National Army Museum’s ‘Archives Weekend’
By Katy Jackson, public programmes manager at the National Army Museum
We asked Katy Jackson from the National Army Museum to give us an insight into the success of their event ‘Archives Weekend’. Find out how the National Army Museum used their collections for a Being Human 2017 event, how attendees interacted with the archives on the day, and what advice Katy would give to those wishing to be part of Being Human in the future. This project was part of our open call pathway.
Tell us a bit about your event. What subject areas did you cover and what did you want to achieve?
‘Archives Weekend’ saw a variety of activities take place, including behind-the-scenes tours of the National Army Museum’s archive stores, a talk about the museum’s institutional archives and a family activity called ‘Archive detectives’ where children uncovered the story of Crimean Tom, a stuffed cat on display in the Soldier Gallery.
The aim of our event was to encourage the public to interact on a deeper level with our collections – learning about the fascinating stories they tell, but also understanding and appreciating the work of our archival staff in looking after these precious items.
How did you make your event appeal to your target audience? How did you go about spreading the word of the ‘Archives Weekend’?
Our event was aimed at adults and families from the local area. It featured in our own ‘What’s on’ leaflet and we also pushed our event out on our website, through online listings and on social media.
What worked particularly well in the planning, design and delivery of your event? Did you face any challenges?
We think the variety of our offer worked well – behind the scenes tours, a talk, and family activities meant that there was something for everyone. In fact, our behind-the-scenes tours were more popular than we had expected, but we couldn’t add more because of limited staff resource that day.
What was your motivation for getting involved in Being Human? How useful did you find it to be part of the festival?
Being Human is a great opportunity for the museum to showcase the research outputs and research potential of its collections. It’s great to be part of a festival which champions research – it opens the door to an audience who might not otherwise visit the museum, as well as giving our existing audiences something new to try. It gives us the chance to ‘think outside the box’ and creatively interpret the themes chosen each year.
It’s also great to be part of the Being Human festival community, especially on social media. On a personal level I have met some great people through Being Human. On an organisational level, the festival offers the museum some great exposure and the chance to be listed alongside many wonderful and prestigious institutions.
Do you have any top tips for future Being Human event organisers?
1. Put yourself in the visitor’s shoes – if you picked up the Being Human festival brochure, what would make you go to something?
2. Think about the overall visit – it’s not just the specific activity someone is going to, they’ll probably visit your café, shop, toilets etc. Think about offers and deals, and cleanliness!