When a museum opens a new gallery or space, there’s always a danger that the accompanying digital product will try to do too much or too little. The Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) might have got it just right with Mused, the kids’ website launched around the opening of the new Young V&A in Bethnal Green, London.
Rather than reprising the content of the galleries, you get a site that takes aim squarely at engaging its target audience where they are, online.
The site is nicely designed, spacious and unfussy, with well thought-out content in the form of trivia quizzes (guess the musician), personality quizzes (which Taylor Swift song are you?) and challenges (name every item of food in Minecraft), as well as some collections galleries and videos.
The site is firmly and knowledgeably aimed at its age group, and definitely doesn’t look “educational”, yet still never strays far from the V&A’s core territory of art, design and fashion.
There’s lots of content here, enough to keep anyone busy for a while. However, there’s no indication of how often it might be updated – no dates on quizzes, for instance. Websites have room to grow and change in ways that static galleries don’t and this will need refreshing a lot sooner than the content of the Young V&A itself.
But this isn’t a website made for the likes of me. I performed extremely badly on almost every quiz and challenge, especially identifying style trends of the early 2000s. So I asked some younger members of my household to take it for a spin.
The Pokémon challenges held the attention of Gilbert (12) for a while (but then he is exceptionally interested in Pokémon). Dot (9) took a little longer and enjoyed cute objects, the Shakespeare games and more.
I’ll leave the last word to her: “You could tell it was a museum website, but it was really good.”
Liverpool John Moores University Collections & Archives
Not all socials are created equal, and not all socials work equally well for everyone. This might be why the Special Collections and Archives team at Liverpool John Moores University has built an audience on TikTok 30 times as large as their X/Twitter following.
What’s the recipe? John Moores has sourced a few crucial ingredients. A charismatic presenter in the form of the project archivist, a cast of willing colleagues as a backing chorus and reliable and repeatable formats.
Each Mystery Archive Monday, the project archivist rolls a many sided role-playing game dice to pick a storeroom, a bay, a shelf and an item to examine that day (spoilers: the archive holds a lot of material about Stafford Beer).
Some of the videos run long for TikTok at over a minute, but the presentation style, characteristic jumpy editing and captions make them compelling.
It’s clearly a passion project for the project archivist, which begs the question of sustainability, but for a medium as ephemeral as TikTok, perhaps that matters a little less.
Commitment to engagement with the work of the collections means more than just putting out great videos. The comments sections are full of questions, and answers from John Moores, about the work of the archive – and just occasionally compliments about how good the project archivist’s nails are looking today.
Crystal Palace dinosaurs, from Historic England
Ever wanted to look up the right nostril of a mosasaurus? Historic England has you covered. It has made detailed 3D scans of all 19 of Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins’ sculpted prehistoric creatures from London’ s Crystal Palace Park, and put them on the Sketchfab platform.
Hawkins’ models, made in the 1850s, are anatomically dubious, but you won’t get much closer to a labyrinthodontia (above) and his pals. Historic England is using the same scans to plan the restoration of the life-sized dinos in the park.
Danny Birchall is a digital museum consultant