“You Are Not Your Visitors!”

SHARE’s Kathy Moore talks about their Visitor Insight East (VIE) scheme (with thanks to Christina Lister whose introductory notes she has adapted)

chart close up data desk

Photo by Lukas on Pexels.com

If you want to know who your visitors are and what they think and experience, you need to ask them. Understanding and reporting on who your visitors are is also an accreditation requirement and requirement of many funding streams. There are several national schemed available for gathering visitor data e.g.  Audience Finder (AF) run by The Audience Agency. SHARE has developed a scheme which we feel is appropriate for smaller museums with lower numbers of visitors and staff/volunteers: Visitor Insight East (VIE). SHARE would like to support several small clusters of museums to start using VIE over the next few years.

VIE is a project to help you to undertake, analyse and implement visitor research. More information will be available for those museums interested in taking part, but here is a taste.

Participating museums will receive:

  • A self-completion visitor survey for your visitors (paper copies and/or an online version);
  • A link to an online survey for data to be inputted;
  • A report with your data;
  • A report which contextualises your data next to that of the other participating museums;
  • training (details tbc):

Museums will need to:

  • Proactively ensure that visitors complete the surveys;
  • Input the completed surveys into an online survey;

 

If you are interested in signing up to VIE, or want to know more, email Kathy at kathryn.moore@norfolk.gov.uk

 

 

 

Hidden Histories: Oral History Interviews

Continuing our series on Hidden Histories in museums, oral history interviews are a great way to fill gaps in your collection and to bring stories to life for audiences, both in your museum and at home.

black smartphone and headphones on a desk

Photo by Kaboompics .com on Pexels.com

As previously discussed, histories of certain groups and communities are often “hidden” because we don’t have the objects in our collection to represent them or because curators lack the specialist knowledge to interpret them.

By conducting interviews with members of these communities, you not only broaden your collection to include new stories and be more representative, you can ask questions which help you to better understand the physical objects already in your collection.

There are lots of ways museums can use oral history recordings. You can include them in exhibitions, either through a fixed unit or a portable player. Essex Record Office’s recent “You Are Hear” project saw special benches being placed around the county played recordings to the people listening to them.

You use clips of recordings on your website. Websites like Soundcloud, you can share clips from your your recordings and embed them into your website or blog, enabling you to share them around the world.

However, it isn’t as simple as simply sitting down with a your interviewee and asking questions. You need to make sure you have their permission to record the interview, to keep it and to share it.  You need to know that the equipment you have is up to the job. You should have a plan about what you want to ask, know how to ask open questions and what to do if the subject becomes upset during the course of the interview.

If you haven’t previously had oral history training, or would like a refresher, I have organised a training day with Sarah-Joy Maddeaux, Sound Archivist at Essex Record Office on 27th November. Click here for more information.

Don’t forget that SHARE’s Hidden History grant scheme is now open for applications. The deadline is 28th January, 2019. There is also a Hidden Histories Study Day at the British Museum on 23rd October 2018.

Making Things, Doing Things

IMG_20171026_143808638.jpg

On Thursday 26 October a gang of ‘digital curious’ museum folk discovered cheap and easy ways to start using technology at their museum. Led by Paul Clifford we made robots, programmed micro:bits and found the ‘Maker’ within us.

“Instead of learning about our technology we opt for a world in which our technology learns about us.” Douglas Rushkoff

 

The Maker Movement

The Maker Movement is a global community of people making and sharing their objects through events and the internet. A ‘Maker’ might build furniture, bake cakes or engineer robots but, whatever the activity, at the core of the Maker Movement is a belief in democratisation, social learning, collaboration and self-empowerment.

For Makers who are interested in digital technology, they might enjoy electronics, robotics, 3-D printing blended with more traditional crafts like metalworking, woodworking, arts and crafts. A Maker might build something from scratch or tinker with existing technology.

The Kit

IMG_20171026_143800932

Makey Makey – have you ever wanted to make a banana piano or turn your hands into buttons? Then the Makey Makey is the kit for you! The Makey Makey is a simple circuit board onto which you can attach crocodile clips to turn anything into a button. Cost: £50 approx.

micro:bit – a microcontroller that you can simply programme to do different things, like direct motors, flash lights or play sounds. Using the MakeCode.org website you can programme a micro:bit really easily following the instructions on the micro:bit website. In 2016 the BBC distributed a micro:bit to every year 7 child in Britain, so many schools already have a supply of these. Cost: £12 approx.

Servo:Lite – a type of servoboard. A servoboard is a device that controls motors or mechanisms (technically known as servomotors or servomechanisms), for example turning wheels, switching lights on and off or playing a noise. The Servo:Lite is controlled by the micro:bit (or other microcontroller).

ZIP Halo – a circular board that has a ring of flashing lights, which you can programme using the micro:bit. Cost: £12 approx.

Motor and wheels – moving wheels that you can attach to your Servo:Lite, which you can programme using your micro:bit. Cost: £8 approx.

Arduino – an electronics platform for making interactive projects. An Arduino senses the environment through sensors and you can tell an Arduino what to do by writing code in the Arduino programming language. Cost varies depending on what you buy.

Touch board – you can use this to turn any material or surface into a sensor, so you could paint a light switch on a wall, make a paper piano or create an interactive poster. Cost: £60 approx.

Raspberry Pi – a tiny, affordable computer that you can use to learn programming. You can plug it into a monitor and it comes with its own operating system. Cost: £30 – 40 approx.

Conductive Paint – you could use this to paint buttons or circuits.

Little:Bits – really simple electronic kit that lets you build circuits. Lots of fun to play with and great for absolute beginners.

Extras – crocodile clips, batteries, keyboards, monitors, copper tape, etc.

There are countless extras you could buy depending on what you’re interested in!

(Please note that these products are available from a range of sources.)

How can we use this technology in our museums?

Some museums are doing all kinds of amazing things – from massive digital projects to cheap and cheerful kids’ events. Here are some ideas to get you started:

Build a Robot – using craft materials, motor wheels, micro:bit and Servolite you can create simple robots that wheel around and draw shapes.

Maker Trolley – short on space in your museum? No problem – why not try a trolley loaded with craft materials, and a few simple bits of technology to get kids playing.

Cardboard Instruments – cut out guitars and pianos from cardboard and use Makey Makeys to turn these into intruments. Check out the Makey Makey website for different ideas.

There are lots of blogs and websites full of ideas with easy to follow instruction. Check out the following for inspiration:

https://makezine.com/projects/

https://www.makerspaces.com/makerspace-ideas/

https://learn.adafruit.com/

https://www.kitronik.co.uk/blog/kitronik-university/

https://www.raspberrypi.org/education/

http://www.bbc.co.uk/connectedstudio/toolkit

https://situate.io/

https://smartify.org/

Don’t have the technology?

No problem – you can borrow the Essex Museum Development’s digital learning library for free.

Why not try contacting local businesses to ask if you can have their old computers, keyboards, tablets, etc if they’re throwing them away?

Contact Makers and technology producers to ask if they might loan you equipment or donate some to your museum. Check out the list below for ideas of who you might contact:

Raspberry Pi Foundation

BBC micro:bits

Mini Maker Foundation

Your local ‘Code Club’ or local Makers

Crafts Council (also potential funders!)

IMG_20171026_143757689

If you’re interested in using digital technology but aren’t sure where to get started, come along to the next Heritage Education Group meeting where we will be playing with the technology library. We will be meeting on Tuesday 5 December at the Essex Records Office. Contact me for more information and to book.

New Audiences Day 2017

“Nothing without us about us is for us.”

This day explored the different ways in which we can engage with new audiences through case studies and group discussion. I’ve briefly summarised the presentations below but just get in touch if you’d like to know more.

IMG_20170921_150814292

Young Roots – Dawn Bainbridge, Development Officer, Heritage Lottery Fund
Dawn discussed HLF’s Young Roots programme, covering how you can go about applying, what HLF look for and examples to inspire you. Successful projects focus on people learning skills in an in-depth and meaningful way. HLF have relaxed their rules about Young Roots projects being initiated by a group of young people, but they still must take the lead, e.g. steering group.

 You’re Doing It Already – embedding Arts Award into Museum Learning, Melissa Hawker, Learning Officer, Norfolk Museums Service
Melissa spoke about embedding Arts Award into school workshops and youth engagement projects, including Takeover Day and co-curating. The children shouldn’t feel like they are ‘writing up’ their log books, these should be treated as baskets to catch their learning and fill up naturally. Norfolk Museums Service run youth clubs starting from babies, which children taking more control of their learning as they develop. Starting early is a vital part of supporting young people to feel that the museum is a ‘place for them’. They do not advertise these groups in museums as the young people feel very strongly that the clubs are separate to schools and this is particularly important if school isn’t a positive experience. The youth clubs are free and this is key to their broad socio-economic appeal.

Engaging Diverse Local Audiences – Emma Winch, Heritage Learning Manager, Hackney Museum
Hackney Museum is internationally renowned for engaging diverse local audiences in the development of the museum and its exhibitions, programmes and projects that support audiences from all over the world to understand where their story fits within British history. Emma stated that there is no tool kit for engagement, you must employ the right people and work to a shared ethos. The most successful projects are not ones that ‘happen to’ community groups but where the community and the museum meet on mutual ground to create a relationship that grows into different projects. Hackney Museum supports local groups to campaign and Hackney Council often uses the museum as a space where people can have difficult conversations and community members come to council meetings. It’s important that changes made from their involvement is passed on to the community groups.

Diversifying your Audiences through Diversifying your Workforce – Rachel Macfarlane, Projects Development Officer, and Lib Fox, Museums Projects Officer, Colchester + Ipswich Museums
Colchester + Ipswich Museums shared a number of case studies from two years of Training Museum traineeships. The service has welcomed eleven Trainees from a variety of backgrounds, and they have helped us engage new audiences through work with schools and community groups, as well as social media. People who hadn’t considered working in museums before were targeted through the trainee recruitment. The applicants were asked to complete a very short form and submit a video and those shortlisted attended a group interview day with activities, discussion time and a very short interview. This more involved process provided greater insight into the attitudes of the individuals than the traditional format. In addition CIMS changed their volunteering to offer short, fixed-term posts with the application process making it clear what the volunteer would gain from their experience.

Jaywick Inspires – Kerith Ririe, Jaywick Martello Tower Manager
Jaywick Martello Tower supports creative collaborations relating to the themes of community, heritage and environment that affect our lives today. The Tower runs as an innovative arts, heritage and community space which successfully engages with its local community in Jaywick. The Tower Manager Kerith Ririe will discussed how the Tower has successfully engaged with its community and the plans for development. Many organisations are keen to work with Jaywick as it’s a well-known area of deprivation but the communities may not want to work with them. Jaywick Martello Tower offers food and refreshments at their activities to ensure that the participants aren’t hungry and better able to join in. How can we expect to engage an audience whose basic needs aren’t being met? The Tower used a cost benefit analysis tool to evidence that for every £1 invested, they reduced the spend in other services by £11.70.

By Thames to All the People of the World – Indi Sandhu, Essex Cultural Diversity Project, Essex Cultural Diversity Project Manager
Thurrock Routes is a joint working project between Essex Cultural Diversity Project (ECDP) and Thurrock Museum. The project focuses on the cultural heritage of Thurrock’s communities from 1930 – 2004 and draws on each organisation’s expertise to ensure that Thurrock’s heritage captures and responds to its specific and unique place in UK history and has engages with the diverse communities of Thurrock in bring new audiences to the Museum. This project saw a 15% rise in BME visitors to Thurrock Museum, something which they hope to build on.

Mercury Theatre- Martin Russell, Head of Creative Learning and Talent, Mercury Theatre
Martin spoke about hACkT, the Mercury Theatre’s creative digital offer for young people. hACkT is a summer school that allows young people to create a piece of theatre through a combination of traditional drama activities and technology, video game design and coding. The Mercury Theatre used vlogging to record experiences as opposed to traditional methods of recording, as this ties in with the participants interests and builds their skills. Schools have started hiring in hACKT for term time to meet their STEM requirements.

Breakout Group discussions:
Please note that these are transcriptions from the notes written on the day.
Breakout Group: Getting Started
• Avoid tokenism – do locational work, e.g school or street and don’t compartmentalise or label groups
• Start by mapping/research/listen to what people say. Possibly go where they go, restaurants, cafes, barbers, gyms, etc
• Educate yourself – go out and look and listen
• Be open and flexible – why would people want to come in? Community space/venue or support needed
• Consider throwing away what you do already is you are not attracting a diverse audience
• Juggling with what you already do – keep the good stuff (who decides what is good?)
• How do you change minds of staff?
• Get dates of who visits and build a profile
• Activity suggestions – winter warmer, food and drinks, hot chocolate, mocktails
• Focus groups – maybe not good for the first thing you do but could come later as a tool to plan for next steps
• Choose topics relevant to everyone, e.g. goof and drink, dinosaurs, music and dance, love, games, etc
• Most important thing: build relationships
Breakout Group: How do diversify your recruitment practice?
• Use friendly language that prevents people from understanding the forms/adverts
• Value attitudes rather than qualifications
• Spend more time with applicants – consider group interview days and see how they work in a team
• Include list of what training/benefits the volunteer will receive in return for their time
Breakout Group: Challenges
• Public perceptions of topics, e.g. death
• Capitalising on what you’re known for and expand on it
• Setting the right tone with difficult history/challenging topics
• Using museums as a visual learning space
• Need bigger teams
• Need for advocacy – shout louder about how unhelpful short-term funding is
• Condition of dunging to share outcomes/content more widely
• Curriculum content
Breakout Group: Capturing Feedback- evaluating the intangible
• Twitter – capture and share softer outcomes – Storify/metrics?
• Have conversations rather than feedback forms
• Staff/volunteers can be uncomfortable asking specifically for feedback
• Do we rely too much on paper feedback forms?
• Use SHARE evaluation tool kit
• Requirement for specific information from funders can be difficult
• Work with community members to design evaluation – co-produce methodology
• Ask questions with confidence and interest

WIRE: Wikipedians in Residence Essex

Wikipedians (or Wikimedians) in Residence are volunteers who dedicate time to working in-house at a museum or gallery, creating and updating Wikipedia articles related to that organisation and its collection. They are not simply an in-house editor: the role is also about enabling the host organisation and its members to continue a productive relationship with Wikipedia and its community of editors after the Residency is finished.

Wikipedia describes the idea here
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedian_in_residence

The Fry Gallery, Stow Maries Aerodrome, Essex Police Museum, Combined Military Services Museum and Chelmsford Museum will all be hosting a Wikipedian this autumn as a part of the WIRE project.

WIRE has only just started, and we’ll report back with our learning in a few months. In the meantime, if you’d like to explore updating your museum’s Wikipedia presence (even if you haven’t set one up yourselves, check Wikipedia as a page about your museum probably already exists) you can use the guide below.

Writing for Wikipedia

Be aware that new articles are ‘patrolled’ shortly after submission and if your article is not thought to comply with Wikipedia’s guidelines it will be deleted.

Articles submitted to Wikipedia should be written from a neutral point of view. Content must be
• unbiased
• verifiable
• noteworthy
• must not breach copyright

Think of it as writing an entry for a printed encyclopaedia. Entries should be written in an informational and neutral style rather than a marketing style. If possible facts should be supported by references.

Images should be the copyright of your Museum and be prepared for them to be downloaded and used once you have added them to an article. Consider using a Creative Commons licence to retain copyright while allowing others to use the images. You can find out more about licenses here – https://creativecommons.org/licenses/ Wikipedia expects editors to grant free content licences – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Creative_Commons_license

Before you start do a search on Wikipedia to make sure that someone else hasn’t already written an entry- duplicates will be deleted.

Consider if your article will meet Wikipedia’s ‘worthy of note’ conditions. Just advertising the existence of a museum is unlikely to but adding an article on a collection probably will. Entries should be strengthened by references (preferably online) and an article with no references is likely to be deleted.

There is some good advice here – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Your_first_article

Wikipedia also provides a wizard to help with writing your first article – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Article_wizard

A good tutorial can be found here – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Tutorial

Creating an Account
It is possible to write for and edit Wikipedia without an account but there are several good reasons to create an account for your museum.
• It will give entries more authority
• A number of reliable entries from the same source will build a good online reputation
• You can pick a recognisable user name
• You will have a user page with subpage called a ‘sandbox’ where you can experiment with writing and formatting an entry before submitting it

To Create an Account
https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Special:CreateAccount&returnto=Wikipedia%3AWhy_create_an_account%3F

Logging Your Steps
It’s a good idea to keep a log of your research and make sure you have a note of all the sources you have used along with web links. This makes it easy for you to respond to any queries about your entry and will also leave useful information for the museum should you not be available.

Involve Museum staff and volunteers in social media

The seventh in our social media series from Louise Winters.

When you’re looking for ideas for your museum’s social media, people who already love your museum are a brilliant source of inspiration.

Your museum’s staff and volunteers are the easiest place to start. They love the museum and they know it well. The people that help to run the museum make it what it is as much as the collections and objects. You may even get them to share any posts you write about them to their own Facebook or Twitter networks so they’re seen by a bigger audience. Even if they don’t use social media they’ll probably enjoy getting involved.

How can I involve them?

Here are some simple ideas for social media posts about the fantastic people that help to run your museum (and yes, that includes you!)

  • Photographs of staff and volunteers at work in the museum.
  • Say thank you! Post a big thank you to volunteers for their work at an event or on a specific project or even just on a busy bank holiday.
  • Ask about a colleague’s favourite object and why they like it and use this for a post with their name and a photo of them with the object (check with them they are okay with this before you do it).
  • Post a happy birthday message for a colleague on their birthday (do ask their permission first).
  • Ask a colleague how they got involved in the museum and share their story in a blog a condensed version for social media.
  • Ask colleagues about their favourite other museums to visit and write up into a short post, don’t forget to tag the museum on social media if they use it.

Some examples to show you how other museums are doing this:

 

 

 

 

 

All posts you create that are inspired by a specific colleague should include the name of the person you are talking about and tag them on the relevant social media network, if they use it. The general public like to get to know who works at the museum and find out more about them. Human beings are nosey and like knowing a bit about the real people that work in a place.

Have you ever looked at social media for the National Trust for Scotland? They’ve even set up a Twitter account to talk about volunteering and encourage volunteers to share photos of the things they enjoy doing.

 

Social media is a really good way to make sure everyone knows how important your volunteers are, and showing appreciation for your museum staff is equally important.

I’ve asked if colleagues want to get involved and not had a good response

It’s useful to remember that your colleagues often won’t realise that their own interests and stories are interesting. Their enthusiasm for the museum and working there is infectious – if you can show that they care about the museum then others who see that will care too. Be patient and keep showing colleagues what you’d like from them. That may be to share photographs they take with you or it may be to have a chat for 10 minutes about their favourite object.

Your mission is to find out what makes them light up and find a way to share that with all those potential visitors. Think about which kinds of people will find your colleague’s story interesting and aim your post at those people. Ask your colleague to share with their family and friends on social media and see what kind of response you get.

Last piece of advice: try not to be disheartened if your posts don’t immediately get a huge response. Your social media efforts will gradually build up likes and responses as you keep posting regularly. Reassure your colleagues that their help is really important for creating interesting posts.

Please do get in touch, I love saying hello:

On Twitter: @pinkyandnobrain

By Email: me@louisewinters.com

On LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/louisewinters/

My website: http://louisewinters.com/

Content Ideas for Social Media

The sixth in our social media series from Louise Winters.

Lots of people like doughnuts_v2

Using your museum’s collection as inspiration

If you’ve got your social media profiles all set up and you find yourself thinking “What on earth do I post about 5 times a week?” you are not alone. This is usually the most difficult bit of managing social media.

First thing to do is turn to what you have around you in the museum. Curating a collection is all about telling the story of your exhibits to preserve them and the stories around them for the future and your collection is a fantastic source of stories to share on social media.

Try picking a different object in your collection each week to highlight on social media. You’ll need:

  • A good photo of the object
  • An interesting fact or part of the story around this object that your followers will like
  • To write up a short bit of text for a Facebook / Twitter post that tells the fact / story
  • OR to write up a longer description for a blog telling visitors a bit about the story of the object

Here’s an example from Worthing Museum: https://twitter.com/WorthingMuseum/status/846402992811184129

How can I choose which objects to feature?

Even if your museum is small you may have a lot of exhibits: how do you know where to start? Here’s a few ideas.

  • Ask your staff what their favourite objects are and why they like them and feature one per week.
  • Ask some of your visitors each week to say what their favourite exhibit is and use their choices. Don’t forget to ask if they use social media and mention them or link to them in your post.
  • Think about events coming up at your museum, any new exhibits or collections, any important patrons and choose objects that are linked to write up a post about.
  • Think about what is going on outside the museum – any school or national holidays coming up (bank holidays, Christmas, Easter), anything seasonal (e.g. snowy weather, spring flowers), anything in the news or any TV shows that your museum is relevant to and choose objects that are linked.

The Essex Fire Museum posted some archive photos of female officers on International Women’s Day: https://www.facebook.com/pg/EssexFireMuseum/photos/?tab=album&album_id=1001441896656224

As an example of something a bit different: Social media for the Tate galleries talk about the weather using paintings from their collections https://twitter.com/Tate/status/822414664306950144

Ask yourself what will be interesting to people who might come to visit? What can you have some fun with to catch the attention of social media users? How can you catch the attention of people who wouldn’t normally visit your museum and cultivate a more diverse audience for your museum?

How do I tell the story in only a few words?

As you’ll know if you’ve read the blogs on writing for Facebook & Twitter, you need to be concise! On Twitter you only have 140 characters and on Facebook only the first part of your post will be shown in the timeline.

Here’s a few thoughts to help you keep your information about the object concise:

  • Definitely include a photo of the object in your post so followers can see the object
  • Remember you don’t have to write in a formal way
  • Pick a few evocative or interesting words that describe your object and focus on them
  • Try describing the object in 5 words only, this way you don’t need to write a full sentence, you could just write the 5 words and invite followers to comment on your photo and share their own 5 word descriptions.

Let us know how you get and share your own thoughts on how to create content for social media for your museum on by leaving a comment below.

Please do get in touch, I love saying hello:

On Twitter: @pinkyandnobrain

By Email: me@louisewinters.com

On LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/louisewinters/

My website: http://louisewinters.com/