Case study Re:Fresh

Limited budgets for exhibitions are not ideal, but they are the reality for many museums.  South East Museum Development Consortium Re:Fresh project began in March 2013 and has been helping museums within Surrey, East Sussex and West Sussex to refresh displays and improve the quality of their visitor experience on super-small budgets.

I manage the project, which has been commissioned by the South East Museum Development Consortium and funded by Arts Council England.

Perversely, sometimes, big budgets stop organisations from thinking truly creatively. Perhaps this is because they end up focusing on getting the money spent rather than how every penny invested can have the greatest impact.

And here lies the key to the Re:Fresh project – focus first on those things that will make the biggest impact to the largest proportion of current and potential visitors.

A simple, highly targeted approach? Yes it is.

Understandably, we often spend our energies fretting over the much bigger problems with no immediate achievable answer. But this can mean we don’t see the simple, effective and cheap solutions right under our noses that will make a difference to the visitor tomorrow or next week.

So here are just a few of the top tips we’ve learned:

  • Get a fresh eye to look at your displays – it’s amazing what we walk past every day and don’t notice but someone else will spot straight away.
  • Just do it – be brave, get on and give it a go.
  • Take some risks – new approaches can help to make your budget go much further.
  • Try before you buy – a lot of money is wasted on interpretation that doesn’t actually work. Trialling can help to identify problems early and make valuable budgets go further.
  • Keep it simple – sometimes the simplest interpretation is the most effective for audiences.

Kate Measures
is the consultant for Re:Fresh and is a visitor experience specialist.

You can see our Flickr collection for great examples of exhibitions of all designs and sizes.

A few more great places to get help: