CFM’s recent post on natural history specimens as social media was wildly popular, attracting over 1,300 hits within one week. Given the evident fan base for Blobby (and Sue) it seems worth delving deeper into the story behind these internet stars. Lynda Kelly, Head of Audience Research at the Australian Museum, shares a bit of the backstory behind Mr. Blobby, and how he came to be anointed “spokespecimen” for the Museum.
The Museum got interested in social media very early on. An Australian Research Council Grant, New Literacy, New Audiences (2004), was the first where we started looking at delivering content to audiences across digital media. This project was also used to train staff to think about modes of content delivery and to develop a series of digital stories (Australian Museum Stories). The Museum then received a further grant in 2008, Engaging with Social Media in Museums, which enabled us to play in the social spaces of the web. We used this grant to experiment and test our presence in sites such as YouTube, Facebook and Twitter and learn together about what these spaces were like and how to engage our audiences within them. Parallel to this was the redevelopment of our website (since launched in June 2009) so the time was ripe for the Museum to work out where we wanted to be online and how best to achieve our goals and who best to do it (answer = everyone!).
Following the adventures of Mr Blobby has been a treat and a delight. Who would have thought that so many people could be taken with such an innocuous creature as a blobfish? One of the areas I am becoming interested in is the conjunction between physical museum sites and their online counterparts. We have (and will continue to) seen Mr Blobby as a way to connect with audiences wherever they are and somehow get them to actually visit the Museum. This I see is the next wave of what a museum should be – as George Brown Goode (a former Smithsonian Director) said “The people’s museum should be more than a house full of specimens in glass cases. It should be a house full of ideas”. Following this, I see the 21st century museum is a house full of ideas, yet at the same time a house without walls. Mr Blobby (and Gagali the Gecko and everything else we are doing in the online space) are small steps towards achieving that museum. More on these ideas will follow from various keynote speeches I am giving over the next two months so watch the Audience Research Blog and Museum 3 as I blog and post about my adventures!