Print Project Proposal- The Museum of the City of New York Social Media and Audience Engagement

Museums have long tried to keep up with the technological demands of audiences. They have also tried many techniques to appeal to younger visitors as well. Some museums have been apprehensive about turning to social media to promote their exhibits, while others have been enthusiastic in hopes of bringing in more visitors. The Museum of the City of the New York (MCNY) was founded in 1923 and has been one of the top destinations for New Yorkers and tourists. The museum’s mission is to “foster understanding of the distinctive nature of urban life in the world’s most influential metropolis. It engages visitors by celebrating, documenting, and interpreting the city’s past, present, and future.” How does one of the oldest museums in the United States stay relevant in a technologically based world? What type of social media programming does the museum use to attract visitors? Did MCNY need to change its mission in order to bring in new visitors?

For this project, I will focus on the technological tactics MCNY uses, such as social media and other media outlets, in order to attract more visitors.

Museum of the City of New York Instagram
MCNY’s Podcast Your Hometown

The MCNY uses social media, like Instagram, to share hashtag posts like #OnThisDay and #CityViewSunday to interact with their followers. They also share photos from their physical collections in order to attract a larger audience. For example, they have shared collections from their 80s music exhibit and Samuel H. Gottscho’s photographs from the 1930’s, to target both younger and older audiences. The museum also participates in other virtual programs like the creation of their podcast called Your Hometown. Why did they choose to feature certain collections rather than others? Has sharing those particular collections/exhibits helped to increase traffic to the museum? Do these posts speak to the cultural and social diversity of New Yorkers and tourists alike?  

Looking at the museum’s past posts and collections shared, we can see the posts that their followers liked and commented on the most. From there, I will listen to their most viewed podcasts and see how their languages differ from each other. I would then put the posts and transcripts of the podcast on Voyant. Voyant is an online site that gives the user a visual picture to see which words are the most commonly used. By using this online tool, you can easily compare the language styles of these two digital platforms. Do museums use different language on their podcast vs. their Instagram posts? Are they trying to appeal to two separate demographics using these platforms? What history is displayed on these posts and is there a particular time period that gets the most likes or views?

One Reply to “Print Project Proposal- The Museum of the City of New York Social Media and Audience Engagement”

  1. Hi Sherrell,

    Overall, I really like this idea. All kinds of museums are doing work to develop digital audience engagement strategies, and it’s my sense that very little research has gone into exploring what is or is not successful with those approaches.

    I think focusing in on MCNY can be a great way to go. With that said, if you were to run with this as your course project, I think it might be useful to think about identifying 2-4 other similar size museums focused on the same kind of issue areas so that you could do more of a comparison and contrast on how they are approaching things. There can be a case for doing a deeper dive on an individual museum, but I do think a lot of the questions you are most interested in are likely to be best engaged with in cross comparisons of different museums.

    Another aspect to consider with this is that I think it would likely be useful to do some outreach to the museums you study to see if you could get them to do an interview or even just respond to some questions over email relating to their work with online audience engagement. I think getting them to directly tell you what their goals are, what they see as their biggest successes with this work are, and any key lessons they think they have learned through use of these approaches can be useful to inform your analysis.

    The idea to do computational analysis of the content from the museum through Voyant could be interesting. That said, I think it could also get pretty complex. To that end, I think you could very well just approach this through sampling some of their content and doing more straightforward close reading on what they are sharing.

    If you did end up running with this as your project, you could likely find some good literature review material by looking through papers from Museums and the Web (which are all online) and from some of the articles published in the digital section of the journal Curator over time.

    Altogether, this is a really promising idea and area of work and I think a lot of folks would likely be interested in the kinds of things you would find through this sort of research.

    Best, Trevor

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