We’re not sure how real knights and serfs would go figuring out Facebook groups and Zoom meetings, but there’s certainly a lot to learn from the Middle Ages – including sustainability, craftwork, and the ability to overcome adversity.
The team at the Abbey Museum of Art and Archaeology is working hard behind the scenes to engage its usual attendees and festival-goers in the digital space, whether its raffles and kids’ crafts, or the soon to be unveiled new website and online shop!
As Abbey Marketing Manager Michael Guarino explains, the COVID-19 shutdown and social distancing measures resulted in a major shift for the museum, including the cancellation of its popular festival.
“Our main fundraiser, the Abbey Medieval Festival, along with our other events and programs rely on gatherings of people, so when we made the call to cancel all our upcoming events and school programs, we didn’t know what that actually meant for us,’ Michael says.
The festival itself is a huge drawcard for the Moreton Bay Region, welcoming thousands of visitors to experience life in the Middle Ages through a colourful combination of jousting, re-enactments, performances, and authentic food at the Caboolture site.
When other businesses began shutting their doors and times became increasingly uncertain, the team channelled that resilience of the Middle Ages, hunkered down at home, and put on their thinking caps.
“We began taking small steps, kept open to new possibilities, and started trying new things,” Michael says.
“Although we are far from out of this, it’s clear this could have already been so much worse. I think we’re all so grateful to be living where we do.”
All the planning and out-of-the-box thinking is certainly paying off for the Abbey Museum, with a raft of exciting projects in the works.
“We have a new museum website launching next month, and also an online shop that will be live in a few weeks,” Michael says, adding it has been “fun” brainstorming products that represent both the museum and festival.
“We’re doing our best to connect our network of incredible talent and help support each other.
“We have a collaborative mead to launch this month with our friends at Amrita Park Meadery, along with hand-made products from our volunteer sewing team.”
With many families staying indoors and adapting to online learning models, it has also presented the opportunity for Abbey to connect with the younger history buffs out there.
“We have some free learning activities for kids, and we’re playing with online presentations as well,” Michael says.
Coming soon is a book titled ‘Glorious Glass’; a project senior curator Michael Strong has been working on, featuring the Abbey Museum’s incredible stained-glass collection.
While hands-on education programs and archaeological digs are on hold for now, there are plenty of fun learning worksheets based off the museum’s ‘Kids Dig It’ programs available now on Abbey’s Facebook page.
Worksheets to try at home- St Michael Stained Glass Colour and Learn
In addition to a revamped website and accessible online resources, the Abbey Museum of Art and Archaeology recently ran an online raffle, with a life-size full kit of armour among the prizes up for grabs.
Needless to say, tickets sold faster than a pig off the spit!
Long-time festival store holders and supporters of all things Abbey, MakeYourOwnMedieval, reached out to the museum and festival organisers to donate the armour kit and other goods.
“We originally set the raffle window for a 10-week period,” Michael says, admitting he was surprised by just how fast sales went.
“We were blown away when it sold out in five days!”
The lucky winners will be announced on Friday, 8 May.
Bigger doesn’t always equal better, and the tight-knit team of staff and volunteers at the Abbey Museum of Art and Archaeology is testament to that.
“For the museum, we have this incredible collection of fine art and antiquities, so all of the inspiration is right there to draw from,” Michael says.
He says he is continually looking for ways to bring that “value and inspiration” to the museum and festival’s followers.
“We are starting small and doing what we can among our small team.
“When we’re on the other side of this, we will have learned so much about our supporters and have some exciting areas that will hopefully continue to support the museum year-round.”
Head over to the official websites if you’d like to learn more about the Abbey Museum of Art and Archaeology or the Abbey Medieval Festival. You can also put your support behind their amazing work and educational programs via the donation page.
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