Social Media Tips to Promote Art Conservation Series: Using Instagram Stories

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Instagram Stories compilation (left to right): Example of a student hosting a lab tour walk-through. Example of a quiz feature with question (2nd image) and answer (3rd image) revealed in a second post. Example post showing large text emphasized by a bright background. Example showing where Story highlights appear in the titled circles above the main feed posts.  Images courtesy of Melissa King and Marie Descrochers.

By Marie Descrochers, Melissa King, and Magdalena Solano

This is the second installment in our series of articles on the use of social media to highlight conservation. Social media is a great way to connect to the work of our colleagues and enrich our own conservation community, but perhaps more importantly, it allows us to share the technical work we do with the public. The tips and tricks for this installment will focus on the use of the Instagram Stories feature.

The Stories feature allows a series of short videos or images to be uploaded and visible to followers for twenty-four hours. They can also be saved to the profile if desired. Instagram Stories was designed to encourage more posting with less careful curation (see our October 2019 NiC article). Instagram Stories is a great platform for sharing events in real time, whether they are conference presentations or hands-on lab work. The suggestions here are based on our experience managing the social media for the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation (WUDPAC), especially through our growing Instagram account, @ud_artconservation.


1. Keep moving. We love using Stories to walk viewers through a space, whether it is a conservation lab or museum. Consider having an extra person speak to the camera, serving as a host or running a Q&A session as you move through the space. This can be a great way to catch followers’ eyes with dazzling exhibition displays or to transport followers to new places.

2. Keep audio to a minimum. Stories are typically viewed on silent and in quick succession; thus, videos should communicate your message clearly both with the sound on and off. If a video includes narration or significant audio, be sure to apply a sticker that says “sound on” that tells followers to turn on the sound for a story. The “sound on” stickers should be used sparingly and primarily for emphasis when important. There are even apps available for closed captioning in Stories, which also promotes accessibility.

3. Add interactive features. Instagram includes a number of interactive templates such as quizzes and viewer question forms. Followers can interact with the prompts in their stories, guessing the answers to posted trivia and filling in question forms to directly ask follow-up questions about posted content. Our favorite features are the quizzes in which we can gauge the public’s knowledge about certain topics, for example, “what kind of degradation caused this damage?” We can also use the Story feature to respond to followers’ questions by reposting their questions and our answers directly into the story.

4. Use Stickers. One of the fun parts of creating stories is the wide variety of colorful and animated stickers available for embellishment. These range from simple emojis to GIFs—short animated pictures referencing a wide range of popular culture. Connecting technical imagery to humorous memes helps keep things light and relevant.

5. Keep it simple. Our stories have been most successful when they include good images with short phrases and one or two stickers. Some stories are longer format with heavy narration, but generally, we keep stories short and sweet with brief text.

6. Post frequently. Unlike the main Instagram feed where you will likely limit posts to a few times a week, Instagram Stories can be updated much more frequently, even multiple times a day. Because of the Stories’ quick format, followers can easily flip past lengthy stories or stick around for more. Furthermore, by posting frequently, the Instagram algorithm also allows you to remain at the top of the feed of your followers and accounts that you regularly interact with.

7. Variety is key. Diversify your story content with alternating videos, pictures, and even solid backgrounds with text. A great way to emphasize an idea is by using a brightly colored text font over a solid-colored background. This format gives emphasis to a brief phrase or thought.

8. Tag other accounts. Using an “@” symbol allows you to tag other accounts. We like to tag the Winterthur Museum account “@winterthurmuse” and the University of Delaware “@udelaware” since our program is partnered with both institutions. In field trip posts, we often include tags for whichever institutions we are visiting. Doing this allows the tagged account to repost our story as their own, which is an opportunity for more account exposure. Geotags are another way to highlight other institutions by applying a sticker that links to its location on a map.

9. Save Stories in the “Highlights” feature. This feature is a reel of small icons where previous stories can be accessed. These icons can be organized into categories such as “Lab tours,” “Field trips,” “Presentations,” or in the case of our first-year block curriculum, “Blocks.” The “Highlights” feature allows this carefully-created content to be viewable past the initial 24-hour window, meaning followers can revisit old stories.

10. Collaborate with Story “takeovers.” Many institutions offer “takeovers,” which means they allow others temporary access to their account to show different voices and perspectives in their stories. We did this with our University’s account, @udelaware, to give their followers a look into our graduate program and the fascinating world of art conservation. Prior to the start of the takeover, the University advertised the start of our takeover with a single image with text announcing the time and date. You might try reaching out to your museum’s social media manager to do the same, or consider letting a conservator within your lab use the Stories feature to walk followers through an interesting treatment.

Instagram Stories is a great way to highlight the daily ins and outs of your institution. With the colorful stickers and humor, Stories allow you to infuse a little personality into your institutional image. Keep them light and informative...and have fun!


Marie Desrochers is a second-year graduate student at WUDPAC majoring in preventive conservation. She completed her first-year summer work project at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston and is looking forward to delving into her major projects. (Photograph courtesy of Jim Schneck, Winterthur Museum)

Melissa King is a third-year graduate student at WUDPAC majoring in preventive conservation. Prior to starting graduate school she managed a business painting pet portraits called, “Pawblo Picasso,” which fueled her love for creative marketing and social media strategies. (Photograph courtesy of Jim Schneck, Winterthur Museum)

Magdalena Solano is a first-year graduate student at WUDPAC majoring in paintings conservation. Her professional experience includes internships in the conservation of objects, paintings, and textiles, as well as curatorial research, education, marketing, and art installation for museums and galleries in Los Angeles. (Photograph courtesy of Jim Schneck, Winterthur Museum)

(Read the full story in the February-March 2020 "News in Conservation" Issue 76, p. 38-40)

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Social media is a great way to connect to the work of our colleagues and enrich our own conservation community, but perhaps more importantly, it allows us to share the technical work we do with the public. The tips and tricks for this installment will focus on the use of the Instagram Stories feature.
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