Children taking part in Museum Minis, one of the activities developed by the museum as part of the project

Using front-of-house to engage with different communities

Zara Matthews, 16.07.2018
Case study from Melton Carnegie Museum, Leicestershire
Melton Carnegie Museum in Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire, is taking part in a review and development project improving how we work with audiences, which is supported by Museum Development East Midlands and funded by Arts Council England. 

At the start of the project we identified the existing knowledge and skills of the front-of-house (FoH) team as key to improving how we engage with our communities. Developing those skills and building confidence has been essential to the project’s success.

We did this through:

  • Setting out a clear message that we can try things, and it’s okay if it doesn’t work as long as we learn.
  • Training and development for the FoH team including participating in a Group for Education in Museum programme, attending conferences and undertaking a customer service course, Welcome Host Gold.
  • Team analysis using personality-type assessment.
  • Visits to the off-site stores and other museums in the region (the museum manager worked the front desk so everyone could go).

Activities that were developed by the FoH team included:

  • Museum Minis: multi-sensory activity sessions interpreting the museum collections for young children.
  • A film written and produced by the museum’s Young Volunteers group about the story of the Marquis of Waterford who, with several friends, went on a drunken rampage in 1837 painting parts of Melton Mowbray with red paint.
  • Creating a Map of the museum with “must see” recommendations for visitors.
  • Creating an engaging and responsive Facebook page.
  • Introducing new uniforms, hanging baskets, room fragrances, notice boards, leaflet racks and lockers

What we learned:

  • We gave ourselves permission to try things.
  • We trusted our instincts and used our knowledge and experience.
  • We stopped worrying about what we couldn’t do and started to do what we could.
  • We put people at the centre and asked what do our audiences want and expect from us.

In just over a year, footfall to Melton Carnegie Museum has increased by 18%, while followers and shares on social media posts have doubled, and we are seeing a big increase in positive comments from visitors. It has been amazing and we are very proud of what we have achieved.

Zara Matthews is the manager of Market Town Museums, which comprises five venues, including Melton Carnegie Museum