Guest post from Laura Haapio-Kirk, community manager at sharypic.com, a collaborative photo sharing platform for events. Laura has an MSc in Visual Anthropology from Oxford University and is interested in museum experience.
Photography is increasingly central to our everyday experience of the world, both as a means to mark significant moments and to document aesthetic sights (or, in some cases, to share what we’re having for dinner). However, in a museum we are often uncertain of whether photography is allowed and there is debate on the issue amongst museum professionals, with many institutions still hesitant to give full permission because uncertainty over lender’s rights (this informal survey highlights the issue nicely).
Public photography needs to be fully embraced by museums if they are to keep up with the way that people now mediate the world around them through images. Not only that, wouldn’t it be useful for curators to be able to access and analyse visitor photography? When and where photos are taken may provide important insight into museum experience. We might be able to increase visitor learning and engagement by encouraging photography, at the same time as having a tool to learn more about visitors themselves.
Photo by @pmisir via Twitter.
Museomix was a conference which took place in Lyon earlier this month, when hackers, artists, and museum professionals came together to rework visitor experience. Photos taken by participants were collected by sharypic using the event hashtag – you can view them in the slideshow below. Following on from this innovative event, it is a perfect time to discuss how photo sharing technology can enhance visitor experience in the museum.
Museums are able to increase visitor engagement and event visibility through photo sharing, as our work with the Royal Ontario Museum has demonstrated. On sharypic photos are collected via a hashtag or geolocation from all the major photo sharing apps, such as Instagram and Twitter. Photos are then broadcast via an event gallery on sharypic.com, on an embeddable live slideshow widget, and more importantly, on a live photowall during an event.
Below are reasons why museums should embrace collaborative and interactive photo sharing:
By tapping into the thousands of photos that are taken in museums every day, museum professionals are able to receive real-time visitor feedback and see which areas of the exhibition are most popular, or at least image-worthy
A live photowall makes an event or exhibition more social, memorable, and exciting. It encourages visitors to engage with each other and share their experience. It can also be a space to advertise upcoming exhibitions and to direct visitors to key attractions or locations in the museum.
Sharing an event in real-time on a website or blog through a slideshow widget extends visibility and attracts new audiences. This way a museum can showcase an exhibition through the eyes of the visitor.
Visitor activities both inside and outside the museum can be photography-based. For example provide the geographic location where an exhibit originates from and invite people to take photos there, before or after their visit. Or encourage visitors to find a certain exhibit and take a photo of it within the museum.
Direct flow to the museum website or blog by asking visitors to take a photo of an exhibit that most intrigues them, then put extra information online on the items that are the most photographed.
Do you agree that we should embrace visitor photography in a museum? What other ways can visitor photography be optimised in a museum? Or do you feel that people taking photos detract from exhibits?