November 2017

T. Rex on Tinder, interactive live tours, museums are going viral and you are invited.

The role of the museum is in constant flux and debate, the concept of the museum as we know it today has its roots in the 18th century as a publicly accessible space to store and house private and national collections, their main reason for existence today is to collect, safeguard and to display the cultural legacy of humankind. The foundation of the museum is its physical presence, a space which you can visit and spend time in. But recent times have brought changes in how we as humans experience and navigate the world. I am talking about the internet and in particular social media. Today we spend more and more time infront of our devices, social media have become the agora of Ancient Greece, a place to meet, share and discuss.


The use of digital platforms in our everyday life is relatively new, the concept of the museum is not. However, museums have successfully managed to adopt and use these new means of communication and have spearheaded the way in which you interact with the public online. The museum sector is a conservative and unwieldy place, still in the absolute forefront of using Social Media and its possibilities. Social Media managers are the new Art Curators à gogo and they outearn most of the other museum workers as well.


Museums have also rewritten the rules of how to use different types of social media in the art world, who would ever think that a museum would benefit from using Tinder? For sure, museums have always been a good place for casual get together and first dates, but the Royal Ontario Museum created a Tinder profile for their T. Rex. This might at first seem like a clever gimmick and marketing scheme but was in fact part of their digital engagement programme. The profile gained a lot of attention and sparked curiosity. This allowed the digital engagement team to engage in conversations and boost interest for the museum whilst animating a discussion regarding one of the items in the collection.


How does this impact the future trajectory of museums and their structures?  Should museums put all these efforts outside of their physical spaces, the buildings and their collections? Well, yes of course, museums have taken the step and leading the way in creating a situation well outside the borders of their physical presence, taking the action to where people spend a lot of their time and finding ways of engaging directly with new publics on their own terms. A great example is the Swedish Royal Armory (Livrustkammaren) whose work with social media not only had a great effect on the their posts going viral but also in the amount of people visiting the physical exhibitions, sparking an interest amongst people who would never before visited. Thus, by utilising new ways of communication museums are expanding their radius and reaching new publics that were previously difficult to engage. Creating renewed interest whilst fulfilling their purpose of access and mediation.


Many museums have realised that being where the visitors are is crucial. One can not only rely on the stream of visitors visiting the museum and have therefore adapted the museum practice to involve internet and social media. British Museum does live tours and curator talks and publishes short articles about the artefacts in the museum, open and available to everyone with an internet connection, with no cliffhangers urging you to actually go there to read more. Therefore taking the step outside of the habitual ways of reaching your audience.


The bottom line: we need to recognise the Social Media discourse as a legitimate field and not just a pastime.


WORDS Filip Zezovski Lind & Linda Söndergaard

Image courtesy of Linda Söndergaard