Twitter, a big hit with news junkies and those in the media industry, has been working to widen that scope to bring in more mainstream users, as well as those with other special interests. The latest group to be tapped are culture vultures: between March 24 and 30, Twitter will dedicate a week to museums across Europe and the UK, with hundreds of galleries signed up to produce special content for the platform, giving “Twitter users direct and unparalleled access to some of Europe’s leading museums and the people behind them in 140-character bursts.”
You can see a full list of official participants here, although a spokesperson says that any arty venue can jump on the bandwagon by using the #MuseumWeek hashtag. Those already signed up include the Science Museum (@sciencemuseum), the Natural History Museum (@NHM_London), the Victoria and Albert Museum (@V_and_A), the British Museum (@britishmuseum), and Tate (@Tate); as well as smaller places like the Roald Dahl Museum and the Pencil Museum in Cumbria (!) (@PencilMuseum).
Some of these have already been savvy tweeters: the Tate, for example, ran a live tour of a Roy Lichtenstein over Twitter last year, where users were able to ask the curator questions throughout the event by tweeting #TateTour. Tate, it turns out, is the most-followed museum in Europe, and the third worldwide (1 million+ followers).
“Tate’s presence on Twitter is crucial to engaging our global audiences in on-going conversations about art and creativity,” said Jesse Ringham, Digital Communications Manager from Tate, in a statement. “We’re delighted to be joining this international initiative alongside large and small museums and galleries from the UK and beyond.”
Other types of efforts will encourage interaction between visitors and work (#MuseumSelfies), interaction with museum staff (#AskTheCurator) and anecdotes (#MuseumMemories).
In its recently published annual report, Twitter noted monthly active users of 241 million in the quarter that ended December 31, 2013. That indicated a slowdown of new MAUs compared with the two quarters prior to that. Moves like this point to how Twitter is working to make that growth something that is not simply down to bringing on the same kinds of users that have helped built it into what it is today; but by bringing on groups that have not used it before.
What MuseumWeek will do is bring extra focus for users to how Twitter can be a window into art (much like a sports event might open the door to some users turning to Twitter for the first time), but it’s not a one-off effort. Mar Dixon, who works on social media projects for museums, points out that this has and will extend beyond this week. “Every day of the year museums and cultural institutions across the world are using Twitter in exciting and interesting ways to tell the stories of their collections to new audiences,” she notes.
Buy there is another interesting element to MuseumWeek: it is another attempt by Twitter to move its platform away from being a primarily verbal medium, and one focused around visual images — the very currency of art, and the one that just happens to be a key focal point of Twitter’s ad-based business model.
Image: Jan Steen, As the old sing, so twitter the young Wikimedia Commons.