changing the ground rules changing the ground rules... encounters with promoters asten conference...
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Changing the ground rules... Encounters with promoters
ASTEN conference 2012 Eve Almond
Museum Victoria has hosted a variety of incoming travelling exhibitions at each of its site for many years.
It’s also run an active outbound touring exhibition program, regionally, nationally and internationally.
Typically these exhibitions have:
Involved a variety of other institutions.
Engaged disparate audiences.
Told a multitude of stories through various interpretative strategies.
These very different exhibitions all have had a number of aspects/assumptions in common.
Is offering an exhibition (or at least artefacts) for hire.
Is not primarily driven by the requirement to maximise profit, rather looking to optimise profit.
Has an appreciation and understanding of museum audiences and is interested in ‘learning outcomes’.
Is experienced in’ museum standards and processes.
Provides a sound curatorial underpinning to the exhibition, happy to work with venue to adapt presentation to the local audience.
Is experienced in designing and building robust, engaging exhibitions while meeting local universal access standards, building codes etc.
Is experienced in exhibition touring logistics, including (international) freight requirements.
Respects the venue’s ‘brand’ and reputation along with their own.
Is experienced in installing/deinstalling hired exhibitions in their spaces, efficiently and safely.
Is experienced in operating exhibitions and delivering excellent customer service.
Has previously invested in market research to understand their audiences and their needs.
Is used to running effective marketing and PR campaigns.
Is committed to audience development and building audience loyalty, eg through a membership program.
Is protective of their ‘brand and reputation’.
Encounters with promoters
1. Titanic: The Artefact Exhibition (2009) Melbourne Museum
Organiser: RMS Titanic Inc, Premier Exhibitions Inc) and Frontier Events.
MV granted a licence to Frontier Events to install, display and deinstall the exhibition in the Touring Hall .They in turn hired the exhibition from Premier /RMS Titanic Inc.
480,879 visitors – the most popular travelling exhibition in Museum Victoria’s history at that time
This was the result of a marketing spend which was far greater than anything MV could have afforded.
The marketing spend and placement broadened MV’s audience in terms of socio-economic profiles and draw from Melb metro.
MV received a moderate financial return to for a relatively low investment.
Significant ‘brand/reputation’ and values clash, Frontier Events trying to maximise their profit.
Marketing/Comms controlled by external agency.
Frontier Events inexperienced in travelling exhibitions.
Great reluctance to include Australian content, no direct relationship with American curators.
Exhibition had been on the road for 20+ years, built to USA standards, great reluctance to change to accommodate Australian standards.
American install/deinstall teams used to installing/deinstalling ‘their way’, not keen to adopt Aust work practices.
Ticket agency not so flexible in ticket types, did not provide same level of customer service that MV traditionally has provided.
Audience did not distinguish between MV and promoter, ie all complaints were MV’s fault regardless of whether we were responsible or not.
Promoter not interested in an on-going relationship with your visitor.
Shop and ‘green screen photo’ in effect controlled by others.
Encounters with Promoters
2. Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs (2011) Melbourne Museum
Organiser: IMG, Arts and Exhibitions International, and National Geographic, in association with Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities.
MV granted a licence to IMG/AEI to install, display and deinstall the exhibition in the Touring Hall.
796,277 visitors – most popular travelling exhibition ever staged in Australia (included 59,000 school students).
Relatively low financial risk undertaken by MV for reasonable financial return.
Learnt from Titanic and setup an additional Museum shop to entice visitors, cafe, corporate events.
Marketing spend far greater than MV could have afforded, estimated we obtained media items with a combined value of $11.6 million.
Vigorous contract negotiations, not hiring an exhibition, rather renting out a space and services.
Sheer scale of enterprise required MV to ‘scale up’ all areas.
Significant changes required to ensure current ‘Certificate of Occupancy’ valid, eg increased air- conditioning capacity to cope with crowds.
Marketing campaign tactics and exhibition identity.
All complaints seen as MV’s fault, not that of the promoter.
Encounters with Promoters
3 Wallace and Gromit’s World of Invention 2012 – Scienceworks
Owned by Aardman Animations Ltd, toured by SGA Productions
SW paid Aardman an exhibition hire fee; Aardman then subcontracted the preparation and tour to SGA.
They in turn subcontracted work to variety of independent contractors.
Visitation numbers and satisfaction levels on target.
New sponsorship partnership established with IP Australia.
Exhibition reworked to showcase Australian inventors with full support of Aardman.
Exhibition designed as a ‘one off’ theatre set, not as a robust travelling exhibition.
Neither Aardman/SGA/sub contractors experienced in touring exhibitions internationally.
Sub-contractors not experienced in working on Australian construction sites.
Exhibition worn out and shabby on arrival. Requires considerable maintenance effort to keep exhibits operating..
So what have we learnt?
Engage appropriate legal and accounting services to match those of the promoter.
Do your research, check out all agencies as much as possible. Talk to colleagues, visit the exhibition (and again, and again)!
Chose carefully, acknowledge that you will not be able to negotiate content and presentation in the same way that you would with another museum.
Be prepared to operate in new and different modes.
Prepare staff and other stakeholders.