How can we engage with people online in meaningful and interesting ways? We ask ourselves this question a lot. We’ve been answering it since 1992, when Ron, our webmaster, flipped the switch and we became the first independent museum with its own website.
We view our website as a destination in the same way that the physical museum is a destination. With more than 50,000 pages of original microsites, webcasts, videos, articles, podcasts, slideshows, online exhibits, and activities, there’s plenty to wander through, explore, do, and experience.
There are web projects such as Evidence: How Do We Know What We Know?, the Science of Music, and eclipses. There are Iron Science Teacher competitions where teachers create classroom activities from a single ingredient, competing to win the coveted title. There are podcasts that explore nanotechology and others that offer teaching tips. There are virtual field trips to places such as NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Antarctica, the bottom of the ocean, and CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research. There are lots of interesting people to meet, too, such as E. O. Wilson, the father of sociobiology, and composer John Cage; and interesting places—an airship, for example, and a rainforest—to explore. Though you can’t see anyone else here, you’re not alone; more than 13 million people visit our website annually.
If you leave this site to check out apps and social media, you’ll discover we’re there, too. In 2011, we launched Color Uncovered, an interactive book that explores the coolest, most surprising sides of color through illusions, articles, and videos. The app asks: How is Monet like a honeybee? What color is a whisper? And why is it so hard to find your car in a lamp-lit parking lot?, among other topics. At last count, Color Uncovered was downloaded nearly 1 million times by people around the world. A second topic, Sound Uncovered, launched in 2013. You’ll also find us on social media, where we serve up engaging content on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Foursquare, and other sites.
For us, online engagement is a perpetual work in progress, an infinite pairing of exciting ideas with the best technological tools. Come back soon to see what we’re up to.