Torquay Museum sparkles on the small screen

Joseph Bulmer

Innovation has long been one of the cornerstones of Torquay Museum during its 176-year history.

Today is no different, and during this era where social media is king, the museum has been making a foray into the world of film making in order to showcase its huge and varied collections to people who wouldn’t ordinarily get a chance to see them.

The museum has been successfully using Facebook, and latterly Instagram, to communicate with friends and followers for many years now but thanks to a grant from the University of Exeter, it has been able to create innovative, mini-documentaries about some of the treasures that lie hidden within its store rooms.

Working with talented actors Jonty Depp and Claire Fisk of Pocketwatch Theatre Company, along with filmmaker John Tomkins of Paignton-based Emberlense Productions, the museum has produced a series of eight short films on museum artefacts as varied as Pope Pius IX’s clock, a flintlock pistol, a Victorian dolls' house, and a rather creepy wooden crib.

“Making the films has been very rewarding, and a lot of fun,” said Carl Smith, the museum’s marketing manager.

“One of the museum’s curators, Clare Howe, has been guiding us through the museum’s huge collection of artefacts, helping to choose some of the most unusual and interesting.

"Many of these objects are rarely seen by our visitors because, like most museums, the vast majority of our collections are in storage because we simply don’t have room to exhibit them.”

Pocketwatch Theatre Company has used their blend of insight, dressing-up and humour to bring to life the artefacts featured, aided by some special effects courtesy of John Tomkins of Emberlense Productions.

“It’s been a challenge packing information, humour and fun into such short films,” says John Tomkins, “But I think we’ve succeeded, judging by the reaction and enthusiasm of those people who have viewed the films.

"Not only have we showcased the films on the museum’s Facebook and Instagram pages, but we’ve also created a TikTok account for the museum, which is proving a hit, enabling us to reach a younger audience.”

So far, the films have been viewed by more than 15,000 people on the museum’s various social media platforms, enabling them to take a rare look behind the scenes at the museum, which is especially important during this latest lockdown when people may be feeling isolated.

Check out the mini-films on Torquay Museum’s Facebook, Instagram and TikTok pages, and look out for further instalments in the coming weeks.

Torquay Museum would like to thank the University of Exeter and the Research England Strategic Priorities Fund for the funding that made these films possible.