Our new museum

Claire AllanBy Claire Allan, Imagine gallery leader and Learning Officer

“Can I have my family back please? Husband+2 last seen entering museum AM today. If they’re staying for tea, I need to know.” Twitter, 2 August 2011

When we flung open the new street-level doors to the National Museum of Scotland at the end of July after a three-year closure and redevelopment project, we in the Learning and Programmes team hoped that there would be families of all ages amongst the crowds. And we weren’t disappointed, with grandparents, parents, teenagers and overexcited toddlers all raring to go. But where should they go first?

Our old, rather tired animal displays had always been a ‘natural’ draw for our youngest visitors, so we were confident that our revamped Natural World galleries would remain a key destination for families even without the lure of our new Tyrannosaurus rex cast skeleton.

But we were also opening six new World Cultures galleries. Many of these objects had not been on display before, and we knew from speaking with family visitors early in the project that they felt less confident about this area of our collections. So we decided to develop a gallery dedicated to families with children under eight, an inspiring space for them to actively engage with our World Cultures and Art and Design collections as a starting point for exploring the other new displays.

In the first hour after opening, 6000 visitors began to find their way around the new museum spaces. The looks on the faces of the first children to discover Imagine made all our hard work immediately worthwhile.

Imagine is brightly coloured

Imagine is brightly coloured and vivid.

Imagine is a bold, bright space where museum objects are brought to life through music, stories, creativity and play. Children know immediately it is a space for them – colourful strips of light fill the roof void, and vivid swathes of red, green, yellow and orange vinyl cover the floor. Everything is a little bit nearer the floor, with peepholes, flaps to lift and slide, and spaces too small for grown-ups.

Objects are central to the Imagine gallery ethos, acting as a focal point for each of the interactive experiences on offer. After months of detailed development, it was wonderful to watch small hands lift our giant ‘slices’ of teapot, selecting a yellow base, a red handle, an orange body and a yellow lid to create their own personal design, inspired by a tower of teapots from across our collections.

Making teapots in the Imagine gallery

Making teapots in the Imagine gallery.

We tried to keep the written interpretation to a minimum, but we have included simple questions alongside the objects to encourage observation, ideas and opinions. They give parents and grandparents a starting point for a conversation without having to know facts and figures, and allow older children to take a lead. ‘Can you find the biggest, and the smallest?’ or ‘Which one do you like best and why?’ are questions they can take with them to other galleries as they continue to discover together.

The ‘Celebrate’ area is introduced by a larger-than-life Chinese dragon suspended from the ceiling, created by artist Kim Bergsagel as part of a community engagement project with local groups. Of course, celebration is all about getting together, dressing up and having fun, so here children can try on costumes from Africa, China and the Caribbean, play a range of percussion instruments and even dance on the musical stepping stones.

Artist Kim Bergsagel with the Chinese Dragon she created

Artist Kim Bergsagel with the Chinese Dragon she created.

Dancing on the musical stepping stones in 'Celebrate'

Dancing on the musical stepping stones in ‘Celebrate’.

Most of the activities are sensory, tactile, low-tech. One of the most popular areas is ‘Play’, which we developed specifically for toddlers. A low, curved bench has six hidden compartments containing toys, some from our collections and others more recognisable examples, like a finger-puppet story book and Mr Potato Head. The simple act of revealing these, by lifting or sliding a flap or opening a drawer captivates young children and entices them to investigate further. This section also has age-appropriate toys that reflect the rest of the gallery, such as a play tea set, percussion instruments and baby board books. The built-in seating creates a safe environment for cruising babies and young toddlers, while giving parents and grandparents a much-needed chance to rest their feet!

Young visitors can also develop their own story-building abilities and literacy skills. One of the more unusual objects in the gallery is a silk sculpture of a sardine tin with a mermaid inside it, which forms the centrepiece of a jigsaw-based activity. Simple story elements are depicted in words and pictures for visitors to put together to create their own story of how the mermaid got into the tin, and what happened when she was found. This is proving to be a truly collaborative experience within families, as younger children are led by the visual stimulation of the fun cartoon images and older ones enjoy piecing the words together in silly sentences.

And when they want to a quieter space to relax, they can get comfy on a bean bag and share stories in the Story Corner.

Reading together in Story Corner

Reading together in Story Corner.

This area features animal-themed objects from around the world, from tiles showing scenes from Aesop’s fables to tiny Japanese figurines in the shape of a tiger and a monkey, and visitors can explore animal stories from many cultures through a wide range of children’s books. We have also developed story bags to connect some of the books with objects elsewhere in Imagine and the wider museum galleries. As well as acting out ‘The Hare and The Tortoise’ with fabulous glove puppets, families can also test their knowledge of animal speeds with an information book and a flashcard quiz, before being encouraged to find the Animal Sprint activity in our Natural World galleries, where they can be part of a virtual race with a cheetah, a hippo and a crocodile!

So is it working? In a word, yes! Imagine is proving a firm favourite, encouraging frequent repeat visits. And in the words of one of them – “Give a 5-year-old the casting vote on ‘what to do today’ and chances are you’ll end up at the National Museum of Scotland…”

Stop press! National Museum of Scotland has been longlisted for a Kids In Museums Family Friendly Award 2012! The short list will be announced in April and the overall winner in May. Thanks to all the visitors who nominated us!

Anita BriggsBy Anita Briggs, Digital Media Content Creator

RBS Museum Lates: First Look Live was a journey into unknown territory  for National Museums Scotland and proved to be a roaring success.

We’ve had the idea of having an after hours event for the 18+ age group for a while and, with the support of the RBS Group, RBS Museum Lates was conceived. Tickets went on sale in the first week of October and were completely sold out within a fortnight! All together some 1,200 were distributed, and they proved to be the hottest tickets in Edinburgh.

Many departments, led by our Learning and Programmes team at National Museums Scotland, worked together to bring First Look Live to fruition and this led to the exciting line up and array of live acts and activities on the night at the National Museum of Scotland.

Radio 1 DJ Ally McCrae played host to a stellar line up of Scottish talent, with exclusive performances by Ben Butler & Mousepad, S-Type and Found. A Chillout Zone provided a laid-back calm in the South Hall with face painting and retro games. The Imagine gallery became the cool dance spot with Silent Disco from Fresh Air FM under the watchful eye of the giant Chinese Dragon.

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Special activities could also be found in Natural World galleries with safari snaps and creepy crawly encounters, bracelet making on the Magic Carpet in World Cultures and contributing to an evolving artwork in the Connect gallery.

As a roving photographer, I took shots throughout the evening of before and during the event and uploaded these to Flickr and posted regular tweets on Twitter.  A time lapse video of the action in the Grand Gallery was captured showing the whole event from set up to finale too!

You can see more of the live action here:

This is what some of those that came on to First Look Live had to say

“This is just a really good idea for an alternative night with friends!”

“Music and drink make standing in a museum more fun.”

“Fantastic venue and concept – awesome silent disco.”

“Vibrant atmosphere, a great feeling of excitement on entering the Grand Gallery, v-well put together, an unexpected and different night out.”

“Music and hot booze in a wonderful environment and I’ve had a good look at this rock!”

“It was all amazing! Loved every bit  music everything. No kids!”

By Jim Tate, Head of Conservation and Analytical Research

Although the Industrial Museum of Scotland was founded in 1854, it was several years before its bespoke premises were constructed on Chambers Street, the building now known as the National Museum of Scotland.

The Royal Engineer, Francis Fowke, was initially asked by the Science and Art Department  in London to draw up plans for “the Edinburgh Museum”, but by 1860 he was working on the detailed development with the architect for the Office of Works in Edinburgh, Robert Matheson. In May 1861 the contract documents were formally signed for what was to become the Edinburgh Museum of Science and Art.

Arrangements for the foundation stone ceremony

By October, building work had been proceeding steadily. Thomas Archer, Superintendent of the Museum, writing to the Science and Art Department in London, advised them that the date for the formal ceremony to lay the foundation stone was fixed, and that the honours would be carried out by HRH Prince Albert: “I have now learned that it is definitely arranged without fear of alteration that his Royal Highness the Prince Consort is to lay the foundation stone of the Industrial Museum on the 23rd inst.”

Thomas Croxen Archer, Director of the Industrial Museum of Scotland, 1860-1864.

Thomas Croxen Archer, Superintendent and then Director of the Industrial Museum of Scotland, 1860-1864.

The ceremony was clearly going to be an exciting event for Archer, and indeed for Edinburgh in general, and by following his letters, it is hard not to feel that his nose was put out of joint by not being more involved in the arrangements, which were handled by the Lord Provosts Committee. 600 tickets were printed, of which Archer kept 200, passing the remainder to the  Committee for distribution, one feels rather to his annoyance, since he later says that he had insufficient to give to all the newspapers and left this to the Committee.

Obviously he still felt that he was not being kept properly informed however, adding at the end of one letter: “PS. May I be permitted to know what steps have been taken by the Committee for the attendance of the Police at this place on the 23rd?”

The Edinburgh Museum of Science and Art by Francis Fowke

Watercolour of the Edinburgh Museum of Science and Art believed to have been painted by Francis Fowke and exhibited in the Royal Scottish Academy.

Laying the foundation stone: 23 October 1861

According to the newspapers of the time, the weather on the day of the ceremony was “propitious… mild and clear, with occasional gleams of sunshine, and there was nothing to prevent, but everything to encourage, a full attendance of all classes.”

How much of Edinburgh was on holiday we do not know, but the report continues to tell how the city assumed a holiday aspect. Flags were hung from windows, especially the South and North Bridges, Princes Street, Leith Street and Waterloo Place, while floral and other decorations graced many of the premises along the route which Prince Albert was to take. The way was also lined with soldiers, including the Royal Artillery, complete with a field battery of Armstrong guns. By one o’clock, the pavements along the Bridges “had become completely blocked up” with every window and balcony along the way “crowded with fair and eager faces”.

Prince Albert was to combine two similar functions on this day, laying the foundation stone not only for the Museum, but also for the General Post Office on Waterloo Place.

The foundation stone ceremony at the Post Office.

The foundation stone ceremony at the Post Office site. The viewpoint appears to be from the upper window of the west end of Register House. The whole of the grandstands must have been constructed specially for the occasion.

After the ceremony at the Post Office, the Royal Party proceeded up the Bridges to the quadrangle of Old College, where the generosity of the University was praised in giving over their Natural History collections “so that the public may have the advantage of studying the technological specimens in connection with the natural products from which they are fashioned“. From here they went through a window and across a bridge to the site of the Industrial Museum.

There was a dense throng of spectators on the platform at the Museum site, which was covered, a wise precaution against the uncertain Edinburgh weather.  The windows of the Gaelic Chapel opposite were thronged, as were all others overlooking the ceremony (Chambers Street had not yet been built, so buildings on the north side of the site were much closer than they are now).

Once the Royal Party and dignitaries were assembled, the proceedings started with prayer. Thomas Archer then deposited in a cavity in the foundation stone “a glass jar, hermetically sealed, containing the following articles:

  •     a copy of the Edinburgh directory;
  •     Oliver and Boyd’s Almanac;
  •     a glass jar containing the following gold and silver coins: a sovereign, a half sovereign, 5s, 2s, 6d, 2s, 1s, 6d, 4d and 3d., besides a penny, a half penny and a farthing in bronze;
  •     Johnson’s view of the building and the Post Office;
  •     Johnson’s new plan of the city;
  •     Lectures etc in connection with the Industrial Museum by the late Professor George Wilson;
  •     also a portrait engraving;
  •     Lecture by Professor Archer to the Chamber of Commerce;
  •     Hislop’s Postal Sheet for October 1861;
  •     Hislop’s Time-Gun plan of the city of Edinburgh;
  •     the Edinburgh newspapers of the 23 October 1861.”

It must have been a fair sized jar.

The trowel was presented to Prince Albert by the Right Honourable William Cowper (the Chief Commissioner of HM Works), and mortar was ceremoniously spread. The Earl of Dalkeith placed the inscription plate on the stone, and the top part of the stone was lowered (the picture of the Post Office ceremony shows the stone as two parts, the bottom section hollowed out for the container).

The stone's inscription plate

The text on the stone's inscription plate.

The Prince then re-ascended the steps into the College and, once more saying that he had been ‘highly gratified by the day’s proceedings‘, he got into the State carriage and departed. We are told that the whole proceedings only occupied a few minutes.

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert had been spending their autumn in the Highlands and it proved to be the last holiday they were to spend in Scotland before Albert’s death. Fifteen years later Victoria wistfully wrote: “The last time that my dearest Albert ever appeared in public was in Edinburgh on October 23, only six weeks before the end of all, when he laid the first stone of the new Post Office, and I looked out of the window to see him drive off in state, or rather in dress, London carriages, and the children went to see the ceremony.”

Pyrotechnic Night poster to celebrate the laying of the foundation stone.

The celebrations were not over – a Great Pyrotechnic Night was being organised by one Mr T C Barlow, and was billed as “one of the most Extensive and Magnificent Display of Fireworks which has ever before been witnessed in Scotland”. The cumulating event was to be one which, apparently, Mr Barlow had been working on for two months: “being a Magnificent Transparency of great Magnitude, representing, by the aid of Crystallised Fires, a true Representation of the Edinburgh Post Office which, after a few moment’s gaze, is suddenly transformed into an Exact Model of the Industrial Museum.”

Oddly enough, after all the ceremony, the present whereabouts of the foundation stone is not known. None of the contemporary letters or reports give enough information to position it precisely. It certainly does not appear to be beneath the Earth in Space gallery, since this was stripped back to the walls in the 1960s prior to installation of the evolution galleries, nor in the area beneath the Grand Gallery, which was extensively excavated for redevelopment of the National Museum of Scotland, again with no trace being detected. The stone was presumably not too far below ground level since we know that the vaults had already been built.

It was not for another five years that the first phase of the Museum, the East Wing and two-thirds of the present Grand Gallery, was opened by Prince Alfred in 1866.

The present National Museum of Scotland has undergone various developments during its 150 history.  Have a look at the most recent images of the from the re-opening of  the latest re-development on 29 July 2011 and see what has changed over the years.


Lyndsey ClarkBy Lyndsey Clark, Interactive Displays Manager

In the development of the new galleries at National Museums Scotland, I managed the making of 13 films in total across all the galleries. Each of these films was developed for one or more of the following three reasons:

1. To give context to the objects on display
2. To create an ambience in the gallery
3. To tell specific stories about objects or the people they relate to.

In the Natural World galleries, we have three large-scale presentations. Animals in Action is a huge three-screen presentation that hangs among the animals in the Wildlife Panorama, and Earth Events is a large-screen film in the Restless Earth gallery. Both of these films aim to give a context for the displayed objects, whether that’s animals or geology specimens.

Animals in Action

Animals in Action in the Wildlife Panorama.

Earth Events

Earth Events in the Restless Earth gallery.

Universe Odyssey is the only film we have that has a sit-down theatre. This film uses live-action, CGI and library footage to tell the story of the history of the universe from the big bang to the origins of life on earth. It introduces the narrative thread of the Earth in Space gallery and links the sections of that gallery – matter, space and life.

Universe Odyssey

Universe Odyssey in the Earth in Space gallery.

In the World Cultures galleries, some of the films provide context for the objects on display, as in the Natural Science galleries. For example, there are films showing weddings and markets from around the world in the Patterns of Life gallery and films showing both Cham dancing and African masked performance next to the related displays in the Performance and Lives gallery.

Cham dancing

Cham dancing film in the Performance and Lives gallery.

Some of our films, however, go deeper into the stories of the people involved in the displays. For example, in the Living Lands gallery we have four films which all relate to contemporary communities living traditional ways of life. We felt that this was important to show because, although we do have some fantastic contemporary objects, the majority of our collections are historic.

Living Lands starts with an introductory film. This shows four 2-3 minute clips taken from longer documentaries. Each represents a group of people featured in the gallery – the Inuit, Tibetan nomads, Australian aboriginal people and the Kwakwaka’wakw people of the North Pacific coast of North America.

Living Lands introductory film

Living Lands introductory film.

This film allows these four peoples to talk in their own words about the challenges of keeping traditional ways of living within their specific landscapes alive for their children. We feel this film summarises the messages of the gallery and hope that this introduction gives a context to help visitors relate to the objects on display.

In the Arctic section of the Living Lands gallery, we wanted to tell the story of a project which we have been involved with since 2002. Many of the objects in our collection from the Arctic region came from trades between Tlicho people of northern Canada and Scottish people working for the Hudson’s Bay Trading Company in the 1850s. In partnership with the Tlicho Nation and the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre in Yellowknife, National Museums Scotland organised reciprocal visits between Canada and Scotland and exhibitions in both countries. Objects were taken to Canada and used to facilitate storytelling between elders and children about the past. This film tells visitors to our gallery today about this project and is narrated by John B Zoe of the Tlicho Nation and John Andrews of the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre, who we filmed when they attended the opening of the exhibition Extremes here in Edinburgh in 2007.

Living Lands Arctic film

Living Lands Arctic film.

One of the most ambitious new acquisitions in the World Cultures galleries was the commissioning of a set of fully functional and entirely authentic prayer wheels which visitors can interact with. The story of how these prayer wheels were made, who made them, what goes inside them, and what they mean to Tibetan Buddhists is told in the film that sits alongside the wheels in the gallery. Once the prayer wheels are complete, you cannot see inside them. It is only by filming the process that we can show visitors that each wheel is filled with rolls and rolls of paper on which tiny mantras are printed thousands of times, and blessed. It’s also an opportunity to tell people about the monks at the Buddhist monastery Samye Ling in the Scottish Borders, who made the wheels for us.

Prayer wheels and the film about their making

Prayer wheels and the film about their making.

Another ambitious collections project we undertook during the development of the new galleries was the complete refurbishment of a Maori war canoe or ‘Waka’. A Maori artist, George Nuku, came to the museum and worked with our conservators to research, disassemble and reassemble the object with additions carved in perspex by George. The project gained a lot of publicity at the time in 2008/9 but visitors seeing the canoe for the first time now or in five or ten years’ time will not know the story. This is why it was very important for us to film the entire process, and beside the object we offer visitors a choice of three film clips to watch.

Maori canoe

Maori canoe in the Facing the Sea gallery.

Films about the Maori canoe

Films about the Maori canoe.

Lyndsey ClarkBy Lyndsey Clark, Interactive Displays Manager

When you visit the re-developed National Museum of Scotland, you may not think about how we came up with the interactive exhibits in the galleries. But, if you visited the museum in the summer of 2009, you may have been approached by museum staff with rough cardboard mock-ups and asked to help us test our ideas.

Those who haven’t seen this process in action might find it hard to imagine so here are just a few examples of the process of paper ‘mock-ups’, taken from the World Cultures galleries.

Family Belongings

This interactive can be found in the Patterns of Life gallery. It started with some wonderful photographs we found, in a book called ‘Material World’ by Peter Menzel. The photographs show families from around the world outside their homes with all their possessions. The working title for the ‘Patterns of Life’ gallery was ‘People and Possessions’ and so the photos felt like a very good fit. We sought permission to purchase the rights to use the images and were granted.

Next, we felt that the exhibit would really benefit from an active way in which visitors could discover the images, and also place them in a geographical context. So I bought a large geopolitical wall map and inserted some of the images into the map behind flaps. We tested this on gallery with our visitors and it proved to be extremely popular with families.

Paper prototypes for Family Belongings

Paper prototypes for Family Belongings.

The next problem was what kind of map to actually use in the gallery. We noticed in our testing that visitors really enjoyed looking at a reasonably detailed map showing the location of countries they had visited or heard about or read about. We felt strongly that our map, while simplified, had to retain that level of detail.

The gallery Patterns of Life is divided into four regions – Africa, Asia, Middle East and Americas. Each area in the gallery has a colour, and so to link this exhibit with the rest of the galleries we used the same colours in our map.

The final exhibition. Photo © Jenni Sophia Fuchs.

The final exhibition. Photo © Jenni Fuchs.

How would you use a shield?

This interactive in the Living Lands gallery went from this:

Paper prototype for How would you use a shield?

Paper prototype for How would you use a shield?

To this:

The final exhibit. Photo © Jenni Fuchs.

The final exhibit. Photo © Jenni Fuchs.

You can see with this exhibit that we were almost there at paper-prototype stage. This exhibit sits in the section about the traditional lifestyle of the Australian Aboriginal people, and looks at how nomadic people can have many uses for one object. It sits beside a showcase display of shields from the museum’s collections.

Power Dressing

Back in the Patterns of Life gallery, there is a series of cases about costume and dress. The cultural elements of how we dress to communicate gender, religion, status and many other subtle messages are very complex. We wanted to introduce an exhibit here for children, to allow them to look in a fun way at people’s traditional dress around the world.

Starting with ideas from children’s games and books about dressing figures in different costumes, we eventually decided to test a simple matching game where the figures would be split into heads, torsos, legs and feet.

Paper prototype for Power Dressing

Paper prototype for Power Dressing.

This proved to be a successful and fun activity for families visiting the museum. It’s a very simple idea, but the next challenge for this exhibit was in getting the illustrations right. Our curators did lots of research for each of the figures we wanted to use and gathered a series of reference photos for the illustrator to work from. After many versions, we were eventually happy with each figure.

The final challenge was to getting a structure that was stable enough, easy to turn and safe for little fingers and yet still elegant to fit with the gallery design.

I’m very pleased with the result; I hope visitors enjoy it too.

The final exhibit. Photo © Jenni Fuchs.

The final exhibit. Photo © Jenni Fuchs.

By Noelle Campbell, Marketing Manager (Special Projects)

As I write, I’m sadly in the last week of a six month secondment from VisitScotland, the national tourist board.

The National Museum of Scotland has always done really well in terms of attracting tourist visitors, whether they’re from Perth, Scotland or Perth, Australia. However, there was a feeling – quite rightly! – within the Marketing & Development directorate that the opening of the superb new galleries, greatly enhancing the offering at the museum, was a real chance to shout our marketing messages from the rooftops, attracting more tourist visitors from far and wide then ever. I was delighted when I was asked to join the museum from VisitScotland to help devise a marketing campaign to attract visitors to the museum from beyond the local catchment area of within 90 minutes or so drive-time from the museum.

However, my role was actually multi-faceted in that I was also charged with developing relationships with a range of strategic partnerships to extend the reach of the museum’s promotional messages, and with generally supporting the wider marketing team with the main re-launch campaign.

It was straight in the deep end in week one, when my manager Jane Ferguson asked me to start work immediately on the production and implementation of a year-long tourism marketing campaign. That was a sign of things to come, and it’s been non-stop ever since – a common feeling for everybody who’s been involved with the opening!

It’s been a simply fantastic experience being involved with such an amazing, high-profile cultural attraction at such an exciting time. I’ve liaised with colleagues who are expert in everything from dinosaurs to native American costumes, and if anyone had told me back in March that I’d be organising banners the length of Princes Street, decorating an entire building in St Andrew Square, and having a Tyrannosaurus rex built for Jenners store window, I’d never have believed them. However all this and more has been part and parcel of the last six glorious months.

 ‘Jennersaurus’ takes centre stage in the iconic Princes Street’s store

‘Jennersaurus’ takes centre stage in the iconic Princes Street store.

Discovering the even bigger picture! Our creative in situ at St Andrew Square

Discovering the even bigger picture! Our creative in situ at St Andrew Square.

Even though I’ve only been here for a relatively short time, I felt extremely proud and  privileged to be part of the opening day celebrations on 29 July, and I can only imagine how the permanent staff across the organisation who’ve been building up to this moment for years must have felt.

Being in front of the building when the doors were thrown open, with fireworks going off and a roar of approval coming from the crowd was just an amazing experience, particularly when followed by the news that we’d more than doubled our visitor target, welcoming over 22,000 visitors in the first day alone. All in all, a magical day which I’ll never forget.

I hope my support has been helpful to the Marketing & Comms team over the last few months, and that I’m leaving them a legacy of a stronger understanding of the tourism industry and a range of new ways in which they can make their marketing efforts work even harder on behalf of the museum in the future. I’m very much hoping to continue to work closely with colleagues at the museum on my return to VisitScotland in September. There are lots of opportunities ahead to get the message out about the museum’s great new offering and upcoming exhibitions programme, particularly with the Year of  Creative Scotland kicking off in 2012.

More conventional promotion with Princes Street Visitor Information Centre

More conventional promotion in Princes Street Visitor Information Centre.

It’s been a huge pleasure working with colleagues right across the museum, and I’d like to say thanks to everybody I’ve worked with for all their help during what has been an incredibly busy time all round.

I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity of working here, and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it!

By Alex Hinton, Marketing Manager – Special Projects

Joining the Museum in May on a three month secondment with the marketing department meant I was thrown into a growing whirlwind of activity and excitement!  It’s been great fun and a real buzz as everyone is so animated about the new museum.

I work with The Audience Business, Edinburgh’s audience development agency for the cultural sector, but have been on loan to the museums (!) to work on the re-opening. Through TAB I’ve been involved with the museum for several years and was delighted when they asked me if I’d like to work with them on secondment.

I was brought on board as another pair of hands to help with the exciting campaigns and opportunities around the opening and also to look at strategies for maintaining audiences after the event.  It’s been difficult trying to juggle the immediate needs with thinking longer- term as pressing deadlines always take precedent and there is only one shot at the opening. I’ve picked up on a colourful mix of activities from internal displays to media competitions with national titles, from getting the word out to our cultural and commercial partners to organising new banners to take over Chambers Street.  Plus even random requests to sort out old road signs and source a Victorian gentleman’s costume for the opening ceremony (thank you Lyceum Theatre!).

Putting up banners on Chambers Street

Putting up banners on Chambers Street.

Something big is coming... poster outside the Museum. Photo © Jenni Sophia Fuchs.

Something big is coming... poster outside the Museum. Photo © Jenni Sophia Fuchs.

Grant Stott in Victorian garb

Grant Stott in Victorian garb, courtesy of the Lyceum Theatre.

Looking beyond the opening to the task of maintaining high visitor numbers: the new museum has so much to offer and I’m considering some of the ways the marketing team can harness this. We are working with a new box office and e-marketing systems to help us to improve communications with visitors and link into our growing social networking activity, which is looked after by the excellent Digital Team. I’m also looking at how we target audiences in future particularly families and young people.

Part of my time has been spent hot desking in the offices of the design and exhibitions team which has been a lively insight into how things really work behind the scenes at the museum! But I’m back in the familiar territory of the marketing department again now and can see all the careful planning coming together for what promises to be the biggest thing in Edinburgh this summer.

I’ll be sorry to be leaving just when the fun really starts.  But I know that even after my secondment is over, I’ll be spending a lot of time here. My 9 year old can’t wait to visit and with the new interactive galleries for families this will be one bit of pester power that I’ll happily give in to. Though unfortunately I know I won’t be able to stop myself checking out the ticketing, banners and communications every time I visit.

Kids having fun in the Imagine gallery

Kids having fun in the Imagine gallery.

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