The new year is always a time for idealism. We want to travel to that one place on our bucket list, shed a few kilos, start a new chapter, and improve ourselves; everyone has high aspirations and so, why shouldn’t it be the same for Museums? It is another thing that we never manage to stick through resolutions, but at least we make a start. With that hope and optimism, here’s a list I compiled so we can make 2017 the Year of Museum’s Voice. Do feel free to add your resolution-versions in the comments section!
Resolution 1 : Promote every piece – before every exhibition
Start 2017 with a plan. A strategic promotions plan is a necessity, and you can keep it as simple as possible. Before hosting those amazing exhibitions, give each piece its due, talk about it, record behind-the-scenes to generate the buzz, develop your event hashtag and give enough space between posts so people know what they’d be in for! Make sure you are integrating over all social platforms, and don’t forget to build on media-partnerships. Museums need to take into account the various insights offered by these channels and accordingly create the posts. For instance, my Newsletter-app insights indicate that there is a 20% increase in email-opens on Wednesdays & Thursdays between 11am to noon, and so I send important mailers only then!
Resolution 2 : Convert your social media network into enthusiastic Museum-Visitors
By social media network, I definitely do not mean only Facebook. Social Media Network would mean your presence on Twitter, Instagram, Flipbook, GooglePlus, LinkedIn, etc, and the sum of all your followers and friends on these platforms is your “network”. It is absolutely imperative that Curators go out there and engage with visitors / academicians, researchers and everyone who is part of the Museum ecosystem in India and abroad. Some engagements ought to be fun too. For instance, few people want to follow the images from your Museum-Collection with their sizes and make. A lot more would laugh at creative memes developed from Museum collections. The Heritage Lab actually gets most of its readers via Quora, Flipbook and Twitter and a lot of people are from different countries too. Simple conversations can create a goodwill for your Museum.
My big learning : The Children@Museums campaign didn’t take off for a lot of reasons, one being that there weren’t enough Museums on Twitter / Instagram AND Facebook.
Resolution 3: Make it Personal
Museum Curators need to voice out and lend that human voice to the institution. People always find it more approachable and easy to connect with. Museums must and must encourage their staff / curator team / education departments, etc to run blogs within the main-website. It doesn’t always have to be all positive, and you can use the space to talk about challenges and problems as well. Apart from blogs, Twitter is the place to be and departments can rotate the content curation for variety. Participating in Quora discussions can also help Museums gain loyal followers / word-of-mouth advertisers. Remember to not make your posts just about your own work or Museum. It’s always nice to appreciate another Museum or laud someone’s effort.
I personally love The Getty Museum Blog and find it very inspiring. If you are a Government or State Museum and face the .nic restriction, then I suggest using a platform like WordPress and linking the blog to your main website.
Resolution 4: Invest in Digital Real Estate
Real estate in our world comes at a cost, and the digital world isn’t very different. Though the rates are pretty low and its great value for money. Museums can look to advertising on Facebook for as little as 70 rupees and build digital presence for free almost on every big platform. Gaining followers may need advertising, but at least lets pledge to make our presence felt where it matters. Monitor your follower-growth on every platform and you should be good to go!
Resolution 5: Add Millennials and Tech-Savvy crowds to your “targeted communication”
Museums have varied visitor-profiles, and just as McDonalds changes its menu according to country, Museums have to create targeted communication. One size does not fit all. Audiences and visitors will not come searching or googling for the Museum – they’re still looking for Pokemons or filtering their pictures through the Prisma App. Museum Curators need to go where the audiences are. Cross-Promote at Cafe’s near the Museum or on forums where young people are active. Host Insta-Walks or Doodle-Challenges. Repost Instagram pictures or announce Visitor-of-the-Month on social media. Tech-savvy millennials will be the one crowd that will shout about your Museum to the world, and for free and 2017 has got to be the year to engage them fruitfully.
Resolution 6: Use less jargon
One of the biggest turn-offs in the Museum world is the use of jargon. Not everyone went to the School of Arts, and not everyone aspires to be a Palaeontologist. It is very intimidating for visitors and builds an air of exclusivity. Shedding the elite-image is the call of the hour – in case you are looking to build an appeal amidst the masses. The role of a Museum has to be nurturing and mentoring, and the warmth has to reflect in a Curator’s words 🙂 Imagine, inviting people and going all out on the promotions, seeing a swarm of people attend the event, but only catering to a section of those – because the others didn’t understand. We must understand that art or museum-education in India hasn’t been a privilege masses have enjoyed and therefore we must take responsibility of breaking things down and keeping it simple – at least so people develop an interest. At the end of the year 2017, you want to have included new people in the Museum’s daily life through volunteering / clubs / classes, and perhaps even mentor the next generation of Museum leaders!
Resolution 7: Participate in the Conversation
Host Twitter-Chats (again, please sign-up!) or Campaigns such as #MuseumWeek or #AskACurator, attend and speak at INK or TED Talks, reach out to College Departments, write for Newspaper or Art Magazine columns – any place where you can make your voice heard and bust any myths people have about Museums. These places would be the key to influencing public opinion and rake in more supporters or stakeholders.
As an experiment, we have recently joined the GooglePlus platform and are building a community of Museum professionals to discuss, share and connect with one another. Do join in !
With that, I hope we all have a fun, and more connected 2017. Cheers to the New Year.
The Heritage Lab is a digital platform connecting museums & citizens through campaigns, public-engagement programs & free access content for youth, families and kids.