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Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Museum celeb etiquette 101

Something curious has happened to us in the last year, dear readers. In the last 12 months, both Terri and I have (wait for it) met the Queen! Yes it's true! HRH Queen Elizabeth II herself! But the odd part is - that's not so strange in museums. While meeting the longest serving monarch in British history is pretty cool - meeting, greeting and touring celebs and other important people is kind of part of the museum deal. It might be one of the few places where plebs like you and me get to use their titles as Registrar or Curator as the cultural capital you need to meet the stars. Or, let's be honest, sometimes you are just stuck looking after days upon days of filming, waiting to get a glimpse of your favourite Hollywood actor. But the fact is, if you are a museum worker, odds are you are going to end up bumping into a celeb before long. So, drawing on our years of personal experience, here you are -  meeting celebrities in museums 101.

Kristin is pretty excited to give HRH the Queen an exhibition tour. Copyright - Getty Images.

1) Be cool. I think we must start here. The first step is just to be cool around celebrities. Whether you are the Queen or Benedict Cumberbatch, they'd appreciate you not screaming at them or stalking them down the corridors. If a celebrity finds there way into your museum, it's probably because they are themselves there for work - an opening, or research or filming. So they are acting work professional, and so should you. Or at least wait until they are out of the room before freaking out.

2) Know your stuff. In most instances, if you are being asked to meet and greet a celeb, it's because they want your specialist knowledge, whether that's of conservation or an exhibition or a certain subject matter. So to the extent you can it's a good idea to brush up - try and anticipate their questions, or maybe write yourself a little introduction. Having a general idea of what you are going to say also helps calm the nerves. Meeting a celeb is also a great moment for advocacy - lots of people may not know much about your museum or museum work generally, and here is your chance to tell a proper influencer! I know Terri personally explained what a registrar was to the Queen.

3) Stay out of the way. Really celebs are there to get a job done (or just to have a visit) so once you've had an intro or done your bit, just get out of the way and let them get on with it. Particularly important if there is filming happening at your museum - that's lots of intense work and they've got scheduled to stick to! Similarly, if you just spot someone visiting with friends and family, better to just let them be. That said...

Simon Pegg visits a Power Up at the Science Museum.

4) Read the room.
Obviously we are all in it for a selfie, but with any celeb, you've got to time your request just right. They might be in character for an intense next scene or in the middle of a piece of research. Or sometimes, they might just be bored and wanting a chat. In which case, the time is right - get that selfie! Recently had to hold back asking Lucy Worsley for a selfie, while she was very friendly, she needed to get back to work!

Tom Hanks filming Inferno at the Palazzo Vecchio 

5) Have a laugh.
For the most part, if you are asked to look after a celeb in your museum it's because they are there for a work event. So compared to the work they are there doing - your job is probably pretty cool! People love to hear stories about wacky behind the scenes things, objects you've got to touch, amazing experiences you've had in museums. Feel free to share and entertain and make them smile - it's what you are there for! That said, there's no accounting for taste. I once joked to Eddie Redmayne that I was there to keep him from stealing our stuff. Well, I thought it was funny.

6) Know your protocol. So if you do end up meeting HRH the Queen, there is some more formal protocol. You should wait to speak until addressed. Greeting the Queen takes the form of a light hand shake with a curtsy or bow (your choice!). You should address her as 'Your Majesty' in the first instance and 'Ma'am' after that. No touching of course - and just be friendly! She's just like any other museum visitors... right?!

All sounds common sense, but believe us, it can be hard to remember when Eddie Redmayne is in your museum store. Have you had a close encounter with a celebrity at work? We want to hear your story! Tweet us @curiositytweet #museumceleb 

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Moving on up: from early career to... what?

Later this month, the MA will host it's fantastic Moving on Up one-day conference for early career museum professionals. We think it's a pretty great initiative - and not just because we spoke at the first ever one held in Manchester way back in 2013. 2018 marks 5 years since that conference, 6 years since we started the Ministry and a few measly months until we each hit the big 3-0. So that begs the question... when do we stop being early career professionals?!

Ah, so young, so fresh-faced in 2013. 
Maybe its the weight of the big birthday hanging over our heads, but we've spent a lot of time reflecting on where we are actually at in our careers these days. Moving on Up (MOU) is aimed at museum people in the first 5 years of their careers - and we have clocked up more like 7 or 8. Bother. When we started the Ministry in 2012, it was all about being early career professionals trying to make sense of the industry, get ahead, and have some fun. And you know what - we did all those things. We both now have managerial jobs in our respective museums - set programmes, balance budgets, hire staff. Are we the gatekeepers that we went to MOU to try and talk to?

Kristin looking very professional in her current role
It's an uneasy line between early and mid-career in museums - how are you meant to define that crucial shift? Is it years in work? Or is it age? Is it level of responsibility? Or, as one person suggested, having achieved something substantial or innovative (which sounds a terrifying measure of success by the way). I think the challenging thing about museums is that the workforce does tend to be quite young. You will often meet full curators at museums or other quite high level collections workers who are in the late twenties, having been working their way up since about the age of 22. Isn't it possible to be both an early career person and someone in a position of power?

Giving a keynote for the UKRG in 2014

Moving on in your museum career can be quite a scary thing. No longer identifying as early and emerging is scary for, well, the very human reason that aging is quite scary (or disorienting at least). But also, being in more responsible positions means you have an opportunity and an obligation to try and put some of the things you pushed for earlier in your career into practice - valuing the opinions of your junior staff, being more supportive of social media, being risk taking, encouraging diversity in the workplace and in exhibitions - and trying to improve canape provision at openings. And you know what? When it's your budget on the line, you dealing with organisational politics - you kind of get why it was so hard for your boss back in the day. 

Terri repping purple glove club, 2017.
If the goal was to move on up, I think we are on our way. If there's one thing that MOU is absolutely crucial for, it's networking. Networks are a lifeline in museums - partially because its a very unique field and you need to have people around you you can vent to, but also because we are really one small industry, and who you know can be very helpful. Particularly in collections roles (and for some reason especially with registrars) and can feel like there's about 10 people just swapping jobs in different institutions. But, being a closely-knit community is half the fun. 

But there are some things we wish all the early and emerging conferences and workshops had prepared us better for - like leadership skills, decision making, and budgets. These are tasks inherent to more senior roles, and not ones which you often learn before you need to just start doing them. You can be a really really good curator, but that doesn't necessarily mean you can balance a budget or manage a project. Fortunately, there are some good leadership programmes you can go on - the MA Transformers and the Clore Fellowships look particularly exciting. 

MA Transformers session
So what can we say to those of you heading to Moving on Up in a few weeks time - stay enthusiastic, stay curious, stay angry (as there are still many things in the field which need to change), but do what you can to build up not only your networks and social media presence as well as your skill sets. Volunteer to help with project and grant applications, shadow others when you can, take any leadership courses available to you, and for your own good, learn excel and all its mysteries (because it will come for you eventually). 

If you want to read more about our journey check out a few of our advice pieces here: 

Getting into Museums
Pay and the museum sector
Thoughts on museum blogging 
The story so far

Monday, 29 January 2018

The Jaffer-Humphreys Test: A Bechdel for the Museum World

A guest post by the wonderful Laura Humphreys (@tweetingbogart) 

I recently spent two years working on the Exploration Wing Galleries at Royal Museums Greenwich (Opening later in 2018). Walking back from a meeting, my colleague Aaron (Jaffer, Curator of World History & Cultures) and I were chatting about issues of representation, and particularly, of women. Wandering through the National Maritime Museum’s sprawling Neptune Hall, we were continuing a conversation which had started in the meeting: does Queen Elizabeth I represent women?

On the one hand, of course; she’s an imposing figure in our history, who oversaw a ‘Golden Age’ despite the best efforts of her father and the constraints of her time. But on the other hand, she was operating in a patrilineal structure, and the beneficiary of unimaginable inherited wealth, power, and status.  Does she almost… not count?  

Of course she counts, but she’s not enough. It’s a problem reminiscent of the ‘Strong Female Lead’ in films; there are many great films with an amazing lead female character who dominates the screen. However, sometimes those films don’t feel particularly feminist, or even equal, and the best way to articulate that is the infamous Bechdel Test.

The birth of the Bechdel Test, from Dykes to Watch Out For. © Alison Bechdel, 1985.

Based on a comic from Dykes to Watch Out For by Alison Bechdel in 1985, the Bechdel Test provides a simple assessment for the level of female participation in a film/ book/ show. It asks these questions:
  1. Are there at least two female characters?
  2. Do two female characters have a conversation about something other than a man?
If the answer to both is yes, you’re in luck: your film has passed the Bechdel Test! It’s a low bar, right?

Not low enough, it seems. Many films don’t fulfil this most basic of requirements. Toy Story doesn’t pass. The Godfather doesn’t pass. Citizen Kane doesn’t pass. 7 out of 8 Harry Potter films don’t pass (interestingly ALL the books do… but that’s another blog entirely). And nowhere in The Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit films is there a passing conversation. And as for films with that Strong Female Lead? Run Lola Run, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and The Blind Side all fail. Even Alien only passes if you assume the titular Alien isn’t a bloke.

So, in a brazen act of plagiarism, we decided it was time Museums had their own version, to articulate why cursory nods to Queens and wives are not good enough. Enter the Jaffer-Humphreys Test! When visiting (or preferably, developing) a museum exhibition or gallery, ask yourself these two questions:

1. Are there at least two women ‘on display’ in this gallery?
This doesn’t need to be photographs or paintings of women – it needs to recognise the role of women in the history of a place/ industry/ event/ movement. There are very few legitimate cases where women don’t belong in a gallery narrative – so if they aren’t there, someone isn’t doing their job.

Florence goddamn Nightingale pioneered the use of statistical analysis and visual representation of information to save lives.

The Winton Gallery of Mathematics at the Science Museum is a good example; Florence Nightingale’s pioneering use of statistics and Ada Lovelace’s l33t computer programming skills are central stories, in a gallery which celebrates the sweeping geometrical architecture of the late Zaha Hadid. There aren’t images of any of these women, because there don’t need to be – they have parity with their male counterparts.

2. Are they presented in terms of their relationship to a man?

What we’re looking to avoid here is “Ethel was the wife of Great White Man who takes up 95% of the gallery – here is her glove” in a display case near the exit. Mothers, daughters, wives, and mistresses have long been hastily co-opted into a gallery because someone noticed in the final draft that there weren’t any women. This women-as-historical-footnote approach is tokenistic and reactionary, and it needs to get in the sea.

BUT – these women can, and should, be presented as whole beings in their own right. A good example would be Emma Hamilton: Seduction and Celebrity which was on display at the National Maritime Museum 2016-2017.

Emma Hamilton, plotting the downfall of the patriarchy

Hamilton was famously Nelson’s mistress, and has long been maligned as a homewrecker and a distracter of one of our national heroes. This exhibition aimed to portray Hamilton as a political and cultural actor in her own right, a polymath and social influencer long before she ever clapped eyes on Nellyface. The reason the National Maritime Museum collections are rich in her belongings and archives is because she was his girlfriend, sure – but it’s what you DO with that stuff that counts. Even a superficial reading of Emma Hamilton takes you beyond the mistress narrative, and reveals one of the most spectacular humans in European history.

So, to pass the Jaffer-Humphreys Test you need at least two women, presented in their own right, in any gallery or exhibition. As with the Bechdel itself, the stark truth of the current situation lies in the reverse test. Can you think of a single film where two men DON’T talk about something other than a woman?! Almost unheard of.

And so – can you think of a museum gallery where there AREN’T two men, represented in their own right? Me neither.

Bout time we changed that, I reckon.

Another absolute belter from 1985. Not enough has changed.

The Jaffer-Humphreys Test: FAQs

OH CRAP. The exhibition I’m working on doesn’t pass the test! What do I DO?!
Calm down and take a breath, friend. It’s pretty bad that your exhibition doesn’t pass and you should really examine why that is, but you have realised in time and we are here to help! Firstly; women are 51% of the population, currently and historically, so numbers are on your side. Secondly, women are everywhere! You may have to look a bit harder, because we’re working with 2,000 years + of systemic sexism, but women are fierce and have left their mark on history.

For example: Are you struggling with 16th & 17th century maritime history, which women were nothing to do with? You’re in luck! That’s a lie – how about pirates Anne Bonny and Mary Read? Or, the archaeological evidence from the HMS London disaster, which Samuel Pepys wrote about in his diary that shows women and children were on board? Or take a different approach to your sources, like the excellent Hannah Worthen, who is researching the petitions of women in the Civil War to the admiralty for aid to build a better picture of their lives as naval wives.

Archives, objects, and history itself are all deeply political. As boss scholars like Antoinette Burton, Jacques Derrida, and Miles Ogborn have all argued, archives and museums are political actors in their own right, and sometimes their silences speak louder than anything else. What is kept and what is binned is never an accident – and nor are the stories and voices you amplify.   

But, isn’t this a low bar still?
YUP. Supes low. Painfully low. But when the Jaffer-Humphreys Test was first presented, we asked a room of about 30 people – largely museum professionals – to think of a gallery they know well or have worked on, and apply the test. We asked everyone to raise their hands at the end if their gallery passed the test… and, nothing.

This is a tool to push people to recognise that representing women isn’t optional/ too hard/ irrelevant to their topic – it should be integral. Use this test as an indicator of the bare minimum – the job is far from finished at two women, but at least it has begun.

I work at a Natural History/ Geology/ obscure hand tools museum. We have no people, so we have no problem, right?
WRONG, my dude. Rebecca Machin has written about staggering gender bias in Natural History Displays, and there’s a whole book about women in Geology – if you’re just showing people rocks, you have a-whole-nother problem. And hey, did you know that the circular saw was invented by Tabitha Babbitt in 1815? No excuses – humans are an integral part of all museums; our relationship with objects and their history is what makes museums museums, not cupboards.

Does this test account for intersectional representations of women?
Nope – and that’s another reason it should be used with great care. This is one simple test for one facet of representation, but there are almost endless issues with how museums interpret histories and geographies of race, sexuality, health, wealth, and gender, to name but a few. We need to keep looking long and hard at what we say and display; and again, I point you in the direction of far smarter dudes than I, who have written extensively on this subject. And I invite you to mess with the test and come up with a better version!

Does this work for Art Galleries?
Errrr… not always. It does in some cases, and depends on how you apply it. Women are often artists, depicted in art, and generally a major part of the world. However, that doesn’t always translate to representation, so we should definitely be turning the eye of scrutiny towards art galleries. But it’s tricky; art doesn’t have to be figurative, so a Jackson Pollack or a Mondrian exhibition would mess with this test, for example.

I am a confirmed art idiot despite my best efforts, so I would encourage you to seek out the wonderful art historians, curators, and artists who write brilliant stuff about  this subject. They will have a much better plan!

Why does the man’s name come first in the test name?
Aaron & I first presented the Jaffer-Humphreys Test as part of a seminar we gave on developing permanent galleries (The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galleries), which was delivered in an A-Z format. We had about 17 ideas for H, and not a sausage for J. So, not patriarchy, but pragmatism! You should go see the #SeaSem seminars by the way: they’re GREAT.

Do Ships Count?
No mate, they don’t. And if you’re still referring to ships (or any other inanimate object) as “she”, you’re more out of date than Lloyds of London. Try harder.

Sunday, 14 January 2018

Welcome to Purple Glove Club

Do you get a pang of anxiety every time you see a museum promo shot with white cotton gloves? Do you scream at the TV as the 'historian' dons the expected uniform?  We're got the ultimate solution to all collections management problems (well sort of) - introducing the Purple Glove Club! 

The misrepresentation of collections management goes deep into societal ideas of a museum (you know we love to chat about this!). Nope, we’re not all curators, we don’t know everything about every single thing event in history, we don’t know how valuable your Great Nan's vase is, our great institutions are certainly not dusty (*nods to Mark Carnell) and we definitely don't wear white cotton gloves all the time!  

On TV, in newspapers, social media and even in our own institutions the need to wear those impalpable protectors serves little purpose but to signify to the general public that we are handling something precious. They are the favourite accessory of the PR person or journalist, and all of us have been in those uncomfortable photo shoots in which we are forced to wear the white gloves because 'people like them'. Well, people like them because it's what they are told to like. We are ready to dispel the myth and celebrate a bit of purple nitrile.

First, we start with the basics - why do we even need to wear gloves? Yes, this is a question museum people get asked - can't you just do away with them entirely? Especially if its a TV presenter who wants to handle an object. If you don’t already know then head over to this great E-learning tool from Museum of London website.  Every object is different and while they need to be handled carefully in all instances the approach to handling can be diverse so while most objects need to be handled with gloves some just need a clean pair of careful hands or in some (now rare) cases white cotton gloves can be used. 

What's got our gloves in the twist is a thing we like to call the Mickey Mouse problem - getting our collections management hands into Disney costume ready for a show with pristine white cotton gloves. Predominantly the only time we’ve had to use white gloves is for handling photoshoots – in one job I even had a clean pair in my drawer for such occasions! While contorting yourself into an ‘object handling’ pose is a fake representation of museum work so are the cotton gloves. Collections management is a science and we use the gloves you might expect to see in a laboratory or a hospital. The difference between the stereotype of a frazzled, amateurish, secretive curator and a highly experienced museum collections professional can all be boiled down to the hands (and indeed, that's often all you see in photos of museum workers). 

It took several hours to get this shot 
But what is wrong with white gloves I hear you say? We’ll here’s our top three reasons why they are not always suitable: 

1) Can you feel it yet? The density of cotton makes it a bit more difficult to get your hands around an object without a good grip they can slip straight out of your hands (Remember the first time you broke an object?) And no press photo shoot is improved by the object in question getting smashed.

2) Wanna get dirty – you know how sweaty you get on install? Yep, imagine all of that sweat building up onto an absorbent fabric and coming through onto the object (eww). Plus they tend to look pretty dirty pretty quickly - again, not exactly great for your museum brand. 

3) Hazards bingo! If you think all that sweat can make its way out, what can make its way in? Yep, all of our favourite museum hazards can seep into your pores! It doesn't really matter how short a period you are holding the object for - even if its just for a few photos, it's not something we want to risk our lives over! 

If that’s not enough to make you want to go nitrile then ask your favourite conservator their thoughts – there’s plenty more!
But why nitrile?  Well my friend, they are durable, tactile non-absorbant and looks pretty freaking good with any outfit. We feel safe, the objects stay safe, conservators are happy, curators are happy - all that's left to do is spread the word! 

Purple gloves they may make you a bit clam-y but...

They look good with any outfit 

Even when they clash with your hair 
Credit: C John Chase

It took a whole day to rip these bad boys up!
They are super bright and cheerful 

They are tactile and help us do our jobs better

They are durable and protective 

and they bring professional museum work into the twenty-first century!

So are you ready to join the #purplegloveclub? We’re calling for a revolution in museums and to celebrate the wonders that are purple nitrile gloves! The more we can make the representation of these gloves the standard, the sooner we can give the cotton glove conspiracy the boot! Share your photos on insta and twitter and be sure to tag us! 

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Pay and the museum sector

This week, the Museums Association's Salary Guidelines report found that museum works are paid on average 7% less than their equivalents in other fields. While this was no surprise to anyone working in the industry, it does beg the question - now what? We all know museums do not pay well, and certainly not equivalent to the multiple skills and years of experience it demands of its staff, particularly in entry level jobs. But is there any way to change that?

The new curatorship campaign at the National Trust
In April 2017, the National Trust announced that it would be doubling their curatorial staff in two years (at all levels) and advertising posts in the region of £33,000 pa. It was a bold and much talked about strategy to move the benchmark for wages in curatorial work. It was thus far the most proactive change in the heritage sector in a long time and so far (as far as we know) no other major cultural organisations have followed suit. What would it take, and importantly who would it take, to make a more permanent shift in the industry. The Tate? The NPG? The Science Museum?

We think there's three issues here that would need to be addressed if any changes could be made. The first is a lack of government support for the work of museums and art galleries.

1) Years and years of to the bone cuts have forced museums to rely on their staff for more while making due on less. I'm sure there any many people at lots of organisations who would love to pay their staff more, but simply can't. It's very hard to justify benchmarking jobs properly when you are worried about even being able to support the position at all. The government would need to make a significant and sustained investment in museums and in particular in staffing and other administrative costs, for anything to change. #fuckausterity #fuckbrexit

2) Pay. your. interns. Museums function on volunteers and yes, its great to an extent. But where someone is doing proper, skilled work or learning museum vocational skills, they should be paid. Many of the entry level salary packages in museum honestly look more like apprenticeship or internship pay than anything else. Creating more entry level paid roles and boosting the salaries of those working in the more skilled positions would enhance the industry as a whole. But, of course, see above.

3) Fight sexism in museums. Museums are a predominantly female dominated industry, aside from the privileged few at the top of the ladder (and their salaries are doing just fine). It's the entry level and other lower grade posts which suffer from the biggest salaries gap - and we bet you'd find, they are mostly women. Women's work is valued less via a phenomenon called 'employer bias', which is based in deeply rooted stereotypes. This is especially true in the museum industry where people are told again and again they should be grateful to have any job at all.

It's awful and frustrating and we don't really have a realistic solution. All we can say is - when you go for a museum job, negotiate your salary. Don't accept the first thing offered, make sure you are paid as much as that institution can reasonable afford for your role. Secondly, if you do have hiring power, do everything you can to help your HR departments and Trustees benchmark the roles appropriately. Save every job advert you see- especially reasonable ones like at the National Trust. Keep volunteer work volunteer work, don't make people work for free for work that should be a job (even if its more convenient). Thirdly, join your union and use your voice and body to show that you disagree with the current situation, Prospect and PCS are well represented among museums and galleries but don't be put off if your institution doesn't have a rep you can still join - there is a membership fee but its tiered against earnings. 

Stick together and make some noise! Let your  Let your organisations know that if they need to slash budgets it shouldn't come from staffing. Museums are nothing without the people in them.

Friday, 27 October 2017

10 steps to your first museum Lates

How do you plan a good museum event? And crucially- how do you get people to show up for one? A few years ago, museum Lates were a big talking point. What were all those young people doing hanging out in museums?! These days, London museums holding hip and well attended evening events is just standard, with big hitter institutions competing for a culture vulture crowd. So how do you wade into these competitive market of Lates events? We recently gave it a shot and came out shell shocked but wiser…
No I don't work at the V&A, but let's face it- this is what you thought of when I said Lates.

You are probably used to hearing about the Ministry doing the attending of events, not the organizing. The blog tends to be pretty collections focused – a reflection of our professional roles. So, a caveat then – this is a bit of a first time. There are plenty of people who are 100% dedicated to engagement and public programming who plan fantastic events regularly. But for those of us who work at smaller institutions where its all hands on deck, its not as easy as separating staff into their specialties. Even at larger museums, you might be expected to give ideas for public events associated with your work. So, with the understanding that we are not pro-organisers, here are 10 things we learned recently from a first attempt at conceiving and executing a museum lates event *(which may be totally wrong and please do leave corrections and advice in the comments!)

1. Have an idea that fits your museum – Sounds simple right?
 With the V&A throwing their awesome monthly art parties, its not good enough to simply open your galleries later. Nor is it really enough to have a talk. Lots of museums hold lectures all the time – and unless you are having in someone super famous, it’s unlikely to be a big draw. So think about what your can do that other people can’t – what themes make your museum unique? Or is there something in the news/culture that could be particularly relevant or interesting for your organization? Have a hook that relates to your museum as a starting point, rather than something general which could be done anywhere.

Images from a recent Lates event at the Royal College of Physicians featuring multisensory installations by AAVM Curiosities. 

Connect with the seasons 

     So it's October- you’ll have already been seeing loads of Halloween events for the past few weeks. Soon we will be turning to Christmas. It’s difficult to fight the flow of traffic as it were. If there’s a seasonal holiday and you aren’t ‘on theme’ as it were, your event is likely to get lost from all the ‘top 10 festive things to do’ lists and therefore from people’s attention. This isn’t always the case depending on the time of year, but be aware of what’s going on generally in the city and try and draw on it. Keeping in mind tip one above.

3. Include an interesting activity
The reason why Lates events are so popular with millennials is that younger audiences are interested in having unique experiences. People want to do do something with their friends that’s memorable and instagrammable. The big museum lates are always packed with artistic workshops where you can take home your handiwork, silent discos, photobooths, dance performances etc. The evening should offer a unique activity as a ‘pull’ alongside exhibitions, talks or whatever else you have on.

Fun people do fun things like the ever popular silent disco at the Science and Media Museum.

4. Drinks, drinks, drinks

      Yes it seems obvious, but there must be a bar and, ideally, cocktails! At the event I organized recently, I’m fairly sure the historical cocktail we were offering as a part of the ticket price was one of the main reasons people came. A combination of post-work revelry and the unique experience angle. Why not ( just be sure to offer soft drinks as well!)

Why yes I did hear about this event on facebook...

Pick a date!

      So you’ve got your idea, great. It’s season and relevant? Perfect. Includes an interesting activity? Great. And there will be booze? Nice. So, it’s time to pick a date. I mean literally a day of the week. I got so much conflicting advice about this when I was planning. Some people say Mondays and Fridays are right out. But Tuesdays are too early in the week for people to want to come – and so many people do Lates events on Wednesdays and Fridays! Honestly, I’m not sure there is a good answer for this one. Just from personal observation I’d steer clear of Mondays, but really its all fair game. Just be sure you watch out for what the big nationals are doing – you can’t fight a Science Museum Late if you are doing a science themed event, or the V&A for an art themed evening. Even the Horniman pulls a big crowd of museum go-ers – so check rival calendars first before deciding.

Why fight it? Get into the season if you want to make it on a 'must do' list like the Londonist.
      6. Make a Facebook event
      Facebook is the perfect way to share your amazing event creation. It’s free, easy to use and has great links to the city’s museum crowds. Almost all big museum Lates are promoted this way and its easy for people to like and share (plus it reminds them as the date approaches). Can’t go wrong!  
     7.  Get some promotional images
      Facebook might be quick and easy to make, but if you want to get serious about pulling people to an event, you’ll want some eye candy too. Promotional images give people a sense of what they’ll be getting on the evening and help to pad out otherwise wordy notices. Images of your galleries with people in, of people enjoying themselves, of people drinks all work well! If you are running an activity with a facilitator they will hopefully be able to provide you with promotional pictures too. Just check the copyright before you go splashing it everywhere. (And on a related note, but sure you have a professional photographer at your event to take pictures for the next one!)

Doesn't this crowd of museum lovers make you want to go to the NHM?

    8. Push it good
    Werk it girl- Whether you are big or small, well-funded or on a shoe string, there are many ways to push your Lates event (and you should be using them all!). If you do have the money to list an event, it's a good idea. If you have a PR person they are probably the best to speak to about this - but the gold standard for Lates in London anyway are Time Out and the Londonist. You of course can never know if you'll be selected, but hopefully your clever, topical idea complete with drinks and activities will catch the eye of an editor! Don't forget about your own social networks though! London museums are a small world and we all need to look out for each other. Promote on twitter, Facebook, annoy your friends, text your relatives- get the word out! And make sure anyone you are working with (speakers, artists, facilitators) do the same. Partnering up with other organisations to put on an event helps here as well. And one tip for when you're there, don't sit back use this as an opportunity to tweet, Instagram and live stream the shit out the event - for those who couldn't make it make sure they see how awesome it is and book onto the next one!

        9 Invite bloggers
      Obviously museum bloggers are the best! Having bloggers at an event is a great investment in the future. Having people who write about museums for people who love museums is a great way to make it known you are running public programmes, especially as a small museum. Bloggers will be expecting free tickets though, so maybe set some aside.

      10. Check your A/V
      Oh my friends, my last tip and the pointy end of the problem - after all this planning, you've got to actually put on the event! So much to do on the days before and the day itself. Making sure everything is in place, going over catering, setting up furniture etc. Just never ever forget to check your A/V - a broken speaker system, no lighting, no music and squealing microphones can ruin your amazing event in a heartbeat. 

     You've done it! You've organised your first museum event! I hope people come and enjoy it, that you are able to share your museum with new audiences. Organizers very rarely get to have fun at their own events, but try to breath and take it all in. Remember, good or bad, it will be a lesson learned for next time! 
Images from a recent Lates event at the Royal College of Physicians featuring multisensory installations by AVM Curiosities. 

Bonus Tip - Plan an accurate budget!! Events don’t come cheap and are full of surprise costs. Listing the event, paying for A/V, speaker fees and travel, furniture hire, room hire, cleaning costs, security costs, catering can all rack up! Add some contingency in your budget and if it’s the first time you are doing it be sure to get lots of estimates before committing to anything. Don’t forget all planning is risky and be prepared for not being able to earn it all back through ticket sales. The goal of museum Lates is audience engagement not profit, so just be sure you have it in the budget or have a realistic idea of what you can pull in sales (and watch out for Eventbrite fees!).