Museum Education in the Digital World: The Brain Scoop and The Field Museum’s Chief Curiosity Correspondent

In an effort to broaden their digital outreach and spread information about the work of Field Museum scientists, The Field Museum of Natural History hired Emily Graslie as their first-ever Chief Curiosity Correspondent in 2013. Emily Graslie is a dynamic young science educator and host of the popular YouTube series The Brain Scoop. Originally based at the University of Montana’s Philip L. Wright Zoological Museum, the Brain Scoop now covers The Field’s scientific research, conservation work, public education activities, and exhibitions. In addition to filming episodes of The Brain Scoop, Emily’s role as Chief Curiosity Correspondent includes giving talks, public demonstrations, and Q&A sessions at the museum.

Photo Source: thebrainscoop.tumblr.com/

Photo Source: thebrainscoop.tumblr.com/

The greatest asset of The Brain Scoop is Emily’s ability to enthusiastically communicate the value of the Field’s research, collections, and education programs in a unique and engaging manner.  Emily’s goofball attitude and nerdy demeanor have won the hearts of viewers around the world.  The Brain Scoop’s first video filmed on location at The Field Museum, titled “Welcome to The Field Museum” is a great example of the quirky humor that encourages Graslie’s fans to return week after week to check out the newest Brain Scoop episode. In this episode, Emily borrows a few props from the museum’s fictional “Gaudy Chairs n’ Lamps” collection and drags the chair and lamp around the museum in an effort to introduce her viewers to the various aspects of the museum that she will be covering in her channel.  The humor in the episode not only encourages viewers to return to the YouTube channel in the future to check out the next episode, but also encourages online viewers to visit The Field Museum and explore the amazing exhibits that Emily highlights.

Brain Scoop Facebook post. Original caption: "It's MuseumSelfie day on twitter and we just passed 200,000 subscribers on YouTube so here's a celebratory selfie with some dead chipmunks in Anna's lab! Thanks for watching, everyone! " Photo source: https://www.facebook.com/TheBrainScoop/photos_stream?ref=page_internal

Brain Scoop Facebook post. Original caption: “It’s MuseumSelfie day on twitter and we just passed 200,000 subscribers on YouTube so here’s a celebratory selfie with some dead chipmunks in Anna’s lab! Thanks for watching, everyone! “
Photo source: https://www.facebook.com/TheBrainScoop/photos_stream?ref=page_internal

The Chief Curiosity Correspondent job position and Brain Scoop channel are excellent methods for increasing the accessibility of museum collections to a broader audience. Less than 1% of the museum’s collections are on exhibit to the general public at any given time. However, Emily has access to the other 99% of the collections and can publish videos every week providing exciting behind-the-scenes tours of collections and research facilities that the average visitor would otherwise never have a chance to explore. Additionally, the digital element of the Brain Scoop channel is very effective at reaching out to a younger generation that may not have been able to visit the physical museum but is excited about engaging in a digital world. Emily Graslie helps the Field Museum accomplish the goal of reaching a large digital audience by not only running the Brain Scoop YouTube channel, but also a Brain Scoop Facebook page, Twitter account, Tumblr blog, and Instagram account. The social media outlets that Emily Graslie uses for her job as Chief Curiosity Correspondent are five sites that seem to be quite popular among people in their teens and twenties. Emily posts heartfelt thank yous to her followers for their support, intern projects, updates on research expeditions, video interviews with Field Museum scientists and staff members, and information about upcoming public talks/events.  Emily is clearly well-versed in how to get the attention of a large internet audience, as evidenced by the amount of “followers”, “likes”, and comments on her social media pages.

Another effective element of the Chief Curiosity Correspondent position and The Brain Scoop is the “Ask Emily” platform in which viewers can submit questions to Emily via Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, or Tumblr and she answers the questions in her next Brain Scoop video post. Audience questions range from specifics about animal behavior and anatomy, to how Emily got into her position as Chief Curiosity Correspondent, and what it is like to be a female working in the scientific field. Emily also responds to questions on the Facebook and Twitter accounts. When reading the comments on the YouTube channel, it is clear that the Brain Scoop is engaging and Emily is a great inspiration to many aspiring young scientists, especially young women in science.

Overall, the Brain Scoop and The Field Museum Chief Curiosity Correspondent are phenomenal platforms for public engagement. Emily Graslie should serve as an example to museums worldwide of how to effectively engage younger generations and large audiences in the education, research, and collections of museums. However, from the comments I have read on The Brain Scoop channel, I believe a majority of their audience members are young. The Brain Scoop is incredibly effective at reaching this young audience, but it would be interesting to investigate whether the channel is reaching a large portion of older generations and how other forms of digital media may be used to effectively reach different generations. The Field Museum would be wise to develop another position similar to the Chief Curiosity Correspondent job description, but aimed at a more mature generation, although Emily Graslie has set the bar high and it will be extremely difficult for anyone to fulfill the shoes of internet  that

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3 thoughts on “Museum Education in the Digital World: The Brain Scoop and The Field Museum’s Chief Curiosity Correspondent

  1. This sounds like a perfect job for this girl. Atleast for me, if I wanted to watch something on a youtube channel I would want to have relaxed feeling while watching what ever it is and have the video create a high sense of humor and enjoyment for me. I think that Graslie is great for this position because not only is she smart and knows her material she portrays the exhibits with a humorous undertone that will leave you laughing yet creating a sense of learning. I think that more museums should try to reach out to the public in these ways.

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  2. I think the Field Museums idea of the Brain Scoop is great. Like Steph said it makes the information and artifacts of the Field Museum reachable to the public in a way it never has been before. It is also entertaining which is important given that it will cause more people to watch the channel more consistently. It seems to find a good balance between being educational and being fun. Steph talked about how the audience on twitter and facebook ask questions but I was wondering if there was any way to use social media to get the public not only interested in research but become a participant? For example, posting an artifact that the museum doesn’t know much about and seeing if anyone can provide information on it.

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  3. I’m glad that the Field Museum has recognized that the future of public outreach is through social media and the creation of viral videos with short, easily understood content designed with a wide audience in mind. She seems to me like a quirkier, female version of Bill Nye “the Science Guy” and by following a similar formula to his methods of popular science education, I think that the Brain Scoop will become a huge success for the Field Museum going into the future. This program is a much better approach for interesting the public in museums than simply creating a digital collection of objects in the museum.

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