Guest post: Ulster Museum explain how they run successful sleepovers

Our latest guest post comes from Beth Frazer, Visitor Guide at Ulster Museum.

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From the seedling of an idea in a small team of Visitor Services staff, sleepovers at the Ulster Museum have grown into a highly sought after event for both families and organisations. We have so far delivered this unique event to over 800 children and adults, with another 3 sleepovers fully booked for 2012.

A mummy, a Viking and a World War I soldier loom over a museum sleepover

Costumed characters appear during an Ulster Museum sleepover (c) National Museums Northern Ireland

The events of course are hard work for us staff: sleeping on the floor and running around with families all evening can be exhausting and isn’t part of our usual job description – but they’re definitely worth the hard work. Overhearing children discussing how it is the “best night of their life,” and seeing families create memories which will last a lifetime adds a whole new dimension to working in the museum.

How the evening works 

The night kicks off when our doors open to 90 ticket holders.

Following the excitedly charged ‘Big Welcome’ everyone splits into teams to head off for the evening’s fun, educational activities. These can include Living Histories, Fossil Making Workshop, Discovering Nature, Archaeology workshop, a live reptile show and a torch lit tour of the museum, hunting for dinosaurs and becoming Ulster Museum honorary palaeontologists!

Pyjama-wearing children with torches at a museum after hours

Young visitors brandish their torches ready to explore Ulster Museum (c) National Museums Northern Ireland

At midnight, the lights go out as everyone snuggles into their sleeping bags overlooked by our triceratops.

The morning brings some tired looking faces over breakfast, but is eagerly followed by our last activity before we all say a BIG goodbye.

Why we run sleepovers 

The aim of these events is to create a unique family experience, bringing new visitors to the museum and helping children learn in a fun way. We are creating opportunities to visit the museum after hours in a way that most museums in Northern Ireland have not yet explored.

The feedback is fantastic and we have had quite a few second bookings, which speaks volumes. Ultimately, it’s thanks to the commitment and hard work of our small team that we deliver such amazing work.

Our sleepovers have been nominated as 2012’s Family Event of the Year, so we hope in the future this can become an award-winning event in our award-winning Museum! If you’re in Northern Ireland, perhaps we’ll see you for your own sleepover adventure on January 18, 2013?

A smiling woman with a torch and clipboardBeth Frazer is a Creative Imagery graduate from Huddersfield University. She has been a visitor guide at Ulster Museum for 3 years, works as part of the events team and is key co-ordinator of Nights at the Museum.

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Thanks, Beth! If you’re reading this and you’ve got something to say about any aspect of audience development, after-hours event planning or marketing for arts and heritage venues, I’d love to publish your guest posts too. Drop me an email at rosie@culture24.org.uk.

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