Monthly Archives: June 2010

Behind the scenes: evaluating and communicating!

What fantastic warm weather we’re having at the moment! I just thought I’d share a quick behind the scenes update about the Museums at Night evaluation.

A photo of a girl scratching marks into a candle

Making a candle clock at the Museum of Canterbury


Thank you to every venue who asked their visitors to fill in our evaluation forms. We’ve received almost all of them back now, and the data has been entered ready for analysis. Each venue will receive their personal feedback – comments ranged from rave reviews to useful suggestions: different lighting, even longer opening hours, and pleas for cups of tea at the end of tours!

It’s also wonderful how many venues took the time to fill in our online survey – this will be really useful when planning next year’s campaign to see how we can help you more.

We’re just waiting for the final few venues to send us their visitor numbers, then I’ll be able to reveal the total number of people who came to Museums at Night events this year. I’ve seen a rough estimate, and it’s an astonishing figure – testament to how this campaign really captures people’s imaginations.

The external evaluators are also interviewing stakeholders and selected venues with a story to tell, working out in detail exactly what makes an event or weekend programme a runaway success. We’re very keen to share all this expertise so that next year, whether you’re thinking of staging an event or of joining up with other local venues to offer a programme of Museums at Night excitement, you’ll be able to learn from others’ mistakes, and copy any brilliant ideas that have been proven to work.

The evaluation should be finished in around 3 weeks: I’ll send out another Museums at Night e-newsletter with a link so you can download it. (Not sure if you’re registered to receive our email newsletters? You can sign up here.)

Flickr competition

You have two weeks left to upload your photos into the Museums at Night Flickr group, before our judges pick their favourites to be showcased on the Culture24 website! The categories are:

1. Nightscape: Images of places and venues at night.
2. Action: Capture what is happening in the venue.
3. Objects: Pictures of museum and gallery artefacts or objects, or any other ‘still life’ picture.

Communicating the Museum

Finally, I’m flying off to volunteer at the Communicating the Museum conference in Vienna this week! I’m really looking forward to meeting people from lots of the European museums and galleries who take part in Nuit des Musées, and learning what they do to promote their venues and reach new audiences. When I get back I’ll be sure to share any great marketing and promotional ideas here on the blog.

Museums at Night vox pops from the Keep Military Museum, Dorchester

Our latest roundup of Museums at Night visitor vox pops  in Dorchester comes from the Keep Military Museum, where this family gave their evening a score of 10/10:

Three generations of one family share their impressions from up on the Keep’s battlements:

The curator of the Keep Military Museum, Colin A. Parr MBE, reflects on the success of Museums at Night in attracting families and teachers:

Museums at Night visitor vox pops from the Teddy Bear and Dinosaur Museums, Dorchester

In this second instalment of Museums at Night videos, see what families had to say about their experiences in Dorchester’s museums.

This dinosaur-loving clan came all the way from Scotland to Dorchester!

This family from Bournemouth were drawn to Dorchester because their special discount ticket deal offered an alternative Saturday night out:

This couple particularly enjoyed the Teddy Bear Museum:

More vox pop videos to come tomorrow!

Museums at Night visitor vox pops from Dorset County Museum, Dorchester

What’s it like to go along to a Museums at Night event? Rachel Hayward asked people visiting the Dorset County Museum in Dorchester about their experiences  – you can watch their thoughts below!

These two friends had come specially from London and Bournemouth to spend the evening in Dorchester’s museums:

These young visitors were hoping to visit every museum in town over the course of the evening:

For these local girls, Museums at Night was the first time they’d been inside the museum:

I’ll share more Museums at Night videos throughout the week!

Museums at Night Global Gardeners photos from Topsham Museum

Charles Potter, the Audience Development Officer from Topsham Museum has created this lovely collage of photos from Topsham’s Global Gardeners Museums at Night event.

A photo collage of people looking at plants in gardens

Topsham Museum's Global Gardeners event

Charles explains, “The evening included guided tours around plants brought to England by the Veitch family. The weather did affect the throughput, but those who did turn out were very happy. Many saw the Museum exhibits for the first time as well.”

If your venue has interesting grounds, garden design features or outdoor sculptures, you don’t necessarily have to open up the museum: you could offer a guided tour around your grounds or the local area, targeted at gardeners / local history buffs / sculpture lovers. Of course, if you have collections related to the tour, you could always conclude the tour by ending up back at your museum, give everyone a cup of tea and allow them inside to explore.

If you can recommend any simple event-planning ideas that you know work well, please leave a comment or drop me an email at

And finally, if you took photos of Museums at Night events, please share them in our Flickr group!

Guest post: Beeping Bats – running a night time nature walk

In our latest guest blog post, Sarah Cowie from Prestongrange Museum explains how she worked together with a countryside ranger to stage a successful evening nature walk in the museum grounds.

A photo of people gathered around a table looking at mice in a plastic box

Bobby the ranger explains how the live mice (in the clear box) scurry about

Thump, thump, thump. Hmm, what’s the noise coming from this box, I asked Bobby the Ranger. Oh, that’s a few live mice I caught earlier to show people tonight. Eeek. We have (unfortunately) had mice at our museum before, but never carried through the front door in a plush box! For Museums at Night this year, Bobby Anderson, our local Countryside Ranger, took visitors on a night-time walk around the grounds of Prestongrange, an industrial heritage museum in East Lothian, near Edinburgh.

Before we set off, Bobby produced great photographs, skeletons and stuffed animals so people could get up close to creatures like the fox, badger and bat.

A photo of a man and children placing a bright light in a garden

Bobby the ranger gets some help setting up the outdoor moth trap, a bright light to attract moths

Outdoors, we set up some moth traps and began to use a grey box with a black dial on it: “That beeps and tells you when there is a bat close by”, our youngest participant, aged 5, was able to tell us. Our group of explorers then set off with their torches around the site as Bobby showed us how to find different wildlife and creatures in the dark. I managed to see three moths and two bats. Although that doesn’t sound like much, people were caught up in the whole experience and gave really positive feedback. Many said that now they knew how to spot nocturnal animals, they would start looking in their own neighbourhoods.

My favourite facts I learned? Badgers eat peanuts; bats have the same route they travel round so if you see one, stand in the same place it should come back again within about 5 minutes and finally; adults get just as excited as children about seeing live mice in a museum!

A photo of a smiling woman in a blue top

Sarah Cowie

Sarah Cowie is Museums Education Officer for East Lothian Council Museums Service. Prestongrange, John Muir’s Birthplace and Dunbar Town House are their three museums. If you’d like to find out more, you can follow them on Facebook, Flickr, YouTube or via their blog!


Thanks very much, Sarah! The East Lothian Museums blog is well worth checking out – I love the way that volunteers and students on placement also contribute posts about their experiences in the museums.