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Feixue Huangdu's Videos of Nottinghamshire Have Gone Viral in China

16 August 20 words: George White

One of the fascinating by-products of increasing globalisation is the thought that, right now, someone in China is watching a tour of Ruddington Village Museum online. The reason for that is Feixue Huangdu, whose tours of local heritage spots have gone viral in her native China. We caught up with Nottingham Trent Museum and Heritage Development graduate to discuss the surprise success of her videos and the importance of sharing cultures...

Us Nottingham lot know all about the beauty of our local heritage spots. Every year, places like Wollaton Hall and Newstead Abbey attract hundreds of thousands of visitors, as people travel from all over Nottinghamshire to get a breath of fresh air and find out more about the history of the county and the country.

Yet Nottingham’s heritage spots are also attracting a lot of attention from the other side of the world, with over a million Chinese people checking out our historical sites in the last year. This is largely down to Feixue Huangdu, a recent Museum and Heritage Development Masters graduate from Nottingham Trent University, whose TikTok videos and online livestreams have gone viral in her home country.

One of Feixue’s videos, where she tours Ruddington Village Museum, received around half a million views in total, with audience members getting the chance to ask questions to tour guides on all things from children’s dolls to wooden clothes pegs. Having the opportunity to learn more about a new culture is what appeals to so many people in China, Feixue says.

“Most of my audience have never had the chance to come to the UK, especially to these smaller towns,” she explains. “My videos have helped to open a new window for them. I am their eyes and mouth to ask questions to curators. It’s a process of learning, where they can find out more about British heritage.

“Chinese people find it interesting to learn about cultural differences. It is strange for them to see everyday things in this country. It allows them to get to know new people and a new culture.”

For Feixue, the popularity of her videos also comes down to the fact that she offers something different, focusing on areas of British heritage that are often ignored. “Not many people focus on smaller museums, so my experience is special and unique. I focus on lesser known locations,” she says, adding that the scale of the sites is not what motivates her, but getting access to interesting historical items and knowledge.

This explains why her most popular videos are often the ones you’d least expect. “One of my best-received tours was in a small museum near Long Eaton. It showed the daily life of people here 100 years ago. It was popular because it shared humanity with my Chinese audience. I could also have a proper talk with the curators about the interesting objects. There was also a fish and chip machine that people loved.”

Her personal favourites have been the lace museums in the city centre, which played a key role in the city’s industrial past, “These factories have such an important place in history. It’s incredible to see machines that were made over 100 years ago still work now. The process and story is amazing.”

Chinese people find it interesting to learn about cultural differences. It is strange for them to see everyday things in this country

The success of Feixue’s videos saw her receive a Regional Heritage Award, and her work has featured in national and international media outlets such as the BBC and The Times. “I feel so lucky,” she admits. “This was just a part of my Masters project, I never thought it would be reported by the international press. It is both flattering and shocking.” 

Since coming to study in Nottingham, she has been impressed by Brits’ interest in their history, claiming that it makes the UK a great place to come and learn. “In my work I have seen evidence that British people love their heritage. Almost all museum workers are unpaid volunteers, but they do it because they like their history. It is great to see the passion of people.” 

Part of Feixue’s work aims to expand the connection between Chinese and British museums, to increase the knowledge and understanding of each other’s cultures. “There are over 4,000 museums in the UK and over 5,000 in China, so we can learn from each other in many respects,” she muses. “Both sides can teach important messages, so it’s been useful for me to have the chance to get in touch with experts and volunteers in this country. It’s been a great experience.” 

Feixue has also enjoyed living in Nottingham, claiming that the city has been the perfect place to stay while she completes her work, “Nottingham is not as famous as London, but I quite like it. It’s quiet and good for people to study and live. I’ve found people here very friendly, including volunteers and residents. 

“I visited a ninety-year-old man to see his collection of historical items, and he said he had never been friends with a Chinese person before. After talking to him, he was really nice and even learned how to pronounce my Chinese name. I felt so moved to have built this friendship.”

Despite lockdown recently forcing many heritage sites to temporarily close, Feixue has still been hard at work on her projects. This includes a video focusing on the Robin Hood statue, which she has been editing to feature on a Chinese platform. “I will still have lots of objects to interpret and I interviewed a lot of experts, so I will keep making and editing my videos for as long as I can.” 

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