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Hood online:// Joining the Web Revolution

Hood Quarterly, spring/summer 2009
Rachel Tardelli Vermeal, Communications and Public Relations Coordinator, and Nils Nadeau, Communications and Publications Manager

As part of the Hood communication teams early efforts to reach out to new audiences (and to the museum's current audience, but in new ways), the Hood has entered the world of online social media. The Internet now supports all kinds of interactive communications tools, leading to it being dubbed Web 2.0 by technology experts to differentiate it from the original, more static and documentary, use of the Internet in the 1990s.The possibilities here are exciting and ever-expanding. Over the past several months, the Hood has established a presence on Web 2.0 platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Flickr [and now Instagram], and it has converted its online museum news page to an easily accessible RSS feed [now replaced by our own website's News page].* By using these powerful (and popular) new tools, the Hood strives to include both our actual and our virtual communities more fully in our programming.

In addition, the Hood's dedication to encouraging and developing its visitors visual literacy is considerably enhanced through the new capabilities of these online platforms. For instance, Flickr allows users to browse any of the museum's images (in its dedicated photostream) according to their interests; it also supplies slideshows to the museums own website. The RSS news feed presents users with the opportunity to be notified when a story is posted, and to browse stories (as they do images) at their convenience and according to their interests. It also enhances our search engine presence online, thereby introducing the Hood to potential new audiences anywhere in the world via Google and the like. Facebook is another great example of how the museum can use these technologies to enrich our interactions with visitors.

For example, we can promote our intern-curated Space for Dialogue shows directly to Dartmouth students, many of whom are avid members of Facebook. Events can be advertised, or targeted online invitations sent out, according to the wonderfully specific Facebook demographics. Our monthly email newsletter, Hood Happenings, can be sent directly to fans of the museum's Facebook page. We should not underestimate the potential here: the site's founder, Mark Zuckerberg, states on his Facebook blog that "150 million people around the world are now actively using Facebook and almost half of them are using Facebook every day. [Five years ago] most of the people using it were college students in the United States. Today, people of all ages--grandparents, parents, and children--use Facebook in more than 35 different languages and 170 countries and territories." 

Through such interactive platforms, the individual has a voice; indeed, there are usually spaces for feedback that in the Hoods case will encourage dialogue about the museum and art-related issues. By incorporating Web 2.0 technologies into our communications toolbox, we are engaging with our growing audience of museum supporters, visitors, and art lovers using a rich array of options for both museum- and user-generated (and shared) content. We hope to see you online soon!

*RSS: Really Simple Syndication; a le format that allows an individual to subscribe to news and media updates through a Feed Reader
*Facebook: A social networking website growing at the rate of 600,000 users a day.
*Twitter: A social networking service that allows you to connect with others using up to 140 characters at a time.
*Flickr: An image hosting site that integrates with the Hoods Web site and Facebook presence.

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