Advocacy in Museums – Museums Association Conference 2016

On Tuesday 9th of November, I gave a talk about using social media as a tool for advocacy at the Museums Association conference in Glasgow.

At Surgeons’ Hall Museums I use our social media channels to engage with our users about our collections. Our museum has gone from a perceived private museum to one that is open to all thanks to funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund. My role within Surgeons’ Hall revolves around marketing objectives, this includes, but is not necessarily limited to, creating brand awareness of Surgeons’ Hall Museums, increasing awareness of the museum, both professionally and publically & engaging and attracting new and old audiences. Like many other museums I share content for our museums based around objects.

Our collection is very niche as it primarily revolves around anatomical specimens, but it is so much more than this. The entire collection of Surgeons’ Hall Museums is a recognised collection of national significance. It is also home to medical instruments, works of art, medals, histology collections, furniture and items that chronicle the history of medicine from the 1500s to the present day.

In order to engage with our user base further, we have to share more than just the collection. We tie our content into local Edinburgh history, actively promote our events, share other institutions events and information. Surgeons’ Hall Museums has taken part in MuseumWeek for the past two years. And this year we took part in 52museums, an Instagram account sharing campaign, that saw us share the 52museums account with Medical  Museion in Denmark and the Infirmary Museum in England.


Taking part in advocacy events like this gives our museum the opportunity to engage with a world wide audience. We also took part in #MuseumsGaveToMe, the Museum Galleries Scotland advocacy campaign which ran over the Christmas break last year.

We used this MGS Twitter campaign to advocate what work we had done over the past year. We were able to share positive messages about the work the museum had carried out whilst Surgeons’ Hall was closed. We used the templates put forward by MGS, and highlighted the jobs we had created, as well as the outreach we had done whilst our museum was closed. We were also able to share how we had improved our museum accessibility since our refurbishment something that was sorely missed prior to the redevelopment. The messages struck a chord with our followers and for a traditionally quiet time our engagements was up.


This year with the support from my colleagues, I also coordinated and managed #ScottishMuseumsDay for the Scottish Museums Federation, a volunteer led organisation of which I hold the post of Digital  Officer in. This was a one day campaign which took place on October 3rd. We reached out to museums, galleries, libraries and archives and asked them to share on twitter, and other social media channels if they chose to, what makes their museum great, what their museum gives back to the community, what their museum does for their community, and what they love about their museum.


We created a sign up list and sent single page pdfs illustrating the type of content we were looking for, what Scottish Museums Day was about and information about our Thunderclap. This was a low risk, low impact advocacy campaign. As the Fed we have extremely limited resources and rely on the passion of our membership and committee to help share our message. Fortunately for us the people we met with were passionate about our campaign.

We had great engagement from museums across the country who shared the different things their museums got up, from portable museums to collections of national significance. Nearly 900 individual users took part sending over 1800 tweets, which reached nearly 3 million people creating over 7.5million impressions.


Delivering #ScottishMuseumsDay was extremely straightforward . We relied on our professional networks and speaking to key stakeholders, such as the National Galleries Scotland, National  Museums  Scotland, Museum  Galleries  Scotland and Historic Environment Scotland. We were blown away by the engagement and passion that people had for their museums both publicly and professionally. We aim to repeat this day next year.

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