Wednesday, November 01, 2006

VISIT: The National Museum of Photography, Film and Television

At the halfway point of Semester one, the group visited the cumbersomely named National Museum of Photography, Film & Television, which is based in Bradford City Centre and will now be referred to as NMPFT or simply 'the museum'.

After a quick brunch in the museum cafeteria, we made our way to the new TV Heaven suite where we were given a talk by the museum Marketing Officer Steve Hyman. Steve who is one of a three strong marketing team (Marketing Manager, Officer, and Assistant) has worked at the museum for five years, during which time the museum has peaked in terms of visitor numbers, and is now experiencing a period of slight decline. Since 1983 the museum has attracted over 11 million visitors, however in the product life cycle NMPFT has now passed the saturation and maturity stages, and is experiencing fewer visitor numbers than it was both six years ago (1 million in 2000) and three years ago (750,000 in 2003). In order to combat this, and to modernise the image of what already is quite 'cutting edge' as far as museums go, the museum is being officially renamed and rebranded later this month. To exactly what Steve would not reveal, however my guess of the National Museum of Media, proved to be rather close to the mark, when Steve later accidentally said 'the National Media Museum' as he talked about the museums future (you read it here first). One positive that it is hoped to achieve from the renaming of the museum is a universally recognised name, at present it is known by a variety of pseudonyms, including; the TV museum; the film museum; the photo museum; the Bradford museum; and the IMAX museum. The National Media Museum will focus heavily on new media and multimedia technology alongside its present TV, photography, and film core. The National Media Museum will not particularly focus on printed media in the first instance.

The Museum is centrally located in Bradford near to the Alhambra Theatre

Throughout his talk, Steve also revealed the following information about the museum:


The annual marketing budget is £250,000 this is spent on the following; information and marketing literature; a 6,000 strong mailing list; radio advertising (Pulse and Real Radio); poster sites; an email distribution list; press advertisements (including the Bradford Telegraph and Argus, Yorkshire Post, and the Guardian Guide); a website; market research (including an annual exit survey); and collaborative promotional schemes with other major Yorkshire tourist attractions in a scheme called Yorkshire's Magnificent Attractions. All of the above is referred to as 'above the line' marketing, there is also 'below the line' marketing, which has the advantage of being free, and includes public relations activities - namely press and media releases being circulated within the local media in order to generate interest stories and keep the museum in the the eyes of the public.

A recent marketing campaign to boost the museum for October half term week, which included radio adverts, posters, and a mail shot helped to contribute to the museum receiving 23,000 visitors during that period - a demonstration of the importance of making promotional activities both targeted and timely.

Visitors to the museum are divided into three categories: the family market; lovers of... (enthusiasts); and the hard to reach. Research by the museum suggests that most visitors come from within a 1 1/2 hour to two hour drive time radius, and that most make the decision to visit either on the day, or very close to the day of visit.


The museum employs a variety of staff in differing roles, these include the following: Box Office and Front Desk Staff (who must be welcoming and courteous); Cinema Ushers for the three cinemas, roles include meet and greet, ticket ripping, handing out and collecting in 3D glasses, and cleaning the cinema between performances; four call centre staff for handling enquiries; curators who put displays together; and subject specialists that are on hand to answer questions.


The fact that the museum is an indoor attraction can be both a help and a hindrance, for people who may want to escape from or enjoy the weather. The museum is free entry and always has been (unlike some other National Collections), however it is not cheap to maintain (the recently created Production Zone cost £3m) so income generation is key. The museum is a charity, but also draws funding from: the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS); private sponsors (there is a thank you wall of stars with sponsor names on, on the ground floor of the museum; and internal income generation from the cinemas, cafe, gift shop, conferencing, and other internal pay in attractions.

The wall of stars (corporate sponsors and backers)

The museum has a corporate hire department and is often used as a conference venue, which can utilise unused capacity in the cinemas outside of their normal opening hours, there is also an 80 seat meeting room.

Other Facts

NMPFT is a part of the National Museum of Science and Industry, and opened in June 1983, it had a major refurbishment and extension built in 1999.

NMPFT has three cinemas which are: the Pictureville Cinema and the Cubby Brocolli Cinema which both show 'art house' films, and do not generally open until 3pm; and the giant screen
IMAX cinema which is very popular and was the first in Europe.

NMPFT hosts three festivals: the Bradford Film Festival; the Bradford Animation Festival; and the Bite the Mango Film Festival.

Bradford was chosen as a location for the museum due to its post industrial regeneration activities, it was thought that the museum would help to boost tourism to Bradford, which would aid regeneration.

The museum has a number of interactive galleries spread over seven floors including: the Animation gallery; the Kodak gallery (the history of photography); Experience TV - the story of television; TV Heaven - an on demand facility allowing visitors to watch archived television episodes; the Production zone; the BBC Bradford Studio - home to production teams for BBC Radio Leeds, BBC Asian Network and BBC Look North; and Gallery one and two (currently showing photography displays 'The Old and the New' by P.H. Emmerson, and 'The British Landscape' by John Davies.

Live radio broadcasts are made from the museum

The museum does not open on Mondays, apart from in school holidays, and on Bank Holidays.

After our talk we had an hour to view the galleries, which were extremely busy with at least three local school parties, and a large group of mid-teen German students. The investment in keeping the galleries cutting edge with technology, as well as attractive in terms of visual display was self evident, and certainly merited a longer future visit. at 1pm we watched a 3-D IMAX screening of 'Sharks' which was beautifully shot, but was not the most effective of 3-D films that I personally have seen there. I will be coming back though (with family) for the Christmas 3-D computer animated feature length film 'Santa VS the Snowman 3-D' as the trailer was superb - and 'in your face' as 3-D should be.

A variety of galleries and displays

Many thanks to Steve and the very helpful staff at the National Media Museum (shhh) for an informative, interactive, and enjoyable visit.

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