This post was written by Rejoice Molaodi, Nikki Smiton, Lynsey Hawker and Kathy Johnson from the King’s Fund. For History Day 2020, they are sharing the King’s Fund History of nursing online exhibition.
We are delighted to be taking part in History Day 2020 and to have the opportunity to share The King’s Fund History of Nursing exhibition with attendees online. Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, this exhibition was intended to be a physical exhibition in our library space, this blog describes how we created a new online exhibition instead.
In 2019, as part of our wider marketing and promotion plan, the Library team decided to develop part of our library space for exhibitions. We agreed this would help us to better promote our digital archive and library collection, and encourage more King’s Fund staff and external visitors to the library.
We aimed to put together three exhibitions for 2020. The first looked at key points in The King’s Fund’s history and opened in February 2020. The second explores the history of nursing, to coincide with the WHO 2020 International Year of the Nurse and Midwife, with a planned launch date of 12 May, International Nurses Day.
We originally expected this exhibition to be part of a wider programme of events and content for this celebratory year. This included a nursing-themed book group for May, and our summer walking tours were to focus on nursing history. We also planned to publish a blog alongside the exhibition.
But due to the pandemic, we had to have a rethink. The book group did go ahead – but as an online event, and the walking tours were postponed this summer. However, with our exhibition we had a chance to try something new.
Like our first exhibition in 2020, the nursing exhibition was intended to be a physical event in our library. However, in March – and in the eye of the pandemic – we suddenly found ourselves working from home and we quickly had to change our plans. This blog reflects on how we transformed our planned physical exhibition to a virtual one in just a few weeks.
Originally, the exhibition was to include physical exhibits, books and photos from our own library collection and The King’s Fund’s corporate archive, held at the London Metropolitan Archive (LMA). However, as lockdown hit, we found ourselves restricted to what we had available online – our digital archive (https://archive.kingsfund.org.uk/) and current content from The King’s Fund website (https://www.kingsfund.org.uk).
The first step was simply exploring what we had and thinking about the story we might tell. We settled on a timeline format to explore our previous work in this area by decade. In the past, The King’s Fund has been involved in nursing recruitment, improving working conditions for nurses and offering residential training courses for nurses at the one-time Staff College founded in the 1950s. It was interesting to use a timeline to show how The King’s Fund work has changed, and to use key dates in nursing history to provide context to this work.
Using this format, we started to look at content by decade and pool the information using a shared OneNote document. This meant that we could easily split the work between the project team members.
Once we settled on the content and order, we wrote captions to describe each item. This was followed by an online project team meeting (using Teams) to review what we had done and select the final exhibits. This involved some difficult choices, but it’s better to have too much content to choose from than not enough!
Now we needed a platform to host our exhibition online.
Choosing a platform
Creating an online exhibition was completely new to us, so exploring the vast array of sites offering exhibition platforms was a daunting task.
Each of the many platforms differed in their approach to online exhibitions, with some requiring a high level of technical expertise and others allowing users to simply upload and input their work into pre-designed templates.
Through exploring these sites, we were able to expand our knowledge of the various methods and techniques we could potentially implement when we came to create our own exhibition. There were many ways we could have chosen to go forward with this project, but what mattered most was finding a service that truly met our needs and allowed us to showcase our collection in a way that suited the type of content we had to share.
The product we settled on was Visme, as it was straightforward to use and offered a range of design templates we could easily adapt to our needs. Although Visme is advertised as being free, in reality we needed to purchase a short subscription to access some of the features we required, so there were some limitations and hidden costs with this choice.
Marketing the exhibition
The Library team has a Twitter account (@kingsfund_lib), which we used to link to the exhibition. We would always have used Twitter to promote this exhibition, but being able to link directly to the exhibition itself was great. In fact, moving the exhibition online massively increased our reach, as far more people could access the online content than would ever have visited our physical library.
We also worked with The King’s Fund digital team, who promoted the exhibition on The King’s Fund’s main corporate Twitter feed and Facebook group. Through working more closely with the digital team we were also able to refresh our Library services web page to create a new ‘From the archive’ section to accommodate our exhibition and any future content we might produce. This also means that the nursing exhibition is available as a permanent display that we can continue to link to on our website and promote in the future.
As well as building relationships with internal King’s Fund teams, the exhibition has enabled us to reach out to other organisations such as the Nightingale Museum and the Royal College of Nursing – both of whom kindly offered to promote our exhibition via their social media channels.
What we have learnt
The process of designing the exhibition has been a real learning opportunity, particularly as we had no previous experience of using this platform, nor were we especially skilled at design work. But it allowed us to develop additional skills and be creative in new ways.
In fact, we are now busy planning our food exhibition, our third exhibition of the year, which we hope to launch online in late November.
You can view the nursing exhibition here:
About The King’s Fund Library services
The King’s Fund provides a unique and free source of information on health and social care policy and management. We provide help with information queries, maintain a library database and publish several current awareness bulletins. You can find out more about what we do here: https://www.kingsfund.org.uk/consultancy-support/library-services