WINSTON-SALEM, NC — When you think about Old Salem, the only tick-tocks you’d expect would likely come from one of their antique clocks. But, now Old Salem is gaining popularity with one of the newer social platforms; TikTok.
“In 2017, Old Salem started a new plan where they wanted to completely switch up how they were thinking about and acting with their social media,” says Samantha Smith, director of community engagement and digital learning with Old Salem.
In October, Smith posted a picture of Old Salem Joyner Ben Masterson. It was simple, with no narration, showing Masterson doing some 18th-century woodworking.
“Uploaded it, and then I actually had a dentist appointment, I didn’t look at my phone for about two hours, got back to my phone and was flabbergasted,” Smith says.
The video was immediately viewed thousands of times. Today, it’s been viewed more than 60,000 times. Another video of Masterson has been viewed 1.5 million times.
“It was a very, very strange experience, especially to see all of these mostly young people commenting, asking these fantastic questions about, ‘what was he doing,’ and, ‘what wood was he using,’” Smith details.
The TikTok world met Joel Cook in a TikTok where he went from wearing modern-day clothing to 18th century clothing.
“And then the responses that we get from people. Like I have some, I have a fan club, basically on TikTok,” Cook said, laughing. “That’s definitely not something I expected from this.”
Old Salem even has a museum “beef” with the Black Country Living Museum in Dudley. Not Dudley, North Carolina. Dudley, England.
“We saw an opportunity where Old Salem could really benefit from reaching, not only that audience, but also just exploring the stories of Old Salem through that sort of video creation platform,” Smith says.
Today, Old Salem has 1.2-million likes on TikTok.
“We’ve had people who’ve approached us, usually the starts of TikTok, to say, ‘hey, I’m sorry this is a little awkward but are you Ben? The Joyner? We saw you on TikTok, that’s actually why we came out here, we drove all the way from so and so,’” Smith adds.
For Cook, it’s a way to reach people all over the world. In turn, showing young people interested in history that there is a path to turning that curiosity into a career.
“That’s what every historian that does this does it for,” he says. “To encourage other people to participate and learn about history.”
Old Salem’s historic buildings are currently closed, but the grounds are still open, with the social media following attracting a whole new group of visitors.