Episode 9

9. The Museum Selfie with Dustin Growick

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About this Episode

Dustin Growick is in charge of audience development and the team lead for science at Museum Hack. Growick and Museum Hack treat a museum as a platform to build something more personal and fun.

One of the tools that they use to make it more personal and fun is the museum selfie. The theory is that taking selfies is easy way to put yourself literally and figuratively in the context of the museum.

In this this episode, Growick discusses the philosophy (as well as some dos and don'ts) of museum selfies.

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Below is a transcript of Museum Archipelago episode 9. Museum Archipelago is produced for the ear, and only the audio of the episode is canonical. For more information on the people and ideas in the episode, refer to the links above.

Welcome to Museum archipelago. I'm Ian Elsner. Museum Archipelago guides you through the rocky landscape of museums. Each episode is never longer than 15 minutes, so let's get started.

Dustin Growick: You take a photo of yourself in a museum, you look smart, you look cultured. The lighting is often pretty sexy.

Dustin Growick is in charge of audience development and the team lead for science at Museum Hack.

Dustin Growick: We run subversive, nontraditional, incredibly fun, two hour museum adventures at the museum of natural history and the metropolitan museum of art here in New York City.

When talking to Dustin, you realize that he treats a museum as a platform to build something more personal and fun and one of the tools that he uses to make it more personal and fun is the museum selfie.

Dustin Growick: We find that not just selfies but using phones and taking photos and sometimes selfies as well. It's actually when given the right context is a great way to give people a personally engaging experience within a museum that isn't necessarily thought of as a context for them or a place for them or relating to them and doing. Taking selfies is easy way to put yourself literally and figuratively in the context of the museum.

Part of the curriculum of museum hack is to encourage tour goers, to take selfies in a way that feeds back into the tour. For example, in the museum of natural history tour, Growick get a tiny dinosaur and they have to go on a fossil hunt to find their species of dinosaur

Dustin Growick: and then approve. They found it. They have to take a dino selfie and then also learned one thing about it and then we come back and share out the things that we found in our, our stupid silly selfies, but it's part of a larger experience. Again, it just gives people like a personal inroads to make connections in a room or space they might otherwise just breeze through.

For Dustin, it's all about the context.

Dustin Growick: If you're just walking into like, I'm taking yourself and then walk over there and take yourself. You'll walk over here and take yourself, but you're right. Like there's, that's not really going to add to the experience, but when it's part of a larger context that we really think through and set up sort of ways to give people just easier ways to get personally connected to the experience. I think selfies are one part of that that can help facilitate that,

But the context is not just making sure that a selfie can be meaningful and fit into a larger pedagogical structure. There also must be times when it's completely inappropriate to take a selfie. I ask Dustin if there was a difference between taking a selfie in the art museum where it could be just another form of expression or a history museum where there's less room for a reverence. He said it's something they think about a lot.

Dustin Growick: I don't think it's necessarily history versus art as much as, again, like this specific person or thing with which you're interacting. So at an art museum, there are things that are going to be less kosher to take selfies with if they're depicting, you know, genocide or war or something like that. Slavery, um, or like a disenfranchised or marginalized people versus, there's not much threatened taking a selfie, a dinosaur. So I don't think it's necessarily like art or versus science versus history. I think it depends on exactly what you're doing. The selfie within that and how you're taking this off.

Is it the museum visitor who should be considering the appropriateness of taking a selfie or is the institution itself? Dustin thinks it should be a combination of both, but he thinks that institutions should do a better job of guiding visitors through participatory activities, whether it's a selfie or some other prompt.

Dustin Growick: I also think that museums are afraid of like pigeonholing people into doing a specific activity, isn't it? They're like, Oh, we want people to be able to interact and observe and participate however they see fit. And we would never tell them to do it this way, do it that way. But that's all often a nonstarter. Like if you're just like, Oh go and draw something. I'm like, all right, maybe I don't know what I'm a draw. But if you give like a very specific context within like in which I can contribute something to some sort of framework that's already kind of set for me at least, that's a much better prompt cause we've actually gonna do stuff more. And definitely if you're really smart about that context that you set up, you can usually nip in the bud a lot of the stuff that museums are afraid of in the first place. But it's not easy and you have to be willing to relinquish a little bit of control, which is not so easy to do for a lot of people whose job is literally to curate stuff. And then you're like, Oh let these other people come in and do part of that in a certain regard. So it's, it's a thin line.

You'll find the full transcript of this episode along with shownotes at Museum Archipelago dot come. Club Archipelago members get access to a bonus podcast feed that sort of like the director's commentary to the main show. Subscribe at patrion.com/museum archipelago if this is your first show, don't forget to subscribe for free in your favorite podcast player. Thanks for listening, and next time bring a friend.