One of the first things I did with our new online presence was establish the #redlodgerevealed hashtag. The aim of this was to tie in to the current marketing of the Red Lodge as ‘Bristol’s Hidden Treasure’, but at the same time, try and make it slightly less hidden! By using the hashtag, I started an ever-changing index of the really interesting bits of Red Lodge, which visitors can add to, share, and respond to.
We’ve identified an issue with the Red Lodge in that a lot of visitors to the building say that it’s not obviously a museum from the outside, for example, the front door looks like a house’s front door, and physical signage isn’t obvious. By sharing pictures of the rooms inside, using the #redlodgerevealed hashtag, we’re hopefully leaping one of those hurdles that are stopping people from knowing about us and coming in to enjoy the building in real life!
There were some concerns about opening a twitter account for the Red Lodge – one of which was ‘How are you going to accurately convey such a complicated history in 140 characters?’ Personally, I think twitter is a great medium for sharing bite-size bits of history – the character limit and instant sharing means you can focus on one chair, or how the view from the window has changed. I like to think of any museums’ twitter account as a repository – so not every tweet has to be wholly comprehensive as a stand-alone publication, because it’s one small part of a bigger archive of facts, opinions, photos, links and conversations. The plan as we continue to tweet in the future will be to keep adding to this repository and keep building the picture of the Red Lodge with its community of followers.
Twitter as an online visitor book
One of my favourite bits about tweeting as the Red Lodge is getting feedback. I love seeing our twitter account used as an online visitor’s book (to go alongside our real, physical, paper and pen visitor’s book). It’s testament to the building and the Museum Service’s stewardship of it that almost all our feedback is positive, with maybe a few constructively critical comments showing disappointment that the garden isn’t open!
— Liza Radley (@WeirdSid) March 24, 2014
Quite early on in the life of the twitter account, I got the opportunity to take over @BristolCouncil for a week to highlight the lodge as one of the city’s assets. We had a great few days that culminated in a tweet-up at the Lodge, and the creation of a new (very silly) hashtag: #redlodgesongs, which prompted such gems as ‘Lets Tudor Timewalk Again’, ‘Lady in Red Looooodge’ and ‘Red Lodge my fire, Knot garden’s my only desire’.
The Red Lodge twitter account is quite quirky and informal compared to the other museum accounts (which is not to say they don’t have their moments). This is partly because that’s just how my brain works, and partly because I think it makes institutions much more friendly and inviting when you can see they having fun chats with people on the internet! This style also comes into it’s own when Red Lodge gets to chat with Great George, the bell in the Wills Tower, and Cabot Tower, and there’s whole articles about and lists of ‘Museum Mascot’ twitter accounts round the world!
HISTORY! Come and get your HISTORY! Paahnd forra paahnd. Piping hot, juicy, fresh HISTORY! (We're open today 10:30-4) 😀
— The Red Lodge Museum (@RedLodgeMuseum) April 26, 2014
Potential for the future
I hope that the twitter account is going to be the start of a number of interdependent online platforms which become part of the visitor experience of the Lodge (and the other historic houses). There’s so much scope to use other online programmes and facilities like Storify, Instragram, and Facebook to share the stories of the Red Lodge, organise meet-ups and events, and publicise the Red Lodge as a venue.