Here are the Horniman Museum and Gardens, we are running a major project from 2012 to 2015 to review our anthropology collections, which number about 80,000 objects from many countries and cultures around the world. The vast majority of the collections are in our stores.
In this project called Collections People Stories, we wish to learn a lot more about our collections, ensuring that we hold accurate and relevant data on them. Through this process, we also wish to explore new ways to communicate the stories relating to our collections to our audiences and new audiences.
To highlight the interesting, unusual and fascinating objects uncovered during our project, we started an account on social networking site Tumblr in September 2012. The site is
updated by staff working directly on the collections review, making visible a process which many museums do but seldom share with the wider public.
We have been blogging on our own website for a few years, but chose Tumblr as it suited a number of practical purposes, gave us a vibrant community to communicate with, and opened our content to a new, wide audiences.
In a very simple way, as soon as our colleagues find something that they find interesting, fascinating or unusual, they upload it to Tumblr, telling our followers a little about the
object and sharing their enthusiasm for our collections.
Lots of interesting, fascinating and eclectic objects have emerged during our project from our stores and our colleagues have delighted in sharing these on the blog. Equally, some of our curatorial colleagues have begun updating regularly with insights, questions and responses to our collections, as well as photographs from events relating to the project. Our colleagues have also posted on Tumblr around holidays, highlighting objects in our collections connected to those days (eg. Advent Calendar for Christmas).
Many fascinating objects have been featured, just some of which are: a small horse made of cheese from Poland, a knife sheath made from reindeer antlers, a vulture skull in a
leather glove worn as a charm, lots of spoons, and lots more – with many excellent interactions around the objects.
We wanted to enthuse, excite, intrigue and fascinate others by sharing our enthusiasm, excitement and wonder about our museum collections.
In less than 18 months, we have gained more than 22,000 followers who have interacting with nearly 600 tumblr posts nearly 12,000 times. Visitors are coming from more than 130
Our Tumblr account has been really well received. We have had comments asking us detailed questions about our objects, which have helped us form new posts by answering these questions. One comment which sums up the tone of reactions is “You have a wonderful collection of things on your blog. I am always fascinated by unique and obscure things”.
Overall, we hope that our many Tumblr readers learn a little more about our objects, about our collections and our museum, and that the blog will encourage more museums to adopt new ways of using social media and blogging.
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