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5 Hashtags Creating a Buzz in the Museum and Heritage Community (and How To Start Your Own)

Hashtags are like puzzle pieces – they represent a small part of a bigger picture, idea or conversation. Each hashtag has its own shape and fits together to create a coherent message.

Used across social media – on Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest – hashtags are an effective way to bring like-minded people together. They lead discussions, spark creativity and connect individual ideas and actions.

Perhaps most importantly, hashtags make your content more visible online so that people interested in your museum’s area of expertise or social history, can find your collection and engage with you online. In fact, when used correctly, hashtags are highly effective at increasing engagement:

  • Tweets with hashtags receive 2X more engagement than those without hashtags (Buffer)
  • An Instagram post with at least one hashtag gets 29% more interactions (for profiles with ≤ 1k followers) (Admitad Academy)
  • Tweets with 1-2 hashtags have a 55% higher chance of getting retweeted (Twitter)

So how can your museum or heritage site use hashtags to successfully engage your audience? Here are five hashtags creating a buzz within the cultural heritage community right now, plus tips for sparking your own conversation online.

1. #PenleeInspiredChallenge

What began as a way for people to unleash their creativity at home during the pandemic, the #PenleeInspiredChallenge revolves around an object or painting from Penlee House Gallery & Museum in Cornwall. Each week, the museum shares a new painting from its collection on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Anyone following along is then encouraged to draw a sketch, write a poem, make paper cutouts (like below), paint – express themselves however they’d like.

Throughout the week, people tag their artistic responses with #PenleeInspiredChallenge or email their creations to the museum so they can be shared on Penlee House’s social media channels.

On Instagram, over 100 posts are tagged with #PenleeInspiredChallenge. Due to the success of the challenge over the past year, the museum continues the weekly tradition to this day.

Hashtag tip: How could your collection spark a fun, friendly contest that people could join from home?

2. #InHerShoes

Coinciding with Women’s History Month, Fal Culture‘s #InHerShoes challenge is a 30-day art project hosted on Instagram. Every day, a piece of art by a female artist is featured on Falmouth Art Gallery’s Instagram feed. Each artwork is a creative prompt, encouraging people to respond with their own artistic interpretations.

At the end of the 30 days, everyone’s creations – photography, poetry, painting, etc – will be displayed in a digital exhibition and physical exhibition once their Community Gallery re-opens.

This is another brilliant example of how an art collection run by a small, local team is being shared with people from around the world. It has a theme, a consistent schedule and relevance in the real world (to celebrate and explore the culture of women). To put people’s creative works on display in a gallery afterwards is an added bonus!

Hashtag tip: Is there an event, anniversary or special occasion that your museum or gallery could turn into a wider conversation with a hashtag?

3. #MuseumHour

Led by volunteer co-organisers in the museum industry, #MuseumHour is a monthly chat on Twitter about all things museums. The themed discussions kicked off around six years ago and have covered more than 300 topics to date. Not run by or connected to any museum specifically, #MuseumHour provides an open space to share your ideas freely and support those who also work in and/or love museums.

Conversations have been about everything from museum ethics and leadership practice to specialisms (natural history, art, conservation, etc.) and climate action. A host or pair of hosts leads each #MuseumHour, typically by posing questions and responding to participants’ answers. By tagging every question and answer with #MuseumHour, people are easily able to go back and read the discussion at a later time.

For instance, here is a roundup of their discussion on contested statues and what museums should do with them.

#MuseumHour has carved out a respectful and reflective space to address not only the difficult questions, but also the fun and creative aspects of museums, too. Tune in on the first Monday of every month to join the conversation.

Hashtag Tip: What discussion could you participate in or start yourself that could spark new ideas and connections within the museum world?

4. #WorkOfTheWeek

The #WorkOfTheWeek hashtag is popular on Instagram and Twitter and is used to show off a painting, photograph or object in a museum, art or historical collection. In fact, #WorkOfTheWeek, #PhotoOfTheWeek and #ObjectOfTheWeek have become recurring social media posts for many cultural organisations big and small.

These three hashtags also give your gallery the chance to promote an upcoming exhibition or encourage people to visit your digital collection. Above all, it provides a natural, consistent way to bring the history and context of your collection to life.

I suggest using this group of hashtags as a jumping off point and seeing how it can best shine a light on your collection. Maybe you have a number of curious objects in your collection or photographs taken by locals. See if you can create a content calendar from different categories so you can publish content on a more consistent basis. Consistency sparks conversations and builds connections.

Hashtag Tip: Is there a hashtag you can turn into a weekly or monthly social post? This will help fill in your content calendar and keep your feed consistent and fresh.

5. #MuseumFromHome

As you may have guessed, #MuseumFromHome picked up steam when ‘stay at home’ measures went into effect last year. The idea was simple: record yourself sharing the story behind a person, object or movement that means something to you and share it on Twitter. The hashtag had its own profile and even partnered up with BBC Arts to put on a virtual #MuseumFromHome event.

Needless to say the hashtag was a massive success, resonating with many culture lovers during lockdown. The hashtag has since taken on various new forms, giving people who work in museums or are simply missing visiting museums a chance to share and learn about different collections.

While #MuseumFromHome is still very much a reality – museums in the UK are set to reopen in May – I believe it will remain relevant as museums continue to inspire and connect with people far beyond their gallery doors.

Hashtag Tip: How can your museum, gallery or heritage site resonate with visitors remotely and invite them behind your collection’s doors?

Bonus – #MuseumSelfie

Museum enthusiast, project coordinator and advocate of making culture accessible, Mar Dixon launched #MuseumSelfie in 2015. While visiting museums with her daughter, Dixon thought it would be a fun way to document people’s memories of going to museums and at the same time raise awareness of collections around the world.

The hashtag campaign took off on Twitter and Instagram as museum lovers and museum professionals posted photos of their #MuseumSelfie online. Even outside of #MuseumSelfieDay, the social media sensation continues from art galleries, heritage sites and cultural landmarks near and far.

Hashtag tip: Is there a modern trend like selfies that you can combine with your collection to get people excited and involved with art and culture?

Need help sparking a conversation with your community?

CBA Content helps cultural organisations with their content strategies, from ideation and planning to creation and analysis. If you’d like to find out about how your museum or heritage organisation can capture your community’s attention and build meaningful relationships using content, please get in touch.

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