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MuseumCamp 2014: Activating an Online Community

At the end of July, my colleague Sean Fenton and I went to Santa Cruz to participate in the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History‘s MuseumCamp 2014. The camp took place over three and a half days, attracting over one hundred campers from around the world to create, implement, and analyze evaluations of social impact. Indicators ranged from social bonding at a Jerry Garcia concert, to the relationship between technology and experiences in nature, to social bridging at MAH. Sean and I served as counselors, helping several teams navigate through the process.

A handful of participants wrote about their experience and general takeaways via blog posts afterwards. There are many insightful posts which have enhanced my own reflection and learning. For this brief post, I’d like to focus on participant engagement. However, I’d like to use the word “activation” instead, referring to how MuseumCampers and counselors talked, shared, provoked, and responded to each other within the framework of the program.

MuseumCamp began with solicitation for applications via Nina Simon’s Museum 2.0 blog and the Santa Cruz MAH website. After the final participant selection, Nina created a MuseumCamp Facebook Group, the hub of connection and communication for all campers. Campers quickly started using the Facebook Group for coordinating travel and logistics with fellow campers, sharing articles in advance, and meeting up with each other at other conferences and events. During camp, participants posted inspiring photographs of various activities and cheered others on as they went through their days.

What has been most surprising and fulfilling to me is the amount of activity the Facebook Group has fostered in subsequent months. Campers continue to post to the group even months after the experience. They’ve shared evaluation studies and articles, invited others to upcoming arts events and participatory art projects, reflected on their experience, and set up face-to-face social events to reconnect. MuseumCamp has had a significant ripple effect on participants, exposing them to evaluation techniques through a creative community-based learning experience, but also by providing an ongoing forum for new friends and colleagues to continue building their relationships and discover more “activation” opportunities.

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