Daily activities for young and old at Hastings’ new digital museum

With the explosion in online classes and activities, staying busy while self-isolating is proving to be less daunting than some had feared.

Starlings Music Group's prerecorded sessions have been extremely popular
Starlings Music Group's prerecorded sessions have been extremely popular

For most these online boredom busters offer a welcome distraction, but behind the scenes groups and individuals have been busily working to ensure we have a range of content available to us. 

Among those to step up is Hastings Museum and Art Gallery, which  has been running daily activities for young and old since closing its doors under the banner of Hastings Digital Museum. Visit its Facebook page to find out more.

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To find out more, we caught up with Hastings Borough Council’s museum and cultural development manager Damian Etherington. 

The digital museum has been holding lego-building workshops

He said: “It started a couple of weeks before everything was ramping up. With outbreaks around the world, we were looking at this as part of our contingency planning.

“The biggest issue we could see as a team was the isolation people would be going through and the impact on health and wellbeing of being stuck in a room with four walls.

“[We asked] how can a museum, which is shown to be a place where people come to improve their health and wellbeing, could translate all of that work.”

Since last week, the museum’s social media channels – Facebook, Twitter and Instagram – have featured a wealth of family-friendly activities, such as live Lego-building workshops and downloadable resources to keep children both entertained and educated.

The most popular activity so far, Damian said, had been the prerecorded Starlings music group sessions.  The music sessions, suitable for younger children, are airing on Facebook every Friday morning.  

As well as the family-friendly activities, the museum is also offering content to more mature audiences, with short lectures on a variety of topics and video tours of its collections.

The museum is planning to ramp up these activities over the coming weeks, with competitions and more coming soon.  

Damian said: “We are trying to divide it between what families can get involved in and for older people, who might be stuck at home and feeling isolated, will find intellectually stimulating as well. 

Hastings Museum and Art Gallery

“We are not just aiming at one audience.”

As well as producing its own content from its collection, the museum has secured  £7,000 of Arts Council funding to commission freelancers to create more. For details on how to pitch, see the museum’s Facebook page. 

The museum has already made several thousand pounds worth of commissions – mostly from local freelancers – with more details of these to be revealed shortly.

They will come as part of a packed weekly release schedule (see picture), with new content being published at 10am and 2pm each day.

The next few weeks are all themed, with a dinosaur week set to begin next Monday (March 30). Following weeks will focus on Greece, the Romans and Hastings itself.

The response to the content so far had been “amazing”, Damian said, reaching a new audience of people in the town and further afield, with its engagement on social media skyrocketing.

He said: “One tweet that went out last week has been retweeted over hundred times and internationally. We have had people in Canada contact us about how they can look at some of our things. 

“There is a question in museum circles around whether people want to see this stuff and the answer is yes, they do.”

To find out more visit the digital museum at www.facebook.com/hastingsmuseum

You can also follow them on Twitter and Instagram, under the handle @hastings_museum

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