By Jennifer Glickel
MANHATTAN — Many of Manhattan’s biggest museums seem to have made the same New Year’s resolution: to use the web and social media more often to connect with visitors and expand their audiences.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the American Museum of Natural History, and the Guggenheim Museum all signed on to using Twitter and Facebook as part of their publicity over the past few years, but this year, the institutions have begun to increase their online presence, from live-streaming exhibits to offering by-invitation-only meetups for their Twitter followers.
"Social media and technology offer a point of access that didn't exist before for museums," said Francesca Merlino, marketing manager for the Guggenheim.
Merlino cited the Guggenheim's decision to kick off their 2011 "Works & Process" performing arts discussion series online for the first time in its 26-year history. Sunday's event, which featured former New York City Ballet principal Peter Boal discussing his new staging of the classic ballet "Giselle" for the Pacific Northwest Ballet, was livestreamed for those who couldn't nab one of the 285 seats in the museum's theater.
"By having an online forum where, not only are we streaming the video, but we're allowing a chat to happen simultaneously, it's an extension of the discussion going on inside the museum auditorium into the online world," said "Works & Process" general manager Duke Dang.
Merlino said that the decision to use the web to transmit the museum's content to the world outside is part of a larger mission.
"For the Guggenheim, demographically our audiences are largely international, and it allows us to offer content to people who may know the Guggenheim brand, but maybe will never have the opportunity to visit our physical space," Merlino told DNAinfo. "Now we can form new relationships by expanding our content online to a much larger audience than ever before," she added.
The Met's latest digital addition, "Connections," is a is a series of four-minute audio slideshows in which the museum's curatorial staff tell stories about the collection, ranging from their authoritative perspectives on art to personal anecdotes as they relate to the pieces.
"The idea for 'Connections' came in developing another way to access the museum's timeline of art history from a non-scholarly point of view," Erin Coburn, the Met's Chief Officer of Digital Media, said about the institution's comprehensive digital timeline available on its website.
"It evolved into this incredible opportunity to let some of the most knowledgeable voices in the world talk about the Met's collection, as a cross-disciplinary kind of storytelling," Coburn said. "When you share these stories with people, they immediately start looking at the collection differently."
The American Museum of Natural History is turning to social media — and a cocktail hour — to lure people interested in its latest exhibition, "Brain: The Inside Story," to the museum for after hours behind-the-scenes tours and discussions with curators. The museum invited 75 of their dedicated Twitter followers who tweeted about the brain and the exhibit to its first-ever Tweetup, or meetup for Twitter users, on Wednesday night,
"We're hoping that since, these tweeters have their own followers, that they're going to share with them information about the exhibitions and the museum,” said Anne Canty, the AMNH's vice-president for communications and marketing.
For the AMNH, which only joined Twitter recently, Wednesday’s event is the beginning of the museum's enterprise to engage visitors both online and on site.
"I think that the Tweetup is going to be really instrumental to us starting a real online conversation," Canty said.
But the AMNH was ahead of the curve when it comes to mobile apps, offering a few apps last year, including the indoor GPS application "Explorer" and the exhibition accompaniment app, "Dinosaurs: The American Museum of Natural History Collection."
Now the Guggenheim is "exploring new avenues" in the mobile app world, such as geotagging with FourSquare and a mobile application. And the Met confirmed that its first app will be released next month in conjunction with its exhibit "Guitar Heroes: Legendary Craftsmen from Italy to New York," a riff on the popular video game "Guitar Hero."