By Emily Hunter, Field Book Project
This post was adapted from an article originally published in Plant Press, Vol. 16 No. 1 (pdf).
In December, the Field Book Project made thousands of field book records publicly available and searchable through the Smithsonian’s Collection Search Center. After two years of cataloging efforts funded through the Council on Library and Information Resources, records describing over 6,000 individual field books spanning over 500 collections by number of individuals are now online.
In addition to the release of records, The Field Book Project has been promoting field book content via social media sites Flickr and Twitter, as well as here on our blog hosted on TypePad. Social media allows us to reach new audiences and connect in new ways. The Field Book Project blog posted its first article in March 2011; it now has over 200 posts, over 44,000 page views, and more than 100 comments. Blog articles highlighting field book content are posted about twice per week, and generate a substantial amount of traffic. Thank you to our readers for following our activities!
Flickr, a photo-based social media platform, allows us to share images of field book content with an audience that is visually-oriented. The Field Book Project regularly contributes images to the Smithsonian’s Flickr Commons photo stream.
Twitter allows the Field Book Project (@FieldBookProj) to reach out on an informal level to a huge community of active content creators in the fields of biodiversity, museums, archives, libraries, natural history, and more. Through this network we have been able to reach individuals who might not have otherwise heard of the Project. Though our Twitter presence is still quite young, Twitter allows us to reach new users, and connect them with links to blog articles, images, and other content.
While increased exposure for our Project is important, engaging with social media is not just about pushing content out towards new audiences. It is also about opening up a dialogue. Over the past two years we’ve worked to bring guest bloggers in to offer their insights on field books. Guests have included Smithsonian staff external to the Field Book Project, as well as colleagues from other museums, schools, and herbaria. Posts contributed by individuals outside of our Project bring new and different perspectives, questions, and ideas, and help all of us better understand the potential of field books.
Flickr and Twitter also expand the conversation around field books. On Flickr, users can tag images, “favorite” them, add them to galleries, and comment. Comments range from appreciation to questions about the collections to identifications of specimens. Via Twitter, users can ask us questions, give us feedback, and share our content with others.
As the Project moves forward, it’s more important than ever to promote the fruits of our cataloging labors. The public release of field book records not only makes it easier for Smithsonian staff to find related field book content, it opens up our collections to a much broader, international audience. Promoting our content via social media outlets promotes awareness of field books as research resources and opens up a dialogue about field book content. We encourage you to join in and to follow us!