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Digital Narratives project: Jane Austen's House Museum, Hampshire

Museum Name

Jane Austen's House Museum

Museum Contact

Madelaine Smith, Marketing and Events Manager


April 2014 - March 2015


At the start of the project Jane Austen’s House Museum (JAHM) didn’t have a clear objective for using social media apps and websites. They had a good presence on Facebook but were unsure of how to use Twitter. The museum also has very limited resources and capacity to run campaigns and was struggling to build participation. It was also frequently confused with Jane Austen’s House Museum in Bath.

Summary of activity

Working with lead consultant Abhay Adhikari (@gopaldass on Twitter) Jane Austen’s House Museum applied the Digital Identity framework to conceive and execute several focussed social media campaigns to promote projects and events in an integrated way. They now manage multiple social media channels and have a narrative supported by a clear and confident voice. In doing so, they have created a 21st century identity for their organisation that can engage with existing visitors as well as with a global online audience. In doing so they are able to uphold their reputation as a centre for expertise.

Strategic development

JAHM has developed a responsive rather than a reactionary approach to social media. A combination of narrative-based engagement techniques and advance planning has allowed them to increase engagement on Facebook and Twitter. They have experimented with additional channels such as Eventbrite and Storify and plan to use Pinterest for future projects. They have also developed a MailChimp mailing list. In addition to marketing and communications, they are using these channels for audience development and to create new opportunities for participation.  As a result they have now incorporated social media activity on a day-to-day basis.

Culture change within the organisation

A small team manages Jane Austen’s House Museum. Several members of staff work on a part-time basis. At the start of the project the responsibility of social media engagement fell on a single member of staff. During the course of this project the attitude of the team is changing and they are starting to get involved in creating content. The museum now wants to engage its team of volunteers to support its social media activity.

The major project

Every museum participating in 'Digital Narratives' was required to develop one major project across the year. Jane Austen’s House Museum conceived and promoted a Maker Event on social media. They used an integrated storytelling approach to combine this event with other significant projects such as the celebration of Jane Austen’s birthday and the Stitched Together Exhibition and associated activity. Over 200 people attended on the day and represented a mix of age groups and specialist skills.  As a result of the success of this event the museum is now using social to promote its underused physical assets and raise its profile within the local community.

Key learning

  • Plan in advance: It is important to plan for social media engagement in the early stages of a project. A simple schedule of social media activity also allows you to carry out engagement on a day-to-day basis. This approach allowed the museum to create maximum impact using limited resources.
  • Invest in a good mobile device: A smart phone or tablet is extremely useful to create good quality multimedia content on the fly. It can also be used to capture audio and photographs from events that can be shared on social media at a later date.
  • Start with a story: Rather than talk about individual events, think about the long-term narrative you want to create about your organisation. This approach has allowed the museum to take a more integrated approach to introducing different activities and projects.
  • Share process: It is important to engage your online audience with behind the scenes insight. This also allows you to create a distinct voice and profile for your organisation on social media. It also enables other members of your institution to create content as well as manage social media channels.

Further development

  • The museum will host a social media surgery for volunteers and stewards to encourage and enable them to carry out day-to-day engagement activity.
  • The museum will continue to champion the maker movement to enable crafters and technologists in the local and regional community to collaborate.
  • The museum will continue to experiment with different social media channels with two clear objectives – use them for marketing and communications and for audience development.