Her Blog: Nina Simon's Museum 2.0

The Participatory Museum (2010), by Nina Simon.
After I finished graduate study in art education, I started out as a college instructor. A topic that I included most often in my class was the idea of museum as a site of civic and cross-cultural exchanges. In my last semester before I left for a new position at the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago, I experimented integrating blogging in my class and engaged my students in using it as a way to practice community engagement. Their work was recorded in collaboration on Arts & Community Development blog. Throughout the class, a book that we referenced to on museum pedagogy was The Participatory Museum, by Nina Simon.

Nina Simon is museum leader who takes blogging into a space of innovation for the museum world. Described as “museum visionary” by the Smithsonian Magazine, Nina has a strong and clear vision of how to bridge the blog and museum together. Her book, The Participatory Museum, was fueled by the collection of posts on her blog, Museum 2.0. She sees the technology and web-driven society we are living in as an opportunity to optimize individuals’ learning in visiting museums. Seven years ago, Nina started the Museum 2.0 blog to explore the ways that the philosophies and directions of Web 2.0 -- which removes the authority from the content producer and put it in the users’ hands, allowing the users to be more engaged in their learning through the exhibit. 

Carol: When did you start writing online? And how did you start? 
Nina: Fall of 2006. I had attended a conference (Association of Science and Technology Centers) and was just blown away by some of the intriguing things I was hearing from brilliant people in the field who I was much too shy to approach. Blogging gave me a way to explore what I had heard and start to build a community dialogue in a safe and creative way.

Carol: Why is it important to you? How has the practice of writing online influenced you? 
Nina Simon
Nina: I learn from writing. The process of it – the research, the thinking it out, the writing it down – all leads me to discover things I didn't realize. The transparency of online writing both energizes me and pushes me to keep doing it. I know there is an audience out there that doesn't care if I'm exhausted or stressed or on vacation. They expect a post every week, and I want to deliver. And when I was writing The Participatory Museum online using a wiki, the open format allowed readers to help significantly sculpt the final text both in content and style.

Also, as I've gotten more busy at work, blogging has remained an important point of reflection and sharing in my week that would be easy to neglect otherwise.

Carol: What do you aim to achieve through your own blog?
Nina: Mostly to learn aloud, to share ideas, and to force myself to honor the need for reflective practice in my own work.

Carol: Any other blogs (particularly those by women) that have influence on you?

Nina: When I first started blogging, my absolute favorite blog was Creating Passionate Users by Kathy Sierra. Unfortunately, she closed down her blog in 2007 due to misogynistic threats she received from trolls online. I still learn from going back to Kathy's posts, and I sincerely hope that we are moving beyond the kind of hate speech that ended her blogging.