Date June 19, 2019

Something very interesting has happened in recent years in museum design.

How do you get screen-obsessed kids, ADD millennials and the social media generations into museums in 2019? A few decades ago, museums like the Smithsonian designed their exhibits and displays around eighth-graders, because that was the majority of their visitors, usually on their spring break trip to Washington, DC or to museums and sights in New York City. Copy on signs would be written carefully to appeal to that demographic and museum space layouts were geared toward routing people through historic timelines or galleries for particular interests.

Today there’s Instagram – with over a billion active users, according to the company in mid-2018. Instagram counts on people shooting photos of cool sights, recording video and taking the all-important “selfie” in front of art, exhibits, displays, etc. The wilder and wackier and more photogenic, the better. Photos go online where they are tagged with #airandspacemuseum, #MOMA, #uscapitol, #washingtonsquare, etc. Not only do they get seen and noticed by all the friends and followers of that particular Instagram user, but they also get in front of others looking for info about those museums and places.

Talk about a powerful viral marketing effect. Do a search for any hashtag and see what we mean – look at #ellisisland, #smithsonian or #MOMA. It’s free advertising!

Museums have gotten smart, customizing exhibits for the Instagram Generation – counting on thousands of young social media users to tell everyone they know that they’re at the New York Botanical Garden, the Whitney or in front of the mastodon at the American Museum of Natural History. They’re putting in walls and murals ideal for photos like the 9/11 Memorial, and rotating exhibits to keep them fresh, like the Renwick Gallery in Washington, DC.

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