That film crew, which included four other staff operating cameras and moving lights, soon decided it would be easier to shoot inside the tank, and Copson clambered into the rusty Mark I and carried on, recording a segment that included discussion of the harsh conditions that crew would have experienced inside the tank.
“You really have to admire the bravery and tenacity of the guys who worked in these conditions,” he said.
The popularity of the museum’s videos have given the presenters a taste of the influencer life — both positive and negative. Willey, the curator, said he sometimes received selfie or autograph requests. Less endearingly, he added, “Russian bots” appeared to be targeting the museum’s clips on tank use in Ukraine, spamming the videos with negative comments.
At a time when many museums in Britain are struggling to cope with inflation and falling government subsidies, Wyness said that the YouTube clips had proved a financial boon. Last year, the museum generated a third of its revenue online, he said, including from viewers paying for early access to clips, and merchandise sales from an online store. Some of that roughly $2.5-million online income was used to hire Copson as a full-time presenter, as well as to hire Paul Famojuro, a former guide, to run the museum’s TikTok channel. It also went toward publishing old-school tank history books, Wyness said.
Willey, said that, thanks to YouTube, he was educating more people about tanks than he had ever expected. But, ultimately, he wanted more people through the museum doors. “As a museum person,” he said, “what I love most is the awe on people’s faces when they visit for the first time, stand in front of a tank and go, ‘Look how big it is!’” This was his reaction on his first visit to Bovington, aged 6, more than a half-century ago, he said.