When it comes to nerdy places to hang out museums have to come up pretty high on the list.
After all, they all seem to feature dusty display cases, boring captions and gallery attendants keen to stamp down on any signs of fun. But there’s one museum that’s taken the online world by storm, and it’s certainly not one that you’d expect.
Rather than one of the big names like the New York Met or the British Museum, it’s the Black Country Living Museum in Dudley, West Midlands and it now has a good claim to be the No.1 museum in the world currently on TikTok with 350,000 followers worldwide, and rising.
Social media, Black Country style. This is because the short videos that it posts on the site have established themselves as even more popular than many of the TikTok dances uploaded every day, not to mention the seemingly endless variations on bunny hopping to the Black Eyed Peas’ “Where is the Love?”.
These take a number of forms from re-enactors dressed in period costumes strutting through the museum’s open-air exhibits to a dance track to grandads offering life lessons in a fireside chat. The latter is delivered in a Black Country accent so thick that it also needs subtitles to make it so comprehensible to viewers all around the world. There are also films of some of the museum’s vintage vehicles cruising down the streets to banging beats like a 1940s version of Grand Theft Auto.
There’s a museum for everyone. It may not be so surprising that there’s a museum like this in the UK. After all, the Lake District has one dedicated to pencils and down in Brighton there’s even one that simply contains penny slot machines. This is despite the fact that most slots players today are more interested in the online versions of the game, as Bonusfinder UK explained in a post about one of the world’s most popular titles, Starburst. But, while today’s online slots sites offer bonuses to join and ways to win much more than just pennies, the popularity of the old-style machines endures.
So maybe museums like these two examples will soon be following the example of this one to fully embrace the digital age. It was all the original idea of the museum’s head of communications Abby Bird. Part of her remit is to attract younger visitors to the museum and, once she had the idea of using re-enactors and reframing them in the meme-heavy TikTok style, the idea really took off. Abby admits that some of her older colleagues were a bit doubtful at first, they left her to it and the followers soon started to arrive.
It’s all part of a far wider drive by museums to embrace social media with one example being the Twitter-based curator battle in which museums try to out-do each other on particular themes.
So maybe, just maybe, all museums aren’t quite the boring old places lots of people think they are. In fact, they might just be having a moment of their own.