Attractions
Dan Snow

Encouraging museum and heritage operators to embrace new media and attract the next generation of visitors is vital, argues the British historian and tv presenter. Kathleen Whyman finds out why

By Kathleen Whyman | Published in Leisure Management 2012 issue 4


Why are heritage attractions so important to the British?
This country takes its past very seriously. Two thirds of visitor attractions in Britain are heritage-based and more people go to heritage properties than football matches every weekend.

This is partly because of our extraordinarily rich, well-documented and well-protected industry – we have the buildings, the artwork, the documents and the museums. We have wisely preserved much of our past, which not all countries have done.

How can we get the younger generation interested?
We have to work out how they communicate and get information, and we have to use different tools, such as Facebook pages and games.
There are some good examples out there – the Museum of Modern Art in America has millions of likes on Facebook and there’s a multiplayer online game dedicated to armoured warfare in the mid-20th century, which a relevant museum could link in with.

You are addressing these issues in a keynote speech at the Visitor Attractions Conference in October. How did you get involved with the VAC?
The Visitor Attractions Conference (VAC) is the biggest conference of its kind in the UK and hugely well known. I met Ken Robinson, the chair of the Tourism Alliance, through my work with the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu House, Hampshire and Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.

I recently released an app about World War II and am currently helping museums with their new media strategies, so Ken Robinson thought it would be good if I came along to the VAC.

What will be in your keynote speech?
I’ll give a sense of what I’ve learned from making television programmes. Historical documentaries, museums and visitor attractions all have the same agenda. We’re all trying to appeal to a very wide audience, who can have a limited attention span if they’re out with their families. Writing a script is similar to writing interpretation – you have to get the key facts across without wasting vocabulary. We have to pitch our message just right and grab their attention.

I’ll also talk about the work I’m doing in new media with museums, such as a project with the Battle of Hastings site. Visitors can now download films about the battle that I made for my tv shows.

What work are you doing for Kids in Museums?
Kids in Museums is a forum for young people to express how they aren’t always made to feel very welcome in museums. I’m a trustee and have chaired a few meetings and brought people together to discuss how to make museums more accessible for kids.

Sometimes we introduce children to curating teams to talk about what they find difficult in museums. That’s a very valuable thing. I have a baby daughter and am looking forward to taking her to museums. Hopefully they’ll all be child-friendly by the time we get there.

What can heritage operators do better?
They don’t do much badly. There’s still a tendency to create a ‘don’t touch, don’t shout’ atmosphere, which can be difficult for young people and kids. I like taking my nephews to places and they want to run around and make noise – that’s easier on a battlefield than it is in an art gallery.

One thing operators do need to improve is their new media strategies, such as building up their Facebook and Twitter profiles. People aren’t doing that nearly as much as they should be.

What sparked your interest in apps?
Tablet computers are the future. People love them and apps are very easy to use on tablets. It’s an exciting way of delivering information directly to an audience. With an app, I’m talking directly to the person who bought it. It’s just between me and them; it’s almost a personal relationship.

Also, apps are flexible. Once a book has been written, there’s nothing you can do about the inevitable errors. With an app, you can just amend, adapt and update as new information becomes available.

What feedback have you had about your app?
The timelineww2.com app has been widely reviewed and has an average rating on iTunes of five stars.

We’ve sold many thousands and hope that schools start to adopt them. We have plans to release a few more apps in the autumn. I’ll be revealing more at VAC.

How can heritage-based attractions use new media?
Too many heritage attractions simply put information about the ticket price and opening hours on their website. That’s just turgid. You need to create an unusual, funky vibe. If you operate a castle, put incredible facts about your past up each day to keep people interested. Tell them about the ghosts and other horrible history-type facts. Be brazen about things that will bring people to the attraction and the website. Use clues, quizzes, and treasure hunts to keep them logging on. Create a buzz – very few operators do that.

The Imperial War Museum is doing really well now. People submit photos online of their ancestors who fought in the wars and they’re being made into an online exhibition. Many visitor attractions could do this.

Once you’ve done something, plug it aggressively so people know about it.

What do you want to learn at VAC?
I’m interested to find out how operators are going to work with the Asian marketplace in the next 30 years. What plans are there to make our sites accessible to the potentially vast audiences who want to come and see European castles, Tudor stately homes and the Crown Jewels?

We need to make sure we’re ready for the rush when it comes.

ABOUT TIMELINE WW2

The Timeline WW2 app is a definitive history of the Second World War. Using an interactive timeline, it brings to life the cataclysmic events of 70 years ago for a 21st century audience.

More than 100 films from the archives of British Pathé and US broadcasters, commentary by Dan Snow and Robert MacNeil, 600 still images and 1,500 written entries give the viewer an insight into the events of WW2 in a completely new way.

 



The Timeline WW2 app

about vac
The Annual National Conference of Visitor Attractions takes place on 11 October 2012 at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre, London, UK. To book, go to www.vac2012.co.uk
The National Motor Museum, Beaulieu House, UK
Portsmouth Historic Dockyard is among the heritage attractions Snow is working with
Portsmouth UK’s Historic Dockyard’s Action Stations Helicopter experience
 


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SELECTED ISSUE
Leisure Management
2012 issue 4

View issue contents

Leisure Management - Dan Snow

Attractions

Dan Snow


Encouraging museum and heritage operators to embrace new media and attract the next generation of visitors is vital, argues the British historian and tv presenter. Kathleen Whyman finds out why

Kathleen Whyman
Snow at ancient heritage site Stonehenge
The National Motor Museum, Beaulieu House, UK
Portsmouth Historic Dockyard is among the heritage attractions Snow is working with
Portsmouth UK’s Historic Dockyard’s Action Stations Helicopter experience

Why are heritage attractions so important to the British?
This country takes its past very seriously. Two thirds of visitor attractions in Britain are heritage-based and more people go to heritage properties than football matches every weekend.

This is partly because of our extraordinarily rich, well-documented and well-protected industry – we have the buildings, the artwork, the documents and the museums. We have wisely preserved much of our past, which not all countries have done.

How can we get the younger generation interested?
We have to work out how they communicate and get information, and we have to use different tools, such as Facebook pages and games.
There are some good examples out there – the Museum of Modern Art in America has millions of likes on Facebook and there’s a multiplayer online game dedicated to armoured warfare in the mid-20th century, which a relevant museum could link in with.

You are addressing these issues in a keynote speech at the Visitor Attractions Conference in October. How did you get involved with the VAC?
The Visitor Attractions Conference (VAC) is the biggest conference of its kind in the UK and hugely well known. I met Ken Robinson, the chair of the Tourism Alliance, through my work with the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu House, Hampshire and Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.

I recently released an app about World War II and am currently helping museums with their new media strategies, so Ken Robinson thought it would be good if I came along to the VAC.

What will be in your keynote speech?
I’ll give a sense of what I’ve learned from making television programmes. Historical documentaries, museums and visitor attractions all have the same agenda. We’re all trying to appeal to a very wide audience, who can have a limited attention span if they’re out with their families. Writing a script is similar to writing interpretation – you have to get the key facts across without wasting vocabulary. We have to pitch our message just right and grab their attention.

I’ll also talk about the work I’m doing in new media with museums, such as a project with the Battle of Hastings site. Visitors can now download films about the battle that I made for my tv shows.

What work are you doing for Kids in Museums?
Kids in Museums is a forum for young people to express how they aren’t always made to feel very welcome in museums. I’m a trustee and have chaired a few meetings and brought people together to discuss how to make museums more accessible for kids.

Sometimes we introduce children to curating teams to talk about what they find difficult in museums. That’s a very valuable thing. I have a baby daughter and am looking forward to taking her to museums. Hopefully they’ll all be child-friendly by the time we get there.

What can heritage operators do better?
They don’t do much badly. There’s still a tendency to create a ‘don’t touch, don’t shout’ atmosphere, which can be difficult for young people and kids. I like taking my nephews to places and they want to run around and make noise – that’s easier on a battlefield than it is in an art gallery.

One thing operators do need to improve is their new media strategies, such as building up their Facebook and Twitter profiles. People aren’t doing that nearly as much as they should be.

What sparked your interest in apps?
Tablet computers are the future. People love them and apps are very easy to use on tablets. It’s an exciting way of delivering information directly to an audience. With an app, I’m talking directly to the person who bought it. It’s just between me and them; it’s almost a personal relationship.

Also, apps are flexible. Once a book has been written, there’s nothing you can do about the inevitable errors. With an app, you can just amend, adapt and update as new information becomes available.

What feedback have you had about your app?
The timelineww2.com app has been widely reviewed and has an average rating on iTunes of five stars.

We’ve sold many thousands and hope that schools start to adopt them. We have plans to release a few more apps in the autumn. I’ll be revealing more at VAC.

How can heritage-based attractions use new media?
Too many heritage attractions simply put information about the ticket price and opening hours on their website. That’s just turgid. You need to create an unusual, funky vibe. If you operate a castle, put incredible facts about your past up each day to keep people interested. Tell them about the ghosts and other horrible history-type facts. Be brazen about things that will bring people to the attraction and the website. Use clues, quizzes, and treasure hunts to keep them logging on. Create a buzz – very few operators do that.

The Imperial War Museum is doing really well now. People submit photos online of their ancestors who fought in the wars and they’re being made into an online exhibition. Many visitor attractions could do this.

Once you’ve done something, plug it aggressively so people know about it.

What do you want to learn at VAC?
I’m interested to find out how operators are going to work with the Asian marketplace in the next 30 years. What plans are there to make our sites accessible to the potentially vast audiences who want to come and see European castles, Tudor stately homes and the Crown Jewels?

We need to make sure we’re ready for the rush when it comes.

ABOUT TIMELINE WW2

The Timeline WW2 app is a definitive history of the Second World War. Using an interactive timeline, it brings to life the cataclysmic events of 70 years ago for a 21st century audience.

More than 100 films from the archives of British Pathé and US broadcasters, commentary by Dan Snow and Robert MacNeil, 600 still images and 1,500 written entries give the viewer an insight into the events of WW2 in a completely new way.

 



The Timeline WW2 app

about vac
The Annual National Conference of Visitor Attractions takes place on 11 October 2012 at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre, London, UK. To book, go to www.vac2012.co.uk

Originally published in Leisure Management 2012 issue 4

Published by Leisure Media Tel: +44 (0)1462 431385 | Contact us | About us | © Cybertrek Ltd