The Inspiration

Visitor Profiling research for local museums in Northern Ireland in 2016 revealed that representation was lowest in the 18-40 age category, accounting for around only a quarter of all museum visits. People were visiting museums as children, with their family, or when they’re older but there was a lack of engagement from those in-between.

In 2018, NI Museums Council partnered with Thrive and Seedhead Arts to run an audience development project to help museums attract this missing audience with funding from National Lottery Heritage Fund, Tourism NI, and Department for Communities as part of the 2018 European Year of Cultural Heritage.

The Project

What we came up with was ‘The Late Shift’ – a series of after-hours, adults-only events that took place in museums across Northern Ireland during the Halloween season.

Over 1,000 paying visitors attended six unique events. Visitors honed their zombie-survival skills at North Down Museum in Bangor, joined a ‘Carnival of Delights’ in Newry’s Bagenal’s Castle, gave sunrise yoga a go at Mossley Mill in Newtownabbey, went ‘Into the Mystic’ with Armagh County Museum, joined a 15th-century house party in Enniskillen Castle, and saw Ryan Vail headline ‘The Dark Tower’ in Derry-Londonderry’s Tower Museum.

Along the way, museums had support, training and capacity building with creative programming, evaluation, and marketing and communications.

Evaluation and Impact

Key findings:

  • One-third of attendees had never been beforeto that specific museum prior to The Late Shift event.
  • 68%of attendees said the event changed their perception of the museum.
  • Almost halfof attendees were aged 40 and under.
  • 86% would attend another Late Shift event in the future.
  • Almost halffelt that the event encouraged them to find out more about local history.

2019 and beyond

25th October – 2 November 2019 saw our second Late Shift festival with 8 museums taking part. Feedback is still coming through but we hope to have it all analysed by the end of 2019 so watch this space.