Monday, 16 February 2015

'Made in Mt Olympus': Final Project - Corie Edwards

It’s final project time! It is time for us to take everything we have learned so far over our HLF Skills for the Future training and put it into an independent project. The independent project allows us to create something for an audience of our choice, but still fits into our placements education strategy and museum brand. My final project is for the Ashmolean Museum and it is looking at the ways we can engage the 16-30 year old audience with our collections in styles and outlets they use in their everyday lives.

The idea of this project came from an article I was reading about how Tumblr has proven it is the best history resource. The article was made up of different posting by students who reference actual historical topics, but in ways they find relevant, i.e. a picture of Henry the VIII as a meme of, ‘undisputed King of selfies’. Now this might not seem like much, but that was a secondary student posting a historical figure for all their friends to see. If it was just the portrait and this caption, ‘Henry VIII was a patron of the arts which is evident through his plethora of portraits on his favourite topic, himself,’ I hardly think a secondary student would post it for his/her friends to see. But if it is funny and relevant it is ok to share. Which is what I think is the key to engaging this audience. It has to be catchy and it definitely has to be relevant to them. Furthermore, it needs to be accessible from the places they go to for entertainment and information, mainly the internet and social networks. 

Corie working on her final project plan

Teenagers and young adults are now in a world that is mostly viewed through an electronic device. Think about how much different it is now than it was 10 years ago. I can definitely say that my friends never took pictures of their food and sent it to me via post with a caption of, ‘Look at what I made! #NomNom.’ But today, you can’t scroll through a Facebook newsfeed or twitter feed without seeing what your friends are eating. We are all about sharing and we mainly use our smart devices as the messenger.

So why not explore this? Museums across the world are always exploring new ways to engage with their community. So what can we do that’s different, but engaging and relevant without losing that educational content? This is what I was thinking about when deciding on my final project. What I came up with was, Made in Mt Olympus, an on-line series of 4 one minute long films. With the partnership of three Oxford Brookes Film Students and nine Oxford University Museums and Collections staff members as actors, we will take Ashmolean Greek objects and bring their stories to life by parodying a popular UK reality show. When you actually stop and think about it, Greek mythology is the original drama. The stories may be thousands of years old, but they are still playing out every day and we watch them through reality shows and soap operas. It’s that idea that we are not as disconnected as we sometimes think and it just takes highlighting it in a different way to make that apparent.

Finding inspiration at the Ashmolean

The films will go up on YouTube and will be promoted through various social media outlets. This comes back to what I was saying earlier about putting the information out where it can be found by this audience. If I just put it up on our website no one would go looking for it. It needs to be connected to the avenues of information this audience goes to every day.

The videos for now are a way to highlight what we have to offer at the Ashmolean. They also aim to show that it’s ok to laugh and have fun at a museum. With the ultimate aim that those who see the videos will then come through the doors to see more. None of that is guaranteed though, but it is worth trying.

Only once we’ve caught their attention can we add more educational levels. It comes back to that Henry VIII portrait I referenced. Start with the meme having correct information but being relevant and catchy, then it can go further...’Why do you take selfies?’ ‘Who is seeing your photos?’ ‘Why do you want them to see your selfie?’ ‘Why did you choose that place to take the picture?’ And so on. Then you can pretty much ask the same questions about Henry VIII and the answers might be surprisingly similar.

I hope my videos will spark similar conversations. Those conversations can be between friends who share the videos, it can be teachers showing it to students or recreating something similar with their students, or museum visitors making their own short videos in galleries on their smart devices. It can go many ways and I hope it does.

Follow the progress of these films through #MiMO on twitter. The films will go live on the Ashmolean YouTube channel, one per week throughout the month of April.

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