Thu 31 Oct - Sat 2 Nov 2019

Our latest guest post comes from Catherine Coleman, Learning and Participation Officer at the Novium in Chichester, who explains how her team has developed their museum sleepover offer.

Why did we try sleepovers?

Since first hearing about sleepovers in the Natural History Museum I had been very keen to run one and try using the museum in a completely new way after hours. Luckily for us the Novium is located in a brand new building with lots of floor space, which lends itself perfectly to sleeping bodies.

After checking with our Insurance and Health and Safety officers in the council, we were given the all clear to go for it.

Pilot event

A rough plan for the sleepover was devised. We don’t have a café or kitchen, so had to be clear with visitors that they would need to eat dinner before arriving. Doors reopened at around 7pm, and we programmed 4 activities for the children to do: a torch-lit tour; take-home craft; cardboard building challenge for teams and story time. Orientation was important, so we ensured there was enough time for introductions and putting bags away safely – and a break for hot chocolate.

We tested this out with a group of 20 local Brownies and Guides, and held a meeting with their leaders beforehand to discuss the plan.

Girls writing on glass cases by torchlight

Torch lit trail at Novium’s sleepover

Developing the concept

The pilot event went very smoothly, and gave us the confidence to try running another sleepover aimed at a family audience. We just had to make a few tweaks to the timings, and added a couple of things to the To Do list: checking all the toilets had extra toilet paper beforehand, and asking people to take out their snack and torch before they put their bag away.

Our first sleepover for families was in May for the Museums at Night festival. The maximum number of people we can accommodate at a sleepover is 40, and the response surprised us – we sold out!

Regular programming

The sleepovers have been very popular, and since the first family event we have done them as an end of term treat for a local year 5 class; we offered Arts Award Discover through a sleepover with a local youth group; plus 2 more family sleepovers in August and at Halloween. We have 3 sleepovers booked in this March and April for Cub and Beaver groups, and a mid-week sleepover as an end-of-term treat in June.

Children in costume mummifying each other with toilet paper

Children mummify each other at a Halloween sleepover

Extending the offer in future

We’ve had enquiries about sleepovers for adults, teenagers and even for under 5s! Our team is definitely thinking about expanding our offer at some point. People are hearing about our sleepovers through word of mouth, which is an excellent marker of their success. It is fantastic to realise that there is so much interest in museum sleepovers in our area: they seem to have really captured people’s imagination.


catherine-200 About the author

I am the Learning and Participation Officer at The Novium Museum in Chichester and have been here for 3 years. I love finding new ways to use the museum: the best challenge I’ve met so far at this job involved bringing sheep and lambs into the city centre to highlight the local woolstapling industry.





Thanks, Catherine!

If you’d like to write a guest post or share a case study about any aspect of audience development, event planning or marketing in the arts and heritage sector, please email [email protected].

More resources:



Thu 31 Oct - Sat 2 Nov 2019