Developing a new operation for Young V&A



September 5, 2022
Bathroom Mirror screenprint by Patrick Caulfield, 1968. Museum no. CIRC.103-1976

“Excuse me, where are the toilets?” is probably the most frequent question posed to front of house teams – but being able to direct visitors to the nearest facilities is just one of a multitude of things that can help visitors have a positive and memorable visit to a museum.

There are the basics: the toilets have to work (a topic that all Front of House professionals share a bond over), the spaces have to be clean, and the welcome must be warm – but it’s the people that visitors encounter that can transform ‘a visit’ into to an experience you remember and want to share, repeat and support.

No two visits are the same, and what connections you make to a place, object or collection will be unique to you. What we, as visitor experience professionals, aim to do is help you create those connections and make you want to come back for more, support the museum either by purchasing something from our shop and café, visit an exhibition, donate, or by spreading the good word.

Here at Young V&A we have the exciting job of creating a visitor operation from scratch. If you have read about us in previous posts or news articles you will know that Young V&A is an entirely different museum from its former incarnation as the Museum of Childhood, through a full-scale  transformation, from a museum of the social and material history of childhood to a completely refurbished and reimagined museum designed with and for young people.

A cartoon by children showing their ideal day at the new museum
‘A day in the life’ storyboard by participants from the Family Forum workshop to help shape the Young V&A, 2019

This change in focus has enabled a rethink of our operation through the lens of our visitors. Creating a museum for the young affects almost all elements of our operation – from the products we will sell in the shop to the height and typography used in panel texts.

The following months will be a hive of activity for the Commercial & Operations Department to get ready for our doors to open once more, from staffing models to recruitment, inductions to volunteer programmes, retail product development to visitor flow mapping. We can’t wait to get into the detail!

The Young V&A Commercial & Operations Department is a key player in ensuring the needs of Young V&A are represented across the V&A, and to develop integrated ways of working fit for an expanding family of museums. In our team we follow a Kaizen approach, meaning that we look to change for the better through continuous improvement over incremental changes that involve all employees. In practice this means we work flexibly with teams at all levels across the organisation to look at how operations are currently run at the South Kensington site, and then map out the needs of the visitors and staff at Young V&A. We then jointly develop ways of working that we are all invested and excited by, always with that multi-site operation in mind, but acknowledging that there will be scope for development from opening and beyond.

Watch this space for more glimpses of behind the scenes as we get ready to welcome you to Young V&A!

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