Partnership led by Northern Ireland Museums Council - Museums Association

Partnership led by Northern Ireland Museums Council

In 2016, visitor profiling research for local museums in Northern Ireland revealed that representation was lowest among those in the 18-40 age category, who accounted for only around a quarter of all visits. People were visiting museums as children, with their families or when they’re older, but there was a lack of engagement from those in between.

In 2018, NI Museums Council partnered with Thrive and Seedhead Arts to run The Late Shift, an audience development project to help museums attract this missing audience. The Late Shift was a series of after-hours, adults-only events that took place in museums across Northern Ireland during the Halloween season. More than 1,000 paying visitors attended six unique events.

It was the best event I’ve been at this year

Visitors honed their zombie-survival skills at North Down Museum in Bangor, joined a carnival of delights in Bagenal’s Castle, Newry, gave sunrise yoga a go at Mossley Mill in Newtownabbey, went “into the mystic” at Armagh County Museum, joined a 15th-century house party in Enniskillen Castle, and braved the Dark Tower, an evening of music and scares at Derry-Londonderry’s Tower Museum.

Along the way, museums had support and training for capacity-building, creative programming, evaluation, and marketing and communications. One third of attendees had never been to that specific museum prior to The Late Shift event and 68% of attendees said the event changed their perception of the museum.

Almost half of attendees were aged 40 and under, 86% said they’d attend the event again and almost half felt that it encouraged them to find out more about local history. As one participant said: “It was the best event I’ve been at this year. It looked amazing, great acts, great crowd and a fantastic advertisement for the museum.”