15 Social Media Tips for Museums and Historic Sites

In my current role as archivist and media assistant for a private company I’ve picked up a few social media tips that can be applied to history museums, historic sites, and other institutions wanting to post historical content to social media platforms. Some of these tips are also informed by my time managing social media for a small non-profit museum. Many of these tips are true across the board -from large company to small non-profit -while a few are more specific to smaller institutions. Putting these out here in the hopes of helping a museum or historic site that is trying to jump start or reinvigorate their online presence. Let me know if you have any other tips to add!

  1. Have goals for your use of social media. Don’t just have accounts because you feel like you should in today’s media age. (Although many, in the millennial generation especially, will expect to find your institution on the web and on social media and not being there could cost you visitors.) Be clear about what you want to achieve with your platforms. Make goals for your audience or engagement levels and aim to use social media to ultimately increase interest in your mission and visitation to your institution.
  2. Tie historical content to the present. To increase reach and interest tailor your content to current events and relevant topics such as holidays, anniversaries, seasons, events, and this day in history type posts, etc. Be prepared to write about how history informs, impacts, and compares with the present. This helps your audience relate to your content and demonstrates the importance of history as lessons for the present. bkiinsta
  3.  

    Keep it short and sweet. As much as I completely understand the desire to be educational and share as much information as you can, keep posts short or link to longer content. Social media is a competition for attention spans. Keep it short and catchy and always try to include something visual to draw readers’ attention. Posting a link to your website for more information allows your audience to read more if they’d like without bombarding them with a ton of text in one post. Also, keeping it short may pique your readers’ interest enough to bring them through the doors to learn more.

    tumblr

  4. Take advantage of popular hashtags to reach a larger audience. #ThrowbackThursday for any content from the past; #TransformationTuesday for compare/contrast photos of a place/person/etc. in the past and today; #FlashbackFriday; #WaybackWednesday, etc. If a trending hashtag applies to your institution, take advantage and weigh in.
  5. But be unique. In addition to standard hashtags that you can piggy back on – branch out and come up with your own unique social media posts that fit your collection – examples – a medical museum I once worked at used #FreakyFriday for followers to guess the use of strange looking medical instruments from the museum’s collection.
  6. Plan in advance. Schedule posts out so you aren’t scrambling for content at the last minute. Take a look through your archives and collections for interesting and relevant content for the next month and plan out posts, images, etc. This helps you to get all of your social media planning done at once and takes up less of your time. Take advantage of Facebook’s scheduling feature and look into HootSuite or similar for scheduling tweets.
  7. Be flexible though. Fortuitous, relevant finds in your archives can make for great posts; world events might result in changes needed to your scheduled posts – be prepared to edit or switch out posts after you’ve planned them.
  8. Know your limits. You don’t have to post historical content every day, especially when you are just starting out. Determine how much staff time can be devoted to social media planning. Also, you don’t want to exhaust all your best content too quickly – spread it out so you aren’t repeating topics too closely together.
  9. Check your stats. Pay attention to engagement results and gear your posts towards what your audience seems to respond to the most. You can also use analytics to find out who your audience is and who you may need to try to reach better.
  10. Go behind the scenes. Consider sharing behind the scenes photos and videos about unique and interesting aspects of the museum or collections care. Instagram, Facebook Live, and Snapchat are all platforms well-suited to behind the scenes action.
  11. You don’t have to have them all. Focus on the platforms that work the best for you and reach your primary audiences. You don’t have to have Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, YouTube, Flickr, Tumblr, etc. You can pick the 2-3 platforms that make the most sense for your content and your audiences. Mostly sharing photos of artifacts? Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook are probably plenty, but Flickr may interest you as a way to store and organize images into virtual galleries. Videos? YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook may be the three you want to focus on. Wanting to keep more of a blog where there’s a bit more room to write–Tumblr or another free blogging site may be what you’re looking for. And you can share links to the blog content on your other platforms. Trying to reach a young audience with behind the scenes sneak peaks? Snapchat and Instagram may be what you need–but it will likely take a little longer to build audiences there.
  12. Diversify your content. Don’t always post the same thing to all of your platforms. It’s OK to replicate posts across platforms most of the time, but also try to diversify your posts. Facebook is better for longer posts, article shares, and video. Instagram is best for images and short videos. Twitter for short announcements, images, article links, and short videos. Mix and match and have some content be exclusive to a specific platform.
  13. Respond. Try to respond to reviews, comments, questions, and messages that come in through your social media platforms. A quick “like” or simple thank you message would suffice for many comments. Interact with your audience and learn from their feedback.
  14. Keep up your profile. Make sure your institution’s profile is up-to-date with correct hours, address, contact information, and website. Also, keep a consistent style, tone, and voice across your profile, platforms, and posts that fits with your goals for social media as well as your overall mission and brand.
  15. Don’t overwhelm your followers. Don’t post too many times in one day. You don’t want to overwhelm or annoy your followers. 1-3 times a day is usually enough on Facebook and Instagram. Twitter can be a used a bit more, especially if you are live tweeting an event or retweeting relevant, interesting materials for your followers.

 

These tips would hopefully help any institution striving to incorporate historical or educational content into their social media plans. Have patience in growing your audience and engagement. Link to your platforms from your website and be sure to let in-person visitors know what platforms they can find you on. Have any other tips? Does your institution do anything unique or have you had a successful campaign on social media? Let me know!

Advertisements

Long time, no write

It has been almost a year since I last posted. Obviously a lot has happened in that time. Here’s a quick recap:

I worked at the Tobacco Farm Life Museum from September to December of 2015, where I was the Assistant Archivist. In addition to being in charge of the document collection, I wrote grants for upcoming programming, assisted with organizing and giving group tours, running the online gift shop, managing the museum’s social media, planning and staffing special events, and running the front desk. As a small museum, the position was one that required me to be a jack of all trades. It kept life interesting and kept me on my toes. Several of the grants I wrote have been successfully funded and used to start new programming at the museum since I left. Of that I am most proud.

I left the part-time position at the Tobacco Farm Life Museum when a full-time opportunity became available to me. I am now the Archivist with the Gary Player Group, Inc. in Greenville, South Carolina. My fiance and I moved in January and I began working full-time then. I am responsible for the Black Knight Archives which houses materials related to the Grand Slam golfer Gary Player, the company (Black Knight International/The Player Group), and Gary Player’s brother, Dr. Ian Player, a noted South African conservationist, credited with saving the White Rhino. I am part of the Media team, assisting with content development for the company’s newsletter, social media, and website. I write a monthly article for the company’s ENEWS about the Archives or some interesting materials I’ve come across and also contribute to a Tumblr account showcasing the Archives’ holdings.

Currently we are working especially hard on organizing and preserving the Ian Player Collection, moving it into archival storage boxes and cataloging completely. The collection contains many journals and diaries that Dr. Player kept for various purposes including daily diaries, field journals, and overseas journals. The collection also includes papers, reports, and files associated with the Natal Parks Board for which Dr. Player worked, various campaigns and initiatives to save wildlife including Operation Rhino and Campaign for St. Lucia, and other conservation projects. Also found in the collection are photographs and audio tapes, maps, and correspondence. I look forward to delving deeper into the collection.

Recently, thanks to the generous support of my company, I attended the Society of American Archivists conference in Atlanta, Georgia. This was my first archivists’ conference, with all of my previous professional conferences having been geared more broadly toward public historians or museum professionals. The conference included many sessions relevant to my work including those on sports archives, business archives, and dealing with incoming digital materials, of which we receive a great deal owing to Mr. Player’s continued popularity with the sports, luxury, and leisure media.

Moving forward, I aim to update this platform more often, but plan to shift the content from a simple reporting of my projects to more of a discussion of various topics relating to history, archives, museums, and related themes as I come across them either in my work or in the news, when I visit museums, or in literature of the field. I think these musings will help me to stay up on the current goings on in the field, which is more difficult now as an employed professional than when I was a student. And while I’m continuing to learn and gain more experience in my field, less of what I do each day is really a new skill and rather than report on my doing the same things each day, I’d rather use this platform to write more deeply about related issues. Hence, a name change for the blog: From ‘A Public Historian in the Making’ to ‘The Musings of an Archivist.’ Not that I’m not still a public historian in the making–I believe in life-long learning and always improving your skills and widening your horizons–I am now entering my second year of employment in the field after graduate school and think this blog should transition from a student’s showcasing of experiences and skills to a professional’s reflection on the work of our field.

Have topics you’d like to see me tackle? Send them my way! I love to write about anything related to history, museums, archives, public history, or related topics!

New Job

I am finishing up my first month of my new job as Assistant Archivist at the Tobacco Farm Life Museum. My volunteer work turned into a job on September 1st and the month has flown by. I volunteered with both the Tobacco Farm Life Museum and the Country Doctor Museum all the way up to September, continuing work on the projects mentioned in previous posts, including conservation work on the surrey at CDM and grant writing assistance at TFLM.

Now, I work on a wide variety of things at TFLM from grant writing to visitor services to volunteer management. I’ve been working on promoting the museum’s volunteer and intern programs in order to recruit new volunteers and interns. These efforts have definitely increased the museum’s visibility and the Museum has two new students working on projects with us! I also assist with event planning/fundraising, manage the online gift shop, research and write the history-oriented social media posts, help with scheduling, planning, and giving guided tours, manning booths at festivals and fairs as part of our outreach, and a myriad of other things as they arise. That is the benefit (and sometimes difficulty) of working in a museum with a small staff–doing a little bit of everything. It’s excellent experience and I love being kept on my toes. Having something new to do every day keeps the job exciting. It’s certainly never boring. I’m really enjoying interacting with the public, groups, and volunteers and students on a regular basis while also continuing to do things I already knew I loved such as research and writing through my work on grants and social media posts.

Since much of what I do concerns the daily operations and administration of the Museum, I will be posting less, reserving these posts for updates on specific projects or special issues in public history. My personal life has also been busier of late with a new puppy in the house and wedding planning in full swing, making it difficult to post more often.

For now, I will plug our special events coming up at the Tobacco Farm Life Museum. November 14th we are hosting our first ever BBQ Challenge in which 4 to 6 cooks will face off in the ultimate challenge to see who can cook the best whole hog–winner takes home a trophy and local bragging rights. All proceeds from the sale of the BBQ will support the museum’s mission. Family-friendly games and activities as well as live music will also be on-site.

December 8th we will host our Candlelight Tour, offering a night-time, candlelight tour of the Museum and its historic buildings. More details to come!

Check the museum out online, on Facebook, or in person–come and see me!

Transitions, Collections, and Rural History

Since my last post in mid-June, I have moved from Wilmington to my hometown of Wilson, North Carolina. I was working part-time in Wilmington as the Archivist at the Bellamy Mansion Museum where I was organizing the museum’s institutional archives and accessioning and cataloging new artifact acquisitions. As much as I loved that work, practical needs had to be considered and I decided to move back home in order to save money while I pursue a full-time job in the museum field.

In the meantime I have begun volunteering at two local museums. The Tobacco Farm Life Museum and the Country Doctor Museum have both been kind enough to allow me to volunteer with their collections until I find a full-time position. The Tobacco Farm Life Museum in Kenly, North Carolina has been an important part of my career already so far, allowing me to intern there two different summers when I was a college student, teaching me the basics of artifact handling and labeling, storage and environmental concerns, and visitor services. Now I am assisting with the research and writing of a grant for a new digital collections and virtual exhibits project the museum wishes to undertake.

Me on the porch of the Tobacco Farm Life Museum's historic homestead. I assisted with the cleaning and repainting of one of the rooms following the removal of a bee infestation and related replastering. Summer 2010.
Me on the porch of the Tobacco Farm Life Museum’s historic homestead back in 2010 during my first internship there. I assisted with the cleaning and repainting of one of the rooms following the removal of a bee infestation and related replastering. Summer 2010.
Me with an exhibit on Tobacco Auctioneers that I researched, designed, and installed along with another intern. Summer 2010.
Me with an exhibit on Tobacco Auctioneers that I researched, designed, and installed along with another intern. Summer 2010.

The Country Doctor Museum in Bailey, North Carolina has also welcomed me in. There, I am assisting the curator with inventory of the collection, entering items in PastPerfect, and labeling and photographing them. The museum has an interesting collection of medical instruments from the 19th century. (Some of which make me very happy to live in the 21st century.) I am also working on a conservation project. A surrey (like a carriage) that belonged to a rural doctor’s family is in need of some conservation work but the price of a conservator is a bit too much for the museum. I am performing some of the basic tasks of conservation to help preserve this piece of history. Thus far I have (HEPA) vacuumed the surrey. Next up is a careful cleaning of the wood and iron surfaces of the piece. I am following a conservator’s report of the needs of the surrey, only undertaking those tasks that do not require chemical treatments or repairs to delicate materials. Those are tasks better left to a trained conservator.

The surrey at the Country Doctor Museum that I am helping to conserve. Photo by author.
The surrey at the Country Doctor Museum that I am helping to conserve. Photo by author.
The Country Doctor Museum's HEPA vacuum I used to vacuum the surfaces of the surrey. HEPA vacuum limit the particles that reenter the air, helping to preserve a clean environment for the artifacts. Use of a soft brush attachment helped to carefully dust the surfaces to remove dust and dirt and protected the surrey from the hard nozzle attachments.
The Country Doctor Museum’s HEPA vacuum I used to vacuum the surfaces of the surrey. HEPA vacuums limit the particles that reenter the air, helping to preserve a clean environment for the artifacts. Use of a soft brush attachment helped to carefully dust the surfaces to remove dust and dirt and protected the surrey from the hard nozzle attachments.

I am so happy to be doing the work I love – working with history’s tangible remains and helping to preserve them for the future. I can’t wait to see what else I do at these two interesting sites, both working to preserve and educate about the history of this rural area. Support these small museums by checking out their websites or find these sites on Facebook to stay up to date on their events.

The Tobacco Farm Life Museum: www.tobaccofarmlifemuseum.org; Facebook: Tobacco Farm Life Museum, Inc.

The Country Doctor Museum: www.countrydoctormuseum.org; Facebook: The Country Doctor Museum

Summer Archivin’

First of all, I am very happy to announce that I successfully defended my thesis! I spent the month of May making revisions and preparing for my defense, all of which paid off last week. Now I simply have some paperwork to submit before my graduate school experience is officially over. I learned so much over the last 2 years about what it means to be a public historian and I’m immensely grateful to so many people for making the experience so meaningful, both professors and fellow students, as well as public historians working in the city of Wilmington that supervised internships, partnered with the program on projects, or participated in my education in a number of ways. Thank you all!

While I finished up my thesis I continued working at the Bellamy Mansion, organizing the archives and accessioning new artifacts. I am continuing that work there this summer. So far I have condensed the collection by at least 4 banker’s boxes, working to remove duplicates and items that fall outside of the museum’s collecting parameters. The paper materials largely consist of institutional records of the museum, such as event materials, newsletters, and clippings about the museum. However, there are also historical documents from the Bellamy family. In addition to organizing and preserving these materials, I also research questions as they come up and write articles for the volunteer newsletter about new objects, new research, or current exhibits at the Bellamy.

I have added a part-time, temporary position back at University Archives for the summer as well. For the month of June I am again working in the archives on a number of different things. So far I have assisted with photographing the object collection and I de-installed the exhibit on the history of Honors that I curated back in February. I am also working to finish processing a collection I began during the spring semester.

While I very much enjoy my work in the Bellamy’s and University archives, I am on the market to find a full-time position in the field of public history, preferably in museum collections; however, I’m open to a broader range of positions. I would love to work with tangible objects from the past, organize and care for them, and assist in their interpretation and display. Wish me luck in the job search!

Conferences, Guest Blogging, and Thesis Revisions…oh my!

Over the last month or so my UNCW public history colleagues and I have been busy. Those still in coursework have been busy at work on the Still Standing project, taking the visitor evaluation data we gathered last semester and applying it to a new exhibit opening next month at the Bellamy Mansion. While they’ve been hard at work on that, I have been working on thesis revisions and continuing my positions as assistant in University Archives and as archivist at the Bellamy Mansion. However, even in the midst of all of this, we have also found time to attend a couple of conferences and write some guest blog posts about our work.

Jayd Buteaux, Beth Bullock (author), Caitlin Butler, and Bonnie Soper at the poster session at North Carolina Museums Council Annual Meeting, March 30, 2015, Durham, NC.
Jayd Buteaux, Beth Bullock (author), Caitlin Butler, and Bonnie Soper at the poster session at North Carolina Museums Council Annual Meeting, March 30, 2015, Durham, NC.

At the end of March a group of us attended the North Carolina Museums Council annual meeting in Durham, NC where we presented a poster on the Still Standing visitor evaluation project and attended sessions on a variety of topics, including collections management, graduate training and job skills, and exhibit techniques and collaboration. The conference and the poster session offered excellent opportunities to meet other North Carolina museum professionals and share our work while learning about other successful projects across the state. While there we were asked by North Carolina Connecting to Collections to turn our poster presentation into a guest blog post. The post can be read here: Collections Conversations Guest Blog Post. Both the poster presentation and the blog post described our methods and results in the visitor evaluation project conducted last semester. The visitor surveys and focus group interviews revealed a need to interpret slavery and slave dwellings more fully, better contextualizing the wide variety of experiences of slavery. Many visitors had a limited view of slavery and slave dwellings based on movie portrayals of large, rural plantations. Slavery in other locations, such as urban areas, looked a lot different. Our visitor evaluation data points to this issue as a gap in need of being filled. We were happy to share our project at the poster session where we had many engaging conversations and to expand the conversation via the Connecting to Collections blog.

American Tobacco Campus, Durham, NC. Enjoyed a great networking dinner at Tyler's Taproom during NCMC's Durham conference. Photo by author.
American Tobacco Campus, Durham, NC. Enjoyed a great networking dinner at Tyler’s Taproom during NCMC’s Durham conference. Photo by author.

More recently, several of us also attended the National Council on Public History’s annual meeting in Nashville, Tennessee. This national conference offered many interesting sessions and the opportunity to meet renowned public historians from all across the U.S. and Canada. I attended several interesting sessions, including one entitled “Edging in Women’s History” which offered case studies of museums and sites working to further their inclusion of women’s history in collections, exhibits, and programming. This session offered some inspiration and interesting ideas for me to ponder as I finish my thesis on women’s history in the collections and exhibits at the Cape Fear Museum here in Wilmington. Most interesting to me was a presentation on finding women in collections, which pointed to some similar challenges as I have noticed at the Cape Fear Museum, including cataloging methods that focus on the obvious physical description or donor without acknowledging more nuanced connections to women or issues of gender.

Another session explored issues of race and gender in leisure culture and how histories of segregated recreation spaces or histories of concert venues can be used to highlight and better understand these issues. Recreation and leisure activities offer easy access points to today’s visitors. These topics and spaces offer a way to make history of race and gender relatable to today’s public.

Public Historians in the historic Downtown Presbyterian Church in Nashville, TN. The conference's public plenary featured a discussion between a former Freedom Rider and the woman behind the documentary about the Freedom Rides. The plenary was held in this beautiful Egyptian Revival church.
Public Historians in the historic Downtown Presbyterian Church in Nashville, TN. The conference’s public plenary featured a discussion between a former Freedom Rider and the woman behind the documentary about the Freedom Rides. The plenary was held in this beautiful Egyptian Revival church.

At the conference Leslie Randle-Morton and I were also able to accept the NCPH Student Project Award Honorable Mention for our work with Jayd Buteaux on Push and Pull: Eastern European and Russian Migration to the Cape Fear Region. Prior to the conference we were also given the opportunity to write about the exhibit development process and share our experience working with the community who helped bring the project to life. That post can be read here: NCPH Guest Blog – Push and Pull.

Our award for Push and Pull. We were so honored to receive this at the Awards Breakfast in Nashville. Photo by Leslie Randle-Morton.
Our award for Push and Pull. We were so honored to receive this at the Awards Breakfast in Nashville. Photo by Leslie Randle-Morton.

In addition to the engaging sessions and the opportunities to hear from and meet interesting public historians, NCPH offered a chance to see Nashville. Rich in history and music, it was a great host city for the conference.

Ryman Auditorium, The Mother Church of Country Music, Nashville, NC. Photo by Author.
Ryman Auditorium, The Mother Church of Country Music, Nashville, NC. Photo by Author.
Downtown Nashville. Photo by author.
Downtown Nashville. Photo by author.
Boubon Street Blues and Boogie Bar - where we had a delicious lunch and heard some great live blues music. Photo by author.
Boubon Street Blues and Boogie Bar – where we had a delicious lunch and heard some great live blues music. Photo by author.

Both conferences were such wonderful experiences. Moving forward, I am focusing on my thesis revisions and preparing for my summer thesis defense and graduation. I am also wrapping up my time as graduate assistant in University Archives, a position that ends with the semester next week. However, I will be continuing to work at the Bellamy while I complete my thesis this summer and continue my search for a full-time position.

Still Standing: Evaluating Visitors’ Interest in Slave Dwellings

This is a piece my classmates and I wrote as a guest post for North Carolina Connecting to Collections. It is based on a poster we presented at the North Carolina Museums Council conference last week in Durham. We are grateful to NC Connecting to Collections for the interest in the project and for the opportunity to share it with their online community via their blog, Collections Conversations.

collectionsconversations

Thanks to Beth Bullock, Jayd Buteaux, Caitlin Butler, and Bonnie Soper for this guest post. The students first presented this information during a poster session at NCMC‘s annual meeting last week and we’re grateful to be able to share it with NC C2C’s online community.

In the fall of 2014, graduate students at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington started a yearlong project focusing on the preservation and interpretation of slave dwellings. The first part in the process was to gather information on the community’s general impressions about slavery and slave dwellings.

Slave Quarter at the Bellamy Mansion Slave Quarter at the Bellamy Mansion

We conducted 90 visitor surveys at the Bellamy Mansion and 12 focus groups with various individuals across age groups and races within the local Wilmington community. This was done in conjunction with research on various slave dwellings, the history of slavery, and slave dwelling preservation. The data we compiled…

View original post 337 more words