When it comes to military history, there are those who enjoy watching “gun videos” while others can’t get enough of aerial action. And of course, there are those who have a penchant for tanks. That latter fact was certainly noted earlier this year when The Tank Museum in Bovington, England, became the first such organization to have its YouTube channel reach 100 million views.
The Tank Museum’s YouTube channel set another milestone in April when it saw its total subscribers surpass 500,000. According to The New York Times that put it ahead of far more famous institutions such as the British Museum in London, New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and even the Louvre in Paris—but with more than 400 videos chronicling the museum’s vast collection, it is easy to see how it is getting the eyeballs.
“As a rural regimental museum, we see YouTube as an essential means of reaching a wider audience—helping us to fulfill our mission to tell the story of the tank and the people that served in them,” Nik Wyness, head of marketing for the Tank Museum said via a release.
Moreover, high-profile events at The Tank Museum, notably the annual TANKFEST—when the facility rolls out its rare and impressive vehicles—draw in significant viewers. Another factor is that, unlike those aforementioned art museums, the tanks in the collection are the sort of thing viewers want to see in action even if they can’t make the actual event.
The remoteness of the facility has likely played a significant role in The Tank Museum’s ability to reach eyeballs from around the world. Even though it has the largest collection of tanks and the third largest collection of armored vehicles, it isn’t exactly the most accessible of attractions in England. Located in Dorset, South West England, The Tank Museum is a nearly three-hour drive on the M3 from Central London or an almost eight-hour train ride.
Thus only the most dedicated can make a pilgrimage to the facility to see the tanks in person. Fortunately, in the day of social media and high-quality videos, it is possible to take in a lot of the collection from the comfort of a desktop PC or even a smartphone.
YouTube Filling A Void
YouTube Videos have not only allowed those who aren’t up for such a journey to see the tanks, there is insight that a visit to the actual museum might not offer. The staff at The Tank Museum has long embraced YouTube, establishing its channel back in 2010. Early episodes were built around historian David Fletcher’s “Tank Chats.”
The YouTube channel has only grown and expanded since.
“The benefits of growing this online community became fully apparent during the pandemic when they became an essential source of support during a very difficult time,” explained tank enthusiast James Holland, who is now featured in a number of the videos.
YouTube is also clearly allowing the institution to create content that it otherwise couldn’t have produced. Instead of its subject matter experts offering their insight for a documentary or other third-party content maker, The Tank Museum is able to create those videos in-house and offer them to an audience around the world. This also means that the curators and staff can decide what should be the subject of a video, not an outside expert asking for commentary.
This is made all the better by the fact that the collection of more than 300 vehicles includes such items as “Little Willy,” the first experimental tank that was developed more than a century ago during the First World War, as well as the only operational German Tiger tank from the Second World War. Where other history-themed channels often rely on CGI and stock video, The Tank Museum has many “real deal” vehicles that can be given their close-up and get a moment in the spotlight.
New Revenue Stream
This online content even helps support the facility.
“YouTube has allowed us to reach a global audience of tank enthusiasts—and it’s as a direct result of this that we are now generating over one quarter of our annual turnover from non-visitors,” added Holland.
“I applaud The Tank Museum for understanding how to reach an audience who may never actually visit the museum,” said John Adams-Graf, military vehicle historian and editor of History in Motion, the official publication of the Military Vehicle Preservation Society.
“Clicks and likes rarely translate into dollars, but at this level of engagement, The Tank Museum has created a new cash stream,” Adams-Graf continued. “In the long term, however, they have made military history enjoyable. The real payoff of their investment will be a wider understanding of the value in keeping historic military vehicles operable and attainable.”