Tag Archives: Guest post

Guest Post: Museum Alive brings mannequin drama to Chippenham Museum!

Our latest guest post comes from Melissa Barnett of Chippenham Museum, who explains how she involved a drama group in bringing the museum’s mannequins to life for Museums at Night.

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Any activity organised for Museums at Night has to be fun, should attract new audiences and should show off our collections to the best advantage.  This we did in bucket loads and we are still receiving the benefits.

The idea – and the challenge

We decided we wanted to take part in the festival at a late stage. We have no history of after-hours opening, however, and our town is quite deserted at nights. However, we wanted to get involved, so we thought we’d try something inexpensive and simple to organise and see how it turned out.

A group of children in a room with a large map

Children exploring Chippenham Museum (c) D & D Carrington Photographers

We knew that if we wanted to encourage visitors to make a special journey, something out of the ordinary was needed. However, our collections don’t include scary dinosaurs or mysterious mummies to tempt a trembling populace through our doors. So, building on the idea from the film Night at the Museum, we decided that our mannequins should come alive for the night!

a medieval woman with a basket

Is she a mannequin, or a medieval philanthropist waiting to come to life? (c) D & D Carrington Photographers

Who is the audience?

As a small community museum, most of our visitors are returning families with primary school aged children. We decided that the best time to start our activity would be at 4.00 pm, after the museum closed but before tea and bedtime.

What we did

For maximum effect, we decided that our museum should be dark and that there should be an element of surprise.

We also wanted to make our activity not only fun, but also an educational experience. So each mannequin told their story in their own words. We chose real characters from our local history – a suffragette, a First World War soldier, an engineer and a medieval philanthropist.

A suffragette and banner

A suffragette with a banner tells her story (c) D & D Carrington Photographers

How we did it

We contacted a local community drama group,  Rag & Bone Arts, who agreed to act the parts for us. The museum supplied a short script for each character and provided costumes from our education store.

Having gained some confidence, we became bolder and perhaps a little carried away and decided that as we had suitable costumes, the staff and Friends groups could also get involved, acting as general characters such as a school teacher or a cook. Some of the actors’ children also wanted to get involved and dressed up as Victorian schoolchildren!

A Victorian Schoolroom

Schoolmistress and schoolchildren in the Victorian classroom (c) D & D Carrington Photographers

Museum Alive was the obvious event title: we made a poster in-house and circulated news of the event through social media.

Museums Alive poster

On the Night

We turned off the museum lights and blacked out the windows as the actors went to stand like mannequins in their correct setting: the cook in the Victorian kitchen, the suffragette next to her banner, the engineer near the railway exhibit. They posed as though they were mannequins – motionless.

Visitors were provided with a “special” torch and told to shine the torch on the mannequins as they explored the museum. The mannequins would then come alive, tell their story, then once again become completely inactive.

A group of children shining torches in a dark museum

Children in the museum shining their special torches (c) D & D Carrington Photographers

The trained actors were superb, word perfect and gloriously scary, but the museum staff almost stole the show with their unscripted performances. The cook in the kitchen wielded her meat chopper in such a menacing way that even grown-up visitors jumped!

A costumed cook in a historical kichen

The cook in the kitchen (c) D & D Carrington Photographers

The Results

The night was a tremendous success. The museum really came alive and everyone had a thoroughly enjoyable evening. For the museum, a significant benefit was the new partnership with Rag and Bone Arts Group, who now use the Museum for some of their performances.

We are looking forward to repeating the event in future, with more time for forward planning and extra publicity.

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A woman smilingMelissa Barnett is Curator of Chippenham Museum and Heritage Centre, which has a Facebook page at www.facebook.com/ChippenhamMuseum. Melissa gained a degree in Archaeology and has worked as Curator of Welshpool and Banbury Museums, and Museums Officer for South Gloucestershire Council. She has always enjoyed working with community groups, and relishes her role in Chippenham where the museum is a thriving and popular hub for the town.

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Thanks, Melissa!

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.

Guest Post: Pat Brandwood explains how the Robert Owen Museum reopened during Museums at Night

Our latest guest post comes from Pat Brandwood, Curator of the recently reopened Robert Owen Museum in Newtown.

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Robert Owen was a social visionary and founder of the international co-operative movement, a pioneer of “early learning” and free universal education; and a founding father of socialism – a man who wanted to make the world a better place. At the Robert Owen Museum we are all unpaid volunteers, and have tried hard to restore key items of the Collection, improve the displays and make the museum more welcoming.

Museums at Night came at an opportune time for us in 2 ways:  17 May is Owen’s birthday, and the Museum had been closed for building and safety improvements and was scheduled to re-open in mid-May.

So when Culture24 contacted us about Museums at Night 2014, the first thing I did was contact our friends at the Rochdale Pioneers Museum (who had a successful event in 2013) and steal a few ideas.

A man face to face with a bust

A proud moment from the museum’s history: Tony Benn encountering his hero, Robert Owen (c) Gemma Bowker

Preparations began in March, and we used our AGM to allocate responsibilities and form a small team:

  • Our Publicity Officer was responsible for a series of articles leading up to the event, on local radio and in the local press, as well as the Co-op News.
  • Our Education Officer produced a flyer and a poster which she circulated and called “Night at the Museum”.
  • Invitations were circulated by email and post to friends, schools and businesses.
  • I visited local co-operatives, large and small to invite them and ask for help.  These groups provided us with fantastic food and wine, as well as flowers for a birthday presentation at Owen’s Statue.
  • The Town Council, our partners in the building, were involved at every stage and made sure the building was pristine and ready on the day and issued their own invitations.

We opened on Friday, our first day after a six month closure, to a variety of visitors. These included people who were passing on the way to our local restaurants and pubs, a welcome extension to our usual clientele!

A group of people by a statue with flowers at its feet

The Museum team place flowers around the statue of Robert Owen (c) David Pugh

Saturday was more of a worry because the logistics were more complex, involving everything for the reception arriving for the times advertised on the flyer and a tense moment when the florist was held up by an evening wedding.  But everything went like clockwork, with the exception of the Curator doing a guided tour at 7:30pm – in fact, we had to run guided tours for 4 hours! The publicity had worked, and we had photographers and even our M.P. among our many visitors, young and old.

A mayoress wearing a gold chain

The Mayor visiting Robert Owen Museum (c) David Pugh

We’re a voluntary and independent museum and depend on the goodwill and support of our partners. So it was good to see that the late opening contributed to a relaxing atmosphere, with visitors and helpers enjoying a unique evening activity.

We have received a real boost in our number of volunteers and enthusiasts, with more locals feeling a real sense of ownership in their Museum.  It was a celebration of Newtown as well as Robert Owen, and the building has been renamed The Robert Owen Centre Newtown to reflect this partnership.

Museums at Night was exhausting for us, but also fun.  Next year we are planning a special event with local schools, artists and a small exhibition to reflect Owen’s place in the establishment of free, universal education.  We’ll start planning when the schools return in September!

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A woman in a red cardigan shaking hands with a cardboard Robert OwenI spent my career teaching social and economic history, and moved to Newtown in Powys 8 years ago. I joined the Robert Owen Museum as Education Officer then became Curator in 2009. In November 2013 I received an award from the Co-op Cymru and the Bevan Foundation: in recognition of our work at the Museum I was made Co-operator of the Year.

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Thanks, Pat!

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.

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.

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.

Guest post: Third time lucky for Felicia Smith of Arnos Vale Cemetery

Our latest guest post comes from Felicia Smith of Arnos Vale Cemetery in Bristol!

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Last year Arnos Vale Cemetery entered the Connect10 competition for museum venues to win an artist. We had no idea then that it would lead us on an adventure which will come to fruition in an art installation later this summer…

A tree and silhouetted historic buildings

Arnos Vale Cemetery trees at dusk

We had already had a taste of the possibilities of bringing contemporary art to the cemetery in 2012’s competition, so when Museums at Night rolled around in 2013, we couldn’t resist entering Connect10 again.

We were looking for an artist who could help us engage our visitors in a discussion around attitudes to death, remembrance and how cemeteries should look in the future. Julia Vogl is an artist who specialises in community artworks which pose thought-provoking questions to visitors. It seemed a perfect match and Arnos Vale was lucky enough to be shortlisted – a huge honour for such a small charitable trust as ours.

There were helpful benefits too: establishing our popular “Night at the Cemetery” after-dark tours which now run through the year (and again this May for Museums at Night); and the shortlisted prize money bought us new lanterns and torches for safe after-dark exploration.

Alas, we were pipped at the post in the public vote by the Discovery Museum, Newcastle, who hosted “Collect. Select. String & Hoist,” in May 2013. It was a major disappointment, as we had been looking forward to working with Julia.

a chandelier made of plastic bottles filled with coloured paper

“Collect. Select. String & Hoist.” Julia Vogl’s 2013 Museums at Night chandelier installation at Newcastle’s Discovery Museum

Imagine our surprise then, when Rosie from the Museums at Night team got in touch a few weeks after the 2013 festival to tell us that the feeling was mutual, that Julia had already worked out a detailed project she would have loved to create at Arnos Vale if we had won her, and had asked to be put in touch with us!

Since our first excited phonecalls and meeting last August, we have been collaborating to bring Julia’s work to Arnos Vale.

A key part of the challenge has been securing funding to support our shared vision for the piece. Here is where I take my hat off to Julia, who has led the way as an experienced professional artist used to applying for grant funding. She was brilliant at drawing together all the puzzle-pieces to realise our project idea: from meeting grant advisors and crunching budget numbers, to producing glorious illustrations for the compelling project application to the Arts Council England, awarded in April 2014.

A Victorian grave ornament

The grave ornament inspiring Julia Vogl’s installation at Arnos Vale Cemetery

We are now at the exciting development stage of the Future Memorial project, which will install a year-long participatory sculpture in the cemetery landscape from June 2014.

When we were looking for a way to publicly test the prototype for Julia’s sculpture, it seemed natural to return to where it all started – Museums at Night.

Reworked version of grave ornament containing colourful gumballs.

Artist’s impression of the Future Memorial by Julia Vogl, a veteran of participatory artworks.

The Future Memorial Artist Workshop on Thursday 15th May 2014 promises to bring Art, Death & Candy to the cemetery in a unique event using discussion and gumballs. Julia explains: “your input and voice is essential for this sculpture, come take part!” We’d love it if you could join us:

http://www.arnosvale.org.uk/search-events/eventdetail/439/-/future-memorial-artist-workshop

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Felicia profile picFelicia Smith, Public Engagement Manager, Arnos Vale Cemetery Trust
Felicia has worked in the heritage sector since 2004, working on three separate Heritage Lottery Funded projects (ss Great Britain; M Shed; Arnos Vale Cemetery) which involved development and delivery of capital build and interpretive brief elements in parallel and to tight timescales and budgets.

Since 2010 she has led development of the Public Engagement programme at Arnos Vale Cemetery, including public events, collaborative partnerships and advising other historic cemetery projects.

She has a postgraduate certificate in Museum & Gallery studies (University of St Andrews, 2009), is involved in a number of professional museum bodies and is currently working towards an Associateship of the Museums Association (AMA).

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Thanks, Felicia!

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.

 

Guest post: Nerys Williams on celebrating toilets at Gladstone Pottery Museum

Today’s guest blog post comes from Nerys Williams, Audience Development Officer for Stoke-on-Trent Museums, based at Gladstone Pottery, who tells us why toilets are the unsung heroes of the modern world!


Toilets: the unsung heroes of the modern world. Unappreciated, sniggered at and quite literally … well let’s not go into what we do upon them, this is Culture24 after all.

A young visitor sits on some large toilet rolls in Flushed with Pride - you stick your hands in them to find things which have been used as toilet paper over the years.

A young visitor sits on some large toilet rolls in Flushed with Pride – you stick your hands in them to find things which have been used as toilet paper over the years.

Here at Gladstone Pottery Museum we think loos should be celebrated and recognised as the sanitary ware superheroes they actually are. They played a huge role in making ‘The Potteries’, but are eclipsed by the more palatable tableware we think of as establishing Stoke-on-Trent as ceramics central.

Toilets save lives literally every day and if you’d like to find out more about how please take a look at http://www.wateraid.org/uk – amazingly, one in three people in the world don’t have one.

At Gladstone we have hundreds: early ones, see-through ones, colourful ones, flowery ones, amazing Victorian painted ones, a Crapper, a Hartington flushing one similar to the one used by Elizabeth I and more. Our ‘Flushed with Pride’ section is chock full of toilet history and entertains and educates with more than an occasional nod to toilet humour.

Taking part in Museums at Night

Crowds gather on the cobbles for beer festival as part of the inaugural Gladstone Gig, December 2013

Crowds gather on the cobbles for beer festival as part of the inaugural Gladstone Gig, December 2013

Buoyed up by our initial foray into Museums at Night last year we’ve quite got into this after-dark malarkey, with our splendid Beer Festivals and out pants-wettingly brilliant inaugural Gladstone Gig last December bringing a new lease of life to our cobbled courtyard.

A partnership opportunity

When I heard that those funny Modern Toss people were up to toilet related shenanigans for Museums at Night it would have been rude not to take part. An exhibition of their prints in OUR toilets was just too good to miss.

It includes the Periodic Table of Swearing, which anyone who has developed workplace Tourette’s due to council cuts needs a copy of. (Number 91 is my current favourite).

‘Toilets by Twilight’

The chance to display Modern Toss’ Cistern Chapel exhibition was just too good to miss, so after a few hasty discussions to check what I was planning wasn’t too silly, here we are. A week from now, we’ll be hosting ‘Toilets by Twilight’, an all out loo extravaganza. Visitors can wander around our fabulous ‘Flushed with Pride’ building – the only permanent exhibition to the humble loo in the world, whilst enjoying some slightly-better-than-average wine.

Gladstone Pottery at dusk

Gladstone Pottery at dusk

There’ll be the chance to quiz a toilet expert – for yes, in my role I have access to these people! When you feel the need to ‘go’ you can do so in one of the best appointed facilities around – our visitor toilet has not only the commonplace pan but a urinal and a ‘Lady P’ female urinal, and the walls will be adorned by the edgy (and very funny) prints Modern Toss are providing.

To top it all off we’ll be showing ‘Carry On At Your Convenience’, simply because it would daft not to and there’s always room for a nudge and a wink!

Tickets are £5 and available by calling 01782 237777, and we welcome you to come in 1970s fancy dress if you dare, to celebrate the fact that we became a museum 40 years ago this summer.

Please come along – and if you can’t please consider this next time you spend a penny: http://www.toilettwinning.org/


Nerys Williams, Audience Development Officer for Stoke-on-Trent Museums.
Nerys Williams, Audience Development Officer for Stoke-on-Trent Museums.

Nerys Williams says, “I am the Audience Development Officer for Stoke-on-Trent Museums, based at Gladstone Pottery Museum, a preserved Victorian pottery factory in Longton. A fancy title, but my job is to get bums on seats (or feet on cobbles, in our case) and I love it. Organising events that put our museum in the heart of our community as a fun and interesting place to be is a challenge, but fantastic when it works!”

You can follow Gladstone Pottery Museum on Facebook here and follow Nerys Williams on Twitter  @NerysWilliams.


Thank you, Nerys!

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.

Guest post: Morag Calderbank explains why the UK Supreme Court is opening late for Museums at Night

In our latest guest post, Morag Calderbank, one of the Information Officers at the UK Supreme Court, London, tells us why her team are excited about taking part in Museums at Night for the first time.


As an information officer at the Supreme Court I am part of a small team dedicated to making the Supreme Court open, transparent, friendly and accessible to the public. Since the Court opened in 2009 our visitor numbers have been steadily increasing, with more than 75,000 people coming through the doors over the last 12 months.

Through educational and architectural tours, outreach projects, running debate days for young people, numerous open days (which include arts and crafts activities), consistently refreshing our exhibition area and being able to take part in something as experiential as Museums at Night, we are continually striving to expand and diversify our audience.

grand building of the supreem court at night time. Lights on in the building. Traffic lights blurred from fast moving traffic.

The UK Supreme Court is opening its doors to the public at night for the first time

What is the Supreme Court?

The Supreme Court first opened its doors to the public in October 2009 following a two year renovation of our glorious neo-gothic building, formerly the Middlesex Guildhall. The Supreme Court acts as the final court of appeal in the UK. Its judges used to be located in the House of Lords; serving as the appellate committee of the House of Lords. The judges work mainly in committee rooms along a vast committee corridor.

The need for a Supreme Court was primarily to establish a clearer separation between the three branches of Parliament; the executive, judiciary and legislature. Its previous location made this distinction rather blurred. The UK’s top court also needed to be more user friendly. By locating the judges within Parliament, the public found it difficult to access and many people were unclear about their role.

Why Museums at Night?

The Museums at Night festival attracted our attention as a really innovative way to reach out to the public. It enables our building to open after hours to welcome prospective visitors who can’t come and see us during our usual opening hours from Monday to Friday (9.30am to 4.30pm). Our event, which we’re delighted to say has now sold out, offers the chance to explore the highest court in the land in a relaxed atmosphere – we’ll be positively encouraging no ‘silence in court’!

A group of people inside a bright courtroom

Visitors inside the Supreme Court. Image courtesy of Greg Allen Photo.

Our hopes for the event

We want to inspire people to find out more about the law and see how it can relate to their own lives – maybe even challenge some misconceptions about courts and judges.

Our Museums at Night happening will be extraordinary as it allows the building to be seen in a new light; through the eyes of a court artist, through the perspective of an architect and even as a performance space for actors and musicians. We hope that our visitors will have a stimulating and fun evening and leave knowing a little bit more about the important work that goes on here.


a smiling woman wearing a lanyard

Morag is part of a small team making the Supreme Court accessible to the public. Morag started at the Supreme Court in June 2010 having previously worked for two years as a Visitor Assistant at the Houses of Parliament. She has an undergraduate degree from Sussex University in ‘American Studies’ and a Masters in ‘Learning and Visitor Studies in Museums and Galleries’ from Leicester University. In her spare time Morag sings with the Sing Tower Hamlets choir – which is great fun!

Follow the Supreme Court on Twitter @UKSupremeCourt


Thank you, Morag!

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.