Introduction Strengths

You’ve taken the first step, you’ve found north, and you’re moving along one step, or post, at a time. But what fuels your journey? What do you share in those posts? How do you use the strengths of your organization to cultivate relevance and relationship with your audience?

There are many paths to understanding what assets you have to share online. We’ll take you on a path of self-discovery to understand where you’re strongest to those who matter most to you. Self-discovery, at an organizational or personal level, can start small. Simply by observing the people, things, space, and happenings around you, you can understand who you are and what things you can share that energize you and others you work with. This is important because initial new and shiny ideas can become burdensome over time. We need to understand how our strengths can serve us inwardly, as well as our audiences, outwardly.

In this section, through careful noticing and listening, we’ll develop a mountain of sharable assets you have available to you, including intangible assets like the personalities, hobbies, and specialist skills of certain staff; your creative processes for making art or working in the office; your data; and the ways you plan and develop your work.  We’ll encourage you to make the list long. then we’ll help you step back and decide where you want to experiment with sharing, with whom, and with what voices. We’ll show you ways to encourage your audiences to re-mix what you share, and to invent their own projects using your assets. Finally we’ll give you a list of people and organizations to check out, that have found intriguing and surprising strengths to share.

Get ready to experiment with ways to fuel the journey you’ve begun. Prepare yourself to have your expectations exceeded, and to experience the natural lows of disappointment. Both experiences are critical to understanding who you are and where you’re strongest.

15 minutes to skim
3 hour exercise (min)
1 hour reflection
30 minutes to explore links
15 minutes to read again
5 hours minimum, across several days

Interview A Programmer on Remixing

Making your collection accessible online does not diminish it—it enhances its position.

We asked John Emerson a few questions about his experiences creating Twitter bots that draw from museum collections in order to gain insights into how organizations can invite audiences to be creative with their assets.

Read the Interview



Exercise Make a Wonderbook

For one day, week, month, or for an ongoing period of time, carry around a small notebook to record observations, “field notes” of what you might share online.

Pay attention to your community members, staff, collections, opinions, knowledge, processes, experiences, stories, products, data, events, and anything else that pops up. Everything goes in your Wonderbook. There’s no need to censor any observation or idea. Think of it as an exercise where you’d ideally post 10-20% of the ideas you record.

Step one: Get a Notebook

Pick a book that’s slim and fits in your pocket. We recommend the Field Notes style books you can find at most bookstores. but you can also use index cards. Don’t forget to carry a pen with you as well.

Step two: Carry It Everywhere

Carry the book everywhere while you’re at work and record any ideas that emerge (consider carrying it with you outside of work, too, at least for the first trial period). This can be done in real time, or as you’re recalling the events of the day or imagining what the next day or week might hold.

Step three: Write In It

Your field notes may include sketches, diagrams, quotes, bullets, timestamps, or anything else you think of that’s relevant. You can also do this on your phone or computer, but we recommend an analog treatment at first as it’s easier to stay in observation mode that way.

Step four: Review

Pick a time to go through your notes each day (or each week, if you’ve committed to a month or ongoing journal). Circle or highlight the things that seem most interesting. On a new sheet in your notebook, synthesize what you’ve observed, and note who you might follow up with (a fan or follower, a co-worker, a manager, an employee, etc.) to further vet the idea and continue to imagine what it might be.

Create a Wonderbook anytime you feel a bit stuck. Push yourself to draw your surroundings or an object that catches your attention. Even if you feel that you can’t draw well, the act of drawing a scene or object will help you notice more about it, and recall it later.

Reflection Mind Mapping Your Assets

Creating a mind map is a great method for reflecting on ways your community might remix the assets you already have.

Step one: Read the Following Article

Stanford professor, Rick Reis, at Tomorrow’s Professor has an excellent 5-minute read that overviews how to use mind mapping for brainstorming.  Go read it.

Step two: Create a Mind Map

Pick one of the two following prompts:

  • Identify an asset in your organization. This could be anything from something you’re well known for to something no one knows about. Using bars as spokes and building upon them, spend five minutes drawing out who, how, and why someone might want to share that asset.
  • Identify a team, department, or staff member. Using bars as spokes and building upon them, spend five minutes drawing out what assets that team, department, or staff person might have to share.

Get creative about what an “asset” could be. Think broadly about ideas, objects, people, knowledge, data, etc. Be sure to consider the audiences you identified as potential creators and users. Use color, highlighting, drawings or diagrams to make your mind map memorable.

Step three: File Away and Re-draw

Tuck your map away in a digital or analog file folder and set a reminder in your calendar to re-draw it from memory two days from now. See what you remember and what new things you imagine.

Go Further Five Links with Seb Chan

Seb Chan is Chief Experience Officer at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image in Melbourne. Prior to this he led the digital renewal and transformation of the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum in New York (2011-2015) and drove the Powerhouse Museum’s pioneering work in open access, mass collaboration, and digital experience during the 2000s. He has also worked as a museum consultant with institutions across North America, Europe, and Asia; and was a member of the Australian Government’s Gov2.0 taskforce. His work has won awards from American Alliance of Museums, One Club, D&AD, Fast Company, & Core77. He also leads a parallel life in digital art and electronic music.

# 1 — Digital Tools and Techniques for the Adventurous Historian

Tim Sherratt’s list of “digital tools and techniques for the adventurous historian,” which is an evolving resource and online course for doing things with your stuff that you might not have thought of doing from analyzing faces in archival records to text mining and creating public value in new ways. Tim’s work is prolific and generous and this resource is aimed at beginners. Tim is also on Twitter—@wragge.

# 2 — The mechanics of interface design

Wonderful long read on how the design of interfaces can help change how you can make a difference to how your assets can be used. Don’t be afraid of the technical nuance in this read, but think about how the tools and services you use every day might have lessons for how you think about your own assets can be interacted with. Think about the importance of interface, the importance of user-centered design, and where your organization may need to build some design muscles.

# 3 — Circus Oz Living Archive

One of many different presentations of a ‘collection’, in this case the performance archives of a famous Australian circus. Unlike, say the Rijksmuseum, the Circus Oz Living Archive has lessons for people in both the heritage/museum and the performing arts sectors. The archive has two roles, one of which resembles a museum collection as a browsable archive of performances, and the other as an internally facing training tool for passing on the ‘craft’ of circus performance to new performers joining Circus Oz. Consider how your assets might be able to create value both outside and inside your organization.

# 4 — What’s on the menu?

Still one of the best and most surprising digitization projects anywhere in the world. By taking an unexpectedly rich archive of menus from New York Restaurants and digitising them, the NYPL has been able to unlock a vast amount of interest in not only the content of menus in the city through time, but also in what it tells us about food culture, the cost of produce, food fads, and graphic design all from this one slightly unremarkable source. The menus were scanned and then the NYPL used crowdsourcing to extract the text and prices so the entire archive can be navigated by ingredient, dish, price.

# 5 — Visualizing Cultural Data

Digital humanities scholar Florian Kraeutli first came to prominence for his early data visualizations produced using open collection metadata from the Tate. Subsequently, he wrote a very accessible but detailed PhD thesis on the ways in which metadata from cultural institutions can be used, combine, remixed, and explored—and the limits to this. His entire PhD, richly illustrated with examples using museum data from around the world, is available freely online and is a great resource for those starting out, or trying to convince their institutions that new discoveries are there to be made.

Think Deeper Know What You're Getting Into

How can your strengths be resources for your audiences?

Strengths come in many forms, from objects to histories, processes, staff, ideas, or new perspectives. Beyond showing these strengths to audiences, how might you share them in a way that fosters creativity? How might projects, insights, or questions from your audience help you to see your strengths in a new light? How might your audiences’ creativity expand your reach to even more people?

Seeing the strengths in your organization’s staff

Other sections of this course focus on self-care, however, it is important for managers and directors overseeing expansions of digital engagement to consider staff as one of their organization’s greatest strengths. In this vein, it is crucial to ensure that the workload of digital engagement is sustainable and respects the privacy and personal time of staff. What planning conversations and on-going lines of communication are needed to make sure that staff are not overloaded? As new projects arise, how can they be balanced with existing obligations? What might you need to deprioritize or let go to make room for new work? What flexibility might be needed on the part of the organization to facilitate the new flexibility being required of staff?

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This course was created to encourage small and under-resourced non-profit professionals to navigate the changing landscapes of digital engagement with a spirit of possibility, experimentation, and thoughtfulness.

Read more about what inspired the course and learn about its makers.

Wanderway was commissioned by the Wyncote Foundation

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