Crowdsourcing the Museum

Museums have long survived on the generosity of volunteers who carry out vital work to support the everyday work of the institution. Today I want to look at how volunteering is evolving for the digital world, with interesting projects which ask the public to volunteer their time online.

Crowdsourcing is the term used to describe people coming together online to collectively solve a problem. A task is collectively shared by those taking part, whether that is to label objects in a digital collection or to build an exhibition.

Here are few interesting ways in which museums are using crowdsourcing:

V&A – Search the Collections

The Victoria and Albert Museum in London has a collection database of 140,000 images, these are selected from a database automatically and don’t always show the object to it’s best. The V&A recently launched a crowdsourcing project to ask members of the public to help them to select the best images to use in the collections database.

There are over 116,000 objects which the V&A hopes the public with volunteer to help them sift through. You can sign up to help them and give the V&A crowdsourcing project project a go yourself here.

Memorial Exhibition Archive

Most history museums do not deal with something as recent as the attack on the World Trade Centre in 2001, and the unique position which The September 11 Memorial and Museum holds, has given the organisation the opportunity to ask the public to contribute to the creation of their collection through their website.

The memories, mementos and pictures added to the collection will all contribute to ensuring that those lost on September 11th will never be forgotten.

Democracy was an exhibition of graphic design which took place in October 2009, this project asked the public not only to submit work, but also to curate the final selection by voting for which artworks merited inclusion in the final exhibition.

Once the exhibition opened, the public could still vote and change the layout of the exhibition space, which was digitally projected on to the gallery walls.

Tag! You’re it!

While the V&A crowdsorucing project focused on finding the right crop for images in it’s collection database, this example from the Brooklyn Museum asks the public to instead tag the images with keywords to make them easier to find.

The Brooklyn Museum turned this task in to a game, encouraging people to compete to top the leaderboard of top taggers.

Comments are closed.