I put together a team of consultants to work with the National Army Museum on three major pieces of research to inform its ambitious 'Building for the Future' project that completely redeveloped its Chelsea site. Our work helped the museum to secure a major capital grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund to transform its offer for both online and offline audiences.
Working with historian and interviewer Dr Tracy Craggs and online learning specialist Ali Glew, I devised a research programme to help the museum understand the needs of audiences and key stakeholders. There were three main areas of work:
- A research project for the museum's learning team to understand teachers' needs and evaluate pilot projects to develop a new offer for on-site, digital and outreach sessions. We delivered initial focus groups with three sets of teachers - users, potential users and non-users - to find out what they wanted from the museum and what would encourage them to use its resources. We then worked with museum staff to evaluate a pilot learning offer at two schools in London and Wakefield to translate some of our initial findings into action and gain teachers' and students' input into the development of a new online learning resource. In addition we held a development evening for teachers at the museum to enable them to use and give feedback on the museum's approach to collections-based content online. We submitted two detailed reports to the museum together with two short evaluation films that give a flavour of the pilot work in schools and the development evening.
- Research with specialist audiences to help the museum understand their perceptions of the current offer, their opinions on the museum's existing interpretation plans and their views on future events and engagement programmes. We delivered four focus groups with veterans, currently serving soldiers, museum Friends, and representatives from other regimental museums to identify their current perceptions of the museum's offer and their future needs, and submitted a comprehensive report to the museum to inform its future plans and funding proposals.
- We worked with the museum's Early Years team and a local Children's Centre on some formative evaluation of Play Base, the museum's dedicated space for children aged 8 and under. We ran two focus groups with local parents to get their reactions to existing design proposals, inform thinking on pricing and marketing, and understand how they would want to use the space with their children.
The museum was successful in securing an £11.5m grant from the National Lottery Heritage fund to support the redevelopment. Work was completed in 2017 and the new look museum makes for an absorbing and illuminating visit.