5 Things Museums Rocked In 2016

Carly Syms


VIP + Marketing Manager

We spend all year long talking about why museums are f***ing awesome — the amazing stories, priceless artifacts, and a whole bunch of passionate people all under one roof. 

In the spirit of the new year, we’ve collected a few of things museums have done well in the past year. Join us in giving museums a collective pat on the back as we take a look at five things museums rocked in 2016.

Museums worked to redefine engagement with guests in 2016.
Museums worked to redefine engagement with guests in 2016.

Redefining the Museum Model

Museums are no longer simply a keeper of historical artifacts. Lecture series, concerts, and nighttime programming with drinks and DJs are a few of the ways museums have recently opened their doors to new and younger audiences.

Some museums have branched out into new territory, expanding their relevance in spaces outside of the traditional museum model.

A great example of this is ACMI X, a co-working space dedicated to the creative industries established in early 2016 by the Australian Centre for the Moving Image — the first of its kind for an Australian museum.

“A 21st century museum model is about enabling audiences to access and explore the creative process; it’s a two way conversation – not just about showing the final object. ACMI is eager to support and collaborate in the making of work throughout the journey and to make this accessible and transparent.” – Katrina Sedgwick, Director and CEO of the museum, explains the importance of the space in a blog post for the Center for the Future of Museums.

While this idea isn’t brand new (the New Museum opened NEW INC., their own co-working space and “the first museum-led incubator” in 2014), it’s worth highlighting as a step in the right direction as museums continue to redefine themselves as spaces for community events, co-working, and even as startup accelerators and incubators.

Embracing trends

Remember that month last summer when you knew every person shuffling around with their head down, eyes glued to their phone screen were on the hunt for Pokemon?

Well, it turns out, the short-lived Pokemon Go craze created a surprising opportunity that museums fully embraced to welcome new audiences through their doors.

According to the game’s developer, Niantic Labs, Pokemon were placed in free-to-access public spaces, so museums and other heritage buildings were the perfect spot to catch them all.

Pokemon in the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Charles Engelhard Court Gallery
Pokemon in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Charles Engelhard Court Gallery

Museums across North America saw an increase in visitors as the search for the digital creatures led new audiences to the museums. We even joined in on the fun and created our own Pokemon Go tour of the Met!

Short-lived trends like Pokemon Go create interesting opportunities for museums to experiment with audience engagement and visitor diversity. If your museum is already excelling at audience engagement and telling great stories, then try combining a new trend with what you’re already offering visitors to see where it takes you.

Growing Digital Audiences

We love working with museums to reach new audiences and grow existing ones, and social media is one of our favorite platforms for this.

We’ve worked with some fantastic museums in the past year and have seen some great results. While social media isn’t necessarily new for museums, it continues to be used in new and interesting ways to experiment with audience growth and increased engagement.

In October 2016, the New York Times declared museums the new social media darlings, highlighting the efforts of museums to relate to audiences in new ways by combining quirky commentary with elements of their collections. This mash-up of pop culture and educational content has been a popular angle for museums. It allows them to be accessible across social media channels, while becoming more relatable for people who may not consider themselves museum-goers.

Our guides enjoying Trivia Night at BarkBox headquarters.
We work social media into our tours – and our specialized events, like this one for BarkBox!

One great example of this is the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s foray into Snapchat, which earned them a Webby award in 2016.

The app is traditionally aimed at younger users, making it the perfect platform for LACMA to experiment with drawing in a younger audience. LACMA created snaps that were the perfect pairing of pop culture and art, combining song lyrics and pop culture references with works in their collection. And it’s paid off — LACMA’s Snapchat account now has over 180,000 followers tuning into their quirky art-themed snaps.

Creating a Museum Experience for Everyone

How do you make museums accessible to diverse audiences with different concepts of identity?

The Center for the Future of Museums2016 Trendwatch report revolved around these types of questions surrounding identity and inclusion.

Encouragingly, museums have stepped up and have addressed these questions of inclusion in a ton of interesting ways in the past year, including:

A hot topic in the field for a while now, inclusive museum experiences were an important consideration in the past year (and will continue to be much discussed in 2017).

Continuing to Show Us Why They’re Awesome!

Kate found inspiration for the Badass Bitches tour while researching interesting stories about other pieces in the museum.
Museums were awesome in 2016.

Overall, 2016 was a cool year for museums!

For these reasons, and many more, we’ll continue to spread the museum love. Bring it on, 2017!

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