Over the weekend I had a bad experience in a museum. This is the second time this has happened, clearly I must look like a rapscallion who doesn’t know how to behave in museums. You can read what happened the first time here. This time was in the Wallace Collection. Which is beautiful. You should go. I am hoping my experience was a one off, put simply I was told off by an attendant because I had a bag. The museum attendant felt that I needed to be told that the furniture on display was important/expensive/delicate and my bag could cause damage to them. For context, I know how to behave in a museum; it was a shoulder bag, on my shoulder. Not swinging widely, it was by my side, I was with my parents, my Mam and I were discussing an object in the collection whilst walking from one gallery to the next, I was not near any objects and I repeat my bag was under control – not that my bag could ever be out of control. It’s a bag. I can only assume that the museum attendant was having a bad day, and made a snap judgement that because I am young, I mustn’t understand how a museum works and that I would appreciate being told how to behave.
When this event occurred, I got angry and upset. I could not help thinking what if that experience had happened to a first time visitor to a museum, it could put them off coming to museums all together. Adhering to the old fashioned stereotypical view that museums are elitist, arrogant and not for the ‘likes of you’. So what did I do? I tweeted.
I received instant feedback from people who work in the museum world, who were just as disappointed as I was (I hope that I am not taking their name in vain there). It felt great to get that instant feedback, that sense of community that I wasn’t alone. And then today, I received a tweet from the Wallace Collection apologising for that experience and asking for feedback on how they could improve.
Brilliant! I felt empowered, I now know that they do value their visitors, it was just a one off, and they really want visitor feedback.
And that is why it’s so important for museums to be monitoring social media, particularly Twitter and now foursquare. People are leaving comments, instantly whilst still in the museum, the majority are positive. But on the off chance that one or two are negative, museums can reach out, get in contact and try and change people’s experiences for the better.