Online Practical Training – Developing Diverse Audiences – Yarra Ranges Regional Museum

The background to Yarra Ranges Regional Museum it was a major redevelopment of the existing Museum of Lilydale, which is where it is situated, combining an 1889 heritage building with brand new architecture, challenging at the best of times. The Museum of Lilydale had been setup by the local historical society in the mid 1970s so it did have a bit of pedigree and people were aware of it in Lilydale. Unusually, in Victoria certainly, local government then it was the Shire of Lilydale, now it’s Yarra Ranges Council took on ownership of the collection, and management of the museum from the local historical society, with their permission, I hasten to say, in the late 1980s and today they fund 100% of the operation
of the museum. Now that’s not to say that we don’t spend a bit of time seeking funds from elsewhere, but what I can say is, if we didn’t get any of those funds we would still be operating in the way in
which we are which is highly unusual I would suggest, especially in Victoria. The new Regional Museum first opened its doors to its audience on the 14 May 2011. Now, I’ve got some pretty pictures, which
are just going to be there for decoration, something for you to look at, while I’m finalising
this summary. Setting the scene, Lilydale is at the end
of the train line from the city, it’s about an hour away, when there are no
delays. So I’m just trying to point out that we’re
not something you think to do if you’re in the city, five minutes before you’re going
to do it. It’s on the way to the Yarra Valley, all those
wineries, great produce, don’t forget the new chocolaterie not to mention outstanding natural beauty from the valley to the Dandenongs.. so no competition there! And we’re on the
way to this, we’re not at the end, and we’re not
in the city so we do have a bit of a challenge there as
well. The area does attract over 3.5 million day
trip visitors annually, so there are people passing our doorstep, or if not our doorstep,
close-by. What’s the museum experience.. the museum experience, we know that we’re
in an enviable position at the museum we’ve never had someone walk in and comment
negatively on the space so we have something there that people, in
fact the words that we hear, are ‘wow’, ‘unexpected’.. ‘unexpected’ is the word that we hear again
and again from people we don’t expect to see what that experience
is in that place. And we hear ‘beautiful’. We also hear from a lot of visitors that they
didn’t know the museum was there and I timed that perfectly with this slide,
where nobody is there, but that was before we were open, I hasten
to add! So they didn’t know the museum was there,
and some experienced some difficulty in actually finding us. We are two and a half years on, undoubtedly,
still building the business. So what is our business? Well basically, we had to put together, as
many people do, a business plan to try and gt some of the funding for the capital redevelopment. And in that business plan, with the help of
consultants, what we understood to be our visitors, and
the people we were trying to attract, was what you see on the screen, I’ll give you a moment
to read that. Can anybody tell me are there a lot of people
missing from that description? Because what I’m seeing is that we’re for
everybody! And I think what you would have to agree,
and most of you will have experienced it, is that there is no universal attractor, there are many things that try to be, but there’s no universal attractor, and therefore, it’s all very well saying that
at times, if we think about it, we may have things that appeal to these particular
groups, but we do actually need to think about who our audiences are. Now, opening a new museum of course, you’re
struggling to say ‘it’s not what it was before’ so we’ve got some information about what was
happening before, but who are our audiences, who out of these are the people
who are really important? Obviously residents are, because we are 100%
funded by council, and therefore everybody is paying towards the museum, so
there is an expectation there. So what is the situation? The situation is
that we have free admission, we don’t charge for anybody
to come in, we’re now, after a bit of fiddling with the opening hours, we’re now open 7 days a week. Excluding public holidays, and we’re open
from 10am – 4pm, each day. In the first few years of operation, because
we did actually gather some statistics, and deal with everything else that wasn’t
finished and wasn’t ready to be opened, but we did gather some statistics, so in 2011
– 2012 financial year, it became clear that there was a gender imbalance in our visitors. More than twice as many women as men. Ok, so we were then able to go back and look
and see what was happening.. Ok, so we had a major exhibition on embroidered
samplers.. so we thought, that’s kind of an obvious culprit for our imbalance.. but
no, the imbalance was almost equal every month of the year. So it wasn’t just an exhibition
that was on for two and a half months at one point in the year. In fact, we could see that there were consistently
more female visitors across the whole.. it was just consistent. So the moment of realisation, prompted by
a colleague who understands more about marketing and audiences in general than I
do, common sense, but we hadn’t really considered who is available to visit during those opening
times. And who is available to visit is for instance, Monday to Friday except school
holidays, not surprisingly we don’t see many children. Why would that be? Because they’re not there,
they’re not available to come. Maybe it was because women were more available
to come during those hours.. traditionally are women not working? Are many
more not working, but have they not got families? So we started asking these questions.. So armed with this information, this imbalance, and beginning to gain more solid information
about our audiences, we were able to identify a key audience for
development, and I’ll leave you to think about who that might have been, and I’ll hand over to Megan.. Thanks Maggi. So it’s quite obvious we had a bit of a need
to develop our male audience, and in some ways it fits into this as diversifying
beyond our strong female audience, but males are not really diverse, in the sense
of a marginalised community or anything like that, although perhaps they
can be in museums.. So one of the first things we realised was,
we don’t have enough men coming through the museum, are we not putting on things that they like,
are we not advertising in the right way, is it because we have an all female team? Which we did a year
ago when I came into this role we were all women. So what we decided to do was to try to understand
this audience, and the audience we were trying to target was actually male adults. We had about
the same number of children male and female, it was male adults that was the issue. So what we
did, is we did our research, we went and looked at all the tourism statistics, we looked at
people’s motivation for coming to the region as tourists, and we looked at people’s behaviours when
they were in the region, so where they were visiting, whether they were staying overnight, what
were they coming for? And we realised that people are coming to
our region for leisure, and as Maggi has already mentioned, we’re not really up there in terms of competitiveness
when it comes to the Dandenongs and .. how many wineries do we have.. a lot.. we’re basically not alcohol or a beautiful
walk, so how are we going to compete in that market? And do we need to? And I think that’s a little
bit of recognition that we don’t necessarily need to compete against those things, for
our audience. There is an audience there, we simply need
to work with them, and look for opportunities to engage partners, and to establish programs that work
with community groups and work with this audience that we’re trying to attract. So, it’s not putting things on to bring in
the crowd, it’s working with them to give them ownership over what the museum is and does,
and that’s particularly important when it comes to our residents, so the focus here is not just
on people riding to Yarra Ranges from different parts of the region, and we’re trying to pull them
into the museum on the way, although that’s awfully nifty, it is about engaging with this community within
our own region. So at the same time as thinking about audiences
and why we have no men, we were also going through our MAP Reaccreditation process, and as part
of this we reviewed our interpretation policy and plan and in doing this there were really three
things that came out for me, in reviewing it, that I thought were weak, that we could
improve on, and that would give us more breadth and depth
in our interpretation. The first was contemporary stories, the second
was the need to consider more intangible aspects of the region’s past, and the third was using
Victoria’s Framework of Historic Themes, to review what it was we were interpreting. Through
our main core exhibition, the interpretation plan for that was done by a consultant, who was obviously
very talented, but not living within the community, and so when I reviewed this, I felt really
that perhaps there’s a few things missing here. And one of the major things missing was actually
transport, strange as that sounds.. I mean we’re all aware how cars have impacted
the region historically, thanks to Graeme Davidson’s wonderful work, but in our region it’s all
about motorbikes.. if anyone’s been out there on the weekend, it’s all you see on the road.
So we kind of saw this need for engaging with this community, to focus on this theme as well,
but we had a number of reservations, and I’ll get to that later. What we discovered basically was that there
was this part of our culture, and contemporary culture as well as our cultural heritage, that was
not being represented, it wasn’t in our collection we weren’t telling any stories about it, and
you know, it’s so obvious when you’re out there in the community but it’s not obvious when you’re reading history
books. So we decided to connect those two things, and while tourism is a major industry in our
region, and everyone would know viticulture and gourmet food is massive in the Yarra Valley, but we
have other areas including Healsville, Yarra Glen, Warburton, Belgrave and Reefton, that aren’t attractive
for those reasons.. they’re attractive for different reasons. So what we found out was, thousands of motorcycle
riders come to Yarra Ranges every weekend, and we’re the second most popular destination
in Victoria for motorcycle riders, next to the Great Ocean Road of course, but we’re also
ranked equal second highest for motorcyclist casualties. So that got us thinking really, in this topic,
is this actually appropriate.. We’ve already mentioned, and I’m not sure
whether people actually do know the difference between what a bikie and a biker is, but that’s
possibly the biggest contention. And when our seminar was introduced there
was a comment about engaging outlaw groups, and I can say from the outset that I don’t think
any local government would support us in engaging outlaw groups in our museum program, and look, there are a lot of negative perceptions around
motorcycle riders, and they’re not all outlaw groups, is the point, bikies is the
term used by the media to refer to outlaw groups, bikers are people who ride motorcycles. Even for the people within that community
it’s a real sticking point, there are so many negative perceptions, people see them in the street
and cross the road, how does that feel? That’s a marginalised community within our
region, as strange as that might sound. So we realised there was this community out
there and when we started talking to people they were actually actively looking for places
where they were welcome. So, just to add to that, we felt quite strongly,
we felt that it needed to have a bit of a road safety message because of that, we’re the second most popular,
but we also have the second most accidents, but we didn’t want that to be the agenda of
what we were trying to do, and we also had the issue that we had no objects, but to me that’s great,
because off we go, it’s time for some community engagement. So, what we decided when we thought about
all those issues, was that really we’re trying to attract an audience, but we’re scared of
them, what are we going to do, they’re wearing leather jackets, there’s all
these perceptions around them, they’re in gangs, there’s gang warfare, crimes, drugs,
secrecy… this is what people think of motorcycle riders,
so we decided not to fear our audience and like any community, there are lots of nuances you
need to understand within that community, and if you’re going to do that, you need to
go and talk to people, you can’t just think ‘oh actually, that’s a bit scary’. And our job, and the fact that we are funded
by local government, means that we are connected with our community. So, we decided to be a bit edgy,
and one of Maggi’s favourite things about our museum is that we are on the edge of Melbourne, so
we like to be edgy. So we decided not to fear our audience, and just decided to figure out how we were
going to navigate this, and thankfully, we have a community safety team within council,
that works with motorcycle riders, motorcycle advocacy groups to try and improve those statistics on our
roads, and we also have formal community engagement processes within local government, which we
looked and mapped out how we were going to do this. We also worked with our communications team
around messaging, because what we didn’t want was believe it or not, outlaw groups, piggybacking
I guess was a fear, but we also started by speaking with shops,
businesses and biker clubs across the region once we started to begin to understand who they
were. And historical societies, and we also had
a number of council staff who were motorcycle riders, so we started with them, we kept going, we kept going and we worked
through TAC, RACV, Vic Roads and government advisory groups, and people started getting more and
more interested, and one of the groups that got heavily involved was actually the
59 Club of Australia, who have a Yarra Valley chapter, who ride through Healesville every weekend, and the
reason that they wanted to be involved, is that they had never had somebody from local government
contact them about something positive about what it was that they were doing. We are part of local government, the regulation
makers, we go out there and we are the ones we have to tell them to move on from
that cafe they are at because they are intimidating everyone’s customers, and we’re the ones that put the
street signs up and tell them they’re not allowed to ride there and not allowed to ride here. So what they wanted to do, was to make it
known that motorcycling was actually a really positive thing, and that there is this distinction,
they are not all outlaw groups at all, they’re mostly older men, I’ll give them that,
older men, who want to go for a ride, and enjoy the beautiful scenery and the sense of freedom
that they get from that. And being able to tell this historically was
quite important, because it was in the late 60s in Australia that the huge motorcycling culture,
that sense of freedom, really came over from America to Australian culture and we saw things like
Easy Rider that were massive, and there were other ones like Stoned, which was a particularly
Australian one, but it really infiltrated Australian culture.. So there’s actually a whole story about why
the bikes we have over here are how are they are, and how it is has evolved.. and very little
has been looked at, and this group were very keen to do anything they could to help us, and
they were really great inroads to other ‘safe’ biker groups in the community. And we weren’t, I actually
did expect, that we were going to hear from some people that we might need to work with
sensitively, and it actually didn’t happen, but it was good in the end because we also
didn’t have any trouble. So this is how the exhibition ended up, every
item in the exhibition was loaned and came through the community, I had a video, but I just realised
I didn’t give that to you earlier. So it’s only a small exhibition, we have a
temporary gallery that’s only 60m2, so it’s quite a small thing compared to what some of the larger
institutions might do, I think we had six motorbikes in the exhibition, as well as a lot of other
ephemera, and it told the story of the evolution of motorcycle riding in Melbourne,
but specifically in the Yarra Ranges. So, did we succeed? My biggest point of success was that an exhibition
came out of this, and a range of programs as well. But we had a lot of buy-in from the riding
community, we didn’t have any trouble, we had plenty of dodgy photos in the papers such as this, and
we did have a lot of men, which was fantastic. We also got a lot of exposure through the
motorcycle networks and at the launch of the exhibition the 59 Club organised a show and shine event, which was quite a common
thing. So despite the fact it had been raining in the morning, a whole lot of motorbike riders,
with beautiful bikes came down to show them off and we had prizes and a competition at the exhibition
opening, but I have to say, we’ve never had that number of burly men in leather jackets
come through the museum and look so comfortable, and be the ones telling the stories, about
the bikes that are on show. It was quite incredible, but we did, for the
community safety side of things, we did have a TAC interactive in the exhibition, we also ran an instructed
ride with HART trainers, followed by an exhibition viewing, so we were encouraging people to
get involved with motorcycling in a safe way. And we did have a very different audience
through the door, and before I get to those statistics and get Maggi to show you them, one of the things at the exhibition launch
that I want to point out, that in the bottom right corner there was our Mayor at the time, who is a motorbike rider and a Policeman,
so he was more than enthusiastic and in terms of the political side of things, keeping councillors
happy, we had a lot of support, a lot of our staff ride motorbikes, and it
was really important to be able to tell this story in a positive way and to really reflect on that unique aspect
of Yarra Ranges.. Maggi would you like to talk through a couple of these statistics.. So basically, before the exhibition, a very
very large amount of green, for our lovely female visitors.. and then if we move on, during the exhibition,
we had a massive change.. so we could actually tell on numbers alone,
that this was successful, it did bring through people. Did we keep that audience? Should we try to
keep that audience? Good question. Well, after the exhibition, what we’ve got,
is it going back to what it was before. I’m going to leave the question as to whether
or not we should maintain.. I think that, in some ways, we’re obviously
not going to do exhibitions on motorcycling all the time, I think the contacts we’ve made, the engagement
we’ve made, will keep some people coming back and just anecdotally, you might be interested
to know, that while the exhibition was on we do have a cafe which is attached to the
museum which is run by the Healesville Hotel and basically there was a building company
who came to us and said we want our end of year breakup here. And we thought, ‘a building company?’ It turned
out that one or two of the people organising it were also motorbike riders, and they brought
the company to have their end of year breakup in a museum, of all places, to see the motorbikes
on display, so that kind of engagement can actually have a really positive outcome
at the end of the day, and I think to be honest, and you’ll see in the quotes
here, I think to be honest, in terms of our definition of success, in
discovering that audience and getting them to be in the place, it was very successful.. but as I said, do we have to keep trying to
keep those audiences, and if so, how do we do it? Thank you.

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