Adaptation Series - Museums Sheffield

Laura from Museums Sheffield

Following the Partner support session with schools, Create Sheffield met again with its Partners and a few other brilliant cultural practitioners on the 29th July to ask how they had changed their practice to respond to the Covid-19 situation, what innovations they were proud of, and what had been successful enough to repeat. Here is what Laura from Museums Sheffield had to say:

As the doors to the city’s museums were closed at the start of lockdown we immediately began to think of how we might continue to serve our communities by developing our work online. Our website is several years old and scheduled for redevelopment, so at the moment current functionality is pretty limited. As such, we decided to focus our output, during lockdown, through social media and our regular e-newsletters.

At the outset of lockdown we adopted a clear rational for our online activity. Firstly we identified who we could be useful to within the context of our reduced capacity and the rules of lockdown.

We decided to grow our existing online offer as well as offer support for children and families with home learning. We decided that content should be rooted in the city’s collections,  we should be mindful of what people needed, we should think about how people might be feeling in this unprecedented situation and how the themes may resonate with them, and above all, we wanted to ensure that everything we did was underpinned by a sense of joy and celebration.

One of our activities submitted to the Bags of Creativity project , which put activities and resources into the hands of thousands of children and young people in Sheffield. 

Historically we’ve done well in terms of wider social media reach and engagement, but developing online specific content particularly focused on children and young people was very new to us. We’re fortunate to have a Digital Producer on the team to support our content creation and a Digital Media Officer to support sharing and responding on various platforms, but with a over half our Learning team on furlough we had to come together across the organisation in a different way that meant developing new skills, learning as we went along and being ready to potentially fail in public.

We have created #MondayMakes based on our archaeology collections, our natural science collections, our social history collections and our visual art collections. Coming up with ideas for activities is the easy bit. Ensuring a link to the collections is also easy – it’s what we do as an organisation. Making sure that we had decent high res images wasn’t as easy. And that is before we even start to talk about copyright! Some ideas have just had to be shelved as we couldn’t get a decent image to use in the film.

The activities are aimed at 4-9yr olds. They have a learning focus but are mainly fun activities for families to do together. We are conscious that as a team we are likely to have craft supplies and equipment in our house that perhaps not everyone has. We have tried to use basic equipment and minimal resources for the #MondayMakes. We thought about when would be the right time to include natural materials that you might find in your garden or on your daily walk. As we know that not everyone has a garden or has been able to get out for a daily walk. We have tried to suggest alternatives where possible. Some activities we have ruled out as they need something too specialist.

This has been a steep learning curve and we are still learning. For instance don’t try to cram how to make a full dolls house into a 3 minute film. Don’t make the introduction too complicated. These films are about the make. They aren’t a history lesson or a talk about a particular object or artwork. It is about the make so we need to make the intro about the context of the make and our collections.

With our staff capacity being so limited we’ve been keen to explore how we can work with partners to maximise the opportunities for the content we’re creating for the #MondayMakes. We are well networked in the city and especially in terms of creating and delivering activities for children and young people. This meant that we were able to develop our plans with partners such as Create Sheffield.

In addition to the #MondayMakes online incarnations, they’ve also formed the basis of our new ongoing contribution to Learn Sheffield’s weekly supplement for families in the Sheffield Star newspaper. We have also worked with Sheffield Children’s Hospital to include physical versions of the Makes in packs for their patients.

We were delighted to provide creative activities based on Sheffield's collections for patients at Sheffield Children's Hospital NHS and Charity as part of Artfelt's wonderful Artfelt Anywhere project

'Ancient Egypt in Sheffield' included in the Sheffield Learning Together Supplement which was printed in the Sheffield Star newspaper and delivered to thousands of families by Learn Sheffield.

The Millennium Gallery and Weston Park Museum are reopening from Monday 17 August and we can’t wait to see you again! See our website for more details. Check out Museums Sheffield from Home: Creative Ideas for Families too.