Social Currency in Museums

Image Capture_StreetMuseum App

We put limits to ourselves, I believe, by measuring the value of things only in terms of monetary value. Our happiness is not only measurable by this value. That is why the expression social currency called my attention. Both words together give another dimension: the word “social” giving human value to the word “currency”. I decided investigate on it.

Currency is what a person earns to be active in his/her community, network or social organization. The value of this currency is measured in each exchange by its reach, resonance, influence and social impact. “Social currency increases one’s sense of community, granting access to information and knowledge, helping to form one’s identity, providing status and recognition” (def. Wikipedia). This is the content that generates conversation. The content must include all the elements that define social currency for people to share it and enrich it.

In our lives, our social currency are our relationships with our family and community, our reputation, love, entertainment and culture. The new technologies and the online social networks have empowered people and entities to enrich their social currency by their actions and words, giving them more weight. Before, museums, only gave access to their collections. Thank to the technologies, museums of today are able to serve their community giving them the right answers, thus providing them with a higher social currency.

¿How to apply social currency in museums?

The International Council of Museums gives a beautiful definition of a museum: “Museums allow people to explore collections for inspiration, learning and enjoyment”.

To answer to their mission, museums must know very well their community to identify the challenges they can answer from their entities. Thus, they must answer to the following questions: What could I bring to my community from my capital (that is collection, ressources, expertise, etc.)? What is my community missing to be spiritually happy? How can I enrich it? What are the conflicts or problems that it is suffering from?

Following, we will talk about few digital tools that allow to apply social currency to museum projects. They bring knowledge to the community and generate conversation and interaction in both ways between museums and their communities.

A Wiki is a Web site that allows the creation and editing of any number of interlinked Web pages via a web browser. The most famous example is Wikipedia. In the museum field, the GLAM-WIKI project allows GLAMs (i.e. Galleries, Libraries, Archives, Museums) to use the Wikipedia platform to give access of their content to the public to be reused freely. This tool allows the public and the museum to generate social currency; the public using the content, the museum getting closer to its community and obtaining visibility.

The Augmented Reality is a vision of the real world enriched by virtual elements in real time and 3D. An excellent use of it is what the Museum of London did with its StreetMuseum iPhone app. It used the images of its collection to tell the story of London at that time: the application took the museum to the street guiding users to over 200 locations in London telling them the story of the city at the time of the images. The GPS of the phone places the images of the museum’s collection on a map of London. Depending on where the user was, he could access to 2D images of the collection of this particular location. With another click, the users of the iPhone 3GS could have a 3D view. The picture of the post illustrates the augmented reality effect applied to a museum project.

The QR Code connects the physical world to the digital world. It’s a 2D code whose content can be decoded at high speed. It allows to put in practice the Tales of Things theory that grants an object of real life to have a digital memory. The museums link a QR code to objects of its physical collection (works of art, photos, etc.) and link it up with an online video, an audio or a text that tells the story of this object. The use of QR codes raises thank to smartphones and its cameras that can scan the code.
The QRator project gives a step further asking the participation of the user and creates a communication in both ways, between the user and the institution. In this case, the QR code links objects of the museum to an online database. It grants the public to have access to curated information but also gives him the opportunity to communicate his own interpretation of the object via a mobile device and the interactive digital labels. The public opinion is stored and is shown next to the curated content and belongs to the story of this object. Other users can comment on the new content created.

We observe that to offer high impact social currency, museums link few technologies and various concepts together. The application of the StreetMuseum required, on a technical level, a smartphone (iPhone) with a GPS and an Internet connection, plus the augmented reality. It linked as well the museum online database and the Tales of Things theory. The result was very innovative and generated a ludic educational experience. It also allowed the experience to be shared with the community. The QRator project linked up an online database, the QR Code technology and the interactive digital labels. It used as well Twitter to mantain alive an online presence of the objects.


To come to a conclusion, I will quote Wayne Labar from the Liberty Science Center, that will be at the “Taller 2.0: de la interacción a la cocreación (in english, workshop 2.0: from interaction to cocreation) on September 14th and 15th at the CCCB: “The ideal museums are gyroscopic. Similar to the gyroscope, the museum corresponds to relationships with visitors that can respond in freely in some or all directions and being relevant in spite of changes in content and the surrounding world.” The museum must connect its practices to the new forms of experience, education and reflexion that will give it the possibility to offer high social currency. It is made possible through technology and social networks. The final objective is to provoke a social impact for the value of this impact to convert into a new monetary value for the community.



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Cooking up a new exhibition at the Liberty Science Center

The Liberty Science Center in New Jersey is creating a new exhibition on “Cooking”. This time, though, they have decided to open their kitchen to the public and let people participate in the creation process of this exhibition on the subject of cooking

They have created the network “Cooking up” the Liberty Science Center exhibition, to bring together the exhibition team and outside people who are interested in participating in the development and design of this new exhibition. Their main goal is to create a nice group of people who we can share ideas and add some flavour to the final exhibition.  At the moment, they have more than 700 members that have joined their network.

They also invite people to go to their weekly meetings so there we were for the last two weeks. Each session they discuss about new parts and spaces of the global exhibition. All the details are brought into the conversation and the final conclusions of the meetings are uploaded online. The creation process travels from online to offline to go back online to eventually become offline… During the whole journey contents change thanks to people’s contributions and on the top of that, anyone who follows the journey will, for sure, learn more things about science, food, cooking, technological applications and museum tricks.

This is a great project that we are very pleased to follow!


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