Kirsten Komoroske, Executive Director of The Walt Disney Family Museum. Photography © Courtesy The Walt Disney Family Museum
1.What is your museum about and what are its challenges?
The Walt Disney Family Museum is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that celebrates the remarkable life story of Walt Disney. We’re located in San Francisco, just minutes from the Golden Gate Bridge, and have welcomed many visitors since opening our doors on October 1, 2009.
A question that we are still frequently asked is: “Why is the museum in San Francisco?”. Though there are interesting threads of Walt’s story that intersect with the Bay Area, our museum is here because of Diane Disney Miller—Walt’s daughter and our co-founder. Diane and her husband Ron Miller moved to the San Francisco Bay Area in the mid-1980s and founded Silverado Vineyards in Napa Valley.
While so many of us are familiar with Walt and his most celebrated films, very few know that Diane and her family chose to open the museum in San Francisco so that they could be personally involved with the construction and governance of the museum.
2.What kind of remarkable digital innovation would you like to share with us? It can be online and/or in your physical space.
Despite being located in an historic former military barrack in the Presidio of San Francisco, our state-of-the-art museum features over 200 video screens and a variety of highly contemporary exhibits, narrated by Walt’s own voice throughout. Alongside early drawings and paintings, artifacts, and a wealth of historical information, our galleries also feature easy-to-use touch screens, listening stations, interactive games, and a spectacular scale model of Disneyland—all designed to engage and be enjoyed by every age group.
In our continuous effort to make our museum a more accessible space for our diverse and global audience, we are also excited to soon launch a Walt Disney Family Museum mobile app, featuring a gallery audio guide translated in 12 languages (including American Sign Language) as well as an audio-descriptive tour for visitors with vision impairment.
Other features of the app will include a Social Story to aid families with children on the Autism Spectrum, a Scavenger Hunt, a list of not-to-miss gallery highlights, WD-FM Podcast episodes available to stream, and accommodations for iOS accessibility features. This new digital initiative has been designed to ensure that all guests have the opportunity to experience and learn about Walt’s story in a way that is most comfortable for them.
3.What are the social media platforms that your museum chose for its digital presence and who are your primary target audiences?
We currently have a presence on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Our daily social media posts aim to connect with animation, film, and Disney fans between the ages of 25-44, as we find this particular demographic to be the most interactive across our platforms.
We focus on creating nostalgic content, such as highlighting important achievements throughout Walt’s life and his Studios, but often with a modern hook and engaging prompt. We are proud to have a global online audience and strive to strike a balance between promoting daily happenings at the museum and offering intriguing historical content to keep followers both informed and involved with our museum.
4.If you had to keep one social media platform to reach youngsters, which one would you pick?
Instagram seems to be the optimal platform to engage our younger audience. We frequently utilize Instagram Stories with daily trivia and recaps of special events and programs, as it allows us to directly and instantly engage with Disney fans all around the world.
It has also proven successful in reaching new audiences and potential future guests, and our Instagram profile has shown the largest growth of any of our platforms. Instagram’s capabilities are continuously growing and keeping younger audiences engaged, which aligns closely with our mission to inform present and future generations about Walt and, through his story, inspire them to heed their imagination and persevere in pursuing their goals.
5.Tell us how are you facing the coronavirus emergency with the museum? What strategies are you using?
I think that it’s important to lead with love, especially at a time like this. At this unique moment, this means both protecting people and providing them with support, entertainment, and engaging content.
We were one of the first cultural institutions in San Francisco to close, as we didn’t want to take any chances with exposing people to the virus. We’re continuing to closely monitor the guidance from public officials regarding COVID-19, and based on California government recommendations, The Walt Disney Family Museum remains temporarily closed. The safety and well-being of our community, staff, volunteers, and visitors remains our top priority.
The closure has allowed us to expedite our plans to create more online and virtual offerings for our audience. The team has been highly motivated and energized, and I am overwhelmed by – and incredibly proud of – their creativity and work ethic in the new paradigm of working from home. Over the past several weeks, the museum has launched an array of virtual experiences and content across all platforms as part of the global #MuseumFromHome campaign.
We are currently debuting in-depth gallery talks on Facebook Live, hosting an exciting series of programs with Disney luminaries, offering animation and art classes with our accomplished animation teachers and artists via Zoom webinar, offering highly coveted Disney items in small auction lots on a weekly basis on eBay, and highlighting archived articles on our website’s Blog.
We are also thrilled to have just announced a unique virtual community exhibition that will feature works contributed by members of our community, with community art inspired by Walt Disney’s visions of a “world of tomorrow”. And while some special exhibitions have been postponed due to our closure, we’re planning to provide sneak peeks for social media followers using virtual renderings. And we have other exciting initiatives that we’ll be announcing soon.
6.Do you have a professional alter-ego somewhere in the world to whom you would like to ask a professional question?
He’s not my alter-ego, and he’s also not alive, but I’d love to ask Michelangelo how he imagined, selected the marble for, and created the Pietà.
Interview by Fabio Pariante, journalist
Kirsten Komoroske (San Francisco Bay Area, 1966) is Executive Director of The Walt Disney Family Museum and Member of the Board of Directors in 2013. She has a background in – and a lifelong passion for – the arts, having grown up studying violin and modern dance, and received her B.A. in Italian from the University of California at Berkeley, and J.D. from Santa Clara University.
Komoroske has held a number of executive and board positions, including General Counsel and Vice President of Human Resources for Tyco Electronics Corporation, Interim Vice President of Human Resources at Groupon, Inc., and Chair of the Board of Directors of the Peninsula Humane Society & SPCA. In 2018, she was appointed to the Board of Directors of both San Francisco Travel and Hiller Aviation Museum.