Hi! We are Grace and Joe, we are two university students who are barely in our twenties, and we know more about ships than we ever thought was possible.
We also have ridiculously official-sounding job titles, as we have been hired as Interpretation and Engagement Assistants here at the ship. Who has a four-word job title at twenty? But our job is to get young people onto the ship because the 11-25 age bracket is the hardest to reach for all museums. We won’t lie, we can see why. But we’ve had so much fun learning all this and we wanted to tell you about it.
Our first day at work was probably the weirdest, and loveliest, first shift you could have. Part of museum engagement, we understand now, is learning where your museum sits in the wider context of the museums around it. However, with mere minutes of experience, being told to go on a ‘research trip’ to the museums of Glasgow sounded to us like a bit of a company-sanctioned jolly. And it was - we had a lovely day wandering around museums trying to each other like we knew what we were talking about, but just having a giggle. But, then we got back and we had to ‘present our findings’. We couldn’t really ‘present’ the fact that I discovered journeys with Grace turn my car into a mobile karaoke bar, so we started to worry. But then, something unusual happened.
We started talking, not very professionally, about our day and our opinions, and received replies from our new bosses like ‘oh what an interesting perspective’ and ‘wow, I never would have thought about it like that’. Suddenly we realised that what was valuable was not the biased opinions of experts, but the honest, unfiltered reactions to museum interpretation, as this is the best feedback for museums to build from. Yet, it is some of the hardest to access, so we made this a goal of our time here.
We started brainstorming ideas, contacting some pretty important people, and making all sorts of plans for how we were going to fill our time here. Only being here until the start of May we knew we had to work quickly if we were going to have the impact we wanted, which is a daunting but welcome challenge for us to work on. We still don’t have anything set in stone, but watch this space for our upcoming events and opportunities to get involved behind the scenes!
We also decided to take the last point in the job advert and really run with it. It asked us to ‘advise and support social media content’ so naturally we decided to become International TikTok superstars. Whilst trying not to generalise our own age group, if we are honest we do live on social media, so it was the natural place to feature all the fun we were having at the ship. We started off fun and posted a remake of a scene from Pirates of the Caribbean on the ship and, after we managed to convince some of the crew it was a good idea, we got them involved too! Who would have thought Grace’s horrendous lip-syncing and Joe’s natural sass would create such a sensation, but that video alone now has 35,000 views, and our TikTok account (@TheTallShip) has over 1400 followers, numbers we never expected! Interestingly, the majority of this initial support came from North America - a phenomenon which neither one of us could explain - but, more importantly to us, 89% of our audiences came from ages 15-24!
So, with the target audience (sort of) engaged we set off to unleash our skills set upon the fast-paced environment of social media. With such classics as ‘Hiring Teenagers for your Social Media’, ‘Material (Glenlee) Gurl’, and who can forget ‘Youse Are Gonna Get Fired!’ we began to slowly but surely grow our social media ‘crew’. TikTok has, of course, slowly taken over our lives and we often wake up to messages from each other at 2 in the morning suggesting how we get on the next trend. We still usually miss the boat (get it?) but give us a break - we only work two days a week!
In all seriousness, TikTok has proved a valuable tool in terms of communicating with the public, and whilst we are yet to see if the online success has translated into encouraging more visitors, there is now a community of over 35,000 people online who potentially had never heard of the ship before who are now invested in our story. Our goal was to reach young people and we have already achieved that through social media whilst having probably the most fun work environment we can imagine. After having somewhat resigned ourselves to thinking future careers would just be email after email and meeting after meeting, and while that is still a big part of our job, it’s nice to think that, in between all that, we could be working somewhere like The Tall Ship Glenlee.
Since that first week, we have contacted many youth groups and university societies as well as visited a school whose involvement we are very grateful for. Contacting as many people as we can in the local area has helped form our ideas into some achievable and exciting projects, but we are always looking for more voices to make sure what we are doing will have an impact. We have also met with some experts in the fields of engagement, youth work, and museum interpretation. All of this has given us much more confidence in our abilities as engagement officers than we had in that first week. We now feel able to deliver exciting projects for the ship and the young people of Glasgow, and we can’t wait to do so once the ship reopens!