Case Study with Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales

Bringing the Museum Experience Home

The global pandemic presented significant challenges for event organisers, but it has also inspired an array of creative responses – like Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales’  digital sleepovers, which are inspiring and entertaining a broader audience than ever before.

As darkness falls, thousands of children across Wales – and around the world – gaze in awe as Ronnie the tyrannosaurus rex makes a surprise appearance on their screens. It’s all part of Dino Nights at Home, which was established in response to the first national lockdown.  

While on-site sleepovers had previously been a popular fixture at National Museum Cardiff, when the pandemic hit, the team had to pivot quickly and come up with an online solution that enabled them to deliver the event online.

Pivoting to digital

“We had a years’ worth of events already planned, so when Covid-19 hit we spent a week cancelling everything, which was heart-breaking,” says Ticketing & Events Officer Danielle Sullivan.

“Digital events were a whole new world to us, but we started thinking about ways to transition our dinosaur-themed live sleepover into a digital setting.”

Pre-pandemic, families would arrive at the museum after-hours and immerse themselves in a jam-packed programme of activities before departing the following morning. The team realised they could deliver a similar experience online by uploading content to the Eventbrite portal.

“It was so important that we continued to engage with our audience, so we used our skills as programmers to come up with creative solutions.”

The museum has since hosted four themed sleepovers and tickets are now on sale for a fifth event – Museum Sleepover: Outer Space from Home – taking place on 7 August 2021.

Combining elements from the live programme, such as crafts and cooking, with pre-recorded footage and live segments, the team hosted their first Dino Nights at Home in August 2020 and it didn’t take long for the team to realise the opportunities presented by digital. “It’s sparked so many ideas and really opened up the programme. We’ve been able to create content that works well at home but doesn’t lend itself to a museum environment – such as den-building – and host curator Q&As, offer behind-the-scenes tours and share inspirational messages from special guests that would be difficult to coordinate during a live event. For the space sleepover, for example, we’ll play a 10-minute pre-recorded message from scientist Maggie Aderin-Pocock.”

There’s also been the opportunity to share real-time animal encounters. During the recent Natural World at Home event the museum linked up with Jabulani Safari in South Africa to share a live safari experience and invite attendees to come face-to-face with the residents of its elephant orphanage.

Everyone is welcome

Just as digital events have removed geographical barriers to attendance, they’ve also allowed Amgueddfa Cyrmu – National Museum Wales to reduce its ticket prices.

“Social democracy is really important to us. Live programme tickets are very exclusive due to low capacity and our tiered pricing structure is usually between £50-70 for an individual ticket. However, for a digital event, a family ticket costs just £5.”

Previous events have welcomed on average 800 families each time, and in addition to overcoming obstacles such as distance and affordability, the team ensures accessibility with bilingual content. “We offer Welsh and English tickets, and the Eventbrite portal enables us to tailor the content to the language selected by attendees. This has also presented the chance to create packages for Welsh learners – that’s videos in Welsh with English subtitles – and we’ve recently created British Sign Language (BSL) versions, too.”

An educational, inclusive approach was also front of mind when designing the digital programme.

“With schools closed, parents were looking for activities that would support their children’s education. We make sure every event focuses on topics such as sustainability and climate change in order to raise awareness among children in an educational and enjoyable way.”

Creating memorable virtual experiences might be a priority, but the inclusion of offline activities in every programme ensures children aren’t tied to the screen. A guided yoga session introduced a wellness element to the dinosaur events, while the upcoming space-themed sleepover features a bedtime meditation class and a ‘train like an astronaut’ fitness class.

Reaching a wider audience

When it comes to raising awareness of upcoming events, the team have pursued several strategies – from posting promotional trailers on YouTube to emailing newsletters to primary schools across Wales via the learning team’s database. 

Partner organisations also promote events on their owned social media channels. Like Folly Farm Adventure Park & Zoo in Pembrokeshire, who introduced their penguin population during a recent event and supported the museum’s marketing strategy by running a ticket giveaway in the lead up. 

These kinds of initiatives have put the museum in front of a new audience and Danielle says they’ve also seen direct traffic coming from the Eventbrite site.

“Having previously sold live event tickets through Eventbrite we already knew a lot about our audience thanks to promotional tracking links and post-event surveys. Since launching our digital events, not only do we have a country-wide audience, we’re also attracting attendees from the UK and around the world.”

A social media-driven approach to marketing has enabled the team to build anticipation prior to releasing tickets and promote early bird deals and priority booking opportunities, while also helping to foster a strong sense of community. 

Two weeks before each sleepover, shopping lists, recipe cards and checklists go live on the Eventbrite portal and this pre-event activity is supported by a private Facebook group for ticket holders that’s created and monitored by the museum.

“We populate the feed with reminders and encourage attendees to share pictures using an event-specific hashtag. As a result, it’s evolved into a live environment where people interact and post about their experiences. We’ve seen friendships form and members of the same family who’ve been unable to socialise in-person due to Covid restrictions have the opportunity to catch up and share a fun experience. There was even one family split between the UK and Australia who attended an online event together”.

Not only do events attract repeat customers, feedback reveals that some families who’ve never been to the museum now plan to visit as a result of attending a digital event.

A brave new (hybrid) world

But what happens to digital when live events are back in action? For the team at Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales, the plan is to continue reaching as wide an audience as possible by finding a way for both programmes to exist side-by-side. 

Quickly moving to an online environment was certainly a learning experience, but one Danielle says has inspired them to change their thinking.

“It’s funny, at the start of lockdown, we focused on how the live programme could work in a digital setting, but when we go back to a live setting we’ll probably find ourselves doing it the other way around. So much creativity has come out of digital and we’re wondering why we never thought of some things before. We hope the two formats will be able to inspire each other.”

Using the Eventbrite portal to host online sleepovers has proved to be such a success they’ve rolled it out to other events. In fact, through their digital programme, Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales has engaged with more than 150,000 participants through family activities, community events like the Pride and Diwali programmes, and specialist talks.

“Digital has meant we’ve been able to create programmes that are really unique – we are offering unforgettable experiences within a digital setting and that’s really cool.”

The Museum Sleepover Series/Programme has been shortlisted by Kids in Museums for their ‘Best Digital Activity’ category! The winner will be announced at the award ceremony in October 2021.

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