1.) Social Media can be a high impact, low cost outreach tool.
2.) Hashtags are your friends!
3.) Social media is great for collections/items that don’t get a lot of love due to access problems, backlog, or users not knowing about them.
Social Media Strategy
Rutgers Special Collections and University Archives utilizes social media accounts on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Since December 2015 I have been actively posting for #feministfriday posts. This will focus on our Instagram posting, since that’s where we excel.
Rutgers SCUA is open 9-5 Monday through Thursday, and 9-1 on Fridays. During the semester, we add Saturday hours from 1-5. We are physically located in the basement of Alexander Library, in New Brunswick, NJ. This limits the amount of people who come to use the archive in several ways. As Tara Maharjan writes in “Outreach, engagement, Learning, and Fun in 60 seconds” about Rutgers SCUA’s use of the button maker, the goal of outreach is to “get collections out of the basement”. We use social media to highlight collections and items that we find interesting that users may not request often either due to processing backlog, access issues, or users simply not knowing that we have these collections.
In order to connect our posts to others’ and to help users find our posts we utilize hashtags. My work specifically at Rutgers SCUA has been through processing our women artist collections in the Miriam Schapiro Archives on Women Artists. This umbrella collection is composed of post WWII women artists, many of whom were involved in the Feminist Art Movement of the 1970s.
On Fridays, we participate in the #feministfriday posts. An image is posted from a collection with a short description of the context and/or collection, and other relevant hashtags. In 2015, the vast majority of the posts were created utilizing materials from unprocessed collections. Currently, in 2019, about half of the posts are from unprocessed women's art collections.
Users engage with the posts in several ways. First, they tag other users who they think might like it. Second, they comment with emojis or text. And lastly, they ask questions about the materials. In an ideal world, seeing these items online would spark interest in students and users coming into SCUA to see the materials in person, but realistically, this may not be likely. To me, Instagram is a valid way for users to interact with material.
In March of every year Rutgers SCUA also participates in the National Museum of Women in the Arts’ challenge #5womenartists. In order to highlight gender discrimination in the arts, the challenge asks you to name 5 women artists. We use this opportunity to talk about our women artist collections and to reach a larger and different audience through the hashtag. This challenge started with arts institutions, but has expanded to include anyone.
On several occasions, users have commented on our #5womenartist posts with a listing of 5 women artists they can name.
#feministfriday has led to other outreach events, like the Art and Feminism Wikipedia Edit a Thon and button making events. In the future, we would like to continue to create #5womenartist and #feministfriday posts and to collaborate with other intuitions, artists, and users to create new challenges and highlight new materials.
References: Lotts, Megan, and Maharjan, Tara. “Outreach, Engagement, Learning, and Fun in 60 Seconds: Button Making at the Rutgers University Libraries.” College & Research Libraries News 79, no. 7 (July 5, 2018).