As museums and galleries prepare for reopening on July 4th, we think now is a great moment to take a look at the best digital content strategies in the gallery world.
Since digital content will continue to enhance cultural experiences outside of physical exhibitions, it’s important to keep your online audience top of mind. Because as lockdown has shown, remote and virtual experiences are meaningful ways to supplement gallery visits, providing additional information, learning resources, fun activities and DIY interactions which increase engagement and give something extra to your visitors.
In light of this, we’ve rounded up five galleries, big and small, that have made significant strides across the web and social media. These galleries have approached content in different ways that are equally effective, offering distinct and unique online experiences for visitors far and wide.
The Serpentine Galleries
Known for: Pioneering exhibitions of contemporary art across two galleries in Hyde Park
The Serpentine Galleries has just had an extensive digital rebrand, making its website and content better than ever.
Its ‘Art & Ideas’ section serves as a content hub, collating articles, podcasts and films exploring the ideas behind their displays and the artists who created them. From in-depth discussions on exhibition themes to artist interviews giving behind-the-art exclusives, the ‘Art & Ideas’ tab is a great resource for extra content related to goings-on at the galleries.
Click on the ‘What’s On’ tab and you’ll find details of current, upcoming and online exhibitions. Each has extensive background information, high-quality images of work on display, and some have video trailers too.
The Serpentine’s 2020 online exhibition, which ran from 14th May to 30th June, was called ‘do it (around the world)’. Its premise was to provide “an ever-expanding set of creative instructions by leading artists – simple enough for anyone to do,” developing since 1993 in various forms.
In 2020, 30 international creative figures from the fields of art, music, poetry, fashion and design provided instructions, inspiration and tips for people creating art from home. It was hosted by Google Arts & Culture, and the Serpentine is cleverly encouraging people to share their creations with the hashtags #doit and #doitaroundtheworld to boost engagement through user-generated content.
These online resources served the Serpentine’s audience in lieu of a physical exhibition before their doors opened to the public again. Encouraging engagement and connection beyond the gallery walls creates a tighter-knit community around local exhibitions and brings the wonders of the gallery into homes around the world.
Over on social media…
The Serpentine Galleries’ Instagram feed is where the action happens. Their colourful grid features artwork, videos, photographs and poetry, each with detailed captions and intriguing insights. The Serpentine also shares interesting third-party content, such as interviews and discussions, related to their exhibition material.
The Wallace Collection
Known for: 18th Century French Art (Rococo and Baroque), 16th-19th Century European Art, Armour and Porcelain
The Wallace Collection’s digital strategy is known for being one of the best in the game. They have an extensive online collection database with high-quality images and expert knowledge provided in the descriptions.
Visitors can explore the collection through highlights selected by staff, or use the detailed search engine to find specific artefacts or paintings. The collection can also be navigated by gallery — so if visitors know where their favourite painting is hung in Hertford House, or just want to see how the collection is arranged room-by-room, this tool adds another layer to the online experience.
The blog is full of detailed articles and videos spotlighting specific artefacts in the collection. It’s organised thematically through blog series, recently covering royalty, animals, light and dark, movement and music, and war and peace. The Wallace Collection also runs a ‘Treasure of the Month’ blog series, highlighting an item in the collection with images you can zoom in on to see its intricacies while learning about the object’s history and significance.
This level of detail, organisation and breadth of online resources sets The Wallace Collection apart from many of its counterparts: its digital experience is distinct from a physical visit, but we think just as insightful and valuable.
Over on social media…
Twitter is where the Wallace Collection’s social presence comes to life. Posting almost daily, they share facts about their paintings, artefacts and artists, providing context as if you were in the gallery space.
Known for: Historic British art and contemporary art across four galleries in England
The pinnacle of Tate’s online strategy is its learning resources. Front and centre on the main homepage is the ‘Play, Learn and Create’ section, showcasing resources for kids and adults looking to expand their art knowledge.
Tate Kids has its own dedicated website, with activities, games, quizzes, informative articles and videos to help kids learn the importance of creativity and spark an interest in art. There’s also a Kids Gallery showcasing art submitted by children across the world, which is a great way to boost engagement with children and parents alike.
Back on the main site, the Explore Our Galleries Online segment features a selection of galleries from all of Tate’s sites, including a modern art exhibition from St Ives and Walk Through British Art from the Tate Britain in London. The experiences are structured by room with high-quality images of the artwork and matching descriptions.
Visitors can explore 78,000 artworks, 4,000 artists and 22,000 archive items on Tate’s site, navigating by theme, alphabetically, by collection or medium. Finding your way around the website couldn’t be easier.
This is another great example of how online experiences can complement physical visits, with fantastic resources and additional exclusive information for multiple audiences.
Over on social media…
Tate’s Instagram is bright, colourful and informative. It has an intriguing selection of story highlights and videos including ‘Making a Pot like Grayson Perry’ and a behind-the-scenes look at working at Tate during lockdown. They also moved their popular Friday lates series online, “bringing an artist-led programme direct to you, wherever you are.” This Friday (3 July) it’s all about LGBTIQ+ artists, with a mixture of talks, workshops, films and music, all accessible via Facebook.
Known for: French impressionist and post-impressionist paintings, the collection of the University of London’s Courtauld Institute of Art
The Courtauld Gallery had some time to make sure its digital content strategy is up to standard: it was closed in late 2018 for a major redevelopment. Throughout this time, it kept visitors engaged through comprehensive virtual tours through each room of the gallery, digital exhibitions, and thought-leadership articles and webinars led by the Courtauld Institute of Art.
Under the Gallery tab on the Courtauld’s website you’ll find ‘Watch’ and ‘Listen’ sections hosting videos and podcasts on a variety of topics, including some famous names and faces discussing art! For those who don’t fancy a virtual tour, they also have high-res images of their collection by medium: paintings, prints and drawings, sculpture and decorative arts.
The variety of ways to explore the collection makes it very accessible to all kinds of audiences. The Courtauld benefits from the expertise of its academics and students when putting on events such as the Open Hour, an online series of lectures and performances on “all things art history.”
Over on social media…
The Courtauld Gallery’s Twitter shares highlights from the collection, online event details both from the Institute of Art and third-party associates, and places to learn more about art history. They post frequently, keeping audiences engaged with thought-out and attention-grabbing messages.
Known for: Contemporary art in two small locations in London, Mason’s Yard and Bermondsey, and in Hong Kong.
White Cube’s clean, airy website is both calming and reminiscent of the illuminating gallery spaces in their physical locations.
There is a dedicated tab for online exhibitions, where three are currently on display. The exhibitions are presented in an infinite-scroll format, with high-quality images and informative captions alongside behind-the-scenes photographs of the artist’s studio and inspirations. It feels as immersive as visiting the gallery in person: it’s user-friendly, you don’t have to click around the site for more art or information as it’s presented on one page with an effortless flow.
White Cube’s News and Events page is regularly updated with the latest from the gallery, while the Channel has videos covering a huge range of artists previously or currently exhibited. The videos give the artist’s perspective on their works and guided tours of online exhibitions, providing digital visitors with an extra layer of experience.
Over on social media…
White Cube has a striking Instagram feed of intriguing artworks, in-depth descriptions, and news of upcoming displays and events. The videos are from the Channel section of the website, presented with subtitles for accessibility in mobile use, which helps reach an audience that may not have seen them on the website.
The closure of museums and galleries during the coronavirus pandemic has been a catalyst for change in how cultural institutions engage their audiences outside of the exhibition space. Taking the opportunity to develop an online content strategy, keeping up with regular visitors and drawing in new ones through accessible digital resources, has primed these galleries for a successful reopening and a thriving future.
At CBA Content, we’re dedicated to helping museums and cultural organisations build an inspiring and impactful content strategy, no matter where they are on their journey.
We can help by creating a custom content map for your business with market and audience research, content ideas and promotional strategy, or by creating bespoke content for your organisation. Get in touch — we’d love to see how we can help.