Intended Date of Award

2014

Degree Name

Master in Nonprofit Management (MNM)

Chair

David Schultz

Vice-Chair

Kate Borowske

Committee Member

Molly Hazelton

Abstract

According to the theory of social identity, the more connected an individual feels to other group members, the more likely they are to feel a part of this group. The stronger the connection is, the more likely the individual is to become an active member. Cultural collections illustrate the shared history of a group. By increasing access to these collections via online access, organizations expose more users to these shared histories. Viewing such shared history, individuals will experience stronger connections to the history and members of the group resulting in an increase in social identity. When this connection solidified, users become more likely to actively participate in the cultural organization. A survey of organizations and detailed cases study sites who maintain digital collections have shown that this type of increase in engagement is happening. To maintain the relevance and livelihood of cultural heritage organizations into the future, institutions need to engage in online collections and opportunities for online engagement of users. Ventures into the digital realm have been shown through this study to increase public engagement with the organization, particularly among younger generations. By increasing users’ social identity through digital collections, cultural heritage institutions will see a growth in engagement from users that allows for the work of these organizations to stay relevant in today’s society.

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