A Crash Course in Media

On the very first day of this module – well, I say first day, it was actually during the second week, but it was the first day that we’d met together as a heritage module rather than with our classmates on the excavation module – our module leader Sara had us write down things that we wished to learn during this module. I remember one thing immediately popping to my mind: media.

I’m not someone who’s naturally good at social media. As one of the mature students, I’m slightly above the age of most people who easily use things like Twitter and Instagram. I used to side more with the people who couldn’t understand the need to spout out every thought to faceless strangers on the internet, and I even used to be a selfie snob.

I’m very happy to say that I’ve since seen the error of my ways. Social media is actually a very powerful tool in terms of networking and advertising. It’s a way to connect with people across the planet, to access new work and new ideas – and yeah, sometimes it involves spouting those 3am thoughts to faceless strangers on the internet, but that’s not inherently a bad thing. The world is changing, the world of heritage is changing, and this is one of the areas it’s growing in rapidly.

As our Breary Banks project began to wind down, we turned our attention to the exhibition, and we were divided into two teams: the exhibition team and the media team. I have to admit, the skills I already have would have been perfect for the exhibition team, but I was thrilled to be put on the media team (no doubt Sara remembered my initial learning goal when she drew up the teams!). I didn’t have any skills in this area, no experience whatsoever, and that was both terrifying and exciting.

When we were dividing up tasks, I offered to take charge on the text of the press release. With a bachelor’s degree in English already under my belt, I’m fairly comfortable with words – whether informally such as in our blog posts here, or in more formal writing, such as essays and theses. But I had never even fully read a press release, let alone written one. It seemed like a good challenge.

And what a challenge it was. I looked at press releases from past years, taking cues from them in what exactly it should include, and when I felt I had gotten all I could out of it, I sat down to write. I put on my never-fail writing playing (the Torchwood soundtrack, still inspiring even after all these years) and banged it out in about an hour. It was far from perfect, but it was a good start. A few tweaks from Sara later, and they were ready to be sent out.

You can access the final version here: PressRelease-Digital

But my job as a media team member wasn’t done yet! Sure, I’d gotten to grips with the more formal aspects of media, but what about the all important social media part? As we were discussing our tasks, I confessed to my group that I was trying to learn Twitter, but I still didn’t quite get hashtags, and Hermione, our project manager, immediately said, “right, that’s what you’re going to be in charge of. By the end of this, you’ll be our hashtag queen.”

I can’t say that I’m there yet, but we did come up with a hashtag for our event, one that we’ve been using in all our social media promotions and I (and a few others) have been using in Tweets as we post about our progress. Maybe not a queen, but I think I’ve at least earned my tiara in social media.

– Written by Ashley

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Developing the Brochure

We’ve spent a great deal of this blog writing about the development of our audio tour for Breary Banks, but there is another component to our audio visual guide – the visual part. In addition to the audio tour, we needed to create a brochure to go along with it.

We had been thinking about the brochure since the very beginning of our project, especially when we created our mood board and started developing our aesthetic for the guide. We spent a great session with Tom Smith (one of our favourite IT people from the University of York), throwing out ideas and concepts and eventually came up with a rough idea that we all liked. It kept our scrapbook theme whilst still providing a great amount of information.

Following our pitch to the Leeds Museums and Galleries curators, we had a few tweaks to our concept, but overall, we were really pleased with it, and set the brochure aside to concentrate more fully on the audio guide for a bit. About a week later, we finally sat down to really begin working on the prototype…when we hit an ‘uh oh’ moment. It was that moment all designers dread, when they realise that they overlooked a crucial detail that drastically alters their design. In our case, it was something as simple as margins, which would break up the cover design that we had envisioned. Luckily, Tom was with us again, and as most of the group was working on things for the audio guide, he and a couple of us started hashing out a few alternative ideas to present the rest of the group. In the end, we solved the crisis, coming up with a new layout that took margins into account but also kept to our scrapbook theme.

Now that we had a better feeling for the layout, our group split up, most of them going back to Breary Banks itself to run a pilot test on our audio guide as Tongtong, Meghan, and I stayed back at King’s Manor to focus on things for the brochure. We decided to use LucidPress to build it on, as it was a browser-based program. This meant that multiple people could work on it at the same time, and we also would all be working on the same file as well, instead of sending around a new file every time someone updated something and hoping that they hadn’t edited an old copy. Both these were key to a project that has multiple creators and a tight timeline, which made this program absolutely perfect for us.

Tongtong worked on the map and icons as I spent the morning building a good base for everyone to drop their information into, turning our rough layout into an actual thing that would be used by the public. Things were going really well… until we broke for lunch, and the power went out in the city centre of York, including King’s Manor. This meant that we had no power and worse still, no internet. Still, we didn’t let a simple little thing like a power cut slow us down. We decided to work off our laptops until the batteries gave out and Meghan set up a hotspot on her mobile so that we had internet. We kept working for three or four hours like that, doggedly determined to not give in despite the technical difficulties. By the end of the day (and the end of our laptops), we had a put as much into the brochure as we were able, and had a good framework for the others to drop their content into.

Last week, we were all together again, spending two long, excruciating days editing our audio guide stops and pulling together the rest of the brochure. This was where the decision to use LucidPress turned out to be brilliant, as we had at least five people working on the brochure at any given time, each filling it in with pictures and text and adjusting fonts and colours and layouts as it all finally came together.

What does the final brochure look like? Well, you’ll just have to wait and see…

Written by Ashley

Stop 5- Come on, Pal!

Breary Banks was most famously a training ground for the Leeds Pals, but have you ever wondered what life was really like for a volunteer training for the Great War?

 

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WWI recruitment poster. Image from wikipedia

At stop 5 of our audio tour, you’ll listen to what the soldiers went through as they were whipped into shape before being sent out to the front lines. From the food they ate to the hardships they endured, you’ll experience the joys and sorrows of their time spent at Breary Banks.

Written by Ashley

The Pitch

This week brought us to a critical point in our project: the pitch meeting. We needed to present our ideas and work so far to a group of curators at Leeds Museums and Galleries. Last week, Lucy Moore had been talking to us about it and said that she had sold it to her colleagues as their chance at “Dragon’s Den” – and thus started our building anxiety over this part of the project.

On Monday, we had a mini-pitch with Amanda Walters, the leader of the World War 1 Nidderdale AONB project, on site at Breary Banks. She took us around the site and showed us a lot of research that she and her team had put together already. There were so many photos and newspaper articles we had never seen before, it gave us some great ideas and resources for our guide.

We then gave her our tour of the site, giving her an overview of each stop, showing her our mood trajectory and aesthetic concept for the brochure. She really liked it! The only adjustment she suggested was making sure to emphasise the University’s own work on the site, mentioning the excavations specifically. We hadn’t really considered that, and took that suggestion to heart for one of our stops.

On Tuesday, we sat down and really worked on our pitch. First we divided up the tasks, everyone taking a different section of the pitch. Then we set to work to write our scripts and slides and notes. At the end of the afternoon, we ran through it all to make sure it flowed well, and make any final tweaks to the pitch presentation.

And then we came to the big day: Pitch Day. We met at King’s Manor for one final run-through of the pitch before we headed to Leeds. Nerves were running high as we loaded onto our luxurious mini-bus for the trip. We’re normally a pretty chatty group if we’re around each other for more than five minutes, but the entire ride was dead silent, except for Sara and Harald talking in the front. It’s pretty safe to say we were really feeling the pressure for this meeting.

We arrived at the Leeds Discovery Centre, the grey rainy weather very much reflecting our moods at that point, and hurried inside. Luckily, we were early so we had a few minutes to collect ourselves before Lucy met us again, taking us on a brief tour of the Discovery Centre itself. The centre was an incredible place to explore, and I for one will be revisiting there some time to get a better look at the collections there!

After our brief tour, Lucy had to leave us…to the mercy of her colleagues. Our group of ‘dragons’ consisted of Yvonne Hardman, Head of Collections and Programmes, Ruth Leach, Curator – Exhibition, City Museum, Jen Newby, Digital Media Assistant, Laura Varley, Curatorial Assistant, and Antonia Lovelace, Curator – World Cultures. They sat nicely behind their row of tables as we took our positions for the pitch.

Sara gave a brief of introduction of our project and ourselves, and then we began our presentation. It all went by so quickly! As I sat there waiting for my turn in the project, I listened to each of the other group members and was so impressed by their composure. I couldn’t hear any mistakes in their delivery, no trace of nervousness at all. We must have impressed our dragons as well, as they seemed very pleased with it!

They had questions and suggestions for us, of course, and we spent much longer than we expected discussing various alterations to the guide and distribution ideas, but overall, they seemed incredibly enthusiastic about what we had presented. They had some great suggestions that we will definitely take into consideration, and we’ll discuss those in a later blog post. But all the hard work that went into preparing for this pitch really paid off, and looking back, this was an incredible experience that will help us in the future.

Written by Ashley