Monthly Archives: March 2010

Guest post: Culture24 staff writer Ed Sexton relives the culture crawl that was Bath’s Museums at Night 2009

The sixth in our series of guest posts comes from Culture24 staff writer Ed Sexton.

a photograph of two children sitting next to a Roman bath

Visitors enjoying the Roman Baths at Museums at Night 2009. Courtesy Bath and North East Somerset Museums

For Museums at Night 2009 I was given the challenge of covering the wealth of events taking place across Bath. Not content with providing an evening of festivities, events kicked off from 3 in the afternoon with jiving and things to make and do in Queens Square.

Despite the Mayor receiving a bit of a shock when a roaming stag do decided to bust a few moves in a jive lesson, everything seemed to go off without a hitch and the good people of Bath really got involved with the event.

As I dashed from museum to museum, it was clear that many people were as determined as I was to join the culture crawl around the city’s museums and make the most of this truly unique event.

After a jam-packed day and night running around the streets of Bath it was wonderful to end the day in the serene setting of the Roman Baths. I was allowed a glimpse behind the scenes before the public arrived and thought I would go and chat to some of the re-enactors before they had to slip into character for the visiting public.

I quickly learnt that re-enacting is not a career to be taken lightly as not one of the characters was prepared to join me in the 21st century at any point. I had some genuinely baffling but massively entertaining conversations. The Romans were all happy to pose for pictures despite having never come across a camera before – even reapplying their freshly mixed Roman makeup.

The Baths were also the site of my favourite interview of the day. Suzanna Mead and Fay Swaffield had abandoned their families for an uninterrupted day of culture and chaos. Like so many other visitors they had a genuine enthusiasm for the event, throwing themselves into all of the activities with complete abandon and felt that they had really taken something away from the day.

After carrying out my final interviews I kicked back with a glass of wine and some tasty Roman food – my evening could only have been topped if I had been allowed to soak my aching feet in the Baths!

See what the people of Bath had to say about their experiences of Museums at Night 2009 in this video.

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Ed Sexton

Ed Sexton is a staff writer at Culture24 and his experience in Bath was one of the highlights of 2009. Read more from Ed at Culture24, or follow him on Twitter here.

10 step promotional checklist: how to get the word out about your Museums at Night event

Thanks to Geordan at Epworth Old Rectory, who, having entered details of their family fun and candlelit costume tours into the Culture24 DDE database, asked me what else they could do to promote their event and Museums at Night as a whole.

This inspired me to write a simple 10 point promotional checklist for the Culture24 site, which I’m reposting here.

A photo of a Gothic Revival building lit up at dusk

Manchester Museum (c) Steve Devine

1 Have you registered details of your event on our database? If not, here’s how to do it.

2 Good images bring articles to life, and can inspire journalists to write about your venue. Please send high-resolution photos of your museum (ideally at night), or people exploring your collections, to our PR lady Pandora George at pandora@bulletpr.co.uk.

3 For tips on setting up photo opportunities and writing press releases to local media, read and use our Making the Most of the Media PR Toolkit complete with useful Notes to Editors.

4 We’ve produced free downloadable templates for posters and flyers, which you can customise to promote your events, along with Museums at Night logos to add if you’re designing print or web publicity of your own. Download them all here in a variety of formats.

5 The 16-page BBC History Magazine Guide to Museums at Night will be printed soon – people who pick it up will be encouraged to come to the Museums at Night website to find exciting events near them. Would you be willing to put these guides out in your museum, gallery or library for members of the public to pick up? If so, please email Rosie at rosie@culture24.org.uk with your contact details, and how many copies you’d like.

6 Is photography allowed in your venue? If so, would you put out flyers promoting our Flickr competition? It encourages people who attend Museums at Night events to participate by capturing the excitement and uploading their photos to our online photo archive of the weekend, and can lead to great publicity. If you’re happy for us to send you Flickr flyers, please email Rosie.

7 Join up with us on social media! Please follow Culture24 on Twitter, and tell your followers about your event using the hashtag #MuseumsatNight. You can also connect with interested fans of the weekend through the Museums at Night Facebook page, to share details of your plans or even ask for help or feedback.

8 Why not write a chatty guest post for our behind the scenes campaign blog? We’re looking for 150-350 words and a nice image or two, along with a couple of lines about yourself and a thumbnail-sized photo of you. Contact Rosie if you’re interested.

9 PR co-ordinator Pandora George is currently looking for human interest stories about participating museums and galleries to send to feature writers. Do you have any funny or heartwarming stories to tell about your curators or volunteers? What brought them in to your team in the first place – a lifelong interest in the subject, a family connection, a passion for local history? Do you have regular museum attendees who are drawn to an exhibit because it tells a story about their life, or they have an association with it? If you can help, please email Pandora.

10 Finally, would you be willing to help us evaluate the success of Museums at Night 2010? This would involve setting out feedback forms for visitors to fill out after your event, then posting completed forms back to us. We will send you the results from the evaluation at your own venue, as well as the full report (which this year is being compiled by an independent evaluator). We’d like 50 venues to do this: if you can help, please email Rosie.

Have you ticked off all 10 points on the list? Then make yourself a cup of tea – you deserve one!

Guest post: Bilkis Mosoddik from the Museum of London introduces “London Horror”

The fifth in our series of guest blog posts comes from the Museum of London’s very busy Web Content Manager, Bilkis Mosoddik!

A photo showing workmen wheeling an elaborate gilded carriage across a street

Wheeling the Lord Mayor's coach into the Museum of London, ready for opening in May 2010

When Rosie asked me for a guest blog post for Museums at Night, I went into near panic and put this off for nearly a month: I’m so busy working behind the scenes on new information architectures for the Museum of London websites! This is in between pushing our social media content (encouraging colleagues to use Twitter, Facebook, and think, breathe, and write blogs!), and just keeping the sites going, that I had no time to take a step back and look at the Museum and all the various, wonderful things we are doing.

Yes, part of the Museum of London is closed until 28 May, but work is happening frantically behind the scenes and every time I see something new installed in the new galleries, I get all giddy when I think of how much fun people will have. Yesterday I was left gaping at some of the installations.

Without giving the game away, keep an eye out on our website at www.museumoflondon.org.uk for information on some of the fabulous things you’ll be able to see soon. You’ll see changes in the website too: do tell me what you think at webmanager@museumoflondon.org.uk.

We’ve had a number of very successful events in the Museum of London at night over the past few years: we’ve made you laugh, we made you cry and we even got you to be crafty!

A photo of a family drawing a picture of a house

A family enjoying a creative event at the Museum of London

We have now decided to scare you with our next Museums at Night event, “London Horror”, which takes place on Friday 14 May, from 6pm to 9pm at the Museum of London Docklands. The evening of guts and gore includes a screening of 80s cult classic ‘An American Werewolf in London’ and open galleries that include a themed bar serving cocktails and traditional cinema food: anyone up for hotdogs, popcorn and pick and mix?

Entry is free but tickets are on a first come, first served basis therefore booking (020 7001 9844) is advised for the screening. The galleries and tours are open to all and the film starts at 7.30pm so please allow plenty of time to obtain your tickets and get to your seats.

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Bilkis Mosoddik is the Web Content Manager at Museum of London and is responsible for all the Museum of London websites which includes the Docklands and Archaeology sites. Bilkis is a keen user of social media and blogs regularly on the Museum of London blog site MyMuseumOfLondon. You can connect with Bilkis at www.twitter.com/bilkisbm.

Call for human interest stories about museums and galleries!

A photo of young people dancing in a gallery

Sculpture Remixed at TATE Liverpool

Our next request from PR co-ordinator Pandora is for heart-warming human interest stories from the curators, volunteers and visitors of museums and galleries taking part in Museums at Night.

Is there a reason why you initially got involved with your museum? Do you have a lifelong passion, and this was a way of expressing it? Do you have any interesting stories to tell, or regular museum attendees who are drawn to an exhibit because it tells a story about their life or they have an association with it?

If you’ve got interesting stories to tell, these can be great starting points for journalists writing features… Please email Rosie on rosie@culture24.org.uk, or call 01273 623336 if you can help!

Goodbye Ruth, hello Pandora! Meet our new PR co-ordinator

Ruth Cobb has now gone on maternity leave, and we wish her and her husband all the best when the new baby arrives!

We’re really pleased to welcome Pandora George from Bullet PR on board to co-ordinate the PR campaign for Museums at Night.

A photo of a woman smiling

Pandora George

Pandora has over 15 years of public relations experience in the arts and entertainment fields, having worked with clients ranging from Tom Jones to Oasis at Knebworth. She’s also a university lecturer in PR, and loves taking photos in her spare time.

Her favourite museums include St Fagans National History Museum in Cardiff, one of the Doctor Who filming locations, and Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, where her children love the simulators in the hands-on room.

For Museums at Night weekend, Pandora is most excited about the talk by stylist Katie Grand at the V&A: “It’ll be nice to inject a bit of glamour and also to hear some juicy gossip from behind the scenes in the fashion world!”

You can contact Pandora if you have any questions about the PR campaign by emailing pandora@bulletpr.co.uk, or if you have any other questions about Museums at Night, please drop me a line at rosie@culture24.org.uk.

The Hovercraft Museum showing off the Top Gear ice cream van hovercraft

The Hovercraft Museum in Lee-on-Solent has many of these unusual craft on display, from the first hovercraft to offer a passenger service across the English Channel (the Super 6) to hovercraft constructed in only 10 hours as part of the TV show Scrapheap Challenge.

Flyer promoting Museums at Night event at the Hovercraft Museum

However, as you can see from their event poster, there will be a new craft on display for their Museums at Night event: yes, it’s the ice cream van-turned-hovercraft from Top Gear!

If you’d like to download Museums at Night logos to put on your promotional material – or even to save time by using our pre-designed poster and flyer templates – you can grab them for free, along with helpful promotional suggestions from our PR toolkit, from this Culture24 article.

Guest post: Laurence Hill of Fabrica explains how small cultural and heritage venues can make a big noise with social media

This is the fourth in a series of guest posts on the Museums at Night blog.

A photo of a converted church in a city centre

Fabrica, the art gallery in central Brighton

Social media has become such a central part of what I do at Fabrica that I find it hard to remember that a year ago I had only just made a Fabrica page on Facebook and we had no Twitter account at all. It’s been a steep but very enjoyable learning curve, which isn’t over yet – indeed may never be over. That fills me with a kind of glee, though I’m aware that isn’t the case for others who view the whole thing with dread. ‘Another thing to try and understand? Another demand on my already overstretched time?’ Well, yes, but here’s why I think it’s important – maybe the most important thing that you could be doing right now.

Social media is new and it’s changing daily but it’s not going away. Facebook may falter, Twitter may well die but something will come along in their place and the landscape for the arts, the world we work and live in, and the world our audience lives in, has changed. We need to change with it. The nature of our engagement with our audience has undergone a radical shift because they have now become visible; they can find and talk to each other and to us, there can be dialogue and we can listen in to what’s being said. The silent audience is history. This is such a fundamental change that I’m still, along with everyone else, trying to figure out what it means and how we make the most of it. There’s much more to say than I have space for here, but think about the headline opportunities that social media offers: audience engagement and development, advocacy, increased word of mouth, creative participation. We’ve seen all those things happen at Fabrica in the last year.

This is such a new world we’re creating that there are no rules. Perhaps a few guidelines are being formed, some good and bad practice, but no rules – except one: you can’t opt out. So just do it, take baby steps, play around, have fun with it, be playful (because people will respond to that) and creative. A word of caution: organisations, arts or otherwise, that just use social media for push marketing are likely to come unstuck. There’s a strong thread of evidence that people don’t want to feel that you’re abusing your position by selling them stuff. After all, anyone who follows you on Twitter or becomes a fan on Facebook is according you the same status as their friends, and you need to respect that.

I want the arts to be pioneers in this new world and make sure that we stake our claim in it, because it offers us so much richness and excitement and we offer so much in return. So let’s not allow it to become the preserve of big businesses and brands. I know it feels overwhelming – it does to me too, and I wish I had more time to devote to it – but it also feels like a privilege to be involved right at the start.

A photo of a man smiling

Laurence Hill

The connecting stuff:

You can follow me on Twitter here and Fabrica here. I also write a blog for Fabrica, which goes into a lot more detail about what we’re doing and have done: The Tangled Hedgerow. Comments, feedback and thoughts are always welcome and I’m always up for chatting more about this whole subject. You can also find Fabrica on Facebook and I’m also on Linkedin.

Laurence Hill is development manager at Fabrica, a contemporary art gallery in Brighton. Broadly speaking his role at Fabrica is focused around audience development, which he tries to think about in a holistic way. He claims to be only marginally obsessed with Twitter.