss and others were big believers in the therapeutic impact of art on everyone, regardless of race or income.

    Having something like this Flickr site would have allowed more community input on the pieces selected. Although we serve the poor we’re actually situated in an upscale community with lots of art galleries. While the effort turned out great, a Firckr campaign might have helped to fill in our own gaps and involved more of the community, especially potential donors.

    Lesson learned!

    [Reply]

  • Joe, this is a great idea to crowdsource photos for public art spaces! I bet there are still interesting ways that you could engage your population by using photo sharing, and I’d love to hear about that when you do. Thanks for stopping by!

    [Reply]

  • Joe, this is a great idea to crowdsource photos for public art spaces! I bet there are still interesting ways that you could engage your population by using photo sharing, and I’d love to hear about that when you do. Thanks for stopping by!

    [Reply]

  • Great example of crowdsourcing! I’m so glad you saw it and posted about it. I love reading real world examples of nonprofits using social media. Its also great to see folks like these using the tools in creative ways. Good stuff Debra.

    http://twitter.com/franswaa

    [Reply]

  • Great example of crowdsourcing! I’m so glad you saw it and posted about it. I love reading real world examples of nonprofits using social media. Its also great to see folks like these using the tools in creative ways. Good stuff Debra.

    http://twitter.com/franswaa

    [Reply]

  • Pingback: Virtual museums and memorials use online resources to promote an interactive approach to history | Visual Arts()

  • Karls

    In theory I feel this is a good idea but outsourcing curation to Flickr is more than a little cheeky without offering something back. I like the sharing and trust currency of social media but taking advantage of this leaves a poor taste in my mouth.

    [Reply]

About

Debra Askanase is an experienced digital engagement strategist, non-profit executive, and community organizer. She works with mission-driven organizations to develop digital strategies and campaigns that engage, create trust, and move stakeholders to action. Debra speaks at conferences worldwide on the intersection of technology, social media, and nonprofit organizations.

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