The Sacramento History Museum might not be the one of the physically larger American museums, but it does boast the distinction of being big on TikTok.
In April, the Old Sacramento-based museum reached 1 million followers on the micro-video platform and made headlines nationally. In the short videos, volunteer Howard Hatch gives demonstrations of the museum’s printing presses, and provides quick history facts.
To find out more about how this historical institution dove into a modern platform, CapRadio's Ed Fletcher spoke with Hatch and Museum Director Delta Pick Mello.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
On how Hatch became a TikTok star
Hatch: When we first started, I had no idea what TikTok was or where to find it or anything else. I am sort of computer literate — not really great. Jared [Jones], one of the staff here, said, "Would you mind [doing] something in the shop, and I'll just shoot a video over on my phone, and we might get some people interested."
So I went home and went on the computer, and TikTok and all I could find was people dancing crazy moves and stuff — and I thought this is rubbish … So I check back with Jared and I said, "We're not doing any stupid dancing or anything. If you want to talk about stuff in the shop, I'm good with that." We started producing a few things.
All of a sudden, Jared says, "Hey, you'd be surprised how many people are actually looking at this." And I thought, "You got to be kidding." "No, really, it's getting serious." It's kind of grown just out of all proportion of anything that we even vaguely hoped for.
On how this surprise stardom came about
Mello: We closed our doors thinking, "How are we going to make sure people don't forget us?" So as a team, our staff sat around and talked about what we can do virtually and how we can use our social media.
Jared Jones, who works for me and works in the Education Department and at the front desk, came up with "I want to try TikTok," and so we kind of all went, "Well, you know, we might as well try it." So it's really been Jared's vision of using Howard and what he was already doing in our print shop and showing people.
And like Howard said, it was a lark. Let's see where it goes. When we got 10,000 views, we thought, "Great, this is it," but then it kept growing.
On how TikTok has helped the Sacramento History Museum
Mello: That has really been the gift of COVID — the ability to reach audiences we've never reached before. Our school programs have all had to [switch] to digital, and we've [had] schools as far as Tennessee signing up for our programs. [They] obviously would not have been doing that before.
With TikTok, not only are we reaching such a huge audience, we're reaching a demographic that would not have normally made the History Museum a priority.
And so by exposing a medium, such as print, and the function of printing that's hundreds of years old, by showing that on TikTok, people have just really liked that. And we feel like we're just using that 59-second segment to dole out a little bit of history as we go along, and it's very well received.
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