Friday Heirloom 2018

Friday Heirloom 80: Understanding this ‘Musaller’ thing (INTERVIEW with Melisa Palferro)

We all know Angela. If you are here, reading her blog, you probably do too. I came across Angela’s blog doing research on who knows what (probably my dissertation, but also probably something else).


I’ve been following her on Instagram for a while, and she has always struck me as a fun and approachable person. So I tagged her in a post of mine to get her views on the role of translation in museums, which led to a PM, which led to a conversation over Skype and a glass of wine (on her side, cough cough).

We talked about many different things, and I’m here today to share with you some of the things she said that stuck with me…

“I want to see my generation interact with museums.”

This is what Angela replied when I asked her, ‘Why do you this?’ And it struck me, this is a girl with a plan! I found out straight away she’s an idealistic human being. She seems to be here to make a change, to improve a situation she doesn’t necessarily like. A girl with a plan, I’m telling you.

“Museums are my passion and I want other millennials to enjoy them as well.”

Millennials have been a controversial generation. A lot has been said about them, a lot which is not good. They’re lazy, they’re demanding, they’re ‘snowflakes’. “But there’s also a lot of good  things about them,” says Angela, a proud millennial herself. The way millennials use social media, the way they share and create communities, that is simply awesome! And the way they use the tools they have at hand to make a change, like Angela does, might be the single most positive thing, in my honest opinion. Did we maybe all grow up listening to Michael’s ‘Man In The Mirror’?

“Others may do it for the perks, but I do it because it’s my passion.”

Museum blogging does have its perks. Apparently, I learnt, museum bloggers get free entrance to most museums (what!), at least to those who know what museum bloggers can do for them.  True, there are a few museums that couldn’t care less, but in general, they appreciate having a young person promoting their museum / exhibition online. Free marketing can only be good, right?

However, free entrance is not Angela’s motivation (at least not the main one!). Her real motivation, now in all seriousness, I find really inspiring. It’s about seeing something you don’t like and fighting to change it. And not by being angry over the Internet. Not by leaving bad reviews or complaining all the time. Changing it by creating something better, by creating a positive movement, a positive community of young people who share their experiences in museums with the rest of the world. That’s when #imamusaller comes in…

“It makes me truly happy to see people sharing their experiences with the hashtag.”

Social media does give you this amazing opportunity to share your life with others, even with people you don’t know and who might live on the other side of the world. Social media allows you to create your own crowd of people who share your same passions and ambitions. “It’s all about connecting with others. That’s what I love about blogging and social media.” In the age of connectivity, we all crave connections.

Moving on to museum engagement, Angela said:

“It’s a museum’s job to attract younger people.”

One of the things that led me to interview Angela was learning what her thoughts were on the topic of museum engagement, which is something that I’m very interested in personally and professionally. Angela’s impressions didn’t surprise me. “Museums in France tend to be a lot more close-minded than American museums.” And the same could probably be said of Italian or Spanish-speaking museums.

A few decades back something changed. The ‘new museology’ they call it. What it means is basically that museums needed to start attracting visitors due to huge funding cuts. What it means is that museums became more audience-friendly and started taking into account what visitors think, need and want. This shift, as it usually happens, took place in the English-speaking world and has slowly spread onto other countries.

However, not all museums are equally engaging. Some are still clinging to the past, to this grandiose image they had, where the institution was up in a pedestal and visitors were just empty vessels who needed to be told what to think and what to do.

“Younger generations are the future of museums.”

And I agree with Angela here. Younger people are the future patrons, are the people who are going to be visiting museums in 20 or 30 years. So attracting them should be one of the main objectives of any museum. Get someone into a habit when they’re young, and they’ll do it forever, right?

If you make young people feel comfortable and entertained in museums, they will keep coming. “If that means having an instagrammable exhibit or installation, they should totally go for it,” says Angela, who’s Instagram account is full of examples of what social media can do for museums.

“Museums need to take care of their image; they need to be fun and entertaining to attract new audiences.”

Angela makes a good point here, when she says museums compete with going to the cinema, to the theatre or with any other activity that is more interactive and entertaining. So they need to start asking people what they want instead of assuming they already know what people want.

But let’s be honest here, not everything is bad! “Some museums are really opening up, even if you compare it with what was going on 10 years ago.” And there are some people out there, like Nina Simon with her #OFBYFORALL movement, and some museums, like the Philadelphia Museum of Art, who are doing a great job at attracting and engaging their audiences.  

“Social media can be scary for museums, but they should totally embrace it.”

I never thought of this, but Angela has a point (again!). Museums, as any other company or institution, cannot control what people say about them on the internet. So many, I assume, shy away from having a presence on social media, maybe in an attempt to protect their own image. They basically play it safe.

Truth is we can all face negativity on social media, but that shouldn’t discourage us from embracing it. “Social media can be a really good to museums.” First and foremost, because it’s free marketing. But also because your visit to any museum will last longer when you post about it. People will engage, like and comment your pictures, and so an experience that would have normally only lasted a few hours is extended for days on end.

Yet another thing I hadn’t thought about! And something that museums should really take on board as well. My personal experience is many museums have a presence on social media, maybe Facebook or Instagram, but still fail to really engage with the public. They take social media as a new sort of television, where communication is unidirectional. They post and post and post updates, but never engage in conversation. However, social media, as Angela was saying, is all about creating a community, which means that interacting with the people who comment and ask questions should be a priority.

Anyhow, criticism aside, I think this is a great time for museums who take advantage of social media. We all see how important a photo can be in changing someone’s experience in a museum, so, dear millennial #museumgoers, let’s keep posting. Let’s build a better world through being a Musaller! 

About me

Name: Melisa

Last name: Palferro 


Little bio: I’m an Arts & Culture Translator. I help museums and cultural institutions communicate and engage their current and future audiences.




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