Find the right tone of voice for your museum

Patrick Steel, 19.12.2016
What’s the Story one-day seminar takes place at MShed in Bristol on 24 January
“There are plenty of rules about writing clear, accessible text but finding the right tone of voice for your museum starts with understanding yourselves and your relationship with your audience,” says Lucy Harland, who will chair What’s the Story: Creating Text That Connects with Audiences, a one-day seminar at MShed in Bristol on 24 January.

Harland is the director of the consultancy Lucidity Media. She has spent more than 10 years in BBC radio production, and is a qualified museum curator and an Associate of the Museums Association.

At the event, speakers from a wide range of organisations will discuss a number of different topics including: developing audience-focused approaches to museum text; new interpretive approaches; applying tone of voice; and deconstructing and interpreting language to remove barriers to understanding. Delegates will also have the chance to have a go at a number of writing challenges.

Rhian Tritton, the director of museum, conservation and education at SS Great Britain, will share her clear and no-nonsense approach to text, how it is used to interpret Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s famous steamship, and its role in the new Being Brunel museum.

And Meghan Dennis, the curator of Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse, will talk about a three-year project to unearth and tell stories about people who lived and worked in the Norfolk workhouse.

The project saw Dennis and her team work with the descendants of workhouse inmates, deal with sensitive and emotional subjects and use text to make links between historical and contemporary issues.

Natalie Mills, the associate curator at London’s Science Museum, will talk about how text was created for Wonderland – a new interactive learning space designed to encourage children to think scientifically. Mills will explain how text can be used to prompt and support interactivity.

“At best, your written language encourages your readers or visitors to feel welcome, included, interested, engaged,” says Harland. “At worst, they feel bored or excluded. It’s a conversation and you need to make sure you are pitching it to the best effect.”

Links and downloads

What's the Story: Creating Text that Connects with Audiences