In the post Sahava Baranow, project manager at the Jewish Museum’s Anti-Valentine Event, shares what the event was all about:

flyerDuring an early morning seminar in the first couple of weeks of the MA Museum Studies at UCL, our degree coordinator approached the class with a potential project. The Jewish Museum was planning a Late event that would be developed by students to go with their temporary exhibition Blood that drew together art, film and literature to present a rich exploration of how blood can unite and divide. The aim of the event was to attract a younger and culturally engaged audience. It sounded like a great chance to get some practical experience and take part in something innovative and enjoyable. Five of us were interested and the Jewish Museum got in touch to set up an initial meeting and explain our individual roles.

One project manager, three programmers, and one marketing officer would develop the event. The Jewish Museum was going to support us wherever possible, but we were in charge. Having managed some projects in the past, I decided to go for the role of project manager. Managing a project of this size and meeting the expectations of the museum, our degree coordinator, and all of my friends who had promised to come along created a lot of pressure to deliver a successful event, but besides being nervous, I was also excited.

Museum Lates are a unique type of event; they allow you to create an engaging experience for your audience, without being constrained by the behaviour we usually display at museums. Most of us have been exposed to museums from a very early age, and often times we are told that visiting a museums means that you have to be very quiet, you cannot touch anything. There is no food or drink, and when I was a child, interactive displays and digital resources in museums were in their infancy.

Credit: @franjeens

Credit: @franjeens

Teaching this kind of behaviour is dangerous. Yes, we do need to take care of our collections, but nobody should feel uncomfortable or out of place in museums. Constraining visitors in this way creates distance between them and the museum, and we are increasingly recognising this problem. A Late event is the perfect opportunity to break up this distance. Of course we wanted our visitors to have an educational experience and take something meaningful away with them, but first and foremost we wanted them to have a good time, enjoy themselves – have fun.

However, neither the Jewish Museum nor any of us had ever programmed an event like this before. It was a challenge. This challenge was also an advantage, though. We were free of any preconceived ideas or unnecessary worries, we just brainstormed, we asked ourselves what we would enjoy at a Museum Late and came up with a number of ideas.

The Museum had given us the framework of an Anti-Valentine Fright Night. So our theme was horror, fear, blood. We thought of horror movies, live music, eerie medical objects, real blood and much more. Some of our ideas worked, others didn’t. But for us, it was the process of developing them that counted. We managed to establish contacts with other museums, including UCL Museums, the Old Operating Theatre, and the Royal College of Surgeons. They took part in the event and brought some of their most interesting objects, along with experts to talk about them. We also had some crafts tables to guarantee interactivity, and a medical students who examined blood samples with our visitors. A professional makeup artist contributed to the overall eerie look of the event and our visitors got the chance to go on an exclusive tour of Blood.

The process of planning and confirming activities, and meeting deadlines had its ups and downs, at times I felt euphoric and at times I felt like crying. The night itself was absolutely crazy, everybody was giving it their all. At the same time we were all incredibly happy and relieved at seeing our work coming together, becoming real. We had reached our goal of seeing happy people who were having fun at the Jewish Museum, and in the course of the night, I became one of them, enjoying myself, laughing, taking pictures.

Working on this project proved to be an invaluable experience; I learned a lot about museums, people, learning, and about having fun.  

If I were given the chance to do something like this again, I would – anytime.