Friday, March 27, 2009

I'm going to steal this idea

My wife prides herself on being the person that introduced me to the term Web 2.0. This is ironic, as we are talking about a person who has me update her Facebook page for her because she doesn't think it's a good use of her time to do it herself. Since I moved to YPM (for those of you that don't know, she works there too) she's become very enthusiastic about harnessing my 2.0 interests for the greater good of the Museum. So it was that today she sent me a stream of emails relating to web-based promotion that culminated in a link to this twitter feed. Which I thought was so good that I decided to blog about it.

If you are not one of the 10,700+ followers of this feed (yes, that really is ten thousand seven hundred plus) then this is a twitter that purports to be coming from the large model of a blue whale that hangs in the Hall of Ocean Life (HOL) at the American Museum of Natural History. When he is not commenting on the evils of whaling or the various other perils that afflict his blubbery brethren, the whale bemoans the fact that he feels kinda hollow inside (as he would do, being made out of plaster and chicken wire) and provides a rolling commentary on the Museum's visitors passing by beneath him (sneezing and baby vomit seem to be popular topics).

Giving a museum icon of this sort a voice and mordant personality is a masterstroke. It's so good that I found myself trying to figure out who was providing the voice. The AMNH Communications Department certainly has some very talented people, but the AMNH Administration has a pathological fear of controversy and it seems unlikely that any postings that were critical of a named politician (even one as cartoonish as Sarah Palin) would manage to get past the heavy hand of the Office of Government Relations - yes, AMNH has just such an office. So unless this is a clever piece of guerrilla PR on the part of Communications, it seems like this twitter is probably unsanctioned.

The occasional vignettes of HOL life suggest maybe a guard, or perhaps an AMNH Visitor Services employee (aka "sweater people," so-called because of their preppy AMNH-issue tank tops), equipped with an i-Phone or PDA. But then again, some of this stuff could be made up. Also the statement that "sometimes I wish the museum had some sort of vermin problem just so that my nights might see a little more action. But alas, not such luck" was clearly made by someone who has not seen the armies of mice that emerge when the AMNH galleries close to the public. So maybe it's just a fan of the whale, of whom there are many both inside and outside the Museum. He is truly a New York icon.

The idea that Twitter could animate a much loved, but very inanimate museum object, has not gone unnoticed here at YPM. So don't be surprised if you start getting updates on the ever-chaging theater that is New Haven's Whitney Avenue. From someone with a much, much better view than me...

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