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Could a museum use WhatsApp?

Here at the Horniman, we're always thinking of new ways to get people interested and excited by our collections.

Once upon a time, we did this through lectures and demonstrations but nowadays we also use lots of digital and online tools like Facebook, Instagram and Tumblr.

One of the most talked about smart phone apps lately is WhatsApp, mainly as it has recently been bought by Facebook.

I have been thinking about how museums like us could use WhatsApp, and had an idea about messaging people with personal recommendations for their visit - a bit like a personal shopping service for a museum collection.

To test out the idea, I turned to It's Nice That who were doing a "Power Hour" (ie. helping people out with their ideas and projects in their lunch hour).

So on Wednesday, Anna Rob and Sam helped try out the idea. I asked them what they are interested in and sent them photos and info on our collections.


They wrote a little about it here.

It was certainly a good test. I learnt that:

  • Having three WhatsApp chats at the same time is tricky!
  • Typing and sending quickly on a phone is also hard work!

It was great seeing them get interested in the collections so there is some potential here.

I don't know yet what it will become, and there are lots of questions raised about making it sustainable, safe and manageable, but it feels like something worth exploring.

Watch this space!