South Western Federation of Museums and Art Galleries

Five useful tips about 'visits' for museums and heritage sites

We’re always excited to get people together from the heritage sector around the South West to learn, share and network. Our conferences are a great way to gain insights from experts about certain topics, share our own experiences, and connect with others. This year, our Day 1 topic was about ‘visits’: How we can improve the visitor experience for all audiences? How we increase visitors from all backgrounds? Here are five tips we learnt from that day:

1. We need to understand the importance of objects to the story, however big and special that story is. For example, we learnt about how the Mary Rose reconnected the very special ship to the equally important objects found with the ship. This gave a stronger focus on the story of the people (and a dog!).

2. To tell your story, you need to get the right people to tell it. You need to find people who are curious to talk to visitors. Recruit people on attitude, and seek those that will sell your passion and vision naturally. Human interpretation still comes out as the most entertaining.

3. Teamwork is important. Get the whole team involved in PR angles and opportunities. Look for stories that will create a sense of place and what is it that visitors connect with naturally.

4. Understand the value of blogs. They can be great for sharing learning and joy in partnership projects. They can also form part of the evaluation and advocacy/legacy of a project.

5. Don’t underestimate the importance of ‘dressing-up’ opportunities and the need to maintain historical accuracy. What are such opportunities saying about your venue? Remember that sometimes less is more!

This blog post was written by Kevin Ward (Twitter: @17Sep1944). Kevin is the Museum Development Manager of the Museum in the Park, Stroud, Gloucestershire and Accreditation Mentor to the Jet Age Museum. He was previously the Head of Collections Management at the RAF Museum. Kevin is the current Vice Chair of the South West Fed.