Hello! Lucy, Graduate Trainee at The Elgar Birthplace Museum here and back after being away for far too long! Myself and the other trainees have been so very busy that we’ve barely had time to blog, but we have resolved to try and post more often in the hope that our stories and experiences may be of help to some of you out there who are interested in working in the Museum sector.
Since I blogged last (was it really May last year?!) I have been busy working hard on planning, developing and finding funding for a brand new Family Events Programme, designed to appeal to local families and encourage more children to engage with Elgar through fun workshops and craft activities.
Over the coming weeks, I plan to fill you in on my experiences of planning and creating a Family Events Programme from scratch for a wonderful independent Museum in Worcester’s beautiful countryside. So here goes with post number one… Trial Events…
Elgar’s Amazon: They say don’t work with children or animals…
In my last blog-post, I told you all about my plans for ‘Elgar’s Amazon’, a series of family events based upon Elgar’s 1923 cruise up the River Amazon. The events went ahead in August 2013 as planned, with 3 family activity days and a visit from some real Amazonian animals (and some other more cuddly creatures such as this giant bunny!)
In attempt to make the Museum more accessible for families, all of the ‘Amazon’ events were free with Museum admission. We also ran a special ‘one child free with every paying adult’ offer, in the hope of appealing directly to families looking for ways to entertain their children over the school holidays.
The Amazonian fun began at the beginning of August, with two children’s trails- a ‘Bug Hunt’ around the lovely gardens (for younger children), and a ‘Compass Trail’ (for older children) which allowed children to become explorers and navigate the Museum with compasses. The ‘Bug Hunt’- the least complicated trail- was the easiest to create and also the most popular with children, whilst the ‘Compass Trail’ was more complex and required more explanation (it was however, still popular with older children as hoped). I also created a small exhibition on Elgar’s journey to the Amazon, with the aim of making the inspiration behind the Amazon theme more apparent for visitors.
We held 3 activity days in mid-to-late August: 1 entitled ‘Music of the Amazon’ at which children created Amazonian-inspired musical instruments such as rainsticks, and 2 entitled ‘Amazonian Animals’ with activities such as ‘Create a Bird of Paradise’ on offer for families. Finally, local traveling zoo ‘Animal Mania’ brought a variety of wonderful animals- from snakes to coatimundi- to the Museum. This was easily the most nerve-wracking day of all, but was well-attended and passed-by without any animals escaping!
The ‘Amazon’ events really helped me to get a good idea of all the different elements that you need to think about when putting together events for families:planning age-appropriate activities; creating easy-to-follow children’s trails; compiling and costing equipment lists; finding a traveling zoo (!); getting references; researching and creating my first exhibition; applying for funding; creating and managing budgets; creating flyers and posters; marketing online and in local papers; creating press releases; writing risk assessments; relaying information to Front of House staff and so many other things that I would never have even considered before the Amazon events.
Unfortunately,they also highlighted a few things that I had not considered beforehand, but which have helped me with preparations for the new Family Events Programme (such as ‘Keep in Touch’ forms and photography permissions).
The trial Amazon events also gave me the valuable opportunity to talk to parents and children and get feedback about the things that attracted them to Museums. Equally, I was able to get a better idea of families’ preferred days for Museum visits, the sort of marketing that was most effective, and the types of activities that were most popular with visitors.
I also encouraged visitors to write comments on our ‘Feedback Vine’ (essentially green-paper leaves that people wrote upon and then tied to a string ‘vine) which proved a successful way of gathering feedback from children in particular. Getting feedback about the events was not only useful but incredibly rewarding- seeing and hearing families enjoying something that you have created is just wonderful.
Having the experience and confidence that these events gave me has been invaluable in planning a year-long programme of activities and events for families.