Fill the Gap

As institutions continue to try to make their web presences relevant and engage visitors in participation via Web 2.0 tools, the Smithsonian Museum of American Art (blog) makes a genius entry into the fray. "Fill the Gap" challenges "citizen curators" to select replacement works of art for the gaps in Luce Foundation Center display cases created when works in the collection are loaned to other institutions.

From the blog: "If an object is leaving for more than twelve months, the Luce Center staff is responsible for selecting a replacement. It's a lengthier process than you might imagine. We work with the registrar, conservation, and curatorial departments to ensure that the artwork will fit in the gap (the cataloged dimensions for paintings do not include the frames!), has no outstanding conservation issues, is appropriate for the theme of the case, and has not been selected for any upcoming loans or exhibitions.

This has been a busy year so far. More than forty paintings are slated to leave the Luce Foundation Center for other exhibitions, and it is only March! For this reason, we decided to open up this process and ask our online communities for help. Using Flickr, we can share a photo of a case that needs a replacement artwork, provide information about all of the other works in the case, and challenge people to search our collections in order to find an appropriate substitution."

Smart! A repeating contest that...

*offers a prize that costs the institution nothing, but makes the winner feel a part of the institution (creates relationships) and has value as an honor;

*crowdsources the work of the institution in an exciting (challenging, a puzzle) way and saves workers' time;

*encourages a closer look at the institution's collection and may inspire feedback on searchability and collection organization; and

*goes deeper than the one-way "name our dolphin/space station" or "post a photo interpreting our theme to our Flickr stream" invitations cropping up all over the web.

A good model.

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