How the Black Country Living Museum became TikTok famous

  • Pictures from Tiktok/The Black Country Living Museum

As the pandemic began and lockdowns came into force, it meant that museums - like all of us - had to adapt to the changing times. Using new social media tools to promote their work and educate people, that are unable to visit in person. And for the Black Country Living Museum in Dudley, utilising one of 2020's biggest successes, TikTok, has paid off massively for them.

With over 350,000 followers worldwide, they believe they are the most popular museum in the world on TikTok. In fact, their most viewed video of a character called "1920s grandad" offering advice in a thick Black Country accent has been watched more than 2.2 million times.

The museum has also been named one of TikTok's 100 top UK accounts for 2020 - a very worthy accolade.

Black Country Living Museum Credit: PA

For Abby Bird, the museum's communication manager, TikTok was the 'perfect vehicle' to engage with younger people.

She told ITV News Central that 'coming off the back of a lockdown...we were really hitting around 30% of our usual visitor numbers, so we were thinking we need to figure out another way to try to engage with our audiences. They are not able to visit the museum and they are not able to physically be here at the moment.'

Though the eventual response was 'phenomenal', Bird didn't know how big it would be. In fact, she says she was hoping for about 10,000 followers by Christmas.

  • Pictures from Tiktok/The Black Country Living Museum

Bird puts down the success to three main reasons. Firstly, she thinks people don't expect to see museums on apps like TikTok so when they are she believes 'they are paid more attention.' Secondly, young people especially believe that museums have this expectation that museums are very formal and very serious. Similarly, the characters are seen to be 'brilliant in front of the camera' and she believes they capture people's imaginations.

It could be a problem for the museum that for the majority of these worldwide viewers, they won't ever visit the venue in real life. But the museum believe that 'depends on how you define the purpose of a museum.'

The Black Country museum will also be used as a mass vaccination centre for COVID-19 whilst it remains closed to visitors Credit: David Jones, PA

Bird says that they are trying to tell the Black Country story, and ultimately 'Britain's national story,' to a younger audience. She wants to take elements of the museum and put them online so people can enjoy and be educated, no matter if they are closed or not.

They hope that when the country returns to some sense normality, particularly with the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, they will reap the rewards of their popularity on the app and more visitors will attend the museum. This is particularly key as they are currently closed to visitors until at least the end of January.