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Digital Narratives project: Mary Rose Museum

Museum Name

Mary Rose Museum

Museum Contact

Seal matrix being printed

Simon Clabby, Digital Marketing Co-ordinator


April 2014 - March 2015


At the start of the project the museum wanted to establish a friendly, human voice but at the same time, a voice that is representative of the entire museum rather than one person. The team working on the project wanted to change the perception that museums are full of rooms with objects you aren’t allowed to touch. The museum already had an active social media presence and the team was keen to engage with an online audience on the subject matter of the Mary Rose. There weren’t any major barriers with the exception of funding to procure a piece of equipment for the major development project – Print a Piece of History. The team also had to be careful not to interfere with the museums commercial activity online, which is an important source of revenue.

Summary of activity

A sample of some of the objects from the Mary Rose which were to be modelled

The museum applied the Digital Identity framework to develop a friendly voice online. This includes sharing behind the scenes content via a series of blog posts as well as starting a content creation group open to anyone in the museum who wanted to work on digital and social media projects. One of the major outcomes is that the responsibility of managing the museums social media channels, app and online shop is now shared. This created extra capacity for the museum to conceive and implement the Print a Piece of History project, which connects social media engagement to a tangible outcome using 3D printing technology.

Strategic development

Wireframe image of demi-cannon. A wireframe gives a skeletal preview of the object to be printed.

The museum has created an open and shared framework for managing its social media presence. As a result, it is building capacity using existing resources.  There are colleagues in the museum who excel at using social tools in a personal capacity and independent projects. They also have good content development and technical skills. These members of staff now maintain key social and digital channels. For example, the shop is now managed by a front of house team member.

Culture change within the organisation

Wireframe of bell.

At the start of the project capacity was a key issue. However, the museum has developed an open and shared framework for managing its social media presence. The museum leadership is very supportive for members of staff to try and do new things with digital. Some members of staff were sceptical of using 3D printing but became supportive when they were shown some of the early results.

The major project

3D printed gun carriage.

Every participating museum was required to develop one major project across the year.  The team from the Mary Rose museum conceived the Print of History campaign. The museum was going to create 3D models of 5 objects from the Mary Rose, from which one was to be chosen by members of the public to be 3D printed. The selection criteria for the 5 objects were as follows: that they had only been found on the Mary Rose and a replica wasn’t currently being sold in the shop. At the time of writing this case study the team had created some of the 3D models and defined a campaign strategy and timeline.

Key learning

  1. Recognise existing digital skills skills: Staff across the museum have digital skills and should be encouraged to share the responsibility of managing the museums social media channels. This will create additional capacity to continue to experiment and innovate.
  2. Social media is for storytelling: Social media is an important extension of the museum website. It is a resource to create a unique voice for the museum and bring interesting and unique stories to life that can’t be accommodated on the website.  
  3. Join the dots: In addition to having a regular schedule for blogging, think about each post as an episode of a much longer narrative. With this in mind create a balance of educational and entertainment. Use this narrative to engage your audience to ask questions and reflect critically on the subject matter. 
  4. Success takes time: There is a lot of white noise on social media. Some of this will distract your audience, which is why it is important to have a clear structure in place. Be creative and find different ways to put your message across. You can’t just want to be successful you have to work at it

Further development

Seal matrix - the middle one hand made, the others 3D printed

  1. The museum will continue to develop the open and accessible framework to encourage more colleagues to contribute to its social media presence.
  2. The team will try and replicate the Print of History project with a focus on increasing online engagement with its audience. This first iteration is helping them understand the limits and benefits of 3D printing.
  3. The museum will try and introduce more physical signs to highlight its social media presence to visitors. At the moment there isn’t a strategy to encourage physical visitors to engage with the museum’s social channels or share their experiences online.









Improving Museums' Storytelling through Digital Narratives was a 2014-15 South East Museum Development Programme project supported with public funding by Arts Council England. Lead consultant: Abhay Adhikari