In Fall Semester 2021, was lucky enough to work on social media and outreach for the Champaign County History Museum. I was responsible for creating content for the museum throughout the semester on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and engage directly with the community. The museum had very little content previously, so I was trying to post consistently 4-5 times a week. I was free to design and create my own content, which was daunting at first with all the possibilities. However, I was able to research local history I was interested in and try to understand the content people enjoyed the most. It was a very interactive learning process, getting direct feedback from the public in the form of followers, likes, comments, and shares.
Sometimes I struggled with creating content that was both engaging and informative; I read The News Gazette and Smile Politely frequently to see if there were any local events that could be tied into the museum’s content. I wanted to create content that was involved with current events, but without taking away from the goal of social media: increasing awareness of the museum. This meant that all the content needed to be related to the mission of the museum, but that did not mean that I was limited to the exhibits, or even the artifacts in storage. I looked for old photographs, even contacting an archive in Nebraska for a photo to post about taffy pulls in Champaign County. I tried to work outside of the box, while also still catering to an older demographic, who value more traditional concepts of historians and museums.
Social media work is incredibly important in the current field of public history. It engages the public in an easy, informal setting and allows transparency between institutions and the communities they serve. This work is deceptively difficult and time consuming. Research and thought needs to be put into each post – and people will call you out if it doesn’t meet their standards! There is a learning curve with writing for a general audience on social media, and it changes depending on what platform is being used. It can be easy to create content that you find interesting, but if the public isn’t engaging with it, new strategies need to be adopted. I needed almost a month to find my voice for the museum that the public also liked and found engaging. I thoroughly enjoyed my work with the Champaign County History Museum, and learned many lessons during my time there.