Instagram is a powerful tool to introduce your archival collections to the public through images. It also allows your constituents to see parts of collections that they might not usually see because of security or preservation reasons. Viewers can experience your storage areas, your conservation room, or items that are rarely displayed.
Don’t underestimate how the everyday processes of archives are interesting to those outside the field. I remember watching an Insta-story of an archives as they demonstrated their pest control activities. Who would ever think that would be engaging? But it was! To people who don’t know about archives, libraries, or museum work, the quotidian aspects of the job can demonstrate how much care and protection is needed to preserve their cultural heritage.
Instagram also allows you to engage one of one with your audience. People can ask questions, and you can educate and entertain through comments. Use a little humor and humanity to talk directly to your followers.
In my Instagram account, I try to balance pictures of my work with clients, as well as well as my personal life. I've also documented archival practices, like sorting and organizing a zine collection, in my Instastories.
The informality of social media makes it easy to forget that they are not private spaces. Data protection and copyright laws still apply, and social media inputs are visible to search engines. Make sure that you are sharing information that is okay for everyone to know about and never criticize or act unprofessionally while posting.
Despite Instagram’s power, it can be a hard sell to get approval to start an account. It may be a generational thing, as Instagram tends to appeal to a younger audience, and executives and board members might not use it themselves. At a past job, I fought to set up and run the Instagram account. It was satisfying to see the follower and comment count growing and to hear that the account was praised at professional conferences.
To learn more about how to set up and run a successful Instagram account for an archives, read my chapter, "#CulturalHeritage: Connecting to Audiences Through Instagram” in Engagement and Access: Innovative Approaches for Museums, edited by Juilee Decker.
What are your favorite archive-based Instagram accounts?
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