Social Media & Museums

This month our CEO Gabrielle Peacock had an article published in the newsletter of the Canadian Federation of Friends of Museums. The article is below. As we seek to expand where the visitor experience begins and ends with projects such as Community Curates, our CEO took a moment to reflect on the benefits of these projects. Learn more about the CFFM here.

A series of articles that appeared in the New York Times earlier this year lauded some new celebrities in the museum world. They aren’t artists or curators or museum directors; they are the marketing and technology staff that run the social media campaigns of some of the

United State’s most progressive public art galleries. Behind the scenes, it is their creative voice and clever delivery of content that is making a huge impact on raising the profile and engagement opportunities for museums and galleries across North America. 

As museums continue to recognize the value and importance of the “visitor experience” it may be time to broaden the scope of defining when that experience begins and ends. 

Social media has the potential to represent for museums the most transformational tool in audience development and strategic brand building of the 21st century. The consumer habits of today’s potential museum-goer requires organizations to be digitally agile and content-persuasive in order to remain competitive and relevant. The benefit to the institutions ability to share, teach and learn is immeasurable. It has opened the floodgates of possibility to thousands of content-rich but budget-strapped galleries to represent their collections and promote exhibitions to the world. It provides the opportunity for like-minded people to intersect and interact with each other, creating a sense of community, regardless of where they live. It is being used to help institutions de-mystify and humanize themselves with blogs from curatorial departments and behind the scenes access. The pedagogical possibilities seem boundless and the fundraising opportunities ever evolving.

The Robert McLaughlin Gallery’s foray into social media has been a revelation. The ability to engage with our virtual visitors and their ability to share feedback, opinions and debate ideas hopefully provides them with a real sense of ownership in the process. The comments and data we gather fuels our creativity and influences how and what we program going forward.

Our current project “Community Curates” is a 5 week crowd sourcing project that invites people to vote on a selection of works that are being considered for an exhibition this coming fall. It is a forum for us to talk about our collection of works on paper and the conservation issues galleries must contend with, and also allows participants to follow results in real-time, add comments and have a say in curating an exhibition.

 While nothing will ever replace the sensory experience of standing in front of a work of art, the use of social media to maintain an ongoing, interactive relationship will hopefully nurture a feeling of familiarity, accessibility and curiosity that will also inspire a visit in person. 

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