Before lockdown, Manx National Heritage on the Isle of Man had limited digital learning experience and our online learning material was designed to be used in museum sites.
Once the museum had closed to the public, my colleagues and I reviewed the available digitised material. Our community outreach officer and lead video presenter, Katie King, was tasked with producing access guides for our outdoor sites and monuments as part of our Countryside Interpretation Strategy, and we realised these sites would be a natural starting point for our video series once families started to venture outdoors.
Many outdoor sites previously had no related educational resource available, so these sites became our focus. We pulled together a timetable to develop a series of Museum on the Move short films, which were uploaded each week to our website and Facebook page.
The films include links to activity sheets for parents and teachers to use as well as our digitised collections. We were aware that not all families had access to printers during lockdown, so we also included links to other films, 3D models and our archives.
This experience has provided many learning opportunities for the team. Manx National Heritage has a wide remit with relatively small workforce, and my team has become proficient in a wide range of digital skills that extend beyond our specific roles.
My advice to other museums who want to produce digital learning resources is:
- Don’t make more work for yourself
Museums should look at what they already have available that may not previously have been given an opportunity to shine. What additional research or work needs to be done? Can this be developed into an educational package?
- Don’t make it more complicated than it needs to be
Identify your audiences, how they learn and what technology they have available to them.
- Identify your team
Approach colleagues that have the skills you need and realistically identify capacity. A long project will require a longer, committed investment of time. A more polished resource with a longer shelf-life requires appropriate investment.
- Audit your digital collections
Communicate your educational vision with curatorial colleagues who have digitisation responsibility. Knowing what new digital content is on the horizon is key to making engaging resources that fit in with the exhibition and events programmes.
Going forward, we will continue to develop online learning, and as new opportunities become available we will look at the role of digitisation and our online presence.
We are still looking at engaging ways to safely interact with members of our shielded community and will look for digital alternatives for meaningful community engagement.
Digital resources are no longer viewed as competition to our physical museums – they are seen as an integral component of museum learning in 2020.
Anthea Young is the education services officer at Manx National Heritage