“Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore…”
On Monday the Smithsonian Institution launched their second Kickstarter campaign, with a fundraising goal of $300,000 to conserve Dorothy’s Ruby Red Slippers, made for the 1939 musical production of MGM’s The Wizard of Oz. Judy Garland wore these shoes as she convinced people around the world that there’s “no place like home”. These shoes are in possession by the National Museum of American History, but the Campaign is under the larger Smithsonian Institution. As of this evening, the campaign is funded over 50% of the way, with $182,246 pledged by 3,285 backers (to donate, and keep up with the campaign see their Kickstarter page here).
“Are museums allowed to have a Kickstarter?”
For those (in my wide audience) that are not familiar with a Kickstarter campaign even is, I will give a brief description. Kickstarter is a crowdfunding platform – allowing someone (or some institution in this case) to create a campaign, allowing the general public to pledge money to reach their goal. There is a wide range of campaigns that are put up to be funded, raising money for an invention, for a restaurant, for a special project, just a few examples. Included in campaigns are different “rewards”, giving incentives at varying giving levels, often promising previews, limited edition merchandise, exclusive access, etc.
This is not the first time that the Smithsonian has launched a Kickstarter campaign – they are now seasoned professionals because this is their second campaign. I kid of course, because I can’t imagine they feel anywhere near experienced at this point. Last year, the National Air and Space Museum successfully funded a campaign to #RebootTheSuit, raising money to conserve, digitize, and display Neil Armstrong’s spacesuit for the 50th anniversary of the moon landing in 2019. This campaign was wildly successful, as their original goal was to raise $500,000 and they ended with over $700,000.
I was asked this week if museums were “allowed” to have a Kickstarter campaign. Interesting question I thought, and my immediate answer “Well, why wouldn’t they be?” I think this question stemmed from the fact that it is quite an untraditional fundraising route for a museum – and generally speaking crowdfunding is a pretty new concept. I recognize that the Smithsonian is a tricky situation as well, because they are a federal entity, and the general publics understanding is that “our taxes pay for the Smithsonian”. This is not true, but I understand how this could be considered true, and I also understand how the public would expect items like the slippers to be protected and conserved no matter what, without the help of outside funding. The discussion of Smithsonian funding could be an entire post on its own, so I will stop there. What is important is the new approach to fundraising, using digital initiatives and crowdfunding.
Kickstarter as it relates to social media
There is a very clear relationship between Kickstarter and social media, being that is how the campaign will be shared. While there are many different channels of communication, and many different ways to share information, the easiest way to share a website is on the internet. Advertising the campaign on the museum’s website, as well as all social media channels is the best way to reach the most people in my opinion (as American History is doing here, here, and here).
There is another relation between a Kickstarter campaign and social media that I see too, and that is the planning and decision making that goes into choosing an object and launching the campaign. Many of the same principles are at play, such as content, audience, and engagement. In Air and Space’s case, they had a one of a kind object, tied to an important American event, and anniversary dates on their side. American History has a piece of American popular culture, but it has been pointed out that there are many pairs of ruby slippers, and they are not operating within anniversary dates. While every campaign does not have to be the same to be successful, these are factors to take into account. Similarly to when a museum is planning the content to be shared via social media, they pull from different repositories of content, all the while keeping mindful of their audience, and the goal of engagement.
Finally…what’s in a name?
How do we feel about the #KeepThemRuby hashtag? Choosing a hashtag for a national campaign like this is a big deal, but I can’t help but think they could have done something with sparkle, home, Oz, etc?
Image from: https://theculturetrip.com/north-america/usa/kansas/articles/the-wizard-of-oz-a-contemporary-cult-classic/