In May 2015, the Ashmolean Museum and the Social Sciences Division joined forces to hold an after-hours event, LiveFriday: Social Animals.
The public were invited to go behind the scenes of the division’s research through live music, immersive performances, interactive workshops, live experiments and short talks.
Over 4,500 people attended the event, which was delivered by over 70 social scientists.
How did this help build capacity?
Strategic support and considerable time investment from senior leadership teams at the Ashmolean and the Social Sciences Division demonstrated the value placed on the event. By providing over 60 hours of tailored advice and guidance, the divisional and museum teams supported researchers to take risks with unique methods of engagement, inviting them to move beyond one-way dissemination and develop activities with a strong focus on active participation, and explore how the public could feed into research. Feedback from researchers noted it was “really fun and valuable to think of different ways to explain, show, convey and why my subject matters".
In terms of building public engagement capacity, the event enabled a cohort of over 70 researchers from all career stages and disciplines to develop new skills, including creativity, translation, listening, presenting, planning and collaborating. In terms of legacy, a number of training resources were created to support researchers in their preparation for the event; and many involved have since helped to train other researchers, acting as mentors and academic champions. Furthermore, this programme gave researchers the impetus to seek further public engagement training offered by GLAM's Research and Impact team.
The enthusiasm of the audience to engage with the research has encouraged the Ashmolean to integrate more challenging researcher-led activities into future programmes. Social Animals has also encouraged researchers to explore working with public-facing spaces and organisations elsewhere.