This study set out to establish an informed framework for the use of social network services in South African museums. Social network services are utilised by a wide demographic spectrum so they offer a cost-effective way to engage with communities and with existing and new stakeholders.
The Standard of Generally Recognised Accounting Practice on Heritage Assets, or GRAP 103, and the draft National Policy on Digitisation of Heritage Resources imply that museum collections get documented and managed in digital form. It will coincidentally also enable museums to embrace the use of social network services and share the collections in their custody with many South Africans who are yet to experience the value of museums in the country.
Museums are institutions in the service of society which acquires, conserves and communicates the tangible and intangible heritage of people and their environment. During the twentieth century museums have had to reinvent themselves from being unapproachable custodians of heritage to being part of society, willing to engage in discourses and be transformed to remain relevant to the communities they serve.
The 2011 Census has found that about 18.2 million of 51.7 million South Africans have had access to the Internet before. Active Internet users however, are about half that figure because it is expensive, the broadband and telecommunications network is not efficient or because people have not yet experienced the value it offers. Government regulations compel Information and Communication Technology (ICT) enterprises to spend 1.5% net profit after tax on socio economic development initiatives. This presents an opportunity for museums as educational institutions to engage with such enterprises to expand Internet access and engage with local communities.
The social network service field offers various ways to communicate collections and engage with communities through text, photographs, video and location-based technologies. Various notable local and international initiatives were discussed in this study. For example the Kulturpool which allows visitors to create cyber collections from digitised museum objects and contribute to the knowledge of such objects by allowing them to submit and share information for others to read. SAHRIS, the digital database offered by the South African Heritage Resources Agency, holds the key to similar ventures that museums could pursue.
The regulative framework involves privacy, copyright and ethical issues which museums should abide by. Because of the pervasiveness of ICTs museums should take note of these regulations even if they decide not to pursue social network initiatives. ICT skills in museums are insufficient and should be improved upon. Social network services offer training and guidelines on how to use them, which could be a great help provided the reader has a good command of the English language.
Cognisance must be taken of an overview social network services and their uses, and of the ethical and regulative framework for museums to benefit from using social network services to engage with communities. This way, communities may benefit from having access to the museum online.
Dissertation (MHCS)--University of Pretoria, 2014.