Lockdown update

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.

Royal Hospital Chelsea

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.

Five things you can do now

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.

Chirk Castle

Chirk Castle, a National Trust property on the border between Wales and England, wanted to improve how they told stories to visitors and help older children and adults have a fun experience (the younger children were more than happy with the dressing up and wooden swords). They asked me to work with them as a Creative Producer, devising new, interesting ways of telling stories and producing them as a pilot to evaluate.

We created a beautiful animation, projected directly onto the dungeon walls, a bespoke board game and consequences game and a theatrical installation, experienced, by brave visitors, mostly in the dark.

I also devised an evaluation structure and plan and a lock-down plan (a new service I hope won’t be relevant for long!) and wrote a guide for volunteers.

The Auckland Project

The Auckland Project is a project that spans over a thousand years, seven venues in one beautiful setting.

The Auckalnd Project is all about Bishop Auckland, a small town but one with a big history and big ambitions.

They asked me to come in and help hone the skills of their curators and content leads in the run-up to producing a vast amount of content for their new sites. I ran a bespoke training programme, produced tone of voice guides and style guides and helped mentor the team through the process.

I also proof-read all the texts for print.

The Box, Plymouth

It was an exciting time for Plymouth’s museums.

A new, multi-million pound gallery and museum complex on North Hill was being built to house Plymouth’s most important heritage collections on one site. A programme of high profile exhibitions, artist commissions and events will run alongside the permanent gallery displays, making The Box a key cultural attraction for the city and region.

A striking contemporary extension on the back of the former Museum and Art Gallery and Central Library is being built and St Luke’s Church is being transformed.

They asked me to provide writing training for their team of curators, to help everyone write with a shared voice. I also developed a suite of gallery tones of voice for them, so that the visitor could experience subtle changes of voice between different galleries. After the training was complete, I mentored them through the mammoth task of writing gallery text and edited the final draft for them. I also did a final proof read of all text before print.

National Army Museum

The National Army Museum were undergoing a huge, transformative capital project and rolling out a new brand at the same time. They understood that their writing needed to shift a gear to keep pace with these massive changes.

I created a bespoke programme of training for them alongside a new Style Guide that helped them to express the new museum’s character eloquently and accurately. The HLF-funded training also involved in-depth ongoing mentoring as the content teams put together the all-important new text for the museum galleries. I did a final proofread of all texts before production.

After the success of the content team training, the training was rolled out across the organisation, with a training programme and Style Guide for every team in the museum.