Recently I went to Worcester to attend a Dementia and Tech talk at the university. As the talk wasn’t until 4 I decided to catch a morning train and make a day out of sight-seeing. As soon as I got off the train, I decided I would let the ‘tourist signs’ choose my fate.
First decision was made when I saw Worcester Museum and Art Gallery to the right. I started taking pictures before I even stepped foot in as the building itself is so gorgeous.
Walking in, I was in awe of the architecture. As my eyes gazed up, I noticed colorful signage of the steps telling me the art gallery, museum and cafe were upstairs. Like a moth to a flame I headed upstairs.
In the first room I was impressed with the World War I exhibition. Yes there are a lot of them out there right now but please take the time to see a few of them as each of them are personalised stories of local people and their sacrifice. I started to take pictures and asked the attendants for the twitter id. They were more than pleased to have me tweet and share.
I headed to the other room which had fantastic museum mannequins. I immediately knew I wanted to try to take a few selfies for MuseumSelfie day and also to share them on #MuseumMannequin tumblr. However, the attendant in that room told me I had to fill out a form. Ok, not a big deal. A tad old fashion but I’m not going to judge. When I started to read the form (which I will admit I normally never do) there were two particular words that jumped out at me: morality obligated. To my photos.
While I was’t exactly sure what it meant, the radar went up and I felt uncomfortable. I returned the form to the attendant and said as much. Rightfully she said I wouldn’t be able to take photos without signing the form. I had a look around and while I absolutely adored what I saw, the wording on that form still bothered me. Also, I sort of broke a rule of mine by tweeting that I was asked to sign a form and I felt uncomfortable (I try to never tweet negatively).
The tweet, however, brought up some really good discussion. Are forms still necessary? Who reads them? What should the wording be? And many more topics. To each tweet, I ensured I tweeted positively about Worcester Museum as I hadn’t spoken to them about this and really, it was only fair that we only discussed FACTS.
After a lovely bite to eat in their cafe (highly recommend as they have homemade food), it was *still* bothering me. I wasn’t happy and I knew I the only way for me to resolve the issue was for me to speak to someone. I went back to the World War I room and asked the room attendant if I could talk to someone. She called someone and asked if they could pass the phone to me.
This is when something beautiful happened.
The person said they would be right down.
Turns out, it was the Philippa Tinsley, Senior Curator – Collections & Interpretation. Luckily she had heard of me (not sure if that was good or bad). I explained the situation as I saw it. Philippa is proactive – immediately asked for a copy of the consent form and agreed that even she wasn’t exactly sure what the meaning of the sentences were. She explained that many of the forms like these were created before social media and thanked me for highlighting the issue. Philippa said they would review the form and get back to me.
Could not have ended on a more positive note if I tried. Or so I thought because Philippa – true to her word – emailed me TWO DAYS later (not weeks or months, DAYS) with the following (permission to share granted):
It was lovely to meet you earlier this week and thank you for so usefully pointing out to us what needed to change. You’ll be pleased to know we now have signs around the building saying visitors are welcome to take personal photos and sharing our own social media details.
All the best and I do hope you’ll visit us again sometime (and take lots more photos!)
Senior Curator – Collections & Interpretation
And that is how you turn a negative to a positive. My advice to all museums, regardless of size or country is to review your policies and see if a little polish is needed (photographs, social media, collection, etc). If nothing else, to allow me to post pictures like this (especially on #MuseumSelfie day this week!)