Monthly Archives: May 2012

How can we improve Museums at Night?

It’s really interesting reading the results from our surveys, and finding out how the Museums at Night campaign impacted on museums, galleries and heritage sites around the country.

Thank you to everybody who has already taken the time to share what worked well, and where the festival could be improved – we read every response, and your feedback is a key part of the festival evaluation.

If you ran a Museums at Night event, we want your feedback by Friday 1 June!

Please fill in this simple survey now! 

It shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes, and will really help Nick and I to do an even better job of supporting you and your team next year.

You can even win a £50 Amazon voucher!

Thanks very much indeed.

A group of children with torches in a library at night

Hunting high and low for your Museums at Night feedback! Torchlit tour, part of a Doctor Who themed sleepover (c) John Rylands Library, Manchester

Museums at Night 2012 – how was it for you?

We’re still reeling from the intensity of Museums at Night weekend – this was definitely the biggest festival ever! We’d like to thank everybody involved, from our funders to our partners, but particularly the staff and volunteers at the participating venues.

A group of kids in a museum in sleeping bags with a stuffed lion

Children bedding down for the night at Sunderland Museum’s sleepover under the watchful eye of Wallace the lion (c) Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens

How was it for you?

We would love to hear what you thought, and how we could improve Museums at Night in future years.

If your venue ran an event, please fill in our venue survey: you could win a £50 Amazon voucher!

If you attended an event, please fill in our visitor survey: you could also win a £50 Amazon voucher!

Staying in touch with new visitors

Venues, if you’re sending follow-up emails, tweets or Facebook posts to the visitors who came to your Museums at Night event, we’d really appreciate it if you included a link to our visitor survey: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/TLSVSNZ

In the spirit of sharing best practice, here’s what the Towner Gallery wrote in an email when they contacted their Museums at Night event visitors yesterday: note the fact that they mention prizes, and invite their visitors to a different special after-hours event!

Subject: Win £50 + Melting Vinyl tickets

Dear Nick

We hope you enjoyed the Museums at Nightclub and succeeded in graduating from the University of Misunderstanding!

We would be very grateful if you would fill out a short survey to tell us what you thought of the event.  It only takes a minute, and as a thank you for your time, you will be entered into a draw to win a £50 Amazon voucher or a pair of tickets to a Melting Vinyl gig of your choice*!

Take the Museums at Night survey

Please note this survey is for everyone who attended a Museums at Night event across the UK, so you’ll have to fill in “Towner” as the venue. Museums at Night are offering one winner a £50 Amazon voucher, but we are also offering the Melting Vinyl tickets only to people who attended Towner’s event, so you’re in with a good chance of winning!

We would also like to take this opportunity to invite you to a special event at Towner on Thursday 31 May - join us for A Night to Remember, and you could win a limited edition artwork!

Hope to see you again soon students,

The Towner team

*Melting Vinyl tickets valid for any gig til the end of the year, unless sold out

Stories and photos

Nick and I are also fascinated to hear about anything special you did that made your event a success.

We’d also love to see your photos – please either email them to nick@culture24.org.uk, or share them into the Museums at Night 2012 Flickr archive here: http://www.flickr.com/groups/museumsatnight2012

Photos you share with us could well be seen by thousands of people, as we use them in email newsletters, on the blog and the Culture24 website, and in the festival evaluation which we’ll be working on for the next couple of months.

News from Europe

Museums at Night in Moscow saw one in ten residents visit a museum! Their mascot for the evening was Bandit the Fox, and they invited their fans to replace their avatar on social networks with Bandit’s face, to show that they’d be going to a Museums at Night event.

Event review: Culture24′s Jack Shoulder encounters ghostly goings-on at Preston Manor

The second of today’s Museums at Night event reviews comes from Culture24′s Jack Shoulder, who investigated ghostly goings-on with the housemaids of Preston Manor in Brighton.

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The sun was slowly sinking below the horizon as I made my way towards one of the oldest and most haunted buildings in Brighton.

Darkness falls upon haunted historic house Preston Manor (c) Jack Shoulder

A sense of trepidation was gnawing at me: what had I let myself in for?

What if there were no crooked real estate agents waiting to be unmasked by a plucky gang of youths and their talking dog?

What if there was actually a g-g-g-ghost?

Putting me, and the rest of the group instantly at ease – no easy task considering the range of people present – was housemaid Daisy.

“You’re the reporters from the paper here about them murders?”

This bit of make-believe made the supernatural much less scary for the younger members of the group.

We were soon joined by Maisy, whose comedic entrance sets the light-hearted tone of the evening.

There were some chills, yes, but the laughs provided by the double-act stopped the nightmares from setting in, even when the ghost stories took a darker turn as the night went on.

On nights like this, there is always the danger that the fictions will overshadow the facts. However, Daisy and Maisy were able to tell the stories of the house without getting bogged down by the things that go bump in the night.

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A man with dark hairJack Shoulder is the BBC Activities Assistant at Culture24. He also works for the British Museum and volunteers with the charity Kids in Museums.

In his free time he blogs about his adventures in museums: http://jacksadventuresinmuseumland.wordpress.com/

Follow Jack on Twitter at @jackshoulder.

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Thanks, Jack!

If you went to a Museums at Night event, please let us know your thoughts by filling in this survey, so we can improve the festival in future years.

Event review: Connect10 brings Jon McGregor to RRS Discovery

Today I’m happy to share a couple of guest posts reviewing Museums at Night events from the weekend! The first comes from Mark Macleod, who wrote for us previously about how Museums at Night collaborates with the Festival of Museums.

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What should you expect when attending a Museums at Night event? Should research be done in advance? Is it appropriate to bring your parents? A number of questions I considered before attending the Connect10 winning event at the RRS Discovery in Dundee with author Jon McGregor presiding.

I’m not totally ignorant about the southern hemisphere, having visited RRS Discovery a number of times and enjoyed learning more about the travelers who used her.

When I heard that McGregor was going to talk about his residency with the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) it was definitely something I wanted to attend. A couple of scientist friends of mine have gathered data in Antarctica and I was very keen to hear how an artist’s residency worked, and discover the experience of someone expanding their comfort zone in harsh environment for subjective art rather than objective science.

McGregor immediately set the mood arriving with music and a video playing what looked like my earlier journey from St Andrews to Dundee, but which I’m guessing was his rainy trip towards RAF Brize Norton for the RAF flight to the Falkland Islands.

A suitcase full of books

Jon McGregor’s suitcase of props (c) Mark MacLeod

A brief setting up of props and the story began, from the self-titled traveling salesman. We heard about his flight and transfer to the boat RRS James Clark Ross at Port Stanley, which was to be his home until they reached the BAS base in Antarctica.

Daily pictures from the top deck provided an indication of the beauty, isolation and general sublime nature of the open sea and finally the approach with icebergs.

McGregor was constantly creating work, sending 100 word emails daily to friends and associates containing his latest news and thoughts. Before current technologies reached the BAS ship travellers were able to send one 100 word telegram every week – it really was a place to get away from it all – but now the ship is hooked up to the internet, and McGregor wanted to reflect on this development.

The final image he shared was the most poignant: the ship had been breaking through the ice layer and was now only 80 miles from the base, but the ice was thicker than usual and the captain took the difficult decision to abandon the attempt and return to Stanley to refuel and try again later in the summer.

The scientists would wait on the Falklands and expect to try again after Christmas, but McGregor would fly home. He was genuinely disappointed by the ‘so near and yet so far’ nature of the trip and although he has yet to produce an “artistic work” from the journey, he doesn’t blame his not reaching Antarctica.

Before and during the trip McGregor read memoirs, diaries and other recollections of previous adventurers to the South Pole and his observation was that on the trip down everyone was calm, factual and generally preparing themselves for the unexpected.

Even now he claims it is extremely difficult, possibly impossible, to describe such an environment as this place. What adjectives and nouns can be used for an experience and landscape that has been shared by so few?

A man with a suitcase full of books

Author Jon McGregor, about to startle Mark and his parents with a reading (c) Mark Macleod

The final part of the evening was McGregor reading from his latest publication This isn’t the Sort of Thing That Happens to Someone Like You which amused, stunned and made me regress several years and squirm as I sat beside my parents.

The most memorable piece was ‘Looking up Vagina’ which proved the hit of the night, and which McGregor explained was written after learning his friend (now a poet) read the dictionary from start to finish as a teenager.

As Sesame Street might say, “Today was brought to you by the letter V and the number (Connect) 10.” I for one am glad to have voted and secured McGregor’s  visit to Dundee.

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Mark Macleod is Operations and Projects Curator at the Museum of the University of St Andrews: you can follow them on Twitter as @MUSA_StAndrews.

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Thanks Mark! If you went to a Museums at Night event, please let us know your thoughts by filling in this survey, so we can improve the festival in future years.

Museums at Night 2012 is here!

Museums at Night is here at last – and the last 24 hours have been a whirlwind of activity for the Culture24 team behind the scenes!

Our partnership with the Huffington Post saw them republish posts from this blog showcasing various museum voices: Emma Black from Surgeons’ Hall Museum, Lindsey Braidley from Bath Museums, Teresa Fox-Wells from Borough Museum & Art Gallery, Katherine Biggs from Kew Bridge Steam Museumblogger Ben Wallace and myself.

Bompas & Parr and their team arrived at Brunel’s SS Great Britain, and have shared photos  of their Herculean task flooding the ship with lurid lime green jelly.

A woman spreading green jelly around a ship

Bompas & Parr’s team spreading their green jelly installation around the base of ss Great Britain (c) ss Great Britain

We also have a wonderful video of the jelly being installed and glimmering eerily in the darkness – if you’re in Bristol and you haven’t witnessed this incredible sight, head down there to discover this unique spectacle tonight!

Friday morning kicked off with our lovely festival ambassador Lauren Laverne enthusing about Museums at Night on the Radio 5 Live breakfast show. The station has a large and enthusiastic audience, and within minutes of Lauren’s talk  hundreds of people were tweeting about the festival and coming to the Museums at Night website to look for events!

Lauren also interviewed the indie band Django Django (who played at National Museum of Scotland’s sold-out Museums at Night event) on her BBC 6 Music show, and again sent a new audience to find out more about the festival!

Culture24 CEO Jane Finnis spoke on Gaby Roslin’s show on BBC Radio London early in the morning, and also appeared on the Review Show with Kirsty Wark in the evening, discussing Museums at Night. You can watch the Review Show here for the next 7 days: Jane’s segment begins around 38:30 minutes in.

Museums at Night Campaigns Manager Nick Stockman was interviewed by a Polish radio station, and headed up to Liverpool to speak at the launch of Light Night - here’s his review of Polly Morgan’s taxidermy performance at the Victoria Gallery & Museum.

I was interviewed by Splash FM yesterday, and BBC Radio Sussex at the shocking hour of 6:40 this morning, wrote about Museums at Night for the DCMS blog, and last night visited Mind the Map at London Transport Museum.

Arts writer Mark Sheerin visited the Alfred Wallis exhibition at Kettle’s Yard in Cambridge, while Culture24 reporter Ben Miller tweeted his photographs from Museums at Night events at 4 Oxford museums.

The rest of Team Culture24 are out at Museums at Night events tonight and tomorrow too – so why not join them? Find events in your area at www.museumsatnight.org.uk.

1 day to go till Museums at Night: final top tips!

Museums at Night starts tomorrow, and we’re already very excited! Here are our final top tips for participating venues.

What to do NOW

1) Follow up on your press releases now – make sure that local newspapers, radio and bloggers all know about your event.

2) If you still have posters, flyers or brochures, distribute them now!

3) Use your website, Twitter and Facebook channels to remind your followers about your event. Remember to link to your event listing so people can find out more. @MuseumsAtNight will retweet you - and #MatN2012 is the hashtag.

4) Make sure your staff and volunteers are all prepared for your event: double check that you have all the resources you need.

5) Want your event to be part of the festival evaluation? Please print and use these visitor survey forms, and email us the data you gather - or direct your visitors to the Museums at Night online visitor survey here.

What to do on the night of your event

1) To attract potential visitors walking by on the night, put up an A board with directions – or go guerrilla and chalk on the pavement!

2) Take lots of photos of visitors having a good time: these are very useful for publicity in future. When taking photos of kids, get their parents’ permission.

3) Count the number of visitors who attend your event – we’ll be asking you for these figures!

A cartoon about Museums at Night

Museums at Night can be exhausting (c) Modern Toss

What to do after your event

1) Share your photos of the night, via your own website and social media channels. If you have really stunning shots, see if your local paper will run a follow-up story.

Please also share your photos into the Museums at Night 2012 Flickr group, using the Flickr hashtag #museumsatnight.

2) Collate your visitor survey results into a spreadsheet, ready to send to rosie@culture24.org.uk.

3) Put your feet up with a well-deserved slice of cake!

Best wishes to you all – and as usual, if you have any questions or problems please contact rosie@culture24.org.uk or email 01273 623336.

Guest post: Katherine Biggs presents Kew Bridge Steam Museum’s candlelight Museums at Night debut

Our latest guest post comes from Katherine Biggs, Education Officer at Kew Bridge Steam Museum in London.

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Saturday 19th May will mark Kew Bridge Steam Museum’s first foray into Museums at Night. This isn’t say to that we haven’t had dark and spooky night-time tours before, but there is something different about organising an evening as part of a much wider series of events.

The feeling of partnership with other museums throwing their doors open for night-time exploration, and the excitement at what some other sites are doing has really inspired us to create something extra special.

A corridor illuminated with red light

Corridor leading into the atmospheric interior of the museum after hours (c) Kew Bridge Steam Museum

The question was how best to show off our towering steam engines.  What would inspire visitors to come and have a peek inside the museum after hours?

Candles, was our answer. Lots of candles. We’ll have the steam engines up and running as visitors explore, which will cast some pretty spectacular shadows from the candlelight. And we’re running torchlight trails for our younger visitors, which should add to the eerie lighting effects.

An industrial wheel lit up behind bars

Engines illuminated at night (c) Kew Bridge Steam Museum

The event is hugely reliant on our expert volunteers who will run the machines and guide the visitors. Luckily their passion for the museum is second to none, so they will be dragging people from the street into the museum if needs be!

Two men looking at en engine

Volunteers with one of the museum’s mighty engines (c) Sukkin Pang

Our limited budget means that marketing is heavily dependent on spreading the word through the local community (oh, the joys of flyering in the rain!)

Overall we have tried to create a family-friendly event, Steam Engines by Candlelight, that we would all really want to go to. Now we have to sit back and hope that others agree come Saturday night…

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portrait shot of woman

Kath Biggs

Katherine Biggs is the Education Officer at Kew Bridge Steam Museum, and also works as a freelance educator at other sites including the British Museum and SeaCity Museum, Southampton. www.kathbiggs.com

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Thanks, Kath – best of luck to you and your team this weekend!

If you’d like to write a guest post about any aspect of event planning or marketing for arts and heritage venues, please contact me on 01273 623336 or email rosie@culture24.org.uk.

Guest Post: Lindsey Braidley on Bath’s Museums at Night event planning with students

Our latest guest post comes from Lindsey Braidley, Learning and Programmes Co-ordinator for Heritage Services at Bath & North East Somerset Council. Lindsey describes how her team organised their Museums at Night event in collaboration with local college students.

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Since 2008 we’ve worked with our local Museums Group to organise joint marketing, and as a group we have also planned a couple of afternoon events in a historic square or a new shopping centre to encourage evening visitors.

2 boys with a pestle and mortar at a Roman bath

Children enjoying late night fun at the Roman Baths in 2011 (c) Bath & North East Somerset Council

In 2012 the Roman Baths decided to try something new.  This year we are working with Foundation Degree Students from Bath Spa University to plan and run our Museums at Night event.

To start them off thinking we outlined what sort of events we had run in the past.  Then we gave them some simple details we couldn’t change about Museums at Night; the date, time and of course the small budget.

The students worked through several event ideas before coming up with something exciting and different.  It is called Roman Sensations and offers a chance to explore the torch-lit Roman Baths, taste Roman wine, listen to music, watch live drama, smell perfumes and herbs introduced by the Romans and try on togas and tunics.

Women pointing to pots of colour on a table

Visitors discover Roman cosmetics at the Roman Baths during Museums at Night 2011 (c) Bath & North East Somerset Council

Events like Museums at Night give us the opportunity to collaborate on projects like this with other organisations such as the local university. Bath Spa University students learn from real world experience about working together, project management, interpretation and engaging with the public.

As I write, the students are returning for the new term and the pressure is now really on to meet all of the deadlines to make this evening a big success.  This is challenging for experienced heritage practitioners and students alike.  And the curtain has to go up at 8.15 on Saturday 19 May when the doors open…

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Thanks, Lindsey – visitors to Bath have a lot to look forward to!

If you’d like to write a guest post or case study for this blog about any aspect of event planning or marketing in arts or heritage venues, please drop me a line at rosie@culture24.org.uk or call me on 01273 623336.

Guest Post: Blogger Ben Wallace on why Museums at Night will be a cultural highlight

Today’s guest post comes from London blogger Ben Wallace, who tells us about his mission to visit 101 cultural attractions and how it’s changed him.

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I am lucky enough to live in London, where the sheer number of museums, galleries and theatres mean it’s almost impossible not to find yourself visiting places from time to time. This time last year however I was managing just that, unconsciously dodging anything that resembled a cultural experience.

Having lived in London for two years I had yet to visit the British Museum, the Natural History Museum or the V&A.

A white building with columns

Ready to step through the imposing entrance to the National Gallery. Image courtesy Ben Wallace

This all changed when last June my girlfriend and I stumbled across a list of the Top 101 London attractions, a list of museums, galleries, bars and restaurants that people travel from all over the world to see – and which just a short trip from my front door, I had never visited.

We hatched a plan to visit all 101 on the list, but alone this was not enough. We needed a deadline, a goal. So we decided there and then that we would “visit all 101 top London attractions in the year before the Olympic Games opening ceremony on the 27th July 2012″. We no longer had a list, we had a challenge.

Of the 101, 23 are considered ‘Cultural Highlights’ – museums, galleries and heritage sites. Since June we have visited 17 of the most diverse and wonderful places you can imagine. We have until July to visit the remaining six.

My life has gone from a cultural black hole to having seen dinosaurs at the Natural History Museum, played with space ships in the Science Museum and stared up at totem poles in the British Museum.

three red vehicles and child reaching up to lamp post

London buses on show at the London Transport Museum. Image courtesy Ben Wallace

But it’s not all about the big and famous. Located close to London Bridge is the wonderful Old Operating Theatre Museum. Never again will you moan about the NHS as you are transported back to a time when medical instruments looked more like torture equipment, and pain relief – if you were lucky – was a sharp drink.

Other top picks from the list include the bizarre Hunterian Museum, which displays all sorts of human and animal anatomy in jars, the Handel House Museum that celebrates the musician’s life (for those that don’t know, think Champion’s League music) and modern and intriguing exhibits at the Saatchi Gallery.

Also included on the 101 list is to spend a night at a museum, and this alerted me to the Museums at Night project. And what a brilliant idea. We have already attended Museum Lates at the Science Museum, where adults get to play with some of the exhibitions and prove we are all big kids. But never have we had the chance to sleep over!

Normally to spend the night in a London museum you must be accompanied by a child, and even then events are few and far between. That’s why I am so excited about the Museums at Night project. An opportunity to visit old favorites, or newly-discovered museums in a different way – literally in a different light.

Whether it’s a sleepover or a late night opening, visiting after hours gives you an opportunity to experience these spaces in a completely fresh way. Like rediscovering a favorite book, or hearing a record for first time in a decade, visiting a museum at night will transform even familiar places into a new experience. But like all special, things the opportunities don’t come around very often.

So with three months until the opening of the Olympics we still have much to do and visit. Museums at Night will no doubt be a highlight. In the meantime if there are any of you out there think that creating your own list would be fun, then here are some tips:

  1. Try to pick places you wouldn’t otherwise visit.
  2. Visit small museums. They are run by an army of volunteers who are full of knowledge they are normally keen to impart, making a good visit a great one.
  3. There will always be an excuse not to get up and go out, but making the effort is 100% worth it. Setting a deadline like ours might be a little extreme, but setting aside time to explore museums and galleries is definitely time well spent.

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A man in a hat and sunglassesBen is a London-based blogger and compulsive list-ticker. Along with Fliss, his easily persuaded girlfriend, they are counting down to this summer’s Olympic Games by visiting the top 101 London attractions in just one year. Read their blog www.wherethatbenwent.com, or follow @BenWallace10 on Twitter.

Thanks, Ben! If you’d like to write a guest post about any aspect of event planning or marketing for arts and heritage venues, please contact me on 01273 623336 or email rosie@culture24.org.uk.

Museums at Night: only 7 days to go!

This time has come around so quickly – Nick, Beth and I are entering the most intense period of our year!

Firstly, it’s not too late to be part of Museums at Night. To register your event in Culture24′s database, log in here and add a new event, making sure to tick the box marked Museums at Night 2012.

Make sure to describe your event and your collections so that the whole evening sounds as rich and exciting as possible: what will visitors be able to experience, hear, touch, taste, smell? Will they be able to go back in time, or have the chance to try a new craft skill, or to watch a live performance unfold – or will they have the option of relaxing with a drink and watching the sunset? Paint a picture!

Any questions or problems with your event? Think you might have to cancel it? We need to know – please call me on 01273 623336 or email rosie@culture24.org.uk.

Secondly, once you’ve registered your event you need to promote it to your local audience: now’s a great time to send your press releases out to local radio stations, for instance. Our PR Toolkit can help!

Download the PR Toolkit here as a Word document and here as a PDF.

It’s great that so many venues are sending out press releases and getting into local newspapers and radio – we’re also keen to hear any stories about creative ways you’re spreading the word about your Museums at Night events.

All the publicity we can get for Museums at Night at this stage is great: I spoke at Museums Showoff and was overwhelmed when my doubtful question “Who here has heard of Museums at Night?” was met with resounding cheers. Terence Eden has shared the videos of all the Museums Showoff speakers here – it was a wonderful night and I’d definitely recommend any blog readers to go along or even present at the next one!

As ever, we’d love to see examples of your printed publicity, both for our print archive and evaluation, and to showcase here on the blog.

Jessica Hartshorn from Rugby Art Gallery & Museum shared this fantastic poster design for their family-friendly Night at Your Museum extravaganza:

Bandaged mummy hands reach out to grab children in a dark museum

Finally, if you’re thinking of asking your visitors evaluation questions about their experience of your event, why not use our visitor survey? You can download the Museums at Night 2012 Visitor Survey questions here.

If you do use these questions, please share the results data with us so you can be part of the official festival evaluation.

Have a relaxing weekend, everybody – we’ll have more news and tips for you next week!