An ever-increasing use of social media has made the internet the way to go for public outreach. Facebook, Twitter, and WordPress have all been done (yes, I say this as a blogger), but video hasn’t really been used to it’s full potential for engaging a non-specialist audience.
Leading the way for the humanities is a website called Smarthistory, now associated with the Khan Academy, an online library of educational resources. Smarthistory is essentially an interactive art historical textbook that utilizes contextual information and links to other websites along with short documentary-like videos on works of art. Smarthistory creators Dr. Beth Harris and Dr. Steven Zucker began the site in 2005 as a blog to aid in art history lectures. With the support of the Kress Foundation and the Khan Academy, this non-profit organization has become a leader in providing course materials as well as an online community for the discipline of art history.
Recently, Beth and Steven collaborated with FAIC and the conservation department at the Met to organize a workshop geared toward conservation-specific outreach, titled Media Tools for Conservators. I was fortunate to attend this workshop, along with 5 other recent graduates and 7 mid-career professionals. The dynamic of the workshop was great, and not only did we learn about the software that Smarthistory uses to make their videos (Garage Band for audio and ScreenFlow to incorporate the audio with images), but we had the opportunity to capture some of our own conversations using audio recorders.
In the morning we paired up to talk about specific conservation projects that we had prepared in advance, and in the afternoon we took advantage of the Met’s collection and experimented with recording conversations about entirely new objects. The entire workshop was a lot of fun, but the most important conversation that day was the one about implementing this technology into everyday work. As conservators, we often run into sensitivity issues, either about copyright or institutional regulations, and that may throw a wrench in the plan to discuss a treatment. But what many conservators forget is that we have a lot of specialized knowledge, and that knowledge may be interesting to people that know absolutely nothing about conservation. So, you CAN make a video about conservation in general, or about a personal object, or my favorite: pair up with a curator to talk about a work of art. Be creative.
When I left the workshop, my head was spinning with ideas on how to use these tools in my own work. There is such potential for making professional and interesting videos. Hopefully my enthusiasm for video-making will spread, because your videos are needed for this new site devoted entirely to conservation; introducing ConservationReel!