One of the reasons I chose to attend the University of Manchester’s Art Gallery and Museum Studies Programme was based on the opportunities they make available to their students. The Work Placement was an ideal way for me to adapt my previous skills with the new knowledge I had gained from my course work and apply it in a practical way. I was exceptionally fortunate to have spent my time at the John Rylands Library in Manchester working as a Social Media Campaign Coordinator. I could have never been prepared for the learning outcomes I gained by working with these practicing professions who graciously fostered my enthusiasm and desire to learn something new about the museum sector.
I chose to work with Social Media because, I figured my daily use and extensive understanding of these networking platforms was enough to give me a head start on the work they requested of me. I came to learn that the way you use your own personal Twitter, Instagram and Facebook accounts has little value when using these same channels in professional practice. These outreach mediums have become invaluable resources for cultural institutions to be able to include their communities virtually and physically, as well as opening up opportunities for collaboration between all different audiences. My role, that seemed at first glance to be of little importance to the large picture of the John Rylands Library, turned out to be an important responsibility that I feel fortunate to have contributed to.
My time was spent developing a Social Media Policy for the library to review and consider implementing for exhibitions and daily library use. I was able to put these ideas into practice by utilising my research on an upcoming exhibit at the library, opening in July 2015. I prepared hundreds of Twitter and Instagram posts in advance with deliberate themes, reoccurring hashtags and even encouraging involvement and responses from those who follower their pages. The ultimate goal is to interest followers in what the museum is doing and break the assumed barrier that separates the high-cultured museums of the world from the public they serve. I made sure to not only include pieces of the library’s collection, but of the library’s staff, the daily work and audience involvement as well. By looking at other examples set by other museums with active and successful social media outlets, they made sure to include their audience with their work, showing that they play a major role in the work the museum does. The campaign will air around the same time the exhibition opens and I anticipate these posts on social media will encourage and support the use of John Rylands Library.
I would encourage those looking for a valuable education expereince they can put into practice during their time at University to consider the Art Gallery and Museums Programme. It is an invaluable experience if you take advantage of what is offered to you and utilise the university support you have during your time. I am proud of what I accomplished in this position and see my experience being of great value as I pursue my career in Museums and Libraries after I graduate from the programme.