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Live streaming from the gallery? How Museums are using Facebook Live

In this ever-changing world of digital, there’s always something new, and predictions of trends can seem out-of-date before they are even published.

But Facebook Live has gone beyond the hype with millions of people enjoying live video on the social network every day. For museums Facebook Live is perhaps the easiest place to try live streaming, offering an simple platform that is linked to an existing audience of ‘fans.’

And with 5G mobile technology due to roll out over the next twelve months, we’ll see HD live video becoming easier to capture and to consume on the go.

So how are museums successfully using Facebook Live to reach new and existing audiences?

Museums bring together great art with Facebook Live

In 2017 five international museums teamed up to virtually unite the sunflower paintings of Vincent Van Gogh.

The National Gallery in London, the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, the Philadelphia Museum of Art in the United States, the Neue Pinakothek in Munich and the Seiji Togo Memorial Sompo Japan Nipponkoa Museum of Art in Tokyo turned to Facebook Live to share their version of the Sunflowers with the curators and/or directors of these museums talking directly to viewers on the social network.

Each museum described what makes their version unique and provided a fresh and unknown view of the artists and his work. These Facebook Live broadcasts from the museums were partnered with a virtual-reality experience that shows viewers all five “Sunflowers” in one room.

By working together these five museums cross-promoted each other to their audiences, gaining followers and raising awareness of these five paintings to Van Gogh fans around the world.

The Facebook Live broadcast reached millions of viewers through the museum Facebook pages, and the films were also made available on YouTube when the streaming was complete.

Museums using Facebook Live to make collections more accessible to deaf art lovers

Having provided weekly free tours for deaf art lovers at The Metropolitan Museum of Art since 2001, the museum turned to Facebook Live to give an American Sign Language tour of the Rodin at the Met exhibition in late 2017.

Metropolitan Museum of Art - Facebook Live

The tour by Emmanuel von Schack, an art historian and lecturer, was viewed more than 52,000 times and shared by 722 people on Facebook.

He told Hyperallergic that he was excited about the project for two reasons. First, “it is a tour that anyone in the world with a Facebook account can watch live or afterwards.” And second, “it increases the visibility of and awareness about American Sign Language, Deaf identity, and the Met’s commitment to accessibility and inclusion.”

Following the success of this Facebook Live experiment, the museum has broadcast further the ASL tours. Diamond Mountains: Travel and Nostalgia in Korean Art was viewed by 18,000 people while the live-streamed ASL program on Umberto Boccioni’s “Unique Forms of Continuity in Space” reached 17,000 views in just 24 hours.

Sharing live events through Facebook Live 

Royal Museums Greenwich used Facebook Live to broadcast coverage of the Lunar Eclipse from the Royal Observatory in July 2018.

Lunar Eclipse Live - Facebook Live

The Facebook Live broadcast gave the museum the opportunity to share the expertise of their staff with Brendan Owens and Tom Kerss chatting to expert guests about the Lunar Eclipse – what it was and how best to see it.

Royal Museums Greenwich also shared live footage of the moon through their state-of-the-art AMAT telescope, which was able to see incredible details as they tracked it across the sky.

More than 80,000 people viewed the broadcast on Facebook Live.

Using Faceboook Live When the Museum is Closed

The Philbrook Museum of Art in Tulsa turned to Facebook Live when forced to close their doors by the COVID-19 crisis. The museum broadcast a twice daily show to keep the institution connected to their community.

Facebook Live had the advantage of being connected to the museums existing Facebook fan page (82,000 people), unlike other popular live streaming options such as Zoom.

While hosted on Facebook, the museum directed people to the films from their website homepage for maximum reach.

Thinking of using Facebook Live in your museum?

These are just four examples of how museums are using Facebook Live to engage with their audiences in new and exciting ways.

Facebook Live offers museums a low cost, easy way to engage audiences with video streaming and I’d encourage you to try it.

These resources offer more guidance on how to get started and what’s worked for other museums.

Beginners guide to Facebook Live
National Museums Scotland share their experience of Facebook Live
Tips on using Facebook live from Getty Museum
Livestreaming in Museums

About the author – Jim Richardson

Jim Richardson is the founder of MuseumNext. He has worked as a consultant to the museum sector for more than twenty years advising on technology and leadership. Jim now splits his time between running innovation consultancy for museums and leading our museum conferences around the globe.

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