Up Periscope!

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How museums could use the new live streaming app, Periscope. Maybe.

So, there’s lots of talk – and floating love hearts – around right now about Periscope: the new Twitter-led app allowing anyone to live stream video from their phone – and corporate rival to the popular Meerkat.

In the space of five minutes today I watched someone’s marketing meeting, a dad filming his kids scooting and a bulldog-eating-a roll. Oh, and lots of people saying “is it on … is it working?” whist serving up shaky footage of their computer screen. I’m all for looking through “someone else’s eyes” but not if their world is just a desk or their daily commute.


However, ignoring my naturally cynical outlook, and giving platforms like Periscope and Meerkat some time to bed down and find their natural use-cases, I do think there could be some exciting opportunities for museums.

Here are some initial thoughts from the team about how museums could use these new live streaming tools…

  1. Guided Tours

If you’re running daily tours (and most museums do) this seems like an obvious win. No extra effort required, just a phone and a mic, and possibly someone to follow the tour around. The immediacy of the live streaming format also opens up the medium to non-expert guides. Staff from various departments or nominated visitors could provide their own personal tours of the museum, for example by revealing their favourite object in the museum.

  1. Behind the scenes

I really like the idea of opening up the museum as a space and looking behind the scenes – something we’re trying to do more of through our social media channels and new video series. Being a fly-on-the wall as an object is being conserved, simply walking around the perimeter of your building or revealing the museum’s overlooked nooks and crannies could be a good watch.

  1. Previews and reveals

One of the strengths of this technology is the possibility for on-the-ground reporting or events as they happen. Museums don’t have many “watch this now!” happenings but the apps could show whistle-stop tours around an exhibition opening, or, the arrival and unboxing or a new object.

  1. Knowledge transfer

A little like tours this one, but you could broadcast a more focussed experience aimed at providing expert insight or an educational resource.  This could be an “ask a curator” session with questions submitted beforehand on Twitter or during the broadcast. Or, something from the conservation team – how to do x, y or z.

  1. New perspectives

It’s easy to fall into the trap of just asking “what can we do with this new thing?” The reality is lots of people might be periscoping (is it now a verb?) from the museum space providing their own perspectives and commentary. I really love the idea of children streaming a kids’-eye view of the museum as they walk about.

  1. And finally … some box ticking

Our team often receives requests from around the organisation to capture or live stream various events – from official talks to staff presentations. One of the attractive things about something like Periscope is the ability to produce content on the fly and it could offer a (very) simple solution without spending too much of your limited time and budget.


This is pretty much off the top of our heads. The key will be finding opportunities that provide new experiences beyond the initial excitement about the technology itself. I guess this means getting beyond the “look what we can do!” moment to provide meaningful connections to your audiences. It’s back to that old chestnut: engagement.

All this comes with two major caveats. One is quality – immediacy is great but if you’re trying to communicate information, what you’re producing needs to be watchable. The other is about audiences and the recognition that this type of communication will only reach a limited segment of your total audience (at least until everyone’s live streaming everything as a matter of course in some kind of digital dystopia).

Speaking of audiences, we’re just embarking on a really interesting project with Frankly, Green & Webb looking at what our audiences in the museum want or need in terms of digital tools. What could enhance their experience of the museum? Do they even want to be using digital devices as they walk around?

More on that coming soon…

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