Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Craft Café: Planning a Museum Project from Scratch - Aisling Serrant

As a final part of our year long HLF Skills for the Future Traineeship we have each had to devise and run an independent project of our choosing.

The project I chose to run was a series of 4 two-hour craft sessions for adults on Sundays at the Pitt Rivers Museum called Craft Café. The idea for this developed when I noticed a lack of informal arts and craft sessions aimed at adults in Oxford. There are plenty of classes which teach a specific skill, for example painting, often as part of a course people have to sign up for. However I wanted to provide a more casual experience, a chance for visitors to relax and meet new people, and a place people could experiment and explore without the pressure of feeling like they have to be particularly skilled or experienced at art.

As this was my independent project I was responsible for all aspects of the project and so my initial stages of planning were making lists and timelines of these aspects and how they fitted in with each other. Here I have broken down the various stages of the planning process in the order they were carried out to give an idea of how the project progressed.

- Initial Ideas: Who it would be for, when it would run and if people would have to pay to attend. One of the main aims for the project was for it to be accessible to anyone and so I didn’t want to charge too much, however I wanted to test if the project could cover its costs if it were to run again in the future, so I decided on a fee of £3. This stage also involved thinking of a name which would represent what I wanted the project to achieve, and forming some initial ideas for craft activities to run.

- Meeting with the team: Craft Café ran as part of a larger Pitt Rivers Project called the Verve project. At this stage I had a meeting with the team to check they were happy with the direction the project was moving in and confirm some of my initial ideas were practical. Certain ideas did need to be adapted such as the sessions running on Sunday daytime instead of a weekday evening as I had originally planned which was for staffing reasons.

- Choosing the crafts: Next I started to really focus in on what crafts I was going to lead. The difficulty was thinking of crafts which were cheap to make, simple to complete, but also created a high enough quality piece that adults could be proud of making, keep and use in the future. The crafts I decided to do were hand-printing cards and posters, customising canvas bags, painting Easter eggs and recycling paper to make jewellery and drinks coasters.

- Ticket sales: I needed to give people time to see and book onto the event so getting the online booking up and working was the next priority, this involved liaising with the Oxford University online store staff.

- Marketing: I then concentrated on marketing. I produced a poster for the project and set up a Facebook event, Twitter account and blog to follow its progress. I also liaised with the Pitt Rivers Marketing Officer who listed the sessions on online events websites. 

- Sourcing and ordering materials: Ordering materials was another planning aspect, which needed to be done as soon as possible.

- Creating resources: I designed an evaluation form and some pages of inspiration and ideas for the sessions.

- Project administration: I sent out emails with further information to people who booked onto the sessions and responded to any queries.

- Managing staff: Each session started with a tour of relevant objects in the museum. I led two of these and I asked Pitt Rivers staff to lead two of these, to give some variety for repeat visitors, but also to make use of the extensive and fascinating knowledge of staff. 

- Facilitating the session on the day: I chose crafts that didn’t need too much in depth instruction so my job on the day was to lead the tour, explain what to do initially and provide help for anyone who needed it, along with serving hot drinks and sorting out the technical side such as music and a PowerPoint showing relevant objects from the collection. 

And of course I couldn’t resist getting involved in the crafts myself!

- Updating marketing: It was important to keep social media up to date as the project progressed so I posted Tweets and wrote a blog article after each session. I also encouraged participants to tweet what they had made as one visitor Tugba did with the picture below.

- Post-project admin: When the project had finished I transferred the evaluation data from forms onto a spreadsheet. In addition to evaluation forms I had also used fun ‘feedback bunting’ allowing visitors to decorate one side and leave a comment on the other. Finally I wrote a project report including what was successful about it and what could be improved if it were to be repeated. 

I was really proud of what I achieved in the project. I loved running it and having that sense of responsibility and ownership over a project which was completely my own. The sessions all went well and people who visited really enjoyed it, with them rating the sessions on average 9.1 out of 10.  I couldn’t have organized this project without the skills, experience and most of all confidence the traineeship has given me and, as I prepare to start my new job as Family Festivals Coordinator at the Museum of London next month, I feel so grateful I have been given the opportunity to learn and develop so much in the past year.

“Lovely way to spend a Sunday afternoon. Thank you!”
“Loved the session! Very relaxed and great value with all the materials included. Really accessible. Would definitely come again. “
“Fab. Relaxed. Enjoyable. Fun!”

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