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Museums and the Web

An annual conference exploring the social, cultural, design, technological, economic, and organizational issues of culture, science and heritage on-line.

So You Want To Be an Artist? How the National Gallery of Canada Used Social Media to Connect with Teens


This session presents a demonstration of how the National Gallery of Canada engaged teens from across the country in an online contest, So You Want To Be an Artist? [] where they shared their creativity through social media. Teens were invited to submit artworks online and have their friends and family vote for them. The twelve works with the most votes were then exhibited at the National Gallery of Canada and a jury selected the top three winners.  Inspired by the reach of current web and new media technologies, this program represented several ‘firsts’ for the Gallery, including using social media (Facebook, Twitter, Youtube) as a primary means of dissemination and communication.  As a national institution, the Gallery is dedicated to engaging a diverse range of audiences, many of whom may never visit their national art collection because of where they live.

Initially conceived as a website targeted to schools, designed to make the collection known to teens and based on a theme determined by the Gallery, the project evolved to be open to all teens, about themes of their choosing, and leveraged their comfort using social media. In the spirit of innovation, risk-taking, and being visitor-centred, the Gallery expanded on its standard approaches to program delivery and experimented with social media in order to engage meaningfully with a national teen audience. From across the country, 126 youth submitted artwork online.  These submissions garnered 22,000 votes on Facebook, and the contest website was visited by over 55,000 people.  By April 2012 the second iteration of the contest will be well underway. 

Participants will learn how social media can offer access to diverse audiences; they will become aware of potential benefits and risks in using social media as a method of community building; they will become more open to experimenting and taking risks with social media.  Participants will come away with practical tips, tricks, and lessons learned about using social media in program delivery.

The demonstration will be of interest to new or mid-career museum professionals in interpretation and education, marketing and public relations, and web and new media who seek to engage with diverse publics, possibly over a large geographic area. It will also be of particular interest to those who are developing strategies for using social media to engage meaningfully with new audiences, and who – with limited human and financial resources— seek effective ways of leveraging existing networks of communities.

Insights from staff and participants will be shared. Lessons learned and questions raised will be linked to other examples of current best practice to reveal some of the new ways of thinking— about audiences, staff roles, and the value of social media—that can help move us towards being more responsive and inclusive. 


Demonstration - show your project


Gary Goodacre's picture
Gary Goodacre has worked as an educator in museums since 1995, first at the Canada Aviation Museum and then at the National Gallery of Canada. Inspired by the challenge of increasing the reach of the Gallery's educational programming, he is interested in using the web and new media to connect...