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08/08/2013 / aretaki

Users, Fans and Followers event in Newcastle – debating the value of digital cultural engagement for MGH

On Friday, 7th of June, we met as planned, in the Great North Museum: Hancock to discuss digital cultural engagement in museums, galleries and heritage. Many thanks to the great bunch of people who came along to the ‘Users, Fans and Followers’ event and all our panel members, who asked questions, shared experiences and brought up some very useful issues for all of us to ponder on.

This was also the first opportunity for us to present the findings from the ‘Engaged Culturally?’ project, which looked at how people engage with  Facebook pages of museum, gallery and heritage sites (MGH) in the North East of England. We particularly wanted to ask questions around the ‘value ‘ of online digital cultural engagement and whether we can capture it, interpret it and measure it. For more details, we have uploaded the presentation on slideshare and the twitter discussions have also been storified.

In our study we used three lenses of interpretation to examine value in digital cultural engagement with MGH; specifically we focused on (a) users’ motivations, (b) situations of engagement, and (c) mobilization of resources as discussed in social capital literature.

As expected, some of the findings confirmed ideas already reported in other studies: for instance, a key motivation for people to join MGH Facebook pages is to ‘support and promote the given institution’ and to ‘find out more about what goes on in the given institutions’.

On the other hand, the study also suggested that liking an institution’s Facebook page may increase the regularity of visits to the institution, inspire people to visit websites or social media platforms of other similar institutions and help people to increase their knowledge of the subject(s) covered by the given institution. In other words, in social capital speak, we noticed that liking a MGH Facebook page can support the maintenance and the mobilization of resources for individuals. We also saw some significant differences between the preferences and behaviors of people who ‘like’ Facebook pages of heritage sites and those of art museum and galleries.

The day also included great contributions from: Michela Clari, who talked about digital engagement principles from her work in Scottish MGH; Lorna Richardson, who talked about her ‘Connecting with Collections’ experiences; John Coburn, who discussed ’emotional resonance’ as a curating approach to TWAM’s Flickr The Commons offerings; and Elena Villaespesa, who talked about measuring Twitter engagement in Tate’s The Tanks.

The afternoon session opened up with Craig Astley, who outlined the role of social media in BALTIC’s marketing mix and closed with Bob Bewley, who encouraged all delegates to have a look at HLF’s new Strategic Framework and reflected on the value of social media and digital technologies for cultural engagement with MGH.

Questions from the audience highlighted the need to better understand how the value of digital cultural engagement might be different among users with different abilities and the lack of information on how design aspects of social media platforms may affect users’ engagement. There was also a keen interest in substantiating and researching further the differences observed among fans of different types of institutions.

Altogether, this was a very useful event – a great way to open up the conversation around the value of digital cultural engagement for the museum, gallery and heritage sector.

07/05/2013 / chiarabonacchi

Users, fans and followers: Engaging with museums, galleries and heritage via social media

When: 7 June 2013, from 10.30am to 4pm

Where: The Great North Museum: Hancock, Newcastle Upon Tyne

A one-day workshop for researchers, practitioners and policy makers in the GLAM sector.

How do people engage with museums, galleries and heritage sites via social media? What are their motivations for engaging, and what are the methods currently used by cultural institutions to understand their social media users, fans and followers?

This one-day workshop will bring together university researchers, policy makers and museum, gallery and heritage practitioners to discuss digital cultural engagement in the sector. The event is funded by the AHRC Cultural Engagement Fund and is organised by the International Centre for Cultural and Heritage Studies (ICCHS) at Newcastle University, in collaboration with Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums.

The workshop will present the findings of a pilot project conducted by researchers at ICCHS, which looked at how people engage with the Facebook pages of museums, galleries and heritage sites in the North East; this study explored how social media engagement with cultural content and institutions fits in with people’s everyday lives, their interests and their cultural engagement practices (online and offline).

Participants in the event will also find out how cultural institutions can encourage and sustain significant levels of public engagement via their social media platforms. The day will offer opportunities for discussion, which is expected to provide insights into the value of digital cultural engagement.

Speakers include Chiara Bonacchi and Areti Galani (International Centre for Cultural and Heritage Studies, Newcastle University), Michela Clari (University of Edinburgh), Lorna Richardson (UCL and University of Cambridge Museums), Elena Villaespesa (Leicester University and Tate), Bill Griffiths and John Coburn (Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums), Lara Devitt (Arts Council England), Robert Bewley (Heritage Lottery Fund), Stephen Devine (The Manchester Museums and Galleries Partnership), and Craig Astley (BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art).

Please see the full programme and the abstracts of this event.

Attendance is free, but booking is required at

For information, please contact Chiara Bonacchi, at chiara.bonacchi[at]

Join in the conversation on Twitter: #digiculteng

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