Being able to have a rejuvenating approach to heritage is already quite commendable, but to create hype through it is yet on another level.
The exhibition Le Roi est Mort (The King is dead) just ended at the Palace of Versailles, so we decided to look back at the amazing digital storytelling that Maïté Labat, Digital projects & Social Media Manager, and her team created around the exhibition. To celebrate the 300th anniversary of the death and funeral of Louis XIV, the Palace of Versailles wanted to bring it truly close to the public, so visitors and web users could imagine what it was really like to live an event as huge as the death of the Sun King - who made Versailles France's political center.
To do so, they wondered what would happen if something that big occurred today. Well, actually, deaths of politics and heads of state do happen, and they get almost minute-by-minute coverage on social media and regular articles on various media to talk about their life and legacy, their last days, to analyse their actions and, of course, publish their obituary. Well, you’ll find the same kind of content on the website dedicated to The King Is Dead, so you can almost feel like the king is breathing his last breath and walking his last steps. The Palace of Versailles also created a MOOC to allow people to learn even more about Louis XIV and Versailles, and of course, the exhibition unravelled on social media, with a day-by-day story of the King's last days.
We asked Maïté Labat - who will be running a workshop at #WAM16 - to explain us more about why the Palace of Versailles gave the exhibition The King is Dead such a audience-driven approach and how they made it successful, here are her answers:
WAM: Why do exhibitions deserve standalone websites instead of a page on the institution’s website?
ML: It really depends on the type of exhibition and the digital event associated. In the case of the #LeRoiEstMort project, we wanted to offer a dedicated website to follow live the last days and the funeral of Louis XIV through tweets but also through larger content about the King’s story such as articles from historians or journalists, documentaries, live concerts...
It was useful to tell this story through several narrative techniques. This project has to be transmedia to be contemporary and realistic. Today, we would follow the last days of a politic leader thanks to multiple sources (news, social media, TV…).
WAM: What are your tips to give a contemporary twist to a story so well-established and several centuries old?
ML: The main idea was to move 1715 in 2015 and not the contrary. We didn’t want our visitors to be in the past but to integrate the last days of the King in their reality, their daily life thanks to Twitter. We tried to use contemporary references such as publishing a King’s health report every morning, using a dedicated funny & meaningful hashtag #LeRoiEstMort, using the present in the narration and modern language... We were thinking about the way medias settled lives online for special events.
We also developed many partnerships with other cultural institutions and French media such as France Info, Le Monde, Courrier international… They provided content and mentioned the blog on their websites, creating a new source of traffic for us on leroiestmort.com and giving the impression that everyone was speaking about this event on Twitter, as if it was real. The hashtag #LeRoiEstMort was in the Twitter trendings topics during the 1st September 2015.
How do you convince curators to get involved in creating content for a website and social media?
ML: Fortunately in Versailles, we never have to convince curators to be part of a digital event, they are always in. Moreover #LeRoiEstMort project could exist only because curators provided content from their extensive research for the exhibition The King is Dead which opened on October 27th 2015, a month and a half after the 1st September 2015, the day of the tercentenary of Louis XIV’s death.