Making it FAIR case study: Spelthorne Museum

The Making it FAIR project was developed in response to challenges faced by smaller museums struggling to engage online with audiences during lockdown, and beyond. Eight small museums worked with a range of partners including Culture24, Collections Trust and The Audience Agency to explore and develop their digital content and storytelling with collections. Over five months, each museum experimented with new ideas, approaches, processes and, where relevant, technical solutions, to help them build digital skills and to create engaging, relevant, fit-for-purpose digital content.

This is one of a set of eight case studies. You can find a summary of all of the Making it FAIR project case studies here.

Jump to

What did you want to find out? | What did you do? | What were the challenges? | What did you learn? | What’s next? | Top tips and insights

What did you want to find out?

  • Could we develop and use our digital skills to boost museum attendance, visitor experience and membership of the Spelthorne Archaeology and Local History Group?
  • Along the way, it also became clear we needed to understand how to interact better with, and distribute digital material to, our local Primary Schools.

What did you do?

  • Started Instagram and a business-style Facebook account, combining them with our existing Twitter account for scheduling via Hootsuite/Facebook – all new to us
  • We were already using Google for cloud backup and sharing Education Team documents internally, over which we layered a Google Site to provide a web interface for our schools.

Below is a screenshot from Spelthorne Museum’s Google site which they created to share their education resources.

Screenshot of Spelthorne Education Team's resource Google site

What were the challenges?

  • Finding time to make meaningful progress between our mentoring meetings – we are an entirely volunteer organisation
  • The museum has had no need to digitise our photographs, postcards or art work to date, so we have no library to call upon for social media posting.

What did you learn?

  • Posting material is easy, reaching and engaging with your target audience is not
  • If you are using Google for backup and sharing, layering a Google Site webpage over this for public access is very easy, here’s a link to our Resource Hub. The beauty of this is that any changes to content the team make in Google Drive is immediately visible – no waiting for the web administrator to make changes and ‘go live’. A bit of advice – be very careful with the permissions you define in Google Drive; whatever they are will be taken into the web page
  • At our request, we also had a session with Kevin Gosling to review our digital accessions record keeping, which is a summary of our paper originals. We received much valuable advice on changes to ensure we conform to Spectrum’s expected standards

What’s next?

  • Share the responsibility for social media posting around the team and firm-up on our schedule for posting
  • Develop Facebook into a dialogue tool rather than using it as a simple news feed
  • Establish regular monitoring of social media reach and keep the museum committee informed
  • Get regular feedback from our teachers to ensure we are providing material they want and that our resource hub has the functionality they need.

Top tips and insights

  • Be brave, the worst that can happen is you try something else
  • Measure and monitor outcomes. For Facebook/Instagram that is relatively easy, and we now need to move on and see if social media is influencing membership and footfall
  • If you are a volunteer organisation use every means possible to find the skills you need – social media, personal contacts, friends of friends, posters.

Funding and partners: Making It FAIR was supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s Towards a National Collection programme (TaNC) as part of UKRI’s call for COVID-19 projects. The project was led by University of York and partners were Collections Trust, Culture24, Museum of London Archaeology, The Audience Agency, Intelligent Heritage and Knowledge Integration.