A Story Told in 400 Images: Social media, storytelling and museum collections
Authors: Dominic Ivaldi and Angela Willis of the National Motor Museum, Beaulieu @TheCCCollection @Beaulieu_Hants
As Digital Collections Officer my role at the National Motor Museum involves managing our website and providing content for social media channels including Facebook, Twitter and Youtube. I have also been involved in several digital projects where social media has played a significant role. My colleague Angela Willis, who manages The Caravan Club Collection hosted at the National Motor Museum, also uses social media regularly, particularly Twitter.
Our experiences of using social media have mainly focused on providing greater access to our collections and promoting events. We have also used social media to take part in national campaigns such as #MuseumWeek and National Archives/Libraries Day. However what attracted us to the Digital Narratives project was the opportunity to tell a more detailed story about our collections and to engage with our audience on a different level than before.
A First World War commemorative project
Before we got involved in the project we already had a story we wanted to tell. The National Motor Museum in partnership with The Caravan Club, has recently received funding from the HLF for a First World War commemorative project titled ‘Caravans and Charabancs – Leisure Motoring After the First World War'. This is primarily an outreach project which will focus on developments to leisure motoring in the post-war period. The Digital Narratives project seemed an ideal opportunity to aid us in telling this story and we also hoped it would show us new ways in which this could be done.
Preparing to share a story: What do we want to achieve?
To date we have attended two open workshops and had face-to-face meetings with the lead consultant for the Project, Abhay Adhikari. What has been the most useful learning experience for us are the simple steps and techniques that can be put into place to help tell our story.
The first workshop was useful in giving us a clear process of what it is we want to achieve. What is your idea or activity, what is the desired outcome, what is the context to this activity, who can you use to give voice to your project and help influence?
This was taken further in the second workshop facilitated by Kajsa Hartig who is the Digital Navigator at Nordiska Museet in Stockholm. The session gave clear pointers to developing your storytelling. What story is it you want to tell, what channel is the most appropriate, who you need to get on board, what content do you want to publish? Techniques were used such as ’5 words, 5 sentences’ as a simple but useful method to get straight to the point in deciding what you want to say and creating a quick story to convey this.
These approaches may seem simple but it has given us a new way of looking at what we want to say and also ensures we are telling stories about our collections instead of just putting content out there for the sake of it.
A story told in 400 images
The Digital Narratives project has also allowed us to explore the use of different social media channels and bring to our attention platforms we have not heard of before. It has given us practical experience of setting up different channels beyond the tried and tested. More importantly it has focused our minds on the importance of getting the most out of social media and the best way to use these platforms.
The project has helped formulate these ideas to our own Caravans and Charabancs story. We have identified a collection of 400 charabanc images that we want to use to tell our story, with the final outcome being an exhibition at the Museum.
Our storytelling plan is as outlined:
- Setup a Flickr Commons account to share the 400+ images
- Create a list of potential partners and influencers on social media
- Setup a Storify account as an alternative to a blog and create 4 storify stories between the end of July and September
- Develop the Caravan Club Twitter account to promote the exhibition
- Identify 10 key partners to help promote the stories through their social media
We also hope to use our new audience to participate in workshops, talks and tours in order to get them involved in the project and lend their voices to our stories.
A new way of working: challenges and solutions
The project has also provided challenges. To large extents these have come from within, such as unforeseen issues with staff availability and logistical challenges, which have delayed our start dates.
We have also met challenges with some of the social media platforms themselves, such as Flickr Commons and then Wiki commons which we had hoped to use to host our images. They proved to be either unsuitable or too restrictive to move the project on quickly, so we have settled with using Flickr to host the images which we can then embed into Storify.
We are now just beginning to put our plan into action and hope that over the summer we will have laid the foundations of our digital story.
This blog post has been written by Dominic Ivaldi and Angela Willis and first appeared on the Dhyaan Design blog. Dominic is the Digital Collections Officer and Angela is the Caravan Club Curator at the National Motor Museum, Beaulieu. Their organisation is part of the 1 year Digital Narratives project, exploring how museums can use social media for effective digital storytelling.