Thursday, March 4, 2010

Oriental Institute Museum and Social Media

[First posted 1/12/10. Updated 4/2/10]

In the ramp-up to the opening on the evening of 12 January 2010 of Pioneers to the Past: American Archaeologists in the Middle East 1919–20 the Oriental Institute has been doing some interesting and imaginative experimenting with outreach via a variety of social media.

The Museum has a twitter feed: oimusem. At the moment I write they have 138 followers (of which I am one).

A persona of James Henry Breasted is blogging the 1919-1920 trip to the Near East which is the subject of the exhibit. One presumes the blogging Breasted is an avatar of the same person who is on facebook as James Henry Breasted. At the moment I write he has 822 "friends" there (of which I am one)

The Oriental Institute has a fan page on facebook as well (1,433 fans today including me), as does the Research Archives (334 fans today, including me). Both of these pages are giving access to interesting materials including sets of photographs such as
The Institute has published the catalogue of the exhibition OIMP 30. Pioneers to the Past: American Archaeologists in the Middle East, 1919-1920. Edited by Geoff Emberling. Published in 2010. It is available for purchase, and is also available for download without charge under the terms of the Electronic Publications Initiative of the Oriental Institute.

Just republished, in a new edition, supplemented with additional photographs is the venerable Breasted biography Pioneer to the Past: The Story of James Henry Breasted, Archaeologist, Told by His Son Charles Breasted. By Charles Breasted. Reprint of the Charles Scribner's Sons 1943 Edition with New Foreword and Photographs. Published in 2009. It is also available for purchase, and for download without charge.

The University of Chicago News office produced a video to promote the exhibition: Pioneers to the Past: American Archaeologists in the Middle East 1919-20, featuring OI faculty member Donald Whitcomb as the voice of James Henry Breasted reading his letters.

I look forward to seeing more of this kind of thing emerging over the next few days as world of the exhibit spreads.

The OI began using these tools last year in association with the Meresamun show. One can still befriend the mummy Meresamun on facebook (1,355 friends, including me). You can view an extraordinary set of scans of the Meresamun's mummy on Youtube. And, of course, you can still purchase or download the exhibition catalogue, OIMP 29. The Life of Meresamun: A Temple Singer in Ancient Egypt. Edited by Emily Teeter and Janet H. Johnson. 2009.

The Oriental Institute also had a travel blog, OI Splendors of the Nile, organized by Foy Scalf as a photographic and textual complement to the Oriental Institute's Splendors of the Nile tour program escorted by Nadine Moeller.

In July 2009, the Oriental Institute released a set of audio tours of the collections on display in the Museum. The direct link to the audio tour of this exhibit is: Pioneers to the Past: American Archaeologists in the Middle East, 1919-1920.

The others are:

Other tours are under development.

A visitor can download the tours ahead of time and play them on her own iPod as she walks through the Museum, or she can check out iPods at the Suq at no charge to members, and for a fee of $5.00 for non-members.

I would be interested to learn about other museums using new media, and I wonder if it would be possible to document the effect such media have on attendance at exhibits or museums.


Tom said...

New Pioneers to the Past audiotour just went up today.

We're also working to get all 1,200 or so images taken on the trip up on the web for people to see if they so desire.

In the exhibit, we have a touch screen where visitors can read the letters by Breasted, or view all of the images.

Charles Ellwood Jones said...

Thanks Tom!

The direct link to the new audio tour is: Pioneers to the Past: American Archaeologists in the Middle East, 1919-1920. (13 audio tour files)