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Culture in quarantine? Cultural institutions’ uses of Twitter during lockdown

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Cultural institutions, such as museums and galleries, are important for local communities. They are places that preserve and promote cultural heritage, and can be sources of familiarity, inspiration and pride. 

This paper explores the ways that cultural institutions used social media to continue engaging with the public during the Covid-19 lockdowns. 

As this paper shows, cultural institutions used social media to maintain relationships with their audiences, and in particular, offered them virtual access to their collections, performances and experiences. Many museums, for example, created content that gave audiences a look ‘behind the scenes’ of their collections, offering both a new perspective on the objects that they look after, and a more intimate understanding of how they do their conservation and curation work. Similarly, many theatres moved their performances entirely online, and some used the opportunity of having to work with digital technology to experiment with developing novel creative formats. 

This research is an analysis of a six-week snapshot of Twitter activity from March-May 2020. The researchers examined 9000 tweets associated with the hashtags #CultureInQuarantine and #MuseumAtHome.

They wanted to find out what kind of content was gaining traction on social media, and what sort of ideas and values were being generated through digital engagement with cultural institutions. The analysis found that there were two main categories for type of engagement; ‘art as a way of coping’ and ‘art as education’. Underpinning these themes was a strong sense that ‘place’ was important to audiences, and content that referenced local areas and communities was particularly resonant.

This paper builds on PEC’s previous research on the impact of Covid-19 and lockdowns on culture. For more on this topic:

This study was part of a larger project exploring the impacts of Covid 19 on the UK cultural sector, led by the Centre for Cultural Value in collaboration with the Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre and The Audience Agency. This project is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) through UK Research and Innovation’s COVID-19 rapid rolling call. 

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