Monterey Bay Aquarium in Animal Crossing streamed live on Twitch

Level Up: Streaming Popular Video Games to Inspire the Next Generation of Learners

Published Writing

This article first appeared in the journal Exhibition (Fall 2021) Vol. 40 No. 2 and is reproduced with permission.

Cultural institutions have been building bespoke digital exhibitions for decades. They are often costly to create, hard to sustain, and require robust marketing efforts to be discovered by their intended audiences. When its doors closed in March 2020 due to COVID-19, the Monterey Bay Aquarium – like so many visitor-serving institutions – was faced with the challenge of keeping people aware of and engaged in our mission without the benefit of access to our physical exhibitions. Rather than build a stand-alone digital exhibition – which could take months to design and code, as well require a concerted effort and budget to attract an audience – the aquarium team dove into an existing
ecosystem of video games and shared our game play live on the fastgrowing livestream platform Twitch.

One of the aquarium’s Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) is trust in us to protect and conserve the ocean. Building empathy with marine animals and developing a personal connection to our experts are critical features of the aquarium’s approach to inspiring people to care about, and to take action for, ocean conservation. In our social media communications strategy, we lead with a giftgiving mentality: each post and livestream is an opportunity to bring joy and spark curiosity in our followers’ daily lives. Over time, this strategy has primed a receptive social audience that is 3.5 million people strong and growing – and ensures that when we ask our fans to take meaningful conservation action (e.g., to contact their legislators), they act. During COVID, livestreaming – including
video game streaming Animal Crossing– helped us deepen relationships with and among our audiences, ocean animals, and experts across our social media accounts. We continued to stream on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, and YouTube as well as expanded to newer platforms like Twitch and TikTok. The trend of livestreaming extended beyond traditional content, with many streamers also exploring casino games, including the โปรแกรมวีไอพี UFABET.

Like YouTube, Twitch attracts fans to the live video broadcasts of individual content creators. Twitch is best known for gaming, where individual streamers share their video-game screens with viewers, who can hear and watch them play live (as well as engage with the Twitch community via chat). Through livestreaming on Twitch, we were able to reach a young (73 percent of users are under 35) and highly engaged audience (daily active users spend an average of 95 minutes on the platform). In the process, we learned a lot about the power of offering live interpretation from within virtual games and expanded our ability to engage young people in a deep, sustained (and fun!) way around complex topics like climate change and plastic pollution.

Screen shot of MeditOcean video series on the Monterey Bay Aquarium website

Interview with The Guardian: Aquariums report wave of webcam visits amid Covid shutdown

Blog Post

Earlier this year, traffic to the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s website spiked to triple its usual visitation. The reason? Live webcams of soothing jellies and frolicking sea otters. In a world turned upside down by a global pandemic, people sought ways to cope and to connect. In this interview with The Guardian’s Elle Hunt, I talked about how digital content like livestreams and guided ocean meditation videos (“MeditOceans”) enable institutions like the aquarium to bring inspiring experiences—and some much-needed relief—to people around the world.

Read the article: “Aquariums report wave of webcam visits amid Covid shutdown.”

Screen capture of Twitter page for @POTUS44

Collecting and Using Social Media at the National Archives


What is the role of the U.S. National Archives (NARA) in preserving social media records and using social media platforms to engage audiences? This talk presented at IFLA World Library and Information Congress 2018, provided guidance for other national libraries and archives around the world to consider as they provide guidelines to their own governments and elected leaders for capturing, managing, providing access to, and preserving social media records. It provides a case study for how NARA took a dual approach of access and preservation in archiving the tweets and posts of our first social media president, Barack Obama. The presentation also covered how to effectively leverage social media and social business tools to engage audiences with the work of the archives and crowdsource support for citizen researchers.

Download the Google slides here.

Storytelling through technology and media


This presentation provided an opening look at the topic of digital-age storytelling in museums, with an emphasis on web and social media outreach and the ways in which museums can be both storytellers as well as platforms for stories. I served as moderator for the panel discussion which featured 3 other case studies from the National Museum of African American History and Culture, the National Museum of American History, and the Harpers Ferry National Historic Park.

In my intro remarks, I discussed the history of online exhibitions, the advent of bulletin boards (and later, commenting) for user-generated stories, and how blogs and social media, including Twitter and Instagram, have changed the role of cultural institutions from storyteller to a platform for story sharing.

Journey Through Hallowed Ground
The Cutting Edge of Public History: New Directions in Interpretation Symposium
March 28, 2018

View slides on Slideshare.

Black Mirror and its (sometimes scary) connections to museums and social media

Blog Post

The other day someone posted this amazing Black Mirror GIF on the Museum Social Media Managers Facebook group. The GIF was a reaction to an article about Instagram’s new algorithm changes that incentivize certain behaviors and bury content when narrowly defined rules of engagement are not met. I couldn’t help but think about all of the other potential Black Mirror connections one might make to #musesocial and #musetech. 

#MCN50 Voices

Blog Post

I was paired up with Arielle Feldman for the #MCN50 Voices project, which invites members of the MCN community to interview each other about their careers and the field of museum technology as a whole. Being #musesocial gals, we decided to conduct our interview live on Twitter–emojis, gifs, and all.

Unfortunately, Storify has stopped allowing embedded archives but you can see the highlights in this Twitter Moment captured by Arielle. In it, we touch on our first museum memories, how to achieve work-life balance (WHAT work-life balance?!?), and what we think is the next big thing in museums and technology.

Social Media Extravaganza: A Mini Unconference


This mini unconference was hosted at MCN 2015 by myself, Phillippa Pitts, Jennifer Poleon, Margaret Sternbergh, and Jessica Warchall.

We started out with a quick #musesocial year in review, recapping top hashtags, trends, and challenges from the recent past. Next, we broke out into a mini un-conference based on social media topics the attendees selected for smaller group discussion. We took this chance to debate, discuss, and find ways to work together! Finally, we regrouped to discuss some of the key threads from our breakout groups with a focus on resources, solutions, and project ideas for us to collaborate on in the coming year.

View slides on Slideshare

Watch on YouTube (Note: audio only)

#ArtAtoZ: Serial Social Media at the National Gallery of Art


In this case study presented at MCN 2015, I discussed the National Gallery of Art’s innovative approach to developing serial content for social media as illustrated through the #ArtAtoZ initiative.

Every two weeks, the Gallery explored a new topic in art (i.e., asymmetry, brushstroke, color, and drawing) across multiple social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest). This focus on broad topics allowed the Gallery to leverage its extensive permanent collections as well as draw upon a diverse array of staff expertise including curatorial, education, archives, conservation, and horticulture. The “A to Z” concept also afforded museum staff the ability to plan up to a year ahead, as the set of 26 topics was set at the beginning of the year. The added benefit of this structure was the ability to collaborate with other institutions and build momentum over time. From the perspective of the social media user, one was invited to dig deeply into a given topic over the course of two weeks rather than receive seemingly random bits of information each day.

Social media followers were encouraged to engage with the broad theme in myriad ways included guided looking, guessing games, and challenges to respond creatively. In this talk, I shared findings from ongoing evaluation of the initiative, including what we learned about optimizing content in order to generate the most conversation, sharing, and other engagement.

View slides on Slideshare.