Museum, Media, Message

By Eilean Hooper-Greenhill | Go to book overview

15

Changing our minds: planning a responsive museum service

Sally MacDonald

Croydon is building a new museum and a new museum service. Its aims are ‘To encourage creativity, communication and a critical awareness of history’, and ‘To be relevant, responsive and accessible to everyone’.

We hope to create a dynamic and flexible museum facility, a people-centred (as opposed to a place-centred) local history service and a museum which empowers local people, attracts visitors from London and the south-east and gives Croydon a sense of place.

I started work in 1989 and the museum is due to open in 1994; it is a luxury to have had five years to develop the service. We are also lucky in having been able to start almost from scratch. But I cannot claim that we have planned in a systematic way from the start. Planning a responsive service in Croydon has been a haphazard, often ill-considered and sometimes enlightening process, which I try here to present as coherently as I can. But we do not have all the answers. And maybe the thing about trying to be responsive is that you never do; you have to keep asking and you have to keep changing your mind.

This chapter is about the various types of market research we have carried out, both formal and informal, expensive and cheap. The service has not yet opened to the public, and so most of this research has been formative evaluation or concept development. But we are also looking at ways of trying to structure our service to make it more responsive long-term.


Who is it for?

Croydon’s popular image is that of a grey suburban wasteland: mock Tudor on the outside, faceless offices at the centre; acres of chain-store shopping; somewhere you have to go through to get from London to Gatwick airport. It was described in GQ Magazine as ‘the monolithic mirror glass headstone to the life that none of us wants’ (Coster 1992) and by the London Evening Standard as ‘the Steve Davis of southern towns’ (Cotton 1991).

And the people who live there get a bad press too. The Evening Standard described ‘Croydon man’ as follows:

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