Treasure your treasures: Heritage Open Days

Tips for Heritage Open Days – from tour guiding to helping your visitors engage in a multi-sensory way.

Last week I attended training with Heritage Open Days to find out more about how to organise an engaging heritage themed event.

Every September 40,000 volunteers across England organise 5,000 (free to attend!) events to celebrate heritage and culture. This year, from 7-10th September, you will be able to visit historic buildings, take guided tours, go behind the scenes and take part in activities as part of Heritage Open Days.

The list of events is available by visiting the Heritage Open Days website  and searching by area or theme (the list opens on 18th July and events are added regularly). This year Heritage Open Days are encouraging us to #treasureyourtreasures and #dosomethingnew.

I found the training interesting and it was a great opportunity to meet other people working and volunteering in heritage in the North-West. The day was split into a number of workshops on themes such as PR, broadening your visitor base, accessible heritage, LGBTQ heritage and tour guiding.

I attended the workshops ‘Re-animating accessible heritage’ and ‘Tour guiding’ and wanted to share some key messages from these sessions.

Tell me, I’ll forget. Show me, and I may remember. Involve me, and I’ll understand – Richard Macdonald

Liz Porter delivered ‘Re-animating accessible heritage’ on behalf of Accentuate and spoke about the History of Place project and shared some tips about how to make events, venues and activities more accessible. Liz suggested taking a creative approach in order to be more inclusive. For example, if your heritage is remote or inaccessible then hold a ‘pop-up’ event elsewhere. She suggested we consider including audio or have an object handling box with examples of the heritage available for people to feel such as a wallpaper sample, a brick and scents to help your heritage be experienced in a multi sensory way.

Objects can be used to bring your heritage to life in a multi-sensory way

Liz mentioned further information and resources can be found at Accentuate, The Sensory Trust and the National Portrait Gallery.

Picture shows hand holding brush

Objects can be used to bring your heritage to life in a multi-sensory way

The ‘Tour guiding’ session was led by Richard MacDonald, a Blue Badge tour guide. Richard reminded us that a story can come alive with someone telling it and that a tour should entertain and educate. He suggested picking a theme; architecture, archaeology, social history, secrets, ghosts, art and so on, and then focussing on a few key stories. My favourite tip was to make measurements relatable, for example; the Liver Building Liver Birds (in Liverpool) are the same size as a double decker bus! Another brilliant suggestion, echoing Liz’s theme, was to find a sensory alternative to enable people to touch your heritage without damaging it. I’d go on any tour that Richard led!

The training was informative and engaging and i’m looking forward to Heritage Open Days in September.

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