Guest post: Kate Webber from Oxford’s Pitt Rivers Museum on planning and publicising after-hours events

Today’s guest post comes from Kate Webber, Press and Marketing Officer at the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford.


The Pitt Rivers Museum and Oxford University Museum of Natural History began a late night event as part of Nuit de Musées. My colleague Kate White initiated this annual event to encourage new visitors, and it grew and flourished from 1300 attending the first event in 2005, to 3000 visitors attending a 3-hour event in 2007. As if one event a year wasn’t enough, we now also do a similar event in December as part of the Oxford City Christmas Light Night, so we are well practiced!

Torchlight trails showing where visitors have walked through museum display cases

Torches light the way through the Pitt Rivers Museum (c) Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford

In a Different Light is an eclectic mix of live and recorded music, colourful lighting, the Pitt Rivers by torchlight and a bar – any profits are ploughed back in to the next event. It has also featured traditional world dance, glowing bugs, group art activities, Future Cinema, ethnographic films, projections and music workshops.

Visitors admiring sparkling lights on a curving ceiling in a historic building

A view of the Pitt Rivers interior in a different light (c) Alex Melville, Oxford Giclée

Neither of the Museums have an events officer, so the event is planned and run by committee and relies on volunteers on the night. About 10 staff from admin, education, front of house, marketing and technical departments come together in January to begin the planning. All the staff have been involved in many events, so the knowledge base that has built up is invaluable. We have a very small budget, and planning has to fit around all the usual demands of our jobs.

As the Museum’s Press and Marketing Officer I promote the event, but having formerly been the Front of House Manager and also being a designer I am in a fortunate position of being able to create all steps of the promotion from designing banners to writing press releases and creating signs and programmes for the night.

A flyer for an evening event with orange lanterns on a black background

The flyer Kate designed for the Pitt Rivers' Winterlight evening event in 2011

The enormous popularity of this event is due to the combination of stunning collections and architecture, and our dedication to keeping this event free, relying on word of mouth recommendation.

A flyer advertising an evening event, with bright lanterns on a pastel background

Kate's flyer design for last year's Museums at Night evening event, reusing the lantern design from her winter flyer with a different colour scheme

We do not do any paid advertising, instead promoting the event through our websites, e-newsletter and viral emails, free online listing, posters (printed in-house), local press, Twitter and a banner outside.

A banner advertising a museum event from 2011

The banner Kate designed to promote In A Different Light last year

We always debrief after every event, to help iron out the hiccoughs and tweak the format. From our experience, if you are starting a new event try to keep it simple! Play to your strengths, showcase your collection and embrace the often hidden skills of your staff.

This event is time heavy, relies on goodwill and indirectly costs us money. However, it is great fun (even when we’re working), has created some very happy visitors and has helped to raise the Museum’s profile considerably.

A woman smilingKate Webber studied to be a silversmith, and has worked at the Pitt Rivers Museum since 2002, managing the Front of House. She unleashes her creative streak to create books, exhibition promotional print etc, and tweets for the museum as @Pitt_Rivers.




Thanks very much, Kate! 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 or call me on 01273 623336.

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