“New Audiences – How To Develop Public Interest

I had the pleasure and privilege of attending this day long course under the programme of “Skills Building for the Future” held in the MacDonald Highland Resort in Aviemore on 27th January 2007. It was well led by Jackie Lee of Moniaive, Dumfriesshire who had an excellent background in museum related work and issues. This was one of a series of courses provided specially for the Highlands and Islands of Scotland in view of the difficulties in attending centrally mounted courses in London or Edinburgh.

I found the course most worth while in that it stimulated a critical appraisal of the way in which our local museum might encourage increased interest and participation by the local population as well as broadening its appeal to visitors to the area.

Local Participation: Once locals have been round the museum once they are not likely to return or become more involved without specially targeted programmes.
(a) These might be museum based activities such as short term special displays on items likely to be of particular local interest or displays connected with special anniversaries or events of historical or current interest that may be either local or national in origin. A list of such suggestions was made available.
(b) Special events might be arranged to attract participation by local people such as inviting people to bring along and tell the story of interesting items from their homes, request contributions of items for some special display, arranging to record oral histories from older people or those with a specialist knowledge and interest.
(c) Special groups in the community might be targeted with special displays or events aimed at them. These might be foreign nationals from Poland or Bangladesh, China or other ethnic groups or foreign incomers connected with the past such as Germans or Poles from Second World War camps or even older influxes such as French Huguenots or survivors of Culloden. Children in school, pensioners with time and interests, other local organisations and charities might all become more involved through special visits or activities.

Tourist and Visitor Participation: Tourists and visitors are more likely to be interested in the permanent display to find out more about local history and attractions. Interest might be encouraged by cross referencing with other sites likely to be visited locally and linking with other local attractions and events. Places accommodating or catering for visitors whether resident or passing through on coaches or cars might be targeted with attractive publicity or even limited displays. Attention might be paid to visitors interested in their genealogies especially with the Scottish Executive's stress on this leading up to “The Year of Homecoming” in 2009.

Attention was given also to fundraising, very important for self-funding museums with lists of possible sources and contacts being made available. Sources of other possible resources and notes on the whole event were also made available.

With excellent catering by the hotel and travel expenses being reimbursed the whole event was highly commendable and I am grateful for the opportunity.

Alasdair J. Morton
Friends of the Falconer Museum Committee Member

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