UCL Museums Student Events Team
By Rachel H Bray, on 8 June 2015
Back in February this year, UCL Museums ran a very special late night opening at the Grant Museum of Zoology around Valentine’s Day, called Animal Instincts: Sex and the Senses. Much fun and merriment was had by all with special lusty-themed cocktails, an animal photobooth, crafts and some particularly pungent ‘animal’ smelling boxes. Over the years UCL Museums have built up a reputation for putting on events such as these; however, for Animal Instincts, they handed over the reigns to the events programme to some of us UCL students.
On any given week at UCL Museums you are likely to find one the event programmers running an event, whether it is a film night with a Head of Department wearing a kangaroo onesie (this did happen and he shall remain nameless) or a PhD student discussing their work tagging sharks around the Chagos Islands. The events UCL Museums run offer a great variety for a wide variety of tastes. But one audience that appeared to not be engaging so much with these events was the UCL student population. So as a response UCL Museums decided to set-up a student panel and give us a chance to run our own event specifically for students.
So for prospective members of the Student Events Panel here’s my take on the experience:
How did I hear about the Student Events Panel and why did I get involved?
While wandering around one of UCL’s many Freshers’ Fayres back in September I was very pleased to learn that the university has a series of dynamic museums and collections around campus. Much to my joy I discovered that these museums were fully accessible to explore, but also that a Student Events Panel was being founded this very year! Lucky me! I had decided to study at UCL in 2014 in order to gain the skills required to work in the highly competitive heritage sector. Therefore the chance to get to know the collections and also the process for putting on museum events seemed like a precious opportunity not to be missed!
What did we do in the sessions?
The sessions were greatly varied and very relaxed, based upon working with other students and museum professionals. Some of the first few sessions included familiarising ourselves with the museums’ current events and then teaming up to share our wackiest ideas for possible future student events. The following sessions then included honing our broader event ideas, scent testing, careers sessions and some cocktail tasting!
How did our Valentine’s event take shape?
The planning process began with us being split into teams so that we could bounce ideas off each other and come up with a new museum event appropriate for students. Once we had managed to polish our ideas a little we were tasked with presenting to the whole group and collaboratively deciding on our next event. The sky was the limit for our plans which ended up including a burlesque night, jazz band, valentine’s activities and spooky Hallowe’en schemes! After one event idea was selected from our proposals, Animal Instincts: Sex and the Senses, we were split into teams to develop ideas appropriate for each sense. As part of the scent team we worked on sourcing animal smells apt for a museum space, designing the activity and creating information panels. We met once per month at first and then on a weekly basis as the event date approached. The planning comprised of a combination of sub-team work and whole team feedback. Alongside being on the scent team I also helped develop the event’s evaluation tool, which ended up taking the form of heart-shaped notelets which were strung on a rope in the museum on the night.
How did it go?
The event went really well! The Grant Museum was filled with a buzzing atmosphere of intrigue and awe (and a bit of eww for a few of the scents!). The cocktails went down well, as did the animal-themed playlist. We also had great feedback about the scent table, both orally and in written form, with visitors suggesting that they found the night very interesting and fun! This was really rewarding and made all the effort feel completely worthwhile.
How has being part of the Student Events Panel influenced me?
The Student Events Panel’s best influence was that it introduced me to UCL’s exciting and inspiring collections, and has meant that I am currently undertaking a placement with the Grant Museum of Zoology. I also had the opportunity to make good friends with both PhD students and undergraduates from a range of disciplines at UCL, meaning I’ve felt much more part of the university. The Student Events Panel also acquainted me with UCL Museums’ staff, all of whom have created an incredibly warm and welcoming community for the Student Events Panel to establish itself in.
If you are interested in joining the Student Events Panel in 2015/16 keep an eye out on this blog. It was a great experience and I’d heartedly recommend it to all UCL students!
Rachel Bray is currently studying an MA in Cultural Heritage Studies at the UCL Institute of Archaeology and is on a 20 day placement at the Grant Museum.