gemma_s[This week’s guest post is written by Gemma Sturtridge, Assistant Collections Officer at the Museum of Croydon]

This week I came across the launch of the Connected Histories Project.  Once completed this aims to become the first port of call for researching historical sources by linking up existing databases. This sounds like an exciting project for archives, historians and academics. But it got me thinking, what about our sector? Could we actually create a search facility for researchers pointing at basic catalogue records across museums? I know that Croydon’s embarrassing offer Research Croydon, hidden away on the internet, generates legitimate enquiries and even the odd image sale. Would the number of satisfied researchers increase if they were able to search through one interface? I feel that if we got this right, it would be a resource that researchers would actually use. Even so, with the best will in the world I also realize that this is a long way off.

On Monday this week, the Museum of London posted a new video to their YouTube channel; curator Meriel Jeater introduces the new War, Plague and Fire gallery. It was fun to have a virtual nose around the gallery and interesting to listen to Meriel explain what they’ve done. Yet 3 days later and 161 views there isn’t much interaction from users. No comments, or video responses and only 1 rating. I noticed the figures tell a similar story for videos on YouTube channels posted by other museums, such as the V&A’s trailer for their Quilts exhibition.

The Museum of Croydon had its moment of fame courtesy of Harry Hill’s TV Burp on 6th March. Harry has immortalized our museum and specifically our Riesco gallery of Chinese ceramics in his ‘I love Croydon’ ditty. There are at least 4 versions of the relevant clip and song from the show on YouTube that I have come across, totalling over 30,000 views with 100s of comments and ratings. For the following 4 days our web stats showed that we had doubled the amount of unique visitors to our site, the majority of which came from Harry Hill related referrals.

This plug was quite timely for us as through the National Regional Loans Scheme we’re working with the BritishMuseum on a revamp of our Riesco Chinese ceramics gallery. So this autumn, in the words of Harry, “Get your ancient Chinese ceramics in Croydon”!

What can all of this tell us? Museums are creating YouTube videos but only a small number of users watch them and an even smaller number interact with them. YouTube’s front page shows us their most popular videos. Users are catching up on TV programmes, getting their celebrity fixes and watching those random funnies. We were lucky with the ‘I love Croydon’ song, it’s funny, catchy, encompasses lots of the good facets of Croydon and the Museum comes across fairly well. I am however yet to be convinced that museums can create meaningful content that YouTubers want to watch.