How Do We Meet in the Middle?: an open discussion on scholarly research and entertainment platforms

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Elizabeth Galvin, The British Museum, UK, Shelley Mannion, The British Museum, UK, Devin Reese, Smithsonian Institution, USA, Dan Kulpinski, Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, USA

Increasingly, museums are engaging with digital platforms that have previously been seen as entertainment channels. YouTube, twitter, tumblr, facebook and countless other entities provide access to large audiences worldwide, many of whom are not thought of as the ‘traditional museum’ targets. Equally, scholarly research is, as ever, an essential part of a museum curator’s remit. In its traditional format this work, whilst of significant academic importance, might not be the most accessible to the general audience. How do we, as both curators and digital specialists, work together to use these entertainment platforms to engage the public in scholarly research online? How do we engage visitors, many of whom may never be able to visit our respective collections, to be interested in in-depth, peer-reviewed research? Curatorial research at the highest levels is the result of years of study, fieldwork and experience; often well beyond the remit of a 140 characters or a YouTube video. This will be a case study based introduction from the Smithsonian and British Museum followed by an open discussion encouraging audience participants to bring successful, and not so successful, examples from their respective institutions.

Possible topics for discussion include:
1.) Beyond mummies, dinosaurs and spaceships: how do we move beyond the traditional audience-grabbers to share important findings and research with less ‘star quality’ pull?

2.) What should be disseminated beyond peer-reviewed journals? In the age of austerity and finite budgets, how do we pick and choose?

3.) Picking the right platform: tailoring the research for the best-suited outputs and finding your audience

4.) Choosing the right levels: how do we meet in the middle between being condescending versus alienating a non-specialist audience?

5.) Using analytics and feedback to analyse what has been ‘effective’. What is the definition of effective? Is the widest possible audience the best audience?