MERL on Twitter #2: #MuseumWeek & beyond

The dust has settled and I’ve just about managed to catch up on the work that was sidelined as I spent #museumweek glued to Twitter! It seems to have been a hugely successful initiative according to @TwitterUk themselves in their summary, and I thoroughly enjoyed the chance to try out some new ideas.  Coverage was clearly dominated by the highlights from @HRP_palaces and @V_and_A and there was definitely the danger that the smaller museums could get lost amongst the ‘big guns’ with their millions of followers. But I think there were also advantages for the smaller museums such as ourselves in tagging our posts with top-trending hashtags and appearing in timelines alongside Henry VIII and dinosaurs. When I met up with @ACallaZoo to talk about how @ColeZoology could join in, she was worried that she wouldn’t be able to do enough, with so few staff and so little time, to participate effectively. In the end, it was this amazing #museummastermind picture from @ColeZoology which appeared in a Storify summary, thus attracting attention beyond the end of the week.

Cole teeth

My colleagues at the Cole Museum and the Herbarium  both reported increased followers as a result of the week, with some really useful contacts amongst them. ‘Tweepsmap‘ congratulated @MERLReading on gaining 211 new followers over the week as opposed to a more usual 30ish. There were definitely lessons to  learn from the week of frantic tweeting. We all agreed that the posts with pictures were the most successful and that actively encouraging followers to engage by asking questions really does work! Our #dayinthelife posts were very popular, proving that people appreciate that opportunity to see what goes on behind the scenes.

Selecting objects

Selecting objects from the store for a new handling collection #dayinthelife

I was also amazed at the number of people who took up the challenge to identify our mystery object posts on #museummastermind day.

Mystery object3

What are these? #museummastermind

So is there a lasting advantage to having invested in this opportunity? It was a lot of work and to be honest, after the first couple of days when I got little other work done, our involvement in the later hashtags dwindled. For my colleagues who don’t have dedicated Marketing Officers on site, it will be even harder to maintain the momentum. (I’m considering setting up a new account to cover all the Museums and Collections at Reading in one place to help increase exposure for the smaller collections…) For MERL, it’s meant that I will be thinking much more about encouraging interaction, rather than just posting links to events and blog posts. We’ve already introduced the #TuesdayTool to highlight a part of our collection that doesn’t get much exposure whilst engaging our followers, (if you’ve missed them so far, we’re storing them on our Pinterest and Facebook pages too) I think I might continue #WheresJethro too, bringing our popular family trail online!

Jethro MAE


If you have any ideas on what you would like to see MERL and the other University collections tweeting about, please comment below!

Pinterest & MERL

written by Adam Koszary, Project Officer for Our Country Lives.


Everybody – regardless of whether they use them or not – is aware of social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook. There are also the professional sites such as Yammer and LinkedIn. However, one site which you may not have heard of – and which is becoming increasingly popular – is Pinterest.


Pinterest is a site which helps you cope with the sheer amount of websites you visit and data you accumulate on the internet, and allows you to pin images from webpages on a virtual pinboard. It is essentially a more visually pleasing way of bookmarking interesting content that you find online, and it is a website that more and more museums (and their shops) are taking advantage of in order to show off their objects and archives.

The John Tarlton Board on the MERL Pinterest account

The John Tarlton Board on the MERL Pinterest account

After gathering advice from other institutions (such as the Getty Museum in New York) MERL now has its own Pinterest account. We are hoping to use it as a way of archiving temporary exhibitions so that they can be viewed after they have finished (such as the John Tarlton exhibition), as well as letting people see the objects and archives which usually don’t see the light of day. We are experimenting with different ways of using Pinterest, and Tom Paganuzzi – a student who was on work experience at the museum – very helpfully agreed to pilot a Volunteers Board, which will allow volunteers to pin their favourite objects or whatever they are working on, with notes giving their opinions and further information. Tom also wrote a post about his time at MERL, which you can see above!

If you are already on Pinterest then please follow us, or if you are not already signed up it’s very easy to do so – either by email or through your facebook account.