"We know we have a problem" – Emerging Findings and Contributions to the Field

Amanda Belue ’15
So after months of research and exploration, I’ve come to the point in this thesis journey where it’s time to start evaluating what I’ve learned. This has been a bit tricky. On one hand, I have copious amount of data and information relating to how social media can transform an audience’s engagement with a company or an organization. On the other, I have museum trends and the ethical dilemmas surrounding social media/technology usage around memorials and memorial museums. One museum professional I interviewed said it best, “We know we have a problem. We ask, ‘How can we do that?’, and the answer is that I have no idea how to do that”.
My research supports this idea that Museums, specifically memorials and the museums connected with them, have very little practical knowledge of how to engage and build their audiences through social media, let alone how to use it as a collection tool. With the exception of a few, most are simply using social media because they know it’s necessary to not become obsolete. Even further, a few (especially the National Park Service) are moving toward mobile device technology, however the sustainability of that off-site has yet to be discussed.
What I have found is in essence very simple, memorials and memorial museums need tools and knowledgespecific to their needs. They need to a way to tap into this underdeveloped resource at their disposal with very strategic direction so as to not put strain on staff and resources. By utilizing social media strategies to direct and engage audiences, tried and tested by other types of museums and the corporate world, memorials/memorial museums will be able to reach the audiences they so desperately need and deserve.
In a world where are constantly connected and in an upcoming generation that has never known a day without the internet, social media is a way to communicate; to create this distributed network of ideas and possibilities. Rather then follow the old centralized model of idea distribution, these new audiences want an opportunity to contribute to the conversation, and museums should be aware of that. In addition, they should be able to navigate the vast oceans that are these distributed networks, and be able to establish themselves as stewards of digital content. My thesis and its findings are part of this conversation, allowing for a specific family of museums to be able to communicate with an important and emerging generation.