Sustainable Storytelling: Transforming Whitney Stories to Meet Changing Needs

Lightning Talk
Elyse Mallouk, Whitney Museum of American Art, USA

Many of the activities that constitute a museum’s identity take place out of public view. While much of what occurs behind the scenes stays there by necessity, digital publishing presents an opportunity to bring the most compelling and relevant bits of material to the surface. Since 2011, Whitney Stories has ventured to bring this type of content to the Whitney Museum’s audience. Initiated as an online magazine tasked with unearthing behind-the-scenes stories, it re-launched in 2013 as a flexible publishing platform and video series that would help the museum articulate its transition from Manhattan’s Upper East Side to the Meatpacking District.

To produce the project, the Whitney’s digital media department built a content strategy based on a clearly articulated aim: to communicate about the museum’s plans for the future while bringing its core identity into clearer focus. We worked with filmmaker Matt Wolf to craft a video series focusing on artists, staff, and members of the new building construction team. To suit the museum’s communications needs and make production more sustainable, the publication’s issue-based structure was jettisoned in favor of an agile platform that could accommodate content whenever it needed to be released. Now that the museum’s new building is open, Whitney Stories is shifting its focus again to put forward the stories the museum most needs to tell.

Using Whitney Stories as a case study, this talk will focus on storytelling within an institutional framework. It will offer colleagues considering surfacing similar material insight into the decision-making that has informed the Whitney’s content strategy. The presentation will discuss how the project has evolved over time in response to institutional challenges. It will also point to ways to build in flexibility when considering potential publishing avenues, advocating for clear goals and strong content paired with malleable platforms and schedules.