The explosion of social media platforms have provided the world with new venues for discussion. Whether it be about contemporary world events, or the latest celebrity gossip, social media sites have proven that they are here to stay by enticing users throughout the world. One specific platform that has gained immense prominence with not only lay people, but with scholars and academic institutions, is Twitter. Unlike sites like Facebook, where an individual could write a lengthy post on a specific topic, Twitter only allows for 140 characters within a “tweet.” This form of microblogging allows for quick bits of information to easily connect with followers, especially since the Twitter app is common among any smartphone user (which most people now have affixed to their body). This means that news can hastily get to a person with popup notifications, allowing for the easy transmission of ideas and events across the globe. The app is connected to the 24-hour news cycle, where live updates are regularly posted about world events. The advantages of having a Twitter account can be plentiful, especially for public history institutions, because it provides a platform for getting important information about the institutions to those who are interested.
Twitter can be used by a public history institution, such as a museum, to advertise for upcoming exhibits or workshops. While the institutions main webpage may provide abundant information, interested individuals might not find the time to check such a site (or may forget to) and thus miss out on an important event. Museums may not only post about specific exhibits or events, but information vital to their mission and community. As an example, I will examine The United State Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Twitter account and the benefits to the community that follow its feed.
“The Museum’s primary mission is to advance and disseminate knowledge about this unprecedented tragedy; to preserve the memory of those who suffered; and to encourage its visitors to reflect upon the moral and spiritual questions raised by the events of the Holocaust as well as their own responsibilities as citizens of a democracy.” This mission statement can be found on the Museums about page and in the Museums Twitter account. As a “living memorial” to the Holocaust, the Museum strives to “confront hatred, prevent genocide, and promote human dignity.” Looking over the more recent tweets, it is apparent that the goal of spreading knowledge about the Holocaust is achieved by posting a snippet of a historical event and a link to the Museums encyclopedia page. In this case, followers are presented with a piece of information that they might not know about, or wish to learn more, and are provided with a quick access link. This link enables them to read more about the subject. The Museum’s approach to education is an effective strategy because it not only reveals a moment in history, but an avenue for people to learn more, as well as a source to reflect and remember the tragic events. A follower might not be aware of the material being presented, but will be notified of the tweet, which could probe their interest.
The Museum’s Twitter also posts information about upcoming exhibits and events. Some of these include lectures for students and scholars, or even internship opportunities. While all of this information can be found on the main website, Twitter allows for notifications of such tweets to be sent directly to an individual’s phone. This is an important aspect of a museum’s twitter because most people will not visit a site daily, or even weekly, and therefore might miss out on specific events/opportunities. The Museum wants the information to spread as far as possible, and Twitter provides a platform for this to happen. The mission statement rightfully translates to this social media outlet, specifically because it allows for individuals to gain daily knowledge about events related to the Holocaust, providing them with the information they need to reflect and remember.
Twitter is useful to followers who cannot visit the Museum, allowing them to reap the benefits that the Museum offers through its tweets about historical events, or exhibits that are taking place. This reflects the article by G. Wayne Clough, where he states that “digital technology offers…the larger community of museums, archives, and libraries, an opportunity not only to build on and improve what they have always done well, but to serve a larger national role, potentially reaching every state, city and town, every school, and every single citizen.” (Clough, 14) Twitter thus enables the spread of the Museum’s mission statement because it digitally connects millions of people who could not physically be at the location, possibly closing the “opportunity gap.” (Clough, 25) Young adults using the social media application could gain knowledge of the Holocaust by reading articles that the Museum thinks are vital, which they tweet. Twitter provides institutions with an additional educational outlet, allowing their mission statement to reach farther distances and facilitate discussion worldwide.