There are a number of benefits to extending the reach of your organisation and engaging different audiences. These can include:
- Financial benefits (e.g. increased fundraising opportunities and ticket sales)
- Encouragement of knowledge exchange (e.g. exploring wider international approaches and innovative ways of doing things)
- Cultural exchange and understanding (e.g. increased awareness of particular religious, political or other cultural contexts to inform wider audience engagement).
With the range of digital tools at your disposal, there are opportunities to develop or grow an international online audience. By digitising holdings or offering digital means of exploring collections, what you offer can be more readily shared with people anywhere in the world.
This online engagement can be a goal for you to work towards by itself, not just a means of encouraging in-person visits to a heritage site or museum.
The Audience Agency is a national charity aimed at enabling cultural organisations to use national data to increase their relevance, reach and resilience. It has argued that the role of an organisation’s ‘digital offer’ is no longer simply about attracting people to the physical experience. Digital media and online engagement can now present a distinct heritage experience for many in its own right.
Heritage organisations are now able to offer different kinds of engagement to audiences, that may facilitate entirely physical, entirely digital, or ‘hybrid’ wrap-around experiences. They state:
In many cases, wholly new engagement models and learning programmes are being developed to reach participants who cannot engage physically, at a never before seen place
The Audience Agency
If done well, organisations can provide online audiences with new and enjoyable means of experiencing and engaging with collections in novel ways in a way that ensure accessibility. Heritage organisations that have done this successfully have:
- Defined the audiences that they want to reach and their mission.
- Considered the platforms, such as social media, that might attract their target international audiences and the expertise needed to support their move towards online exhibitions and resources.
- Tailored the presentation to their online exhibitions and collections via social media and websites in order to find and retain audiences.
This might be the first step towards the museum or heritage organisation within what is being called the virtual reality ‘metaverse’ – a digital ecosystem in which users interact with each other as well as the digital environment. Might museums and heritage organisations soon need to build their digital double in the not-so-distant future?
Decolonising the Archive is an online heritage organisation that curates and discusses Pan-African testimonies, artefacts and ephemera. The organisation seeks to challenge colonial and post-colonial tropes of Blackness in ways that give rise to new cultural frameworks of understanding and learn and move on from the violence of colonialism creatively.
The website caters for an international audience by providing a range of interactive and non-interactive media through its well-designed and visually arresting website. This includes:
- Web radio
- Online exhibitions
- Online events
This means there is a range of resources that provide a nuanced impression of Black history that is accessible internationally and reaches a growing audience.
You should spend some time visiting Decolonising the Archive’s website and consider these questions:
- How have they identified audiences, created resources that cater for different user groups, and created a sense of interactivity with those that visit their website?
- What do they do well?
- What could they improve?
Now think about your own organisation.
- Could your organisation emulate their approach?
- What skills would your workforce or volunteers need to utilise or acquire to do so?
Please attribute as: "Successfully engage with international audiences (2022) by Dr Patrick Glen supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, licensed under CC BY 4.0