If you’ve been reading the blog lately you know we’ve been taking stock of our digital efforts and making considerable changes. I’ve been discussing what’s not working, but it’s also worth reporting on the trends we’ve been seeing and some of the new directions we are headed as a result. Did you know that our most engaged users on the web are locals? Over many years of projects, metrics have been showing us the closer someone is physically to the Museum the more likely they are to be invested with us digitally.
In 2008, we saw this with Click! A Crowd-Curated Exhibition. 3,344 people cast 410,089 evaluations using a web based activity that would determine a resulting exhibition. Participants in more than 40 countries took part in the activity, but 64.5% were local to the extended tri-state area around New York. A deeper look shows us the bulk of the participation was coming from local audience: 74.1% of the evaluations were cast by those in the tri-state area with 45.7% of evaluations being cast by those within Brooklyn. At the time, we figured this was because of the thematic nature of the exhibition, which depicted the “changing faces of Brooklyn.”
In 2011, we launched another web driven project to produce an exhibition. Split Second: Indian Paintings began with an online activity which would analyze people’s split second reactions to our collection of Indian paintings. The resulting exhibition was anything but local in theme, so we figured a much broader audience would find this of interest. In total, 4,617 participants created 176,394 ratings and spent 7 minutes and 32 seconds on average in their session. Participants took part from 59 countries, but it was the ones in the New York City area that were the most invested; their sessions averaged 15 minutes, which was more than double.
It’s not only these two projects that demonstrate this trend; we see similar things happening in our general website statistics and, also, on our social media. Though we’ve disbanded the Posse and tagging games, it’s worth noting that, though small in number, the most engaged users were also locals many of whom had a strong long-term relationships with the Museum.
We’ve started to see a clearer picture here about how much local participation matters and if we are going for “engagement” as a strategy, we’re finding these users should be at the forefront of our minds. After all, GO was conceived to address this trend and, as a result, saw participation that I’d describe as incredibly deep. 1,708 artists opened their studios to 18,000 visitors who made 147,000 studio visits over the course of weekend (full stats). In order to nominate artists for the resulting exhibition, we asked voters to see at least five studios, but the average turned out to be eight. More than the metrics, though, it was the comments that so clearly demonstrated how invested people were.
As we head into our project for Bloomberg Connects engagement is the goal and we see our local users as central to both its creation and success.
Shelley Bernstein is the former Vice Director of Digital Engagement & Technology at the Brooklyn Museum where she spearheaded digital projects with public participation at their center. In the most recent example—ASK Brooklyn Museum—visitors ask questions using their mobile devices and experts answer in real time. She organized three award-winning projects—Click! A Crowd-Curated Exhibition, Split Second: Indian Paintings, GO: a community-curated open studio project—which enabled the public to participate in the exhibition process.
Shelley was named one of the 40 Under 40 in Crain's New York Business and her work on the Museum's digital strategy has been featured in the New York Times.
In 2016, Shelley joined the staff at the Barnes Foundation as the Deputy Director of Digital Initiatives and Chief Experience Officer.