Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Social Media Matters: An Interview with Jamie Glavic

Jamie Glavic is a museum professional and enthusiast. She serves on the board of the Ohio Museums Association, is a proud graduate of Developing History Leaders @SHA, Class of 2011, Chair of the SHA Alumni Committee, and a founding member, and current President, of the Emerging Museum Professionals Columbus Chapter. Jamie also blogs on current issues and trends affecting the museum field and history organizations at and tweets at @MuseumMinute. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of Cincinnati with a degree in history and has a particular affinity for dinosaurs and strategic planning literature. 

What’s your educational background?
I have a BA in History from the University of Cincinnati (GO BEARCATS!). While I don’t have a graduate degree (gasp, I know, I know), it is on my list of things to do – after I finish paying off my “first round” of student loan debt (I’m trying to be fiscally responsible – and have a life where I can order pizza from time to time).

I also have a certificate in Museum Leadership & Management from Developing History Leaders @SHA. What’s SHA you ask? SHA, or the Seminar for Historical Administration, is a program that combines depth (three weeks of engagement in deep discussion about issues facing our field) with breadth (discussions led by nationally recognized leaders in the history/museum field). It brings together current and future leaders in the public history field to learn in an intimate, collegial atmosphere. In short, it is awesome and I think is one of the best professional development experiences offered in the field.

What got you interested in Museums?
Dinosaurs. I’m convinced that dinosaurs are the gateway drug to all things awesome, especially science and history-based museum-ey things. The first time I saw a dinosaur, at the Anniston Museum of Natural History in Anniston, Alabama, it changed my life. I didn’t know what to do or how to do it exactly – but I knew I wanted to hang out in museums. I actually get goose bumps thinking about that moment. I did not study paleontology or attend a field school for a dig (because I’m just not that into dirt), but knowing I could always find dinosaurs in museums helped stoke an interest in both things, and my love of dinosaurs continues to this day; it’s exciting for me to see that same kind of appreciation from my nephews who are five, seven, and eight – they think dinosaurs are the coolest. That makes this history geek aunt, who drags them to museums every chance she gets, smile.

How does using social media inform your museum work?
Social media is a fabulous tool and has been a great catalyst in my museum career. I use social media to ask questions (and sometimes I find answers), make connections, join conversations, and share information that I find interesting or that is beneficial for the work that I do. Social media has allowed me to become a part of a much larger museum community and I look for ways to expand its use in my work every chance I get.

Tell us a little bit about how your “non-museum” skills/activities inform your museum work?
Before I entered the museum field I was a history student – and I will be one of the first people to tell you I am thankful for my humanities education. I do not regret my decision to study history (or pursue a career in humanities) because it has given me an edge when it comes to research and writing. I don’t write exhibit labels but I do enjoy writing pithy blog posts and using other creative outlets for connecting with our museum audiences. I do a lot of online reading – blogs, articles, twitter, Facebook – and at the end of the day I have to unplug with a good book. However, as a recovering history major –I don’t read nearly as much now as I did as an undergrad.

What are some of your favorite online (or offline!) resources for people interested in finding out more about the use of social media and museums?
As a social media enthusiast, I work hard to keep up with the latest information on its use in the museum field and am always finding new and interesting sources.  Some of my current favorite go-tos include:

Digital Engagement Framework
The NMC Horizon Report: Museum Edition
Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project
Museums and the Web
Museum Computer Network

What advice would you have for fellow museum professionals, especially those from smaller museums, in thinking about the best ways to leverage social media in their work?
The reality is that social media matters whether you want it to or not. It can no longer be a matter of “if” you do it – it’s become a matter of “how” you do it – and being sure that you make time for social media, because it has become necessary.  So, for the uninitiated, timid or overwhelmed, I would say start small. Pick one, maybe two  platforms to experiment with and inform this decision based on who your current audience is and who you would like for your audience to include/be in the (hopefully near) future (check out Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project if you need help defining audiences online). Give yourself at least six months. These tools take time. Your museum wasn’t built in a day. Be patient. Be genuine. Ask questions. And be flexible.

Also, and so important, play nice. Social media, and digital strategy, is a team sport. Content is generated from each department across any organization: education, programming, archives, etc. Their thoughts and feedback matter. Your colleagues are your champions/partners/allies. Don’t pretend to know everything, be a good listener, and be a team player.  

What do you think is the “next frontier” for museums?
The next frontier for museums is two-fold: one, I believe every museum will have a digital experience director on their exec team. This person will advocate that digital isn’t something additional that we do – rather, it’s embedded in our structure and has become a part of everything that we do. In the same vein, this person’s great responsibility will be to protect digital assets from become bastardized – i.e. using technology for technology sake, instead of integrating it strategically, so as to have the greatest impact possible for the organization  – strategy is key. We serve communities, and technology serves us.

The second big change will need to take place in the workplace structure itself. Cubicles will be a thing of the past. These silos everyone complains about between finance, marketing, programs, education and collections will become a faint memory when we all have to look at each other every day. We can’t have open and effective communication with the public without having open communication internally – building a team environment (a successful one) means tearing down walls, literally and physically, and getting your curators out of the collections facility.

What are some of your favorite museums or exhibitions?

Some of my favorite museums are:

Natural History Museum of Utah
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
Museum of Tolerance, Los Angeles
Philadelphia Museum of Art
The National WWII Museum

Some of my favorite exhibitions are:

Titian and the Golden Age of Venetian Painting: Masterpieces from the National Galleries of Scotland

I was lucky and saw the first showing of this exhibition in the U.S. at MFAH. It was so beautiful. I was completely engrossed in the paintings.

Wedded Perfection: Two Centuries of Wedding Gowns

My husband and I toured this exhibition a few days after we got married in Cincinnati. Wedded Perfection will always hold a special place in my heart.

Mark Rothko: The Decisive Decade 1940-1950

I love Rothko.

Your Body: The Inside Story

I toured this exhibition while in Baltimore for AAM. It was fun. I laughed. I played. And yes, I played a “symphony” of digestion noises.

The Star Spangled Banner

It’s so big! I saw this when my husband and I were last in D.C. I was a little overwhelmed when I walked into the space – I’ll never forget that moment of, “whoa…”

Can you talk a little about some of your current projects?
In my role as the Strategic Projects Coordinator I get thrown into a lot of projects – and gladly. I love the variety! My job requires me to constantly think outside of the box. I get to work with a phenomenal team of content specialists and general experts (library, archives, archaeology, civil war, photography, material culture, etc.). How they know what they know – and how MUCH they know – never ceases to astound me.

Also, I'm always adding to my "Meet a Museum Blogger" series on my Museum Minute blog !

If money were no object, what would your “dream” museum project be?
My dream museum project would be to host a museum-focused Travel Channel-type show, with my best friend and fellow museum professional, Dina Bailey. I imagine it being part Dirty Jobs, part How It’s Made, part Mysteries at the Museum. The show would highlight off the beaten path, interesting destinations/hidden gems around the world/the untold stories behind collections. The show could be titled, "It Belongs in a Museum!" It could also highlight the many museum jobs that exist outside the realm of curator, docent, and director. Hmmm...maybe "You Belong in a Museum" would be better. I'll let the execs at Travel Channel decide - they're reading this, right?

Thanks Jamie!   You can find out more about Jamie and her work at or by following her on Twitter at @MuseumMinute.

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