C2C’s Crowdsourcing Experiment

Three weeks ago we posted a discussion here about Artifact Controversies. While we hoped to inspire engaging, low-cost participatory exhibits with historical objects, the post generated another idea from one of our blog followers. Why not set up a website with special objects from around the state that would be open for contributions? We love the idea (thanks, Mary Ellen!), but our team’s meager technological capacity limits its implementation. Our blog, however, enables us to add pages that can achieve the same ends.

Our staff decided to seed the newly created pages with our own selections and then put out a call for contributions on our listserv, which has a reach of 641. The “parent” page initially contained objects that Project Director, LeRae Umfleet, had culled several years ago from the NCDCR online collection database. Photographs of objects taken during the NC ECHO survey and their provenances established the auxiliary regional pages–Coastal Plain, Piedmont, and Mountains.

After two weeks the response (so far) to this crowdsourcing experiment has been underwhelming. We’ve had feedback and ideas from only two colleagues, both from within our NCDCR nexus here in Raleigh. The two contributions, however, were important and reshaped the parent page. Cheryl McLean, Head of the Information Services Branch at the Government & Heritage Library, augmented our original selections by contributing an entry titled “James Madison’s Gift.”

The initial concept was “Hidden Treasures of North Carolina,” and we proposed to present fascinating objects that had not been exhibited. But the title and idea behind it warranted revision. As John Campbell, Director of Collections at the North Carolina Museum of History, noted, the title perpetuates a negative stereotype of museums as troves of unaccessible artifacts. Moreover, Campbell pointed out that two of Umfleet’s ideas (then posted on the parent page) have been placed on permanent exhibition in the past year at NCMOH. So, we changed the parent title to “North Carolina Treasures” and replaced one of the entries with an artifact idea that Campbell contributed.

We’d love more object images and brief stories to add to our pages—both selections from the vast NCDCR collection, as well as compelling artifacts from across the state. What is your favorite North Carolina object? We’d like entries to come from publically accessible collections, but contributors do not have to be affiliated with a particular institution.

Our attempt at crowdsourcing online content leaves several additional questions:

  • Why haven’t you contributed yet?
  • Isn’t selecting objects based on your own notions of significance a fun and rare opportunity?
  • Is there any inherent reward in seeing your own selection included?
  • Or do we need more incentives for participation, like a raffle for preservation supplies?
  • Would having a tag line, such as “contributed by _____” be worthwhile recognition for your submission effort?
  • Or would it be best to leave the submissions anonymous?

Please send us your object ideas and opinions, either via the comment function below or by emailing adrienne.berney@ncdcr.gov, and continue the conversation!

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About collectionsconversations

This blog will contain posts from the C2C project staff on a variety of topics related to collections care and disaster preparedness. Enjoy the posts and let us know if you would like additional information or have a topic you would like for us to address.

Posted on December 4, 2012, in collections access, museums, public programs and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. First of all the C2C’s Crowdsourcing Experiment sounds like a wonderful idea! However, I believe you have not gotten more contributions because, most NC museum directors are more focused on keeping thier doors open. If I was still employed as a Curator/Collections Manage, the museum I use to work for would have participated.

    • Thanks, Terry. We’ve always counted on you to be a great C2C participant. The point you make about this request as being a bit frivolous amid the current cultural heritage climate of staff cuts, fears of closing, and increasing workloads is an important one.

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