Case study: How Wardown Park Museum attracted over 1000% more visitors than usual

Our latest case study guest post comes from Ellen Waghorn, Event Programmer at Wardown Park Museum in Luton.

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Wardown Park Museum took part in Museums at Night 2014 aiming to engage with new audiences and find new ways to use our spaces. We are a small museum with a collection relating to the history of Luton including Luton’s role in the hat-making industry past and present.

Two men wearing fancy hats and drinking beer in a museum after hours

Visitors show off their hats (c) Wardown Park Museum

We decided to separate our day and night events to focus on family and adult audiences.

‘Mad Hatters and Alice in Wonderland’, our daytime event, created something fun but educational that linked to our collection. We used outside space to increase capacity and had flamingo croquet and a rabbit hole crawl. We provided seating and catering bringing in secondary spend.

Inside the museum we created a trail (also charged), that focused on engaging children with our collections. Additionally, one of our volunteers ran an exhibition that  looked at the origin of tea and the history of plants in Bedfordshire, using our collection of plant specimens.

‘Mad Hatters Late’  consisted of  keeping the museum open until  10pm, and  performances  from local musicians, held in a flexible gallery space. To maximise secondary spend, we acquired a temporary alcohol license, and to tie in with our collections everyone was encouraged to wear hats!

a shot from behind showing the heads of audience members watching a band perform

Museum visitors listening to a band (c) Wardown Park Museum

Success

Attendance of the events exceeded expectations with 1027 people on site for the daytime event and 107 in the evening. 953 people came through the doors to the museum on the day.

Comparing this to a normal Saturday which averages at 80, this was a fantastic 1091.25% increase.

We learnt…

1) …not to be afraid of ‘set dressing’ our museum. Far from taking away from our collections, it enabled  more enjoyment, and made  our audiences  think of us as a fun place to visit. Museums are not dull: they’re a good place to have fun!

2) Advertising was key to this event. We used local radio, flyer and poster distribution as well as social media platforms and our website.

3) Using arts as an activity to entice a new audience works. We have been trialing this through ‘Music in the Museum’, a monthly music concert, and the decision to include story telling and a concert was due to the success of this.

A museum entrance hall with visitors and hats on the floor

A range of hats were available for visitors to wear (c) Wardown Park Museum

In future…

…we plan to have less separation between our day and evening events, although we will continue to target our activities for families during the day and adults in the evening. We will continue to increase the opportunities for secondary spend to support the programme and increase financial viability.

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A photo of a woman smilingEllen Waghorn is the event programmer for the Museum Makers Team at Wardown Park Museum. Her aim is to programme events and activities that actively engage the community and encourages the incorporation of volunteers (Museum Makers) into event running and organisation.

Find her on Twitter as @elwaghorn and on LinkedIn here: https://www.linkedin.com/pub/ellen-waghorn/63/70a/1a4

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Thanks, Ellen!

If you’d like to write a guest post or share a case study about any aspect of audience development, event planning or marketing in the arts and heritage sector, please email rosie@culture24.org.uk.

Gallery

Culture Collaboration, Culture Rescue

This gallery contains 4 photos.

Originally posted on University of Cambridge Museums:
This year for the Museums at Night national event, the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology hosted Manos Creadoras, or Creative Hands, a project organized by AndesCrafts and the Museum. AndesCrafts was created in…

Call for guest posts: share your event planning and marketing case studies!

Do you have a story to tell about how you planned or marketed an event at your venue? Have you taken advantage of Museums at Night to try out a new way of working, or to stage a different type of event, or to bring in a new element?

Singers watched by a crowd in a modern museum

Janette Parris’ musical performed in Cardiff Story Museum (c) Klaus Wehner

Writing a reflective case study can be a great way to talk about your organisation and celebrate the work your team does. You can see examples of previous guest posts here: http://museumsatnight.wordpress.com/tag/guest-post/

This writing opportunity is open all year round to anyone who works or volunteers in an arts or heritage organisation.

A pack of scouts in a museum

Adur Valley Scouts ready for their first ever museum sleepover at Worthing Museum & Art Gallery

The idea of publishing guest blog posts is to showcase lots of different voices from museums, galleries and heritage sites, passing on marketing and event planning ideas to inspire other venues who may be considering taking part for the first time.

  • Do you have any tips for other venues based on your experiences?
  • What worked well?
  • What have you learned – e.g. about your own capacity, about timings, about the most and least successful forms of promotion, about what different audience most appreciate?
  • What would you do differently next time?

A good guest post consists of:

1) 300-400 words, in a chatty, friendly style
2) A couple of photos of visitors exploring your venue, ideally at night, with the photographers’ credit. We always like to put up photos of people having fun at cultural / heritage venues!
3) A couple of lines about yourself, I’m happy to link to your website / Twitter account / LinkedIn etc.
4) A thumbnail-sized photo of you

If you’re interested in writing a guest post, or if you have any questions, please drop me an email at rosie@culture24.org.uk or give me a call on 01273 623336.

Museums at Night 2014: a roundup of BBC coverage of the festival

We were delighted to work with the BBC to raise awareness of the Museums at Night festival this year: here’s a brief roundup of the coverage that went out on on BBC1, BBC2, Radio 2, Radio 3, Radio 4, local radio and television and BBC ARTS Online.

Network Television

At the heart of the BBC’s coverage was an hour long BBC2 show, Museums at Night, on Saturday 17 May at 7pm.

A poster promoting the BBC TV show about Museums at Night with Will Gompertz

 

The programme was a truly nationwide event, presented by Will Gompertz with Mat Fraser at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh.

There were also short films presented by Frank Cotterell Boyce, Andrew Graham-Dixon and Simon Armitage from Liverpool, Cardiff, Nottingham, Cornwall, Yorkshire and the National Gallery in London.

The on-site panel in Edinburgh included Jude Kelly, Bettany Hughes and Amit Sood from the Google Art Project.

Also on television,

  • Museum at Night was profiled on Breakfast where Culture24 CEO Jane Finnis joined hosts Charlie Stayt and Sally Nugent and enjoyed the VanGoYourself game, taking ‘selfies’ imitating famous art works
twinned image of a couple with a tambourine and wreath headdress

BBC Breakfast presenters Charlie and Sally recreate Two Women from Naples by Guillaume Bodinier. Image shared under a CC-BY-SA licence

  • The One Show promoted the programme off the back of an item with Arthur Smith at the Black Country Living Museum on Wednesday 14th May
  • Blue Peter did a piece with Museums at Night author Damian Dibben from the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich on 15th May

Radio

  • On Radio 2 Chris Evans had Will Gompertz on the show to promote the festival, and Claudia Winkleman’s Arts Show ran a package with Andrew Graham-Dixon from the National Gallery
  • On Radio 3 The Verb commissioned writer Phil Smith to do a night time walk
  • On Radio 4 You and Yours
  • On BBC 6 Music, Lauren Laverne interviewed artist Fred Deakin about his event at The Wilson, Cheltenham
  • On BBC Radio Scotland, MacAuley and Co interviewed Will Gompertz
  • BBC Radio Wales Arts Show had an interview with Connect10 artist Janette Parris about her project at Cardiff Story Museum
  • There was also a significant amount of local radio coverage, including interviews with many participating museums and representatives from Culture24.

 

Nations and Regions

More than seven TV regions covered the weekend, either live or as a package on the Thursday or Friday 18.30 news.

Events at the Horniman Museum in London, the Wilson in Cheltenham, the Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Plymouth, Exeter Art Gallery, and one Sunderland museum sleepover were featured. News teams from Manchester, Southampton, Leeds and Hull also covered the event.

BBC Northern Ireland’s Arts Show produced a feature from the Titanic Museum, Belfast.

Each transmission also referred to the BBC2 show.

Online

The newly launched BBC Arts Online focused on Museums at Night over the weekend.

The homepage of Museums at Night coverage on BBC Arts

Martha Kearney picked up from Will Gompertz, continuing the broadcasting at 8pm after the BBC2 show. There was a complete live stream of Russell Maliphant’s ‘Second Breath’ with English National Ballet at the Imperial War Museum North.

The website also featured the ‘VanGoYourself’ project which encourages people to take a photograph of themselves as they restage well-known paintings. The Last Supper was re-staged with a group of dinner ladies in a Glasgow primary school.

Clips from the online coverage, including English National Ballet and Public Service Broadcasting, can still be seen on the BBC Arts Museums at Night page.

Rosie Clarke talks Museums at Night at Museums Showoff, 10 June

Museums Showoff, the cabaret-style night for all those who love museums, will be at the Bloomsbury Theatre, 15 Gordon Street, London WC1H 0AH at 7.30pm on June 10th.

Museums Showoff logo

And I’ll be talking as part of the evening: explaining how the Connect10 competition led to me spending Museums at Night falling into the sea at Swansea with artist Amy Sharrocks!

a line of people holding hands in the sea

Intrepid museum visitors enter the sea led by Amy Sharrocks

If you want to hear intriguing insights, get the low down on amazing projects and glean all the behind-the-scenes gossip, Museums Showoff is the show for you.

Whether it’s bizarre visitor feedback or the terrible fate of a Ken doll, a lifesaving Welsh dog or some fascinatingly underwhelming fossils, Museums Showoff explores a side of the UK’s world-renowned museums and collections not seen (for better or worse!) by the 40 million people who visit them every year.

Also among those taking to the stage for this extravaganza of wit and wisdom, objects and exhibitions will be curators from the Grant Museum and the Horniman Museum, the convenors of the Bad Text award, and the Roald Dahl Museum storytellers.

See the full line up and buy your tickets (only £7) at http://www.museumsshowoff.org.

All proceeds are going to Arts Emergency who offer mentoring, advice & support for 16-19 year olds from low income backgrounds who want to do an arts or humanities degree … just the kind of qualification you need to work in a museum!

This gig is suitable for people aged over 16 years old.

If you come along, do say hello to me afterwards!

Museums at Night: your next steps!

Wow, we’re still reeling from the terrific impact that this year’s Museums at Night festival had – now it’s time to assess that. Here’s how you can help!

People sitting outdoors under bunting listening to a band

Listening to the band at Beamish Open Air Museum. Photo shared by Beamish Museum on Instagram

Venue Survey

If you ran a Museums at Night event, please take 5 minutes to tell us how many visitors came, what worked well and what you think we could improve for next year by filling in our Venue Survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/FMBHLNG

Visitor Survey

If you visited a Museums at Night event, we’d really like your feedback on it! Please take a few minutes to fill in our Visitor Survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/VH5RH2C

Printed forms

If you put out printed visitor survey forms during your Museums at Night event, please post the completed ones back to me:

Rosie Clarke
Culture24
Office 4, 28 Kensington St
Brighton
BN1 4AJ

Next year’s dates for your diary

Museums at Night next year will run from Thursday 14 – Saturday 16 May 2015, so please put the dates in your calendar now!

Museums at Night coverage this weekend

Museums at Night 2014 is here!

All the event listings and lots of features about the festival are on our homepage, www.museumsatnight.org.uk.

There’s a phenomenal amount of media coverage of the festival planned: yesterday comedian Arthur Smith reported from the Black Country Living Museum for the One Show, and this evening author Damian Dibben appeared on Blue Peter discussing his Museums at Night event at Guildford Castle.

On Saturday morning Culture24′s CEO Jane Finnis will be sharing our new art-selfie game VanGoYourself on the BBC Breakfast Show!

a couple recreate a painting of a kiss

Idyll by Lawrence Koe, VanGo’d by Maria and Kelly (image shared under a CC BY SA licence)

We’re all over local and regional radio and television – and Connect10 artist Fred Deakin had a great chat with Lauren Laverne on her 6Music show ahead of his Scribble Jam at the Wilson:

However, the big show that we’re most excited about is this:

A poster promoting the BBC TV show about Museums at Night with Will Gompertz

BBC’s Arts Editor Will Gompertz will present an hour-long programme about Museums at Night from the National Museum of Scotland on Saturday 17 May, 7pm on BBC Two featuring festival venues across the UK, from the National Gallery to the Museum of Witchcraft.

Watch the trailer here.

BBC Arts Online is also be following Museums at Night at www.bbc.co.uk/arts, culminating in a ballet live stream from Imperial War Museum North beginning at 6.30pm on May 17th.

We hope to see you at an event – do share your photos with the hashtag #MatN2014!