Will Cary, the membership manager at the Brooklyn Museum, announced earlier this month an interesting way for a wider population of people to support the Brooklyn Museum through their new "1stFan" program. Described as "socially networked museum membership," 1stFan provides a way for potentially hundreds more people to support the museum through an annual $20 membership, while also increasing the internet "buzz" created about the museum and its exhibits.
I think it's a very smart move for the museum in tough economic times.
Here's what you get for your "1stFan" membership:
invites to exclusive events during every Target First Saturday
- exclusive access to artist-created content on the 1stfans Twitter Art Feed
- regular updates via Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, or e-mail
- skipping the line to the free movies at Target First Saturday
The free First Saturdays at Brooklyn Museum are already tremendously popular hangout events for a wide range of people in New York City — from neighborhood families to the art scenesters to urban hipsters. The last few times I have gone, I have had to fight my way through crowds of seemingly thousands of people cramming every inch of the museum. The live music events are huge pickup joints, and the featured exhibits have long queues to enter.
And there's lots of social media being produced by people who visit the museum, from photographers posting their images to Flickr to people blogging about the latest big exhibit there. When I use the Twinkle app to post a tweet from the Museum, I can see that lots of other people are also Twittering from there at the same time, sometimes just a few feet from me.
So it makes sense to build on the enormous energy around First Saturdays to scare up more support for the museum. This creates new ways for people to connect with each other via the Museum, both in person and online.
Their first 1stFan happening is a "live printing event" with the artist Swoon on January 3 at 5pm, where 1stFan members can bring in a piece of found paper that Swoon will incorporate into some print and then give back to you. Sweet!
1stFan also opens people up to the possibility of upgrading their membership to higher levels for more perks (free admission, free stuff, more exclusive events, etc.) And it takes advantage of existing social networks on the most popular platforms out there — Facebook, Flickr and Twitter.
This might be a a great case study for other non-profits to emulate as they struggle to generate new forms of revenue in tough financial times. The real question is will the amount of staff time and museum resources required to establish and maintain a much larger group of museum supporters coming in at a lower donation level be worth it financially? And given the fickle nature of social networks and social media, will there be some kind of backlash to creating this new "clique" of museum supporters?
I would love to see the Museum go further and involve people in the arts creation process, perhaps by opening up some museum content for mashup and remixed media, inviting 1stFan submissions of work, and hosting online events that people can participate in who can not get to First Saturdays.
Let me close by saying that I love the Brooklyn Museum, which is in my opinion one of the finest public cultural institutions in the city. So I'm happy to pony up my $20 to support this initiative and see where it goes.