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Out and About – Learning about Museums in the field

As we’ve mentioned in a previous blog, we at the Mary Rose Museum are very keen on staff development, with training sessions taking place throughout the quiet winter months.

Learning at Hampton Court

Much as schools come to us to learn things they couldn’t do inside the classroom, we decided that we needed to go on ‘school trips’ of our own, learning about how different museums and attractions do the things we do, and how we can do them better. This wasn’t a ‘jolly’ – we had to pay to go on these trips ourselves – but it’s hard to go out in a big group with people you know and not enjoy yourselves while you learn!

 

Through our contacts in the museum world, we were able to arrange trips to three sites around the south east of England;

The Cutty Sark and the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich

The Cutty Sark

As major maritime attractions in London, it was worth taking a look at how they do things. Greenwich also has a Tudor Connection; Henry VIII was born there, and even the Mary Rose spent some time nearby (although it wasn’t her crew’s finest hour…)

Hampton Court Palace, Richmond

Hampton Court Palace

Obviously there’s the Tudor link, but they also have large numbers of staff and volunteers who are required to be incredibly knowledgeable on the entire history of the palace.

The Historic Dockyard, Chatham

The Boatshed, Chatham Dockyard

From one historic hockyard to another, it’s the closest we can get to visit our own site with new eyes! The Mary Rose spent some time on the nearby Medway in her middle years, and it’s also where they filmed the outdoors bits of “Call the Midwife”, which is a bonus!

 

Call the Midwife photo-spot

Will, Kate and Bethany try out the Call the Midwife photo-spot at Chatham dockyard

So, what did we learn from our visits? Our front of house team learned plenty about staff management, shop layout and visitor care, much of which you’ll see when we reopen on 20th July, but as I’m in charge of Digital Marketing (a fancy way of saying “Does Internet things”) at the Mary Rose Museum, the following subjects were the ones I found most interesting to learn, and what appealed to my trusty band of Millennial colleagues.

 

Photography

It was nice to see that, apart from a single gallery at Chatham and the chapel at Hampton Court Palace, photography was permitted throughout all three locations. In the exceptions listed above, this was for reasons of copyright and respect, rather than “just because”. All the photos you see in this blog were taken on our learning trips, which shows just how much freedom we had!

Theatrical interpretation at Hampton Court

(incidentally, if you want to have chats with museum staff, bring a stuffed dog with you, Hatch proved to be an excellent ice-breaker with the guides at Hampton Court!)

Hatch watching the theatrical interpretation at Hampton Court

 

As a museum worker, I instinctively never use my flash when taking pictures indoors at museums. However, I don’t remember seeing many, or indeed any “No flash photography” signs, but even so very few people were using their flash. Now, does this say that people understand ‘the rules’ of museums (all together now, ‘No Touching, No Flash Photography…’) and therefore you don’t need signs? Of course, many of these places were somewhat lighter than our museum, and we find that a lot of people have their flash on automatic, with little idea of how to turn it off! We don’t mind people taking photos, and we’ll be encouraging people to do so when we reopen the Mary Rose Museum on 20th July 2016.

 

Social Sharing

Photo opportunities are always popular with the general public – who can resist trying on a silly hat or putting your face through a hole in a board so you can look like a midwife or the owner of a tea clipper. Even something as simple as sitting on an anchor can be exciting, and make the perfect photo op!

Posing with the Anchor, Chatham Dockyard

Kate, Beth, Will and Hatch pose with an anchor, The Historic Dockyard, Chatham

Obviously this isn’t always possible – we’ve had to cover our guns, or at least put them behind barriers, to stop this from happeneing, as 437 years under the sea plays merry havoc with bronze, and constant contact with human skin oils don’t help!

 

What was interesting to see, especially in Greenwich and Chatham, was that where these opportunities were available, there was always a sign, either attached to an accompanying mirror or behind the cutout, encouraging people to share their images, with details of their social media accounts.

Photo cut-outs, The Cutty Sark

Charissa and Will pose in Photo cut-outs, of the original owner and the figurehead of the Cutty Sark.

Sharing images on social media serves two purposes from the point of view of a museum. Firstly, it serves as feedback for how popular different activities are; are we wasting part of our museum with a dressing up activity, or is it proving popular?

Trying on Helmets, Greenwich

Charissa helps Will trying on Helmets at Visit Greenwich visitor centre

Secondly, and more importantly, it helps promote the museum. If people are sharing images of themselves having fun, their friends will see it and be more inclined to visit themselves!

 

We have several points around the museum, such as our handling area with the longbows, or even with our Henry VIII waxwork in the foyer, or even the stocks outside our education area, all of which are perfect for getting a souvenir of your visit, and sharing them with the world!

 

This blog was written by Simon Clabby, Digital Marketing Coordinator of the Mary Rose Museum. All opinions here are his, and do not represent those of the Mary Rose Trust.

 

 

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