How can we make heritage cool for younger audiences?

Heritage is something we inherit, but often younger audiences display apathy towards it – perhaps not understanding the relevance or significance to their past, or potentially their future. One of the biggest barriers to young people visiting and enjoying heritage sites is lack of interpretation. Here we look at ways to re-engage our younger audiences and make heritage seem a little ‘cooler’.

Co-curation

It sounds rudimentary but understanding your audience and keeping up to date with the latest trends are where any journey of engagement begins. If you don’t understand how they think, what concerns them and what obstacles you have to overcome to get their attention, then it’s an uphill struggle from word-go. It’s also important not to guess or presume that you know what makes them tick. Co-curation should be pivotal to any decision making in the design of a heritage project. Working with local schools, colleges and community groups (Scouts & Girlguiding for example) and relevant societies to inform the content of the project can be the difference between success and failure. These interventions shed new light on familiar stories, create artistic interventions, deliver alternative ways of seeing and doing things and challenge existing ideas about objects, galleries, museums and heritage sites.

Co-curation within a community also means that engagement with an audience has already begun before the doors to a heritage project are open, creating interest and excitement with young people. These interactions will ensure that a project stays on track and relevant – from the overall look and feel of something to the content within it, making it the very best it can be.

Tone of voice and clarity of message

Pitching the right message in the appropriate tone of voice is crucial to engagement. If we more widely consider global brands and their consistency in delivering new content to their audiences, we can see how consistency of marketing voice, tone and style is rewarded with consumer loyalty.  There is a tightrope to walk between making it too simple, and the over complicated use of big words, but getting straight to the point with a subject matter and easily digestible – light, quick and simple, rather than long and dry.

Using the right mediums to engage

Choosing the right medium to convey our messages determines how ‘translatable’ the subject matter is, as well as considering the look and feel of any displays – well-lit, modern and fresh makes exhibits more attractive to draw a young audience. Making things fun for kids almost guarantees that they remember the subject matter – it sinks in, so finding the right way of doing that is a key component of any heritage project. Interactive displays which examine and reveal how things work, immersive environments that use sounds, smells and moving objects to bring a story to life, plus modern technology like virtual reality that can help visualise how something once was, or might be in the future all increase interest and accelerate learning.

Youngsters undoubtedly also like physical activities -be that an opportunity to dress up in costume or try their hand at an ancient art or craft for example, whilst delivering an opportunity to share that experience on social media – an Instagram photo for example – means that the experience is promoted beyond just those visitors and helps to make heritage more cool.

If you would like to speak to Mather & Co about how to engage young people in heritage attractions, please contact us.