Examples of how museums are using Pinterest

7 February 2012

Following on from my introduction post about museums and Pinterest, I’ve browsed through all the boards of all the 30+ museums I’d found so far, and here are some specific examples of how museums are using Pinterest. 

To showcase their collections

Pinterest is all about organising images into themes. And what does that remind you of in terms of museums? Exactly, an exhibition. So one obvious use for museums on Pinterest is to create boards highlighting their collections or specific themes within them, such as organising them by geographical origin or genre. This is e.g. what the Indianapolis Museum of Art (IMA) has done. They have boards with themes such as ‘Asian Art’ and ‘African Art’, but also ‘Textile and Fashion Arts’ and ‘Prints, Drawings and Photographs’. IMA also exhibits highlights of their collections on their website, which is in fact where the images have been pinned from, but Pinterest allows them to display these in a different format and perhaps reach out to a different audience that may not already interact with their website. Another nice idea for highlighting collections is creating boards with fun themes, such as ‘Dog Days’, ‘Color me happy’ or, my favourite, ‘Facial hair of note’ from the Archives of American Art.

To promote their store

Another obvious use is for museums to create boards promoting products from their store, if they have one. There is actually a function on Pinterest that allows you to add a price tag to your pins (just by typing the $ or £ symbol followed by the amount as a number in the pin’s description). Not only does this signal to your followers that this is an item that can be bought if you click through to the original source, but as well as being able to browse Pinterest by categories such as ‘Architecture’ or ‘History’, you can also browse under ‘Gifts’ in different price categories which will display all pins that have a price tag attached, so it’s another way to drive traffic to your museum store. Since Pinterest shows you how many times your pins were liked or re-pinned, this lets you see which of your store products are most popular. And if your followers have a board that they use as a wish list, they can pin your store products to it. Examples of museums who have board promoting their stores include the Chicago History Museum and the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.

To generate discussion

Since Pinterest allows you to comment on pins, this offers an opportunity for museums to generate discussion. You could just leave it to chance whether someone will comment, or you could give it a little extra push like the Metropolitan Museum of Art has done. For their Metropolitan Museum of Art Teens programme, they’ve created a set of boards for “teens to share their own thoughts and responses to Renaissance portraits from Italy in the fifteenth-century”, and on some of the pins they’ve added prompts such as “What do you think?” in the descriptions.

To collaborate

Another interesting feature on Pinterest, and one I actually forgot to mention in my introduction post, is the possibility to let other people contribute to your board. It’s fairly simple to set up (full instructions are given in the ‘Help' section), and you control who gets access. This opens up a range of possibilities for museum projects. The Chicago History Museum has created a collaborative board entitled 'What building inspires you?’, and so far it’s actually one of the museum boards with the most comments I’ve come across, so it seems to be generating discussion as well.

To give a bigger picture

It’s always nice to be able to picture a museum in its wider environment, especially if it’s one you’ve not visited in person, so I like how the New York Public Library, Art and Picture Collection have a created a board with images of New York. Similarly, the Children’s Creativity Museum have a board with images of San Francisco, and they’ve made it even more personal to them by calling it ‘Our City’.

To recommend like minded museums

The idea of like-minded recommendations is not new to the internet, e.g. Amazon has its “customers who bought this item also bought…” recommendations, Twitter has its “Similar to…” function, and many blogs include “if you liked this article you may also like…” in their posts. So why not have museums recommending similar, like-minded museums via Pinterest boards. The Diefenbunker Museum & National Historic Site in Canada, for example, has a board with pins about ‘Other Bunkers and Museums’, or the Savannah Children’s Museum has one with pins from other children’s museums.

To share related resources

As well as recommending other museums of interest, Pinterst boards lend themselves to sharing all kinds of resources related to the relevant museums. For example, the Adventure Science Center has a board with ‘Experiments and Projects' and the Zimmer Museum one with 'Art and Craft Ideas' for children. How about some suggested reading from the Pequot Museum, or some recipe ideas from the Contemporary Jewish Museum? If your kids are fans of The Very Hungry Caterpillar, then the Eric Carle Museum has collected some caterpillar party ideas for you, and if you feel like giving your home a Wild West makeover, the Cowboy Museum has a board on ‘Western Inspiration’.

If you’ve come across other ways in which museums are using Pinterest, I’d love to hear about them.

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    Like the ideas/thoughts of folks being creative with the tools at hand -
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    Check out our new Pinterest account! Still a work in progress, but shaping up nicely. //pinterest.com/preservationva/
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