Mariana Di Giacomo – @MarianaDGiacomo
Being on Twitter is extremely fun for me. People are hilarious and I’m constantly learning from those I follow. As a paleontologist, I am drawn towards fossils, and Twitter is no different. I follow paleontologists, museums, and even SUE the T. rex. I also have another interest, and that is conservation of museum collections. This makes me also follow conservators, organizations, and anyone who tweets about these topics.
A while ago, I signed up to manage the account @RealScientists, hoping to get the word out about my work in #FossilConservation. This account has over 66,500 followers, and these numbers increase weekly with every person curating the account. The idea of doing this felt exciting, but also scary because I was afraid I was not going to be able to manage speaking to such a huge audience. When one of the admins of the account contacted me, I was super happy to have the opportunity to share my work.
Curating the account means you can tweet as often as you want for a whole week. You are free to do polls, engage in Q&As, talk about your science, and even about yourself. It is a great way for others in the Twittersphere to know you, and to learn from you. I tweeted mostly about my experience in paleontology collections, but also focused on conservation.
There is one tweet in particular I want to share because I did not expect it to be so popular, and for people to be so interested. It was a tweet about the 10 agents of deterioration. My idea was to make the tweet accessible to those not working in conservation, by using emojis. This proved to be an excellent choice; the tweet has 330 likes, 146 retweets (plus 25 retweets with comment), and was seen by more than 32,000 users. Who knew people would be so excited about preventive conservation and collections care?
The most exciting part was not only seeing the likes and retweets, but reading and replying to comments. I kept tweeting that day about the different agents of deterioration, and even though those tweets were not as popular as the main one, I received comments on them as well. People were intrigued by the effects of light, as well as by the effects of temperature and relative humidity. The agent “thieves and vandals” felt odd to one user, who thought this was no longer an issue in museums. Money and budgets was also a topic of discussion, as well as participation of conservation professionals when deciding construction and renovation projects. Emergency preparedness and involvement of the inside and outside community were touched upon, and people responded positively. It blew my mind how interested people were in these topics.
One of the short conversations I enjoyed the most was about education in conservation. An educator asked how to support students interested in these topics, and I gave her some suggestions for success in the field, but ended up talking about advocacy for diversity in conservation. This brings me to the last thing I want to talk on this post: the importance of social media.
I know this has been spoken about a million times, and those managing accounts for museums and collections say this all the time. However, all of us working on conservation need to be more active if we want to inspire change. From the 330 likes I had on the post about the agents of deterioration, many came from conservators and museums, but a lot came from people outside the field. People are fascinated by treatments’ “before and afters”, but they also care about collections. Bringing communities into the backstage is something we should all do, and should do more often. In a single week, I had over a million views of my tweets, from people from all over the world. This shows how powerful social media can be for outreach purposes, and why we should be more involved.
Tell people about what you do. Be humble. Recognize when you don’t know something. Be open to comments and suggestions. Learn when to disconnect. Have fun. Inspire. Those are the things I learned during this week. If you’re on Twitter, you should consider signing up for something like this. If you’re not, what are you waiting for?