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Digital Narratives project: National Motor Museum, Beaulieu

Museum Name

National Motor Museum, Beaulieu

Museum Contact

Angela Willis, Curator of The Caravan Club Collection

Dominic Ivaldi, Digital Collections Officer


April 2014 - March 2015


At the start of the project the museum wanted to use social media apps and websites to create a unique digital identity for the Caravans and Charabancs project, funded by the Heritage Lottery fund, by highlighting the 400 charabanc images. They had an existing presence on social media but were unsure of how to present the images as a distinct project so as to increase access to the collection to audiences online as well as bring visitors to the display in the museum. The museum staff had limited capacity to run major campaigns but they wanted to use a combination of social platforms to create new opportunities for online and offline participation.

Summary of activity

A sample of Storify narratives created by staff to highlight the collection of images

Working with lead consultant Abhay Adhikari (@gopaldass on Twitter) the museum applied the Digital Identity framework to present the collection of images in a strong narrative context using a variety of topical themes and colloquial references. They used a combination of social media, sharing and networking sites to tell the stories about these images as well as offer behind the scenes access to museum staff. The team made many focussed attempts at building participation by using crowdsourcing techniques as part of their campaigning strategy. They approached this as an Action Research project, continuously applying learning from their campaigning activity to develop and refine their engagement strategy. They also worked with consultant Mar Dixon  (@mardixon on Twitter) to widen out participation on social media. This includes participating in global Twitter campaigns such as #MuseumSelfie and #MuseumWeek.

Strategic development

The team has developed a social media strategy that has a strong focus on narratives. This allows them to present collections in a topical manner using multimedia content that different audiences can relate to. Throughout the project they have experimented with presentation of images and tone of voice to create a style that is playful but at the same time, it keeps the focus on the collection rather than the person managing the social media channel.  They have also explored a range of open source platforms and licensing agreements to publish images online. As a result of this strategy, the team has reconsidered its decision to develop a microsite for the project. Instead, they have a single landing page and a multi-platform social media strategy.

Culture change within the organisation

Creating a conversational and chatty style on social media

At the start of the project capacity was a key issue. After a number of short-term and focussed activities, the project team were able to demonstrate the relevance and usefulness of social media to their colleagues at the museum. As a result, there is growing support across the organisation.

The project team now try and involve their colleagues in the engagement strategy. This could be creating content or responding to audience queries. For example, since the launch of the collection of images online, the team has received several requests for help on how to identify the images. The museum has published the advice from an expert as a Storify online.

The major project

Every participating museum was required to develop one major project across the year. The museum promoted a collection of 400 images of caravans and charabancs on social media. This project was funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and offered the team the freedom to improvise and experiment.

They carried out a number of focussed activities of which the major campaign was the #Top10 Charabanc Destinations. This was the first time the team carried out planned social media activity and researched material to create a resource that could be used to encourage social sharing as an engagement strategy.

The storify for the #Top10 Charabanc Destinations campaign

Since then they have continued to use Storify as their primary social sharing platform. The Storify platform integrates the content that the museum publishes on other channels and presents it within a narrative framework. This includes images from Flickr and Instagram and Tweets.

The objective of the campaign accompanying the #Top10 Storify on Twitter was to encourage audience participation using crowdsourcing techniques.  This entire campaign has helped the team develop a more responsive approach to social media. They increasingly plan ahead, rather than react to user comments on social media. Secondly, instead of focussing on community size, the team are using a multi-platform approach to engage different national and international interest groups. In their own words, they are evolving a digital identity whereby they are not just about cars… (but) a source of unexpected histories and social change.

Key learning

  • Start small: A social media campaign can be complex and requires a steep learning curve. This is why it is important to break down a campaign into a series of smaller activities. Take time to grasp the operations and strategy of using different channels before launching a multi-platform campaign.
  • Keep it simple: The subject matter of your social media campaign may be rich and complex. However, it is important to keep your social media narrative simple. This is not the same as dumbing it down. Use a variety of media (audio, video, words and images) to talk about the subject matter. This will make it accessible to a much wider audience.
  • Invest in CPD: Invest some time in personal learning and development. It is important to understand major trends and gain a basic understanding of how to use some the most popular social media channels. Not only will this help you make better use of your social channels, you will also be able to engage and support your colleagues.
  • Be Creative: Social media is not just a marketing tool. It is an important resource that can enable you to share your professional interests and passions with your audiences and your peers online. With this in mind, be more creative in how you express yourself as well as how you develop your institution's voice online.

Further development

  1. The team associated with the Digital Narratives project will continue to involve their colleagues across the museum in their engagement strategy. This also includes the central marketing and communications team.
  2. The team will continue to explore how social media can help them generate a demand for the collection of images.  They will also look into syndication of their content to other websites and interest groups. This will help them remain relevant.
  3. The team will try and source volunteers and create new opportunities for offline participation using social media. For example, organising behind the scenes tours and opportunities to work directly with collections.