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Guest post: Antonia Grant describes Handel House Museum’s first Museums at Night event

Here at C24 Towers we’re delighted with this year’s BBC History Magazine Guide to Museums at Night: copies of the brochure should now have arrived at all participating venues. We’re dressing up smartly to head off to the Museums at Night launch at the Cutty Sark this evening, and will report back tomorrow!

Our latest guest post is by Antonia Grant from London’s Handel House Museum, who introduces their first ever Museums at Night event.


Handel House Museum is located just a stone’s throw from Bond Street, tucked away on Brook Street. It offers the more intrepid tourist a historic haven to relax and have an intimate glimpse into the life and home of one of the world’s greatest composers, George Frideric Handel.

The museum, part of London Small Historic Houses, is built over two floors reflecting both the private and public persona of Handel, while intriguingly, over 300 years later another iconic composer and musician moved in next door, the legendary Jimi Hendrix. You couldn’t get a more musically fantastic cocktail!

An open harpsichord in the corner of a room with pictures on the wall.

A harpsichord on display at Handel House Museum (c) Matthew Hollow

Overcoming challenges – Hallelujah!

I was very excited at the prospect of Handel House taking part in this year’s Museums at Night for the first time. I’d run a similar event last year at Edinburgh University’s Collection of Historic Musical Instruments, which proved extremely popular, attracting a diverse audience. At Handel House, again, one of the main challenges was the space and accessibility.

Our idea is to have a series of activities taking place throughout the evening, centered on this year’s theme ‘Handel by Candle!’ We’ll be running candlelit tours and harpsichord recitals for small, intimate groups as well as offering free admission for visitors from 6:30 – 10pm.

Four poster bed and visitors.

Visitors viewing the bedroom at Handel House (c) Niusia Winczewski

A unique selling point

As part of the museum’s public events programme, a Baroque music concert takes place in the historic Rehearsal and Performance room. This is the very room Handel would have used to rehearse his next operas or oratorios to an invited audience and we keep this tradition alive every week.

By offering a concert during Museums at Night we hope to share this special space with a new audience. There will be an opportunity for our younger visitors to interact with the House on the evening too, with fun family trails and activity sheets and Georgian costumes to dress up in.

Publicity tips – from Baroque to Rock star!

As the evening will be open to families and adults, we’ll use a number of ways to reach out to both these groups. We will issue a press release to local and targeted newspapers and magazines, as well as adding the event on various family-friendly and event listings sites. Not forgetting social media: Facebook and Twitter are great ways to reach our audience and link with similar organisations and people.

We’ll build interest by revealing different elements of the evening – but not too much to spoil the surprise! And so as not to forget our already loyal audience, we will let them know about the event by including it in our season brochure and monthly e-newsletter.

Children in historic costume and wigs

Young visitors dressing up at Handel House Museum (c) Niusia Winczewski

As it will be the first time we’ve participated in the Museums at Night festival, we can’t wait to find out how it goes!


A woman in a white jumper

Antonia Grant has worked at Handel House Museum for over a year as the Learning and Events Officer. She obtained a BA Degree in History and Classical Civilisation from University College Dublin followed by a MSc in History, Theory and Display from Edinburgh University.

Antonia is interested in making the arts as accessible as possible to a wide audience, and creating innovative and exciting learning programmes and events.


Thanks, Antonia!

If you’re reading this and you have an interesting story to tell or case study to share about planning or marketing after-hours events at your arts or heritage venue, I’d love to publish your guest posts as well. Please email rosie@culture24.org.uk.

Punching above your weight online: Rosie’s article in the AMA’s Journal of Arts Marketing

I recently had an article published in the Arts Marketing Association’s Journal of Arts Marketing which I thought would be useful to share here.

Titled Punching above your weight online, it’s advice for small arts and heritage organisations with limited budgets about how best to use online communication channels.

An adorable kitten with the shadow of a lion

I like the editorial decision to illustrate the article with an adorable punching kitten who has a shadow the size of a lion. Courtesy JAM / AMA

I’d like to thank everyone who’s shared their case studies with me over the last few months – interesting examples that I cited include:

Download the Punching above your weight online article here.

Find out more about the AMA’s Journal of Arts Marketing here.

Social media in museums

I was recently invited to talk about social media platforms to Sussex museum staff and volunteers at the Arts Council England / Museum Development Service training day “Doing Digital: Using Social Media in Museums“.

I didn’t have a lot of time to prepare an image-heavy presentation with lots of screenshots, so livened up these rather text-heavy slides and made the presentation more social (and Christmassy) by cracking open a Chocolate Orange and sharing segments with every audience member who called out a question, idea or case study.

An open chocolate orange

Chocolate orange segments are a great inducement to sharing and interaction! Image shared under a Creative Commons licence by Flickr user VerseVend

As always, the most interesting challenges were raised in the Q & A session afterwards!

Take a look at my slides for a whistle-stop tour through different social media channels and a few examples of how museums and galleries are using them:

This event also brought home to me the importance of local networks and learning from each others’ experiences: it’s immensely valuable to be able to compare notes about what’s working well and what you’re finding challenging with similar organisations in the same position.

My top recommendations for getting started with social media

If you’re not sure what terms like Twitter or RSS mean, I highly recommend watching the super-simple CommonCraft videos for step by step introductions to all kind of online services like Twitter and blogging: http://www.commoncraft.com/videolist

Set up free Google Alerts, and you’ll get a weekly email linking to any mentions of your museum that have been published online: this won’t send you all the press coverage you receive, but it can help track what bloggers and people using social media are saying about your organisation.

You’re not alone!

If you have any questions about how other arts and heritage venues are tackling projects, and would like the support of a great community of professionals, I recommend joining two mailing lists that both send out a daily digest of questions and answers:

1) GEM, the Group for Education in Museums
2) The MCG, the Museums Computer Group

Are there any essential social media resources or sources of support that are useful to you? Please let me know in the comments or via Twitter!

Further tips on raising awareness from museums and galleries

This is the fifth in our series of posts highlighting how venues vying to win an artist in our Connect10 competition are raising awareness about the public vote among their local communities. If you’re involved in audience development or marketing, the ideas we’re sharing may be useful!

The three venues competing for installation artist and sculptor Susan Stockwell are Wolverhampton Art Gallery, the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, and Blackburn Museum & Art Gallery.

Where will you send Susan for Museums at Night? Cast your vote here.

Elaine Lees, Communications Officer at Creativity Works reports on Blackburn Museum & Art Gallery‘s Connect10 publicity:

To drum up support we’ve taken a digital approach, mainly posting news stories on websites and using social networking and email to spread the word. Old friends and new are showing their support, and local newspapers and BBC Radio Lancashire have also encouraged people to vote.

News of our Susan Stockwell bid has appeared across the websites of Creativity Works, Artsmap, Blackburn Life, the local council Chief Executive’s blog, the council intranet, the Perspectives of Pennine Lancashire Visual Arts network and more!

Now we just need to enlist the help of the hundreds of thousands of Blackburn Rovers supporters…

Lucy Theobald, Marketing and Press Coordinator at the Fitzwilliam Museum, reports:

We’ve sent out a press release about our bid for Susan Stockwell, together with the bid of one of our partner museums: the Polar Museum are also in the running to win novelist Jon McGregor. Combining the two bids makes more of a story for local media: here’s an article that appeared in Cambridge News.

There’s a news story going out in our local paper, and we’ve also been pushing the story online through our social media channels, Twitter and Facebook.

Wolverhampton Art Gallery report:

We’ve also sent out press releases to the local media, and are raising awareness online through our own website, Twitter and Facebook.

We’ve also added a line about the competition into our email signatures, along with a link to the voting page!

Vote in Susan Stockwell’s Connect10 poll here on Culture24 – where will you send her?

The competition is open until Monday March 5th, and the winning venue will be announced on Tuesday March 6th.

More top publicity tips from arts and heritage venues attracting competition votes

This is the fourth post in our series for arts marketers highlighting what venues competing to win a top artist for Museums at Night are doing to reach out to their audiences. So far, it seems that press releases to local media combined with the use of social media and email newsletters are the most popular tactics.

The three venues competing for top taxidermist Polly Morgan are Arnos Vale Cemetery Trust in Bristol; Yorkshire Museum and Gardens, York and Liverpool’s Victoria Gallery & Museum.

Where will you send Polly for Museums at Night? Cast your vote here.

Kim Fisher, Visitor Services Assistant at the Victoria Gallery & Museum reports:

We’ve been using Twitter and Facebook heavily, and contacted our email list. We’ve also printed leaflets to put around the gallery for visitors to see.

Our Education Officer Kirsty has told her contacts at the universities, and teachers who may be interested.

Finally, all our admin staff have added a link to the vote into our email signatures!

Lee Clark, Media Co-ordinator at York Museums Trust reports:

We’ve contacted all our staff as well as our mailing list, and are also spreading the word through Twitter, Facebook and our blog.

We’re also concocting an idea for a photocall to capture the press’s attention – watch this space!
Felicia Smith, Public Engagement Manager at Arnos Vale Cemetery Trust reports:

We’ve sent out press releases and have lined up a joint interview with ss Great Britain (who are hoping to win jellymongers Bompas & Parr in Connect10) on Bristol Community Radio on Saturday. The aim is to get Bristol people voting for two amazing artists to be brought to the city, not just one!

We’ve shared our press release with our planned event partners M Shed / Bristol Museums & Gallery and WildOwl, and Bristol Natural History Forum who are our partners for the Bioblitz event happening the weekend after Museums at Night. If we win the Connect10 competition, we hope to use Arnos Vale’s wildlife to link these two free events together.

We’ve set up a webpage for competition news, and are using Twitter and Facebook: we’re really grateful that other local organisations are supporting us on their pages too.

Vote in Polly Morgan’s Connect10 poll here on Culture24 – where will you send her?

The competition is open until Monday March 5th, and the winning venue will be announced on Tuesday March 6th.

Top publicity tips from arts and heritage venues attracting competition votes

This is our third article highlighting the promotional work of the venues vying to win artists in our Connect10 competition – there are all manner of useful ideas for publicity and audience development emerging, many of which are cheap or free to do.

Three venues are competing to win installation artist and signpainter Bob & Roberta Smith: Eastbourne’s Towner Art Gallery; Leeds Art Gallery; and the Peace Museum in Bradford.

Where will you send Bob & Roberta for Museums at Night? Cast your vote here.

Gilly Clarkson, Marketing & Communications Manager at Towner, reports:

We sent a press release to local media, and have been promoting extensively through our Facebook and Twitter feeds and email list – as well as featuring the competition on the homepage of our website with a link straight to the voting page!

We’re proactively reaching out to all our visitors, especially during half term week and our Sunday family day. Plus we’ve been encouraging partners and supporters to spread the word on our behalf – for example Eastbourne Tourism and Visit Sussex (as we are the only Sussex attraction on the list).

Amanda Phillips, Education Officer at Leeds Art Gallery, reports:

Trying everything, I managed to raise our share of votes from 10% to 24% by emailing everyone I know (didn’t know I knew so many people!)

It has gone on to our Breeze Culture Network which is the main portal to teachers and group leaders interested in creative activity, and to our press/marketing contact within Leeds City Council, our website, and within the Gallery itself. These are all passive means of communication, but all that is available within protocol and resources. Happily our tweets are getting out and about!

Julie Obermeyer, Curate and Manager of the Peace Museum, reports:

We’ve done the following to promote our bid in the competition:

1) Tweeted about it on our Twitter account
2) Sent out an e-mail message to all our supporters
3) Wrote about it on our website
4) Promoted it on our Facebook page

Vote in Bob & Roberta Smith’s Connect10 poll here on Culture24 – where will you send him?

The competition is open until Monday March 5th, and the winning venue will be announced on Tuesday March 6th.

Connect10: How are London’s Ragged School Museum and the Museum of Soho competing for Terry O’Neill?

In our second article highlighting the promotional and outreach efforts of venues involved in the Connect10 competition, we look at the two London venues vying to win iconic photographer Terry O’Neill – the Museum of Soho and the Ragged School Museum.

Where will you send Terry for Museums at Night? Cast your vote here.

 Tony Shrimplin, Chair of the Museum of Soho, reports:

As soon as we heard we were finalists in this years Museums at Night Connect10 competition our trustees and volunteers swung into action. This is our first time and it’s going to be memorable!

We initially set about using our mailing lists letting Friends of the Museum, colleagues and associates know we needed their vote and for them to forward the info to as many people as they could, hopefully creating a snowball effect.

Social media has been key in getting our events promoted, we have a Twitter page and were able to announce we were finalists pretty quickly. Facebook has also been used by our friends and families to promote our event.

We really are a community group and were able to enlist people power from burlesque dancers to window cleaners, businesses and residents who have all helped us spread the word.

We also have a unique resource in the West End in having a large, interactive, touch screen in Sherwood Street W1. The screen promotes the area by having galleries and articles showing Soho in a historic context. It’s a local amenity that residents and visitors alike are invited to submit content to. We announced the event on our screen and added a QR code directly linking smart phones to the voting site, so that passers by could take part in the public vote.

Our local newspaper The West End Extra has been notified and we expect something in this week’s edition.

I persuaded one of our trustees to dress up as a woman (not very difficult) and canvass for votes on Friday night, but alas no one batted an eye – this is Soho after all.

I however have been walking up and down Dean Street over the week-end with gorgeous burlesque girls on each arm in my fur coat. When asked about our poll position I was left stumped! But that’s another story…

This has been a great exercise for us, as we’ve never had to move so quickly and it is great to see the support we can get when needed.

Erica Davies, Director of the Ragged School Museum, reports:

To galvanise our advocates to vote for us and spread the word, we began by emailing our friends and supporters.

We’ve sent press releases out not only to our local newspapers but also to a TV programme – aiming high!

We’re using Twitter and Facebook to maintain interest in the competition and remind people about how they can vote.

A screenshot of an exchange on a Facebook page

An example of how the Ragged School Museum use their Facebook page to interact with their fans

We’re also very thankful for Twitter as it’s a great shortcut to talk with people: when we had a dramatic water leak last week (it was like a fountain) Twitter was the only place we could go to. Very soon we had loads of suggestions and recommendations for plumbers, and the problem’s been sorted out now!

Vote in Terry O’Neill’s Connect10 poll here – where will you send him?

The competition is open until Monday March 5th, and the winning venue will be announced on Tuesday March 6th.

Connect10: How are London’s Old Operating Theatre Museum and Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum competing for Claire Barclay?

We’re delighted with the success of the Connect10 competition for venues to win  a top artist for a Museums at Night event – two weeks in, over 15,000 votes have already been cast!

In addition to creating some wonderful new Museums at Night events, the goal of this competition was always to develop and engage audiences. So, I’ll be running a series of articles looking at how the competing museums and galleries are reaching out to their audiences to encourage them to vote.

There are some excellent ideas emerging which would also be useful for any venue trying to raise awareness of their events, their fundraising, or even the fact that they exist and are worth visiting!

Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum are currently neck-and-neck with London’s Old Operating Theatre Museum in a hotly contested bid to win Scottish sculptor Claire Barclay.

Where will you send Claire for Museums at Night? Cast your vote here.

Sophie Wilson, Exhibitions & Education Manager at Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum, reports:

We’ve sent details out to our local press, and showcased our Connect10 bid on the homepage of our website. As a council-run venue, we also got the info placed on our local council staff intranet.

We’ve sent a mailout to our contact list, and have also included a slip about the project in a mailing to our Friends of the Art Gallery & Museum last week.

Although we’re currently being refurbished, we’re still using our Twitter account to talk with our followers and ask for votes – we’re really pleased with the number of retweets we’ve had, and that our local Tourist Information Centre is also tweeting about the competition.

Valentina Lari, Press & Marketing Officer at the Old Operating Theatre Museum,  reports:

Our strongest advocates are our supporters, the Friends of the Museum. We’ve contacted all our mailing list, encouraging them to vote for us and to tell their friends about the competition.

We’ll be sending out a press release about Connect10 as well.

We’ve also put a link to the poll on the homepage of our site, and we’re updating our Facebook page to let our fans know where we stand in the poll – it’s very close run!

Vote in Claire Barclay’s Connect10 poll here – where will you send her?

The competition is open until Monday March 5th, and the winning venue will be announced on Tuesday March 6th.

Eastbourne’s Towner Gallery asks fans for Connect10 artist ideas

Wow, what an action packed 24 hours! Since publishing the details of our ten intrepid Connect10 artists and sharing the competition announcement yesterday morning (it’s even on the Arts Council website), project manager Nick and I have been overwhelmed by the response. We’ve received lots of interested emails, seen a flurry of excitement on social media, and within one hour venues had started submitting event ideas.

I was particularly interested to see this discussion taking place on the Towner Gallery’s Facebook page – they’ve asked their fans, who are already interested in their venue, which of the artists they would most like the gallery to bid for. It’s great to see this kind of engaged discussion: so far it looks as if the people of Eastbourne are most keen on Polly Morgan and Susan Stockwell.

A screenshot of a discussion on a Facebook page, with fans suggesting which artists they'd like to bring to the Towner Gallery

A lively discussion on the Towner Gallery's Facebook page about which Connect10 artists their fans would like to win

Which of the Connect10 artists would appeal to your audience? Can any of your fans and visitors suggest ideas for events they’d like to experience? A quick reminder: the ten intrepid creatives you can win for your event are:

Claire Barclay, futuristic Scottish sculptor whose carefully balanced installations have been exhibited in Tate Britain and Edinburgh’s Fruitmarket Gallery

Bompas & Parr, the jellymongers, who create spectacular culinary experiences ranging from architectural jellies to lakes of cocktails

Ryan Gander, provocative installation artist whose Artangel commission in a Hoxton warehouse provided clues for visitors to solve a mystery

Jon McGregor, award-winning novelist and short story writer, author of If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things and Even The Dogs

Polly Morgan, contemporary taxidermist whose poignant installations have been collected by Kate Moss

Terry O’Neill, fashion and rock photographer renowned for iconic images of Hollywood stars and bands like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones

Martin Parr, documentary photographer whose pictures tell stories of leisure, consumption and communication

Simon Roberts, landscape photographer who spent a year crossing Russia and was Official Artist of the 2010 General Election

Bob & Roberta Smith, sign-painter and installation artist who uses text on recycled signs and floorboards

Susan Stockwell, creator of installations, drawings and films commenting on globalisation and colonisation, often using recycled materials

You have until Tuesday 31 January 2012 to pitch an exciting Museums at Night event idea involving your chosen artist to Culture24 using this online form.

Culture24 will then select the two or three event ideas for each of the 10 artists, and open them up to an online public vote. Each successful venue will receive a £500 bursary for their event, and those selected venues that don’t win an artist will still receive £100 to support an alternative Museums at Night event.

Exciting times!


UPDATE 7th February 2012: The Connect10 competition is now open – vote to send the 10 artists to venues across the UK here!

Museums at Night’s Rosie Clarke in Guardian livechat about social media for culture and the arts

A quick newsflash: I’m going to be one of the panel in the Guardian Culture Professionals Network livechat today!

The discussion will take place between 12 and 2 – if you log in, you’ll be able to ask any questions about how your organisation could benefit from using social media channels.

The Twitter hashtag is #artschat – wish me luck, and if you’d like to, drop by and ask me questions!

The discussion will be archived afterwards, so you’ll be able to go back and read everyone’s insights.

The link again: http://www.guardian.co.uk/culture-professionals-network/culture-professionals-blog/2011/nov/23/social-media-arts-culture