Made on a Mobile

Annie Leverton, Visitor Services Officer at the Andrew Carnegie Birthplace Museum, tells us about the skills she gained from attending a video making course organised as part of National Museums Scotland’s Training Programme.

Black and white photograph of the Birthplace cottage before it was a museum.

My name is Annie and I currently work at the Andrew Carnegie Birthplace Museum, a small independent museum nestled in Dunfermline’s Heritage Quarter. Our museum has been coming on leaps and bounds over the last two years, and we’re grateful for the many exciting things that have happened, including our best ever visitor numbers and scooping Kids in Museums Family Friendly Museum Award last year.

Annie next to a bust of Andrew Carnegie

I am the Visitor Services Officer at the museum. My role is quite broad and I get to dip my toes in lots of different areas of museums work, including front of house and working with the Museum Assistants, learning, marketing & social media.

Unsurprising to no-one, the past 6 months have been massively challenging in terms of upping our digital provision in light of Covid 19 – and I’m sure many small museum workers share the eternal dread and despair of ‘how to digital?’ on a shoestring budget and without the know-how.

Last year I have had the opportunity to attend a video making course, and although up until now I haven’t had the chance to make many videos, the skills I learnt that day certainly came in very handy when we realised how much new digital content was needing to be produced. In 2019, I attended a one day course called Made on a Mobile run by Playful Communication. The day was spent at the McManus Museum’s Collection Store and was organised as part of the National Museums Scotland ‘s National Training Programme.

Photo of a staff member at Andrew Carnegie Birthplace Museum taken using the new Fujifilm X-T30 camera

Jon Gill from Playful Communications (@OnTheSuperFly) was a great tutor and the emphasis of his course was how to utilize the technology you already have, rather than investing in a ton of pricey kit that you neither a) need to produce short videos or b) know how to use to its full advantage. Jon’s premise is that most of us nowadays have a good enough smartphone device that we don’t necessarily need to invest in fancy kit to get cracking making high quality content to be used on social media.

Jon introduced us to the basics of filming and film theory. This included the rule of thirds, i.e. where to position your subject, how to use relatively cheap accessories such as wide and macro clip on lenses for your device and conducting interviews. I learnt that you should always film with your phone in a landscape position, and the light source should always be facing the subject rather than behind – otherwise your subject will just be in shadow. Jon also introduced us to making our own stop motion clips using a free app called IMotion.

Over the course of the day, we worked in small groups to produce a short video; practicing as many of the techniques we’d been shown and getting to grips with any new bits of equipment. I should say, whilst attending a short course does not replace working with a professional videographer, it certainly gives you a good grounding for experimenting and producing short simple videos on your own device – it’s also really fun! Jon showed us many of the short videos he has filmed around Dundee and they are amazing!

With the skills I acquired on this short course, I took part in @KidsInMuseums #Takeover Day, where I led a small group from a local school on the marketing team. Using the knowledge Jon equipped me with, I tutored the kids on how to film and edit a short video on our museum iPad.

One of the things that became apparent early on in the Covid 19 crisis was that the museum’s learning programme would need to be adapted and we needed to develop our digital provision in that regard. We have made a mixture of our own videos, as well as commissioning a company to make us some professional videos.

We also successfully applied for the Museums Galleries Scotland Digital Resilience fund to invest in some new kit to make videos and photograph our collection, as this was identified as a weaker area within our digital engagement.


The kit we invested in included:

  • A Fujifilm X-T30 camera and Joby Tripod
  • A Neewer light for filming and photographing the darker areas of our museum, namely the Birthplace Cottage.
  • A pop up / portable light tent for photographing collections – it functions as a mini studio with bright-diffused lighting and white backdrop, allowing you to take high quality pictures of collection objects.
  • A set of Rode wireless microphones, meaning we can conduct physically distanced interviews

We have worked on numerous occasions with the Edinburgh based videography company On Red productions. They have done filming with school visits with us before and a video following our Family Friendly Museum Award win. Most recently, we commissioned them to undertake a larger project for us – a series of videos forming our new Digital Cottage Tour, produced out of necessity since we have paused on site school visits until at least January 2021.

Photo of a Victorian school handling kit in the museum taken with the new Fujifilm X-T30 camera.

Me and the Lynsey the Learning Officer also made several videos ourselves to supplement our learning programme going forward, including a video as part of the Dunfermline – then, now & future time capsule module that Lynsey has diligently developed in lockdown. Once we received our brand new kit courtesy of the MGS fund, we embarked on practicing our filming skills and getting to grips using Adobe Premiere Elements editing software. There were certainly teething problems along the way, but I would say free tutorials on Youtube and Skillshare are your best friend when teaching yourself how to edit videos.

My first attempt using all the new equipment was our Reopening Video – whilst it is nowhere near perfect, I am proud of it and it serves its purpose.

An important thing to remember is if you embark on making video content, make sure you add captions! This makes the content accessible to those who are hard of hearing, as well as those who watch videos with the sound off which is increasingly common nowadays (on public transport, with a sleeping baby in the vicinity etc!)

We use Youtube’s automatic captions which load a short while after uploading your video, but we edit them to correct the grammar and put in capital letters as it doesn’t do that automatically! If you’re making short videos on your iPhone for an app like Instagram, we have used the Clipomatic App which adds live captions as you record. Again take care to edit your captions before posting as it makes mistakes too – for example, it kept making Robert Burn ‘Rubber Bands’ for us!

For smaller museums without their own marketing and content making departments, delving into digital can feel a bit like being up a creek without a paddle. And joining in ‘beginners’ marketing courses, that don’t always seem to be geared towards the true beginner, can also be a bit intimidating! Whilst I know I will never make a video which matches the quality of a professionally produced video, the courses and study I have done have been invaluable for creating social media content and adapting with the urgency to embrace digital mediums spurred on by Covid 19.

Museum open daily:

Monday-Friday 11am-3pm (last entry 2.20pm)

Saturday 10am-4pm (last entry 3.20pm)

Sunday 12pm-4pm (last entry 3.20pm)

Free entry but booking required via https://www.carnegiebirthplace.com/your-visit

All visitors are required to wear masks (unless exempt) and leave their details as part of the Test & Protect scheme.

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