Projects 2012-2015

During the period 2012-15 the South West Museum Development programme delivered a series of projects to support museums.

The projects were developed in consultation with museums and to align with the five goals set out in the Arts Council’s 10-year strategy Great Art and Culture for Everyone.

Overall 60 museums across the region engaged in our regional projects during 2012-15 and we invested a total of £125,828 to support the development of these museums. You can view a summary of the projects and read their evaluations by clicking on the drop down tabs below.

You can also find resources and case studies from the projects in the case study section.

Audiences - Visitor Focus

Over the period 2012-15 the South West Museum Development programme ran a collaborative project with the Audience Agency to support museums to understand and use audience data more effectively.

The project had a number of key aims:

  • Support museums to collect and analyse audience data more effectively
  • Equip museums with usable and practical insight about their audiences and potential audiences
  • Support museums to use audience research to inform business planning, marketing, audience development and fundraising
  • Share and benchmark audience data across museums and wider cultural clusters
  • Develop the skills of staff and volunteers to understand and implement audience research

Visitor Focus began with a pilot programme in 2013/14, working with 16 museums of various scales and types from museums with over 500,000 visits to under 10,000, local authority and independents. We worked with these museums through a series of workshops to develop a survey questionnaire of core questions that would give museums essential information they needed to advocate, fundraise, plan and market more effectively.

Museum’s results were analysed by the Audience Agency with each museums receiving with a report into their visitor’s demographics and profile which was benchmarked against the population in their local area. These results were shared and explored via workshops with the Audience Agency.

The programme ran again in 2014/15 with many of the museums from the pilot continuing to collect data in 2014/15. For the period 2015-18 this programme will be merged with the Audience Agency’s national Visitor Finder programme which is funded by Arts Council England.

Participants in 2013/14:

Bristol: Bristol Museum & Art Gallery
Cornwall: Helston Museum
Dorset: Bridport Museum, Dorset County Museum, Lyme Regis, Priests House Museum, Royal Signals, Poole Museum
Swindon: Lydiard House, STEAM Museum of the Great Western Railway
Somerset: Glastonbury Abbey, Museum of Somerset
Wiltshire: Athelstan Museum, Chippenham Museum, Salisbury and South Wilts Museum, Wiltshire Heritage Museum

Participants in 2014/15:

Cornwall: Helston Museum
Dorset: Bridport Museum, Priests House Museum, Poole Museum
Swindon: Lydiard House, STEAM Museum of the Great Western Railway
Somerset: Glastonbury Abbey
Wiltshire: Athelstan Museum

Digital Engagement Project

The project was launched in 2012/13 as a pilot with four museums to develop a flexible and sustainable model of support for driving higher quality and increased levels digital engagement by museums.

Following a successful pilot and evaluation the project was launched in full in 2013/14 and was run again in 2014/15.

Overall the project worked with 35 museums across the region. Participant museums were supported through an audit of their current online activity (website and social media) by digital engagement experts Tickbox Marketing, participation in digital engagement workshops to explore and learn what makes for quality digital engagement and to develop the framework for creating a digital strategy.

Overall the project was successful in its aims to raise museums’ skills and understanding of digital engagement, helping participants to embed it in their everyday work, think about it strategically and increase audience engagement.

A digital forum was held on 26 March 2015 at M Shed, Bristol to bring all participant museums from the 3 years of the project together, to share learning, inspire continued activity and celebrate success. Case studies and the resources from the digital forum are available from the digital section of our case studies and resources pages.

Participants in 2012/13:
Cornwall: Portchurno Telegraph Museum
Dorset: Shaftesbury Abbey Museum
Gloucestershire: Corinium Museum
Wiltshire: Trowbridge Museum

Participants in 2013/14:
Bristol and S Glos: Thornbury and District Museum
Cornwall: Helston Museum, Padstow Museum
Devon Combe Martin Museum, Burton Art Gallery (Bideford), Newton Abbot Museum
Dorset: Dorset County Museum, Bridport Museum
Gloucestershire & S Glos: Court Barn Museum, Edward Jenner’s House, Holst Birthplace Museum, Gloucestershire Revealed (countywide website)
Somerset: Glastonbury Abbey, Community Heritage Access Centre (Yeovil)
Wiltshire: Mere Museum, Chippenham Museum

Participants in 2014/15:
B&NES: The American Museum in Britain
Bristol & S Glos: Glenside Hospital, Royal West of England Academy
Cornwall: Wheal Martyn
Devon: Fairlynch Museum, Bovey Tracey Heritage Centre
Dorset: Beaminster Museum, Sherborne Museum
Gloucestershire: Nature in Art, Soldiers of Gloucestershire Museum
Somerset: Frome Museum, Helicopter Museum, Wells & Mendip Museum, Weston-super-Mare Museum, Somerset Routes (countywide website)

Income Generation - Rapid Retail Assessments

Rapid Retail Assessments were launched in 2013-14 to offer museums the opportunity to receive specialist consultancy support to review and improve their retail operations. Museums that participated in the programme received:

  • An on-site audit from an independent retail consultant of their retail operations
  • An assessment report, with recommendations for improvements in their retail operations
  • A second on-site visit to present the report and to provide hands-on advice on implementing the recommendations

Participants in 2013/14
Cornwall: Helston Museum
Devon: Ilfracombe Museum, Museum of Dartmoor Life, Teign Heritage Centre, Topsham Museum
Gloucestershire: Court Barn Museum, Corinium Museum
Swindon: STEAM Museum of the Great Western Railway
Dorset: Bridport Museum, Poole Museum

Participants in 2014/15:
B&NES: Museum of Bath at Work
Devon: Dartmouth Museum, Kingsbridge Cookworthy Museum
Dorset: Priest’s House Museum, Sherborne Museum
Gloucestershire: Nature in Art, Kelmscott Manor
Somerset: Blake Museum, Helicopter Museum, Westonzoyland Pumping Museum
Wiltshire: The Rifles Museum

South West Museums Sustainability Programme

The programme was piloted in 2013/14 with the aim of supporting museums to understand, explore and implement ideas and practice around sustainability and resilience. It came about through the recognition that sustainability – organisational, financial and environmental – is crucial to museums’ future development and that museums benefit from external perspective and support when identifying and addressing their own sustainability issues.

The pilot was based on Survive and Thrive, a sustainability programme run by the London Museum Development team which was in turn based on the Culture and Sport Improvement Toolkit. Following the success of the pilot in 2013/14 the project was run again in 2014/15 following an evaluation.

Museums participating in the project worked with their local MDO and a Sustainability Mentor through a four-stage process, each appointing a Sustainability Team. Museums had access to information and briefing sessions, facilitation and mentoring training for Sustainability Team leads, and an on-site visit with the MDO and Sustainability Mentor to prepare for the process. The four stages were as follows:

Stage One: Self-assessment. Facilitated by their MDO, museums worked through a comprehensive review of their current operations based on a standard self-assessment framework.

Stage Two: Peer Review of the self-assessment conducted by the MDO and Sustainability Mentor, who reviewed the self-assessment with the museum.

Stage Three: Writing the Improvement Plan. Museums identified specific goals for improvement and created a plan focusing on how they would achieve sustainable outcomes.

Stage Four: Delivery of the Improvement Plan support by their Mentor. The intention is that museums will act on their plan supported by their Mentor and peer from other museums.

In total 10 museums participated in the project across the South West and each museum submitted a case study of their experience of the programme. A second evaluation covering both the 2013/14 and 2014/15 programme was published in April 2015 with recommendations on how the programme should be taken forward in to 2015-18.

The self-assessment and peer review framework developed through the Sustainability programme will now form part of the ‘toolkit’ used by MDOs to support museums that a particular point of challenge, opportunity or major change rather than as a separate time-limited project.

Participants in 2013/14:
Dorset: Portland Museum and Priest’s House Museum (Wimborne Minster).
Wiltshire: Athelstan Museum (Malmsbury), Bradford on Avon Museum,

Participants in 2014/15:
B&NES: Museum of Bath at Work
Devon: Ilfracombe Museum
Somerset: Wells and Mendip Museum, Weston-super-Mare Museum
Wiltshire: The Berkshire and Wiltshire Rifles Museum, Salisbury, The Richard Jefferies Museum