So this week I was thinking a lot about the direction I wanted to go in post-graduate degree and how the research I have done for my thesis has informed the foundation of what I want my career to look like. Racial divide is more than just an issue within museum institutions so sometimes it can all seem overwhelming to take on. But how do we do use our skills to make change within our field?
While the Latino population continues to grow (reaching 57 million in 2015), museums continue to consist of mostly White employees. As a result, we see a lack of Latinos within the museum audience as well. There is much to be said about that, but I wanted to focus on one interesting aspect of outreach that is at least a good first step that any museum can take, and that is using social media.
Although preference in platform usage differs slightly by race, it appears overall that it’s a good opportunity to reach an under served audience. Social media is where we’re all (more or less) equal. Through social media, minorities are able to have their voices heard, create a movement, and speak to the masses on issues they care about (ahem, #latinainmuseums). Facebook, Instagram and other platforms open up opportunities to many who don’t see museums as a welcoming space. Of course, we in the museum field must go beyond the Internet to address these issues of under-representation, but social media is a step in the right direction where we can begin to develop a relationship with these communities and understand what their interests and needs are.
Social media is a wonderful way to get connected to those we might not have been connected to before. Through social media, I’ve been able to stay in touch with family in Bolivia, meet other like-minded Latino rights advocates, and fellow museum nerds (I mean, the coolest people on Earth, obviously). And seeing as how Latinos outpace Whites in social media use, perhaps it would serve the museum to pay attention and start rethinking their social media strategy.
Social media is a powerful tool that can reach a community that wants to be included in these spaces but might feel apprehensive or unaware of what is out there for them. This quote by Michelle Obama at the dedication of the new Whitney Museum of American Art in New York is so emblematic of the current climate within museums right now,
“There are so many kids in this country who look at places like museums and concert halls and other cultural centers, and they think to themselves, ‘Well, that’s not a place for me — for someone who looks like me, for someone who comes from my neighborhood…[The Whitney is] telling them that their story is part of the American story, and that they deserve to be seen and you’re sending that message not just with the art you display, but with the educational programming you run here.”
Museums, you must do better and you can do better. The Latino community is incredibly diverse and it isn’t easy tackling how to reach us but small steps go a long way. Take for example, LACMA, whose Snapchat is FIRE. They recently asked its followers to send them songs and for the following week, they would snap artworks to the lyrics of songs chosen. Their first choice? Why, a 2017 classic:
I mean, sure, the song that I have been obsessed with since March got mainstream popular because of the Justin Beiber remix but when I saw this snap I. Died. I am pretty sure the social media manager isn’t Latina and while LACMA attracts a majority White audience, California has a huge Mexican-American population. To me, something like this is a low cost, easy way to engage with big return. It sure got my attention.
I hope I see more things like this to engage a growing Latino population because we’re here, we love museums and we want to be included.
For more on social media use: