The North York Moors were, with Leach Studio (now Core Creative), updating their visitor centre and outdoor interpretation. They were telling a story about the intense industrial development in the Moors in the Victorian era, driven by the discovery of ironstone, and the subsequent explosion of mining and railway development in this tranquil place.
They asked me to write and edit the panels, working closely with the client and design team to create enticing and clear copy.
Eastbury House in Barking is a beautiful Elizabethan manor house, set within an early twentieth century housing estate in east London. The National Trust wished to investigate and understand more fully a ‘lost’ period in the house’s history, between the wars.
My research uncovered all kinds of exciting stories, involving Balloon Aprons, Constance Spry, theatre designers, corrupt councillors and angry local meetings in pubs. I looked through many archives and produced a fully referenced narrative for them to share with their volunteers and staff. I also worked closely with the designer in coming up with a storyline and text for the exhibition in the house, and ran a training session with volunteers.
The National Museum of the Royal Navy in Portsmouth were creating an exciting, volunteer led exhibition and brought me in to train staff and volunteers, so that they could be sure of a consistent and appropriate tone of voice in the final text.
I ran two workshops in engaging writing for a team across two sites, and edited the final text that the team produced. The text they wrote was lively and clear and read as a single voice – exactly what you would hope for.
The British Museum approached me to write the text for their Sheikh Zayed exhibition. It was important that the text conveyed the British Museum’s character of trustworthy authority and confidence. I created a tone of voice that was warm and personal, straightforward and clear, steering clear of a too elaborate or emotional tone in favour of a sensitive, neutral and sensitive style.
Here’s a downloadable, detailed, step-by-step process for how to plan a visitor experience that will be memorable and enjoyable – and memorable and enjoyable to plan!
I’m still working – from home, as usual. Please feel free to get in touch for some advice or thoughts on a project – I’m more than happy to exchange a couple of emails or have a chat for free.
My writing and interpretation coaching is now online. If you’re interested in training now, give me a call for a chat. It’s hard to know what to focus on right now, but it’s not a terrible time to get your house in order ready to start afresh when we can all meet up again.
I realise that most heritage organisations rely on income from admissions, and from cafes and shops, and that this stopped overnight with little warning. There are some free process templates on my blog page that can help you get projects started when you were expecting to be hiring consultants or when key staff have been furloughed.
Finally, do bear in mind that there’s a lot you can do remotely and there’s a lot you can do on a small budget. I’ve linked to one example of a project that achieved a great deal for not much money, most of it with people working remotely and chatting on video calls. If there’s something you’re interested in developing and you have a small pot of money, now really could be the time.
Here’s a free download that gives a detailed, step-by-step process in how to plan an interpretive story.
I was delighted to work with Royal Hospital Chelsea, one of London’s true hidden gems, on a new interpretation toolkit that would guide the organisation through a period of growth and change. I ran a workshop with staff to explore what their core stories were and how they could communicate them effectively and passionately.
Interpretaton planning is a methodical process, but it’s also about enabling creativity and creating a framework where good ideas can flourish. I took a similar approach with the workshop, making sure we challenged ourselves as well as interogating the process thoroughly.
After the workshop I created a bespoke interpretation toolkit for the RHC, a detailed guide to producing interpretation at the site (a unique place with a special history and the Chelsea Pensioners living on site). The toolkit should act as a sure guiding hand in the months ahead – I’m looking forward to seeing what the future brings for them.
It’s hard for small children to play on video calls, because they’re a bit young to make small talk – here’s a free board game template so they can make two copies of a board game and send one to a friend. It gives them something to do when they’re talking on a video call.
This is a strange time and it’s tempting, as a heritage site, to hunker down and wait for it to pass. But in doing so, you’re missing a huge opportunity to connect with your audience and offer them a bit of support.
1. At the moment everyone is keen to feel human connection. Now is a great time to do a community project – you just need to rethink how to do it. What part of your collection can you ask people to respond to at home and share on social media? How can you bring all their contributions together later?
2. You’re an important part of your community, even when your doors are closed. How can you help? Who in your community are feeling isolated or struggling? Can you run small community discussion groups online so people feel more connected?
3. What support can you give to home learning? Share simple downloadable colouring in sheets, easy to do activities, quizzes and craft, or think about offering a weekly class that children can tune into to take the pressure off parents. Remember to make it fun, though.
4. Share your content online, but do it in a positive way. How can you use this as an opportunity to share content in a new and exciting way? Can you use AR to bring it into people’s homes? Can you upload regular short films of your curators focusing on why a particular object is important or interesting?
5. Inspire and enrich. In difficult times people want hope and humour. How can you bring that to them through your social media? The Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences are teaching their dinosaurs knitting and asking them to wear masks.