There are countless stories in UK museums waiting to be told, and most of them spring from collections.
Collection stories lie at the heart of Museum Crush, Culture24’s collaborative storytelling platform, which we developed to help museums connect with an appreciative audience via our weekly email digest, our website and our social media channels Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
We also publish forthcoming exhibition features, news about acquisitions and our ever- popular guides to Britain’s best places to find everything from Pre-Raphaelite paintings to pottery, but digging out unique stories, often from smaller museums across the UK is what we’re really all about.
Developing these stories is a collaborative process, in which we discuss the collection and the objects and stories your museum wants to share – and also which specific audiences you’re trying to engage with. There are many different levels of engagement and measures of success, which often depends on which audiences are most important to your museum.
For a local museum, a successful story might involve connecting with a small but focussed local group of people who may then come in and talk about those objects, adding information, or feeling a strong connection to it. For other museums, success might be about reaching beyond the local area to reach different audiences and bring the museum’s brand to a different demographic or location.
Some of our stories have aimed to reach subject-specific audiences overseas, like our Clem Beckett Speedway story, which was developed with Gallery Oldham and was picked up by Sideburn Magazine, which is widely read by bikers in Japan and the US. Others aimed to get help from a local audience to find out more about a collection, like Littlehampton Museum’s amazing collection of First World War letters.
Collections stories usually begin with me interviewing a curator, collections assistant, volunteer or whoever knows the story, then developing a feature, working with the museum on revisions and approval. We try to do most of the writing, but sometimes the museum writes it themselves; either way it’s about finding the best way together to tell the story. The basic elements are the object, story, and attractive pictures – once we have those in place, we’re in business.
Museum Crush works with all museums across the UK, but we particularly like to focus on smaller, non-nationals because we feel that these don’t always get the opportunity to share their stories with a wider audience. We like to think Museum Crush helps them punch above their weight.
One of our most popular recent stories was written by Henfield Museum, telling the story of the never-worn Victorian trousseau owned by a reclusive but benevolent local woman. This account from the Devil’s Porridge Museum revealed the diaries of women in Britain’s biggest munitions factory during the First World War and helped the museum get some national newspaper coverage.
We guarantee a route to an ever-expanding audience of people who are interested in museums via our Museum Crush Digest, the weekly email newsletter which currently has 14,000 subscribers and a 37% open rate.
We know that Museum Crush stories bring surprise and delight into people’s digital lives, whether that’s via the digest, the website or social media platforms – but wherever and however people find them, the key is developing collection-based stories together: that’s what we want to do with more museums across the UK.
So get in touch by emailing me, editor Richard Moss – and let’s work together to find an audience for your stories.