Sources of inspiration and Visitor Services – Million Pound Team

11 04 2014

Sources of inspiration and Visitor Services - Million Pound Team

As the Whitworth Art Gallery is currently on a journey of major redevelopment and transformation, the physical changes to our new building, new spaces and expansion into our surrounding park are obvious, but what would a team devoted to the visitor experience be doing without a building or any visitors? Chad McGitchie provides the answer:

During the closure the Visitor Services team has a unique opportunity to regroup and strategically plan what our new identity will be when we re-open. Our aim is to streamline our training and development, enhance and polish our skills and work with other organisations/sectors to gather new and innovative ideas on delivering exceptional visitor experiences. As a university gallery in a park, we are really interested in the relationship between the indoor/outdoor experiences and how we connect not only with our visitors but also people who use the space around us.

The first thing we needed was a game plan. During the months leading up to the Gallery closure we devised a document called ‘Visitor Services – Million Pound Team’. “If you had a million pounds to construct a new Visitor Services team, what would you do and how would you do it?”

Of course we don’t have a million pounds just for us, but if we’re investing in millions and building with millions then we as a team should be thinking in millions. This activity plan is geared towards outlining what our new Visitor Services team will look like and what we need to accomplish during the closure and re-opening of the Gallery. It sets out to radically change our approach to deliver a world-class and truly Whitworth experience whilst raising our standards in quality and performance.

Members of the VSA team at a ‘Choon it Out!’ meeting

Members of the VSA team at a ‘Choon it Out!’ meeting

So how do we do this? Well, using our Gallery values of intelligent, accessible and quirky, we got creative! We started off with a series of team focused sessions, which involved each individual bringing their best music playlist on their iPod/iPhone and earphones and we asked a series of questions to answer on large pieces of paper on the walls. What has worked really well? What would you like to change? How would you change it? Why do you enjoy working here? We call it our ‘Choon it Out!’ meetings. You can’t help but get inspired and creative with your answers when your favourtie music is playing! Using everyone’s answers we then collaborated and created a basis for our activity plan with key focal points: Team Branding & Operation Systems, Recruitment & Inductions, Team/Individual Development & Projects, Sustainable Access & Accessibility and Green Impact.

Now that we have a plan we wanted to make sure we covered as much as we could, so we got out of the office! Successfully securing funding from Manchester Consortium Professional Development Grant scheme, we organised research visits to connect with our colleagues around the country looking at cultural institutions, parks, heritage sites and gardens to explore the relationship between inside and outside and the visitor welcome – see #WAGontheMove. The team visited Cornwall – Eden Project, Leach Pottery, Lost Gardens of Heligan and Tate St. Ives, and Scotland – Scottish National Gallery, National Galleries of Scotland Modern One/Two, Jupiter Artland, The Burrell Collection (see the top ‘outside/inside’ image) and Kelvingrove.

Gina (centre) and staff from the Eden Project

Gina (centre) and staff from the Eden Project

Chad at the Lost Gardens of Heligan

Chad at the Lost Gardens of Heligan

It was a great opportunity to meet new colleagues, to tell them more about our redevelopment and learn new ways to engage our visitors both inside and outside our building. We also wanted to visit places that have been, are going through or have completed a major redevelopment to learn from their experiences – the good, the bad and the ‘if we could go back we would change…!’. We were blown away by how inviting and generous people were with their time in talking to us and show us around their venues. We met some fantastic people doing amazing work!

Along with leading in all our social media outlets, which have been integral in keeping people up to date on all things ‘Whitworth’, our next big focus will be on our recruitment drive for new members of the team, which will be launching over the summer.

We still have a lot to complete before the grand re-opening of the Gallery and our planning continues!




One response

14 04 2014

All sounds so promising. Perhaps you should also look into a new park opened in the centre of Nice last year. The park is so well used and by such a variety of people It is like an idyllic artist’s impression come to life. It replaced an ugly bus station. It’s called Promenade du Paillon (Coulée Verte) and is worth googling. Tx

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