Do Your Visitors “Love” Museums?

Last week, the National Museums Directors Council (NMDC) launched a new campaign entitled I Love Museums. Their aim is to illustrate how deep public support is for museums of all shapes and sizes. As the government and local authorities are cutting budgets, this campaign provides tools for museums to work with their communities to show how valued our institutions are and how important our work is.

So how can your visitors, volunteers and partners get involved? First off, they can sign up to the campaign and say why they love museums. They can help promote the campaign on social media. If you’re a Twitter or Facebook user, you may have noticed the campaign’s slogan written across people’s profile pictures. You and they can add this via the Twibbon website.  They can also write letters to their MP or local council.

What can your museum do to support the campaign? As well as promoting it on social media and your website, you can download posters, postcards and logos for use on your publicity from the campaign website. You can also host a printed ballot box to encourage visitors to sign up while their at your venue.

~Amy Cotterill, Museum Development Officer

I Love Museums

Celebrating Volunteers!

Volunteers at Rayleigh Mill

Volunteers at Rayleigh Mill

Monday 1st June is the start of the thirty-first National Volunteers’ Week. This annual celebration of the work volunteers do is very relevant for museums. Most of the museums in Essex are entirely volunteer run, and those that aren’t still rely heavily on the hard work and creativity of volunteers.

Ahead of Volunteers’ Week, I am launching a new Volunteer Management Toolkit, with useful information for anyone managing volunteers and templates for documents including a volunteering policy, volunteer agreements, skills audits etc. There’s also a new Evaluation Toolkit, including a “how to” guide, templates, a glossary and a list of useful websites. These have been created for Essex museums by Pippa Smith from Handling the Past.

During Volunteers’ Week, I am hosting a series of guest posts:

  • Monday – Volunteering and the HLF by Miranda Stearn, Heritage Lottery Fund
  • Tuesday – Young Curators by Francesca Pellegrino, Epping Forest District Museum
  • Wednesday – Accreditation and Volunteer-Run Museums by Joanne Godfrey, Mersea Museum
  • Thursday – Life as a Museum Volunteer by Deke Dudley, Braintree Museum
  • Friday – Volunteering with Kids in Museums by Jane Allnutt
  • Saturday – The vTeam: Partnership Opportunities With the Student Volunteering Team by Anya Visegorodceva, University of Essex Students’ Union
  • Sunday – Students, Graduates and Volunteer-Run Museums by Christine Brewster and Katie Wilkie, The Cater Museum

Thursday 4th June is also the first SHARE Museums East Volunteer Awards, and several Essex-based volunteers have been nominated, so please keep your fingers crossed for them!

~Amy Cotterill

#FundingWeek: Facing Your Fundraising Fears

Today’s guest post is by Sassy Hicks. Sassy is the Membership, Marketing and Projects Manager for the Association of Independent Museums (AIM), an Assessor for the Investing in Volunteers Award and a member of the Institute of Fundraising (IoF). In her spare time, she volunteers as a Fundraising and Marketing Officer for local heritage groups in South Wales. She can be contacted via email on:

“A couple of years ago, I was at a very jolly board meeting for a local history group run entirely by volunteers. I had been invited along to see how they worked and to then write about the group and their activities in a local Third Sector based magazine, because the group was (and still is)hugely prolific in their output. Each year, the small team of fifteen people willingly give up their free time to produce local history books, visit numerous schools to run sessions on history and manage to produce several impressive history talks per month.

The meeting was going well with tea flowing, jovial conversation and we were ripping through the agenda at lightning speed and I fully expected to be home in plenty of time for EastEnders and an early night. But then, as we reached nearly the end of the meeting, the subject of funding came up and the atmosphere in the room plummeted rapidly. Gone was the sense of shared purpose and in its place was…fear. It seemed no one on the board wanted to take responsibility for securing much needed grants and the debate on whose role it actually was lasted another two hours.

It is totally understandable that funding and the subject of how you are going to finance your activities can be intimidating. None of us particularly relish sitting down with a funding application in front us and it’s true that there is nothing quite as scary as the blank page, so if we can possibly excuse ourselves from this task then we will. Even professional Fundraising Managers like me dread the uphill battle of finding grants that: a) Are relevant, b) Didn’t close only yesterday and won’t be open again for another year c) Don’t have guidelines that require a full week of reading.

Most of the time, funding is viewed as a necessary evil or as something that requires massive amounts of time, resources and skills to pull off properly, but even small volunteer led organisations can be successful if they face the fear and adjust their  mutual mind-sets.  Having worked in fundraising for over a decade, I hope some of the tips and tricks I outline below will help you gain a fresh perspective on how your funding is sourced and secured and that you will gain the confidence to give it a go!

1: Get everyone involved: Fundraising is a much easier and more pleasurable task if everyone in the organisation takes some responsibility for it. Create a fundraising group if you don’t already have one and divide the tasks behind fundraising such as sourcing, completing and checking grants and associated forms between you. If you really don’t have anyone currently volunteering that wants to take on fundraising, consider advertising a new volunteer role to do this task. Ask your local CVC or Museum Development Officer for advice on how to advertise it widely.

2: Learn the language: Fundraising comes with its own set of words and phrases which can feel off-putting at first. Don’t know your outcomes from your outputs? Scared of the difference between stakeholders and beneficiaries? Are capital and revenue confusing you? Spend a bit of time learning this language and you will instantly gain confidence. This glossary of fundraising terminology, courtesy of Andrew deMille Fundraising Consultants, is a good place to start: Fundraising Glossary

3: Marketing matters: Marketing and fundraising are inextricably linked. If people don’t know about your organisation and what you do – how can you expect them to support you? (And this includes funders!). Get into the habit of promoting your organisation so that people can learn to trust in your ‘brand’. Create newsletters and then put them online, develop social media channels so you have a strong presence and use any visitor feedback as the basis for case studies that you can include in your grant applications. If you secure funding, be courteous and tell the world about it! Place funding logos on all marketing materials too.

4: Tell your story: Don’t forget that grant assessors are human beings too and they see hundreds of applications every year. Make yours stand out from the crowd by ensuring your application is engaging, informative and that it highlights your organisations unique selling points. A good grant application needs all the basic information, statistics and budgets – but it also needs to be compelling.

5: Start small to win big: There is no better confidence boost than when you have put in hours of hard work completing your grant application and you discover it was successful! Start your fundraising journey by applying for a few smaller grants and build up to the big stuff gradually. AIM (Association of Independent Museums) offers its members different grants throughout the year and we are always happy to advise and guide you through the process. You can find information about our grants here: AIM Grants Programme

Digital Learning Day at the Museum of London

Digital Learning Day

SHARE and the Museum of London’s Digital Learning Day

On 14th January, SHARE Museums East ran a Digital Learning Day with Paul Clifford and the Museum of London. Yvonne Lawrence, Learning Services Manager at Chelmsford Museums, shares her experiences (and images) of the day:

“… A wealth of information creates a poverty of attention …”.

One of the scarcest resources of our age is attention; we are bombarded with instant information and images, hyperlinks and choices.  Working with artefacts, we encourage people to slow things down, focus on the object, give it full attention and use all five senses.  How does this low-tech approach fit with increasing uses of digital technology today?  And how can we vary the use of digital technology between formal learning and informal learning for families?

We sat around a packed conference table to discuss the use of digital technology in museum learning.  It sounds like a paradox – after all, isn’t the unique selling point of what we do that we use real objects to engage and inspire?  How can we make digital technology do more than we can with objects and paper?  Is blended learning the answer – mixing real experiences with digital technology? Some people actively seek out non-digital experiences (not everyone wants to live life through a lens).

Digital technology is not a magic fix.  Paul advised us to think about overall learning objectives rather than starting from the perspective of ‘what can I add digitally to this?’  You need to consider costs and security; logistics – storage and charging of equipment; copyright issues with apps, software, and the finished product – who owns what?; creating, sharing and deleting finished projects; and last but not least, who has the time to manage all this?

MofL iPad in a sturdy case

A Museum of London iPad in a sturdy case

The Museum of London uses 10 iPads for school visits with free or almost free Apps that are very simple to use.  These include ‘Photomontage: Photo Layers’ to allow people to ‘greenscreen’ themselves into an old photo; ‘PuppetPals’ to create animations and soundtracks illustrating historical events such as the Great Fire of London; and ‘Popplet’ mind mapping software, good for exploring uses of an artefact and sorting ideas.  Children use these Apps to create digital output they can send back to the classroom to use in follow up work, adding motivation and value to the learning experience.

A MaKey MaKey

Using a MaKey MaKey

The practical afternoon session explored technology such as the £50 MaKey Makey, described as ‘an invention kit for the 21st century’.  Deceptively simple to look at, and not much bigger than a credit card, this is a very simple circuit system that can be hooked up to a PC to create some stunning effects – similar to a programmable Raspberry Pi.  If you have ever wanted to make a printed image interactive with different outcomes when someone presses different areas, this is for you!

Yesterday the teacher in our ‘Stone Age to Iron Age’ session asked if he could use his iPhone to record the gallery tour.  I agreed and have been inspired to record our own version to use with schools: my first attempt at blended learning to help teachers get the most from their self-led gallery visit – hopefully without stopping them from booking another school session!

Want to know more about Raspberry Pi, Makey Makey and other digital learning tools? A variety of these are now available for Essex museums to borrow. Read more here.

New Beginnings

A new year is a time for new beginnings and seems like an excellent time to launch this website, but why would a Museum Development Officer have a blog? Well, in my case, it is to provide me with a simple way to share resources, case-studies and news.

My name is Amy Cotterill and I am the Museum Development Officer for Essex. I’m based in Essex Record Office in Chelmsford and am part of Essex County Council’s Cultural Development team. My role is to provide advice and support to museums within the “historic” county borders (including Southend-on-Sea and Thurrock).

Blog posts will be on a variety of topics including collections care, resilience and audience engagement and will include guest writers from around the region. The site will also include resources created for museums in Essex, case-studies from around the county and information about upcoming events and meetings. I hope to grow this overtime to reflect the needs of local museums.

Tying in with the launch of this site is the creation of a new resource. During December I ran a Twitter campaign called #MDOadvent, featuring links to different on-line tools every day. I have compiled a list of all 25 links using Storify and have added it to the Resources section. It can also be viewed here.

Please feel free to get in touch with suggestions for future blog topics, requests for particular resources or if you would like to contribute a case-study.