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Digital Culture Award Winner case study: Michael Hardy

Michael Hardy is Barnsley Museums’ first Digital Engagement Curator who engages with the museum collections and exhibitions creating content to inspire an ever-expanding audience. Join Michael as he tells us how he engaged with the museum’s audience during the pandemic.

Barnsley Museums (BM) are owned and operated by Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council (BMBC). BM comprises five facilities; Experience Barnsley, Cannon Hall Museum Park and Gardens, Worsbrough Mill and Country Park, Elsecar Heritage Centre, and The Cooper Gallery.

In the last two years, I have experimented with creating content to engage with an ever-growing audience at a time when the pandemic forced Barnsley Museums to close its doors. From creating a virtual pub, using a game of bingo to continue sharing stories, and creating playful content such as #MuseumJigsaws which has had global reach and other organisations across the world have joined in with making puzzles too.

What did you want to achieve?

Working part of a team has helped embed digital across the Barnsley Museums’ service; digital isn’t just the responsibility of one person it is now incorporated into everything we do. We used digital as a way to stay in touch with our audience while we were closed but it has changed the way that we work as a team and how content is created.

What happened?

By adapting the tone of our social media we created more conversational content which has become much more activity-based. We experimented with different ways of creating and distributing content. By becoming part of people’s daily routines we have continued to grow our audience while keeping a loyal local following.

What have you learned?

Simple works! You don’t always have to reinvent the wheel to reach your audience. You can be fun and informative at the same time. Remaining relevant and topical is always key, be flexible! You may intend to share a military story but if the internet wants to discuss pants, bricks, or something else then you have to guide the conversation rather than control it.

What was the impact?

Barnsley Museums reached over 17 million people during the pandemic. As a team, it has forced us to think about how we use digital as a team. We are at the stage where we are reflecting on the last two years of our digital work to create a longer-term digital strategy. The pandemic has changed the way we work as a team, we can continue to be innovative and reach different audiences but only if digital is embedded across the team.

Find out more about Michael’s work at Barnsley Museums

Watch this video: Barnsley Museums – Bringing Comfort During Covid

Read this BBC News article: Coronavirus lockdown: Gallery pieces become online jigsaw puzzles

Watch Michael in action, leading Barnsley Bingo

Visit Barnsley Museums’ website:

Twitter: @BarnsleyMuseums

Facebook: @BarnsleyMuseums

Instagram: @barnsleymuseums

YouTube: Barnsley Museums

Further support

The Digital Culture Network is here to support you and your organisation. Our Tech Champions can provide free 1-2-1 support to all arts and cultural organisations who are in receipt of, or eligible for, Arts Council England funding. If you need help or would like to chat with us about any of the advice we have covered above, please get in touch. Sign up for our newsletter below and follow us on Twitter @ace_dcn for the latest updates.

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