Our latest case study comes from Olivia Kippax Jones, a member of the Museum of Oxford’s young people’s panel who planned their October Museums at Night event, “Damifino”.
Damifino is a threatening-sounding title for a Halloween event, but what does it actually mean?
According to mentalfloss.com, surely an authority on Victorian slang, the creative cuss is a contraction of “damned if I know.”
This sentiment was certainly one our group of young people were feeling mid-summer 2015 when asked to name their upcoming event. And thus Damifino was born.
The young people’s panel
Bringing together a group of disparate people whose only common traits were that their ages fell between 16 and 25 and that they loved museums could have been a disaster waiting to happen. However, the variety of experiences and ideas brought together in this way made for a very creative and imaginative planning process.
Halloween event planning
We began to talk about the Halloween event in early in the summer, holding meetings sporadically in which we discussed themes, activities, budget, publicity, and how best to involve the Museum’s collection in the evening. Once we hit September our meetings became more regular and we discussed practicalities such as lighting, how to build a tent in the event space and how on earth to make a photobooth!
Although the Museum staff occasionally had to reel us back from the impossible, we came up with a plan. Our event was to be a relaxed drop-in evening, vaguely Victorian-themed, with tours led by a wonderful character dreamt up by the more creative in the group – the Collector.
The Collector, a Victorian man fascinated with amassing gory and gruesome historical objects, would allow the guests to learn more about objects in Explore Oxford than they might otherwise have known. The character featured in all our publicity for the event and was played on the night by an actor from Hidden Track Theatre. The figure was partly inspired by the likes of Alderman William Fletcher, who had the Museum’s Dance of Death panels decorating his halls.
On the night
The night itself went off with a bang. Well actually, it went off to the sound of bagpipes playing outside the Town Hall. However, apart from the unplanned concert our guests enjoyed, they could also get their tarot cards read, take silly Victorianesque pictures in our photobooth, and of course experience a tour of Explore Oxford which highlighted the more creepy nature of some of the objects. The Collector guided guests around the Museum pointing out Oliver Cromwell’s death mask, the tomb of Frideswide, the knucklebone pavement and more.
What else did we offer? Classic Victorian Halloween games such as apple bobbing and doughnuts on a string, drinks and delicious homemade food, the opportunity to share scary moments and deepest fears, and some great performances by a couple more actors from Hidden Track Theatre.
How did it go?
The evening was very successful in terms of attendance and also experience. We have had some really positive feedback, especially concerning the tours. This reaffirms what we already know: that the Museum of Oxford has a lot to offer its visitors, and that events such as Museums at Night are a fantastic way of helping people engage with the history of Oxford.
Planning and running this event has been a great experience for me personally and I’m sure I speak for the rest of the team in thanking the Museum of Oxford for allowing us to have a go.
What will we do next? Damifino!
Olivia Kippax Jones is currently a student at the University of Oxford studying English Language and Literature. Though she is in her final year, volunteering at the Museum of Oxford has been one of the highlights of her time here.
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