Sarah Banks is the Manager of Online Engagement at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. Sarah has a fascinating background that led her in a round-about way to this position. As an undergraduate at Haverford College in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania she majored in comparative religion and Judaism graduating in 2005 with her Bachelor’s degree. When I asked her why religion she said it was because “it interested her” though she never had any thoughts of finding a career in it. However, during her time at Haverford she worked as a special assistant in Haverford College’s Quaker and Special Collections department, where her interest in the museum science field began to take root. Following graduation she determined that she would like to go into the museum field and immediately applied and was accepted into the Master of Art’s in Museum Studies program at the University of Leicester in England. She graduated there with her M.A. in 2006 having completed the program in one year. Upon returning to the United States she got accepted to do an internship in the fall of 2006 at the Smithsonian Institute’s Museum of Natural History. At the end of her internship she was immediately hired as an independent contractor for the Museum of Natural History for New Media and Web Content Development. For the next two years she worked as a contractor putting together all manner of content for their web site In November of 2008 she was hired as the New Media and Web Content Specialist. . It was during this time that social media began to take shape and begin to have an impact on our culture. In October of 2009 the museum asked Sarah if she would be interested in taking charge of this new emerging media for the Museum of Natural History and she was then hired as the Social Media and Special Projects Manager, a completely new position devoted to exploring and harnessing this new Internet tool.
Sarah had to feel her own way as there were no roadmaps at this juncture in the new social media markets to follow. Initially utilizing Facebook and even YouTube she began to map out new ways in which the museum could reach newer audiences with engaging content. By 2011 her position had now evolved into a position called Audience Engagement Specialist. As she described her, “As the Audience Engagement Specialist, I furthered the mission of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History via social media platforms and websites, and advocated for the needs of their online communities.”
In May of 2013 she was hired by the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum to become its new Manager of Online Engagement, where she continues to work to this day. When I asked her about her primary audience I was surprised to hear that the majority of her followers on social media and its various platforms was actually older adults. She has been utilizing platforms such as Instagram and Twitter, as well as Facebook and others. Recently she has been doing more and more Facebook Live broadcasts, which have proven quite popular. She also engages with classrooms digitally as well. To see a complete list of activities that Sarah oversaw with their social media, check out their findings in the 2015 Annual Report on Digital Outreach and Engagement.