AIC’s 40th Annual Meeting – Outreach Session, May 10, 2012, Communicating Conservation with Nancie Ravenel, Rosa Lowinger, Heidi Sobol, Melissa Tedone, and Beth Doyle

This outreach session brought together conservators from different parts of the profession to discuss how they have communicated conservation through social media, especially blogging.

Nancie Ravenel introduced the session, she has been running a very successful Flickr site to promote conservation at Shelburne Museum. Nancie presented for Rosa Lowinger.  Rosa Lowinger’s paper focused on a television interview that she gave after the 1994 Northridge earthquake.  Rosa had prepared for the interview and cleaned her lab, set up a few art pieces she wanted to talk about, and felt that the interview went well.  6 months later she saw the interview and she was shocked at how she appeared, while she felt she was slightly irreverent during the interview, she thought she came across as incompetent.  This experience taught her a few lessons about working with the press that she shared:

1.  Everything you say is on the record, do not share anything you do not want quoted.

2. If you know you are going to be interviewed, prepare.  Prepare some anecdotes you want to present.

3. Don’t do your thinking out loud, take your time before you answer something tricky, as you can be quoted on anything you say.

4. Make sure your space is ready to be recorded as well, clean your space, remove any confidential information out of sight.

Rosa also blogs for for the column ‘Ask the Art Nurse‘ and she had a few pointers for bloggers.

– All the rules of journalism apply to blogs, you should check the Electronic Frontier Foundation for more information about your rights.

– Consider your audience and format accordingly, people want to see pictures and not read text (something I am not following in this post, sorry!)

– Be generous with links and link to other sites, they will in turn link to you, ask to use images, you can register with MoMAPress as a blogger to gain permission to use images.

– For music check or

– For video there is

– You should have a clear point of view, be pithy and informative and not self-important, blogs are not digital versions of our academic position papers, but they are living with pictures, videos, and they are interactive.

The next presentation was from Heidi Sobol and Mark Farmer at the Royal Ontario Museum.  Heidi presented about 2 case studies from the ROM.  The first case study was from ‘Restoring the Palampore‘ which was a video blog on the ROM website and Youtube.  This covered a major treatment and highlighted the opening of a new gallery.

366 unique page views
time spent ~ 4 minutes
86% bounce rate (high)
77.4% exit rate (high)

The second case study was a series of blog posts titled ‘On the mend‘ that followed the treatment of a portrait of a Chinese official.  These posts were text with images, encouraging the visitor to check back to see new posts while the treatment progressed.

On the mend
241 unique page views
time spent – 57 seconds

Overall, visitors to the Palampore site spent longer (probably to watch an entire video) but did not read much else on the ROM blog.  Visitors to the On the mend posts were 2x as likely to read other posts, showing an increase in ‘stickiness’ for these posts.

She emphasized that the most popular posts are ‘behind the scenes’ and conservators should take a popular event or topic and then embed scholarly facts to really capture an audience.

The final presentation came from Melissa Tedone and Beth Doyle, about a collaborative project between Iowa State University Library and Duke University library where they work, respectively. Each library uses different social media, Duke has Youtube and Pinterest while both libraries use Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and WordPress. The collaboration meant the libraries chose a topic that interested them and wrote a post, then posted on the same day and linked to each other.  Blog posts covered a variety of topics and included a ‘Quick Pic’ series, when a post would only contain an image.

There were many questions about a social media policy and Richard McCoy said the IMA has posted online about the creation of a social media policy and encouraged conservators to review the policy information.


10 thoughts on “AIC’s 40th Annual Meeting – Outreach Session, May 10, 2012, Communicating Conservation with Nancie Ravenel, Rosa Lowinger, Heidi Sobol, Melissa Tedone, and Beth Doyle”

  1. Hi Rose,
    Thanks for coming to the session and taking the time to summarize the presentations here. And thanks for your kind words about my work on behalf of Shelburne Museum on Flickr.

    One quick correction – Rosa indicated that museum press offices generally, including the one at MoMA, will allow registering as a blogger to permit access to images for use. Perhaps my slide using MoMA Press page as an example was misleading.

    We did spend a fair amount of time talking about aspects of policy or potential pitfalls that one should be aware of when writing on behalf of an institution during the discussion. Perhaps what we might have made clearer is the influence an institution’s mission might take in content development and how that might determine who your audience might be.

    I think the examples that Heidi gave were interesting because the analytics appear to reflect the fact that one of the subjects, the Palampore, appeared to have a specific audience who came looking for the topic. I’ve had similar experiences writing or releasing images and videos about conservation efforts on objects in Shelburne’s collection that have a specialized audience. Thus I tend to think we’ve got audiences, and the same people may or may not be consuming what we’re putting out there based on their individual interests.

    Another thing that came up during the discussion was how the panelists’ activity on their institutions social media platforms has changed how they relate to other departments, often encouraging new collaborations or pathways to exchange information.

    At the end, I thought Richard McCoy had an interesting observation – that what we’re doing in these arenas may be closer to educating than it is to simply reaching out. Rather than being a top down kind of experience, I think I learn from those who comment or contact me via email as a result of what I’ve written as much as I impart, but maybe that’s just part of the educational experience he’s referring to.

  2. Hi Nancie,

    Thanks for your comments and for the more detailed information that came up during the discussion period. I was unsure of how to present this information and I think you’ve covered the topics really well.

    I would be interested in hearing more about analytics at a future talk, I had a hard time setting up analytics through my wordpress blog (since it is a .com blog and I own the domain), but Daniel Cull ( has a lot of analytical information that is very interesting. I did manage to get some analytic evaluation while I was contributing to the ECPN blog and it was interesting the most popular post was this one (

    It seems like knowing your audience really really matters, and that being an expert at blogging doesn’t matter as much, or an analogy that I heard referring to starting a business and building an audience is: “You probably want to know a something about your spouse instead of everything about marriage”. Thanks for your comments, it was a great session and I learned so much.

  3. Thanks to Nancie and all for presenting a good session and thanks to Rose for posting a good review.

    The IMA used to have its blogging policies online, but I don’t seem them now. But Nancie does have her wiki site where she assembled a good bit of information in her Social Media Wiki:

    Thanks for including my thoughts at the end. I’ve never been a fan of the word “outreach” because it really doesn’t make any sense. I think of any of the work I’ve done in writing online as part of conservation education. In this way, the format of how and where this happens doesn’t really matter — blog, newsletter, journal, whatever, it’s all education.

    Thanks again! Richard

  4. Rather than knowing your audience, I think the thing is to recognize that, for online writing, in addition to having your desired audience its likely there will be an unintended or undesired audience. Those designations-who I think I’m writing for and who I don’t think I’m writing for-change depending on the format I’m writing in.

    Thanks for mentioning the social media wiki, Richard. I do have the IMA’s 2009 policy in the first bibliography on that site, linked as a pdf. It would be interesting to know if there have been changes made to that policy since then, and, if so, why they were made.

    Panelist Beth Doyle wrote up some questions that she’d like to explore further as a result of this session on Preservation Underground. One question I’d like to pose is, given our arsenal of tools to talk about what we do and why we do it with the public, is social media the most effective of them?

    Biologist Christine Wilcox from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, recently wrote an editorial “Its time to e-Volve: taking responsibility for Science Communications in a Digital Age in the Biological Bulletin April 1, 2012 vol. 222 no. 2 85-87. I think you could exchange her words that refer to her field that ones that refer to ours. What do you think?

  5. *Doyle* 🙂

    I understand Richard’s point*, but “outreach” is still very much a top priority for us and since “education” is at the very core of our mission it is added on top of education. We can argue semantics, and I do some of that in my blog post linked above (thanks Nancie), but the end result is the same…reaching audiences both intended and real to educate, instruct and inform is what we are all doing. I think Nancie may have a good suggestion for the next Great Debate: “Is the use of social media the most effective way to educate audiences about conservation?”

    *There are many terms used in conservation-land that set my own teeth on edge, so I fully empathize with Richard and understand what he means. I also agree with him that the format doesn’t matter, it’s all education (and sometimes it is outreach, too).

  6. Also, for more on the 1091 Project, see this post and this post. This is an ongoing, collaborative blogging project between Parks Library Preservation and Preservation Underground wherein we choose a topic and Melissa and I write on that topic from our own lab’s perspective. We are excited about this type of collaboration and hope to find other ways to bring more conservators into the experience.

  7. As one whose blog has no institutional connection (people can figure out where I work but there is no expectation that anything I do on the blog has any real connection to my employer) I’m intrigued how my blogging interests and motivations compare to those whose work has a more institutional connection.

    As a non-institutional blogger my motivations are not particularly about being effective in either outreach or education. I take a look at analytics because I’m curious how traffic comes to my blog (and have been delighted to learn that at times my blog was a first page result when people Googled “Question Authority”) but I’m pretty sure the don’t shape how or what I blog. I know that commenting is the blogging holy grail, but I feel like I’ve been doing this long enough to not really expect many comments by more than a few people. Facebook posts tend to be short and pithy and invite short and pithy comments. Blog posts do not tend to be short and pithy, and tend to invite longer responses (like this one) which asks for a lot more time and energy of the user.

    I took particular interest in the instructional line “You should have a clear point of view, be pithy and informative and not self-important.” I think I fail on all points, except perhaps for pith.

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