In early 2010, the Horniman Museum and Gardens, a family-friendly south London museum, began a concerted effort to reinvent and invigorate their digital offer.
Staff resources were strengthened with the recruitment of key roles in documentation and a newly created digital media manager role, with a further role digital assistant added in late 2012.
By 2010, the Horniman Museum and Gardens’ website had been in existence for the best part of a decade without any major amendments. The website had become out of date, confusing and did not reflect the organisation’s personality well.
The Horniman launched a new website in 2011, which has been architected, designed and developed by Keepthinking with collections data extraction by Knowledge Integration.
Since then, further activity has taken place each year to augment and grow the Horniman’s website, with new features and functionalities, ensuring that the website adapts to user behaviour and is of a reliable and consistent quality. The Qi platform (by Keepthinking) ensured the website grew in a sustainable fashion.
The new Horniman Museum and Gardens website features:
- Increased prominence for exhibitions, events and other activities at the Horniman with large, engaging imagery. Online ticketing has led to high levels of advance online sales with some events selling out entirely online.
- The personality of the organisation was reflected in the new website through digital storytelling of the museum’s collections, projects and behind the scenes activities in blogs and other features. The use of strong, engaging imagery and colourful website design conveyed the family-friendly personality of the Horniman. From publishing less than 20 news articles a year prior to 2011, the Horniman in 2013 published more than 100 blog articles on its site.
- The new website promoted engagement with and displaying information about the museum’s diverse collections in a layered, user-friendly manner. Information about an initial 500 objects was displayed, which quickly increased to 2000 in six months and 5,000 by 2013. Aligning these digital activities with long-term museum projects has further increased online collections, which now stand at more than 20,000. The Horniman plans to make much more of its collections available, with the ultimate objective to display its entire anthropology collections online. We provide an interactive tagging feature to allow visitors to describe objects in their own words.
- Embedding a devolved content creation model across the organisation, with a user-friendly Content Management System.
- Development continues to adapt and evolve to emerging trends and technologies. The Horniman Museum and Gardens is about to launch a mobile-optimised website in March 2014.
- By 2010, the Horniman had a presence on both Twitter and Facebook. Since then, a more strategic approach has been adopted to encourage more embedding of social media both on the Horniman’s website and across the organisation in general. The Horniman has subsequently began using a wide variety of social media platforms including Tumblr, Flickr, Instagram and Pinterest. In fact, the Horniman were among one of the first UK museums to have a presence on Pinterest. Content is re-used across different social networks in a nuanced manner, with overall strategic goals and aims served by a wide variety of campaigns, including promotional activities and encouraging user-generated content.
Since 2010, the Horniman Museum and Gardens has seen a marked increase in its online activities, both in presence and results. Website visitors have doubled since 2010, from c323,000 visitors in 2010 to more than 750,000 visitors in 2013. Page views on the Horniman Museum website have increased by more than a third, from 1.8 million in 2010 to 2.4 million in 2013.
Social media following and interaction have also increased considerably, with ten-fold increases in Twitter and Facebook followers since 2010. In just over a year, the Horniman’s tumblr site had gained more than 20,000 followers.
We are particularly proud of the way in which we have transferred the relationship with our traditional audience to our online communities over recent years. Through a well-considered website re-launch and strategic usage of social media platform, the Horniman Museum and Gardens have aligned its digital activities with the organisation’s long-term strategy.