One of my favourite Twitter feeds is provided by the excellent ‘Kids in Museums’, the independent charity dedicated to making all museums more open and welcoming to families. Back in the Spring, I attended the annual Museums & Heritage Show (London Olympia) and met various volunteers of the organisation to find out more about their tips on digital marketing to make museums more attractive to younger visitors including teenagers. The Teen Twitter Takeover Day for example involves handing over your museum's official twitter account to a keen teenager for the day to act as a digital ambassador and share their interest and passion for the organisation. They will instinctively know how to pitch it the right way to make it attractive to other teenagers. This is a nationwide initiative and an interactive map on the kids in museums website shows you who else is participating. kidsinmuseums.org.uk/teen-twitter-takeover/ Even more ambitious is their annual 'Takeover Day' described as 'a celebration of children and young people’s contributions to museums, galleries, arts organisations, archives and heritage sites. It’s a day on which they are given meaningful roles, working alongside staff and volunteers to participate in the life of the museum' according to their website. This year's edition is this Friday, November 18th, and a separate article will follow. If you can't wait, the twitter feed is live now and an interactive map available via the site. You can also access the ‘Kids in Museums’ manifesto on how to make cultural and heritage establishments more family friendly which makes for very positive reading. (kidsinmuseums.org.uk/manifesto/).
I was reminded of how important it is to consider who your audience is when I recently took my youngest to the Cotswold Motoring Museum & Toy Collection in Bourton-on-the-Water. A joyful and multi-roomed treasure trove of all things motoring and in their own words 'The Motoring Museum is overflowing with vintage car collections, classic cars and motorcycles, caravans, original enamel signs and an intriguing collection of motoring curiosities, it is a genuinely captivating experience and a fun day out at Bourton-on-the-Water in the Cotswolds. The Cotswolds attracts an estimated 23 million visitors per year and straddling the river Windrush, Bourton-on-the-water is often described as its Venice. A short walk from our parking space, we crossed one of the main waterways of the village using a picturesque stone bridge and made our way to the bustling entrance of the museum. Admission fee paid, (a sensible £5.50 for an adult and £3.95 for a child, family discount available), we joined fellow happy families on half-term outings. Most of them seemed to be on a mission to find the star exhibit of the weekend, Brum, who was celebrating his 25th anniversary in October.
Most motoring museums will provide you with educational activity sheets for children linked with the various age appropriate curriculum stages so KS1, KS2 etc... A helpful volunteer handed my youngest a sheet entitled 'Trevor's Troublesome Road Trip' which suggested following a colour coded trail across the museum and what to spot at the various stages of the trail. We were also confronted by a self-service shelving unit with more activity sheets aimed at the young and the not so young at which point, between the number of cars, toys, shelves, people, music, paperwork and trail signs, I was considering sensory overload. But am I the target audience? No. The children seemed to have a fantastic time exploring and finding their way through the display. A survey of friends with much younger children and toddlers confirmed this, they all love their visits and can't wait to go back and discover more. Kids in Museum's twitter feed recently included a photograph of some wonderful guidebooks designed by children for children and adults for the Victorian All Saints church in the heart of Cambridge (twitter.com/AllSaintsCam/status/794486008821772288). They are busy, colourful, bright, exciting florid and perhaps just a touch over-decorated which is really just my opinion but so incredibly and emotionally engaging. All the same can be said about the Cotswold Motoring Museum. They know their audience! If you visit before the end of the year you will catch the end of their Football CARazy exhibition for a 'Journey back in time for a nostalgic look at the year England won the World Cup – 1966.' Well worth the trip. But remember your audience too and depending on who you take with you, you will have a very different visitors' experience.