Date of Defense


Date of Graduation




First Advisor

Joshua Koenig

Second Advisor

David Benac


Social media is now firmly ingrained in the daily life of many people. In order for museums to remain relevant in society, institutions like museums need to learn how to integrate this new technology into their practices. Small museums especially may have the most to gain from utilizing this technology in their institutions. These museums usually do not have access to as many resources as their larger counterparts. The challenge for museums is knowing how to use social media effectively. The purpose of this paper is to examine the role of social media in museums with a focus on small museums in Michigan, and explores how small museums can use social media effectively.

This paper is divided into two parts. The first part of this paper examines the role of museums and social media through a review of the some of the scholarly literature in this area. A main theme is the mission of museums to engage their visitor. The first section of this paper discusses the role of museums in society, the growth of social media, how museums use social media, the negative aspects of social media, and the purpose of a social media strategy and policy. Many of the studies discussed in the first half of the paper only look at the impact social media has made at large museums, many of which are outside of the United States. This lack of research dealing with small museums does not mean that social media has made less of an impact on smaller museums. Small museums can learn from the social media strategies utilized by their larger counterparts.

The second part of the paper is an examination of case studies that show how small museums currently use social media at their institutions. The Kalamazoo Valley Museum, the Alamo Township Museum, the Manistee County Historical Museum, Historic Charlton Park, and the Heritage Museum and Cultural Center participated in this study. These are all museums that serve a local community, use volunteers to complete staff functions, or have staff filling multiple roles. For the purposes of this paper, the social media sites examined will be limited to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, and Pinterest. The interviews with these museums revealed that each museum has at least some form of social media although the number of platforms and the extent to which it was utilized varied with each institution.

The end of the paper includes an appendix on suggested best practices for small museums that want to use social media.

Access Setting

Honors Thesis-Open Access

Thesis Bibliography.pdf (291 kB)