Kids in Museums Manifesto – Are You Signed Up?

Museum Explorer

Teddy Bears Picnic at Chelmsford Museum

The Kids in Museums Manifesto is not a new thing. The charity has been doing great work promoting the importance of engaging with children and family audiences for many years now. They run high-profile annual schemes such as Takeover Day and the Family Friendly Museum of the Year Award (nominations are currently open) and deliver regular training on subjects including Babies in Museum and Autism Awareness. The Manifesto is the backbone of all of these areas of work, informing their work and the work of many museums around the UK (and possibly the world…?)

 

The 20-point manifesto is made of really simple things, most of which you are probably already doing including saying hello to visitors and sharing stories. Last year they launched a “mini-manifesto”, covering all the key points:

  1. Reach out. Begin the welcome beyond your door. Help families find you, go out to meet them, start friendly conversations on their home patch and make your museum easy to reach.
  2. Get to know your families. Some have babies, some toddlers, teenagers, parents, grandparents or foster children. Embrace these differences, from your programme to your ticketing.
  3. Seek to reflect your community and include it at your heart in your displays, interpretation and events.
  4. Be positive. Say ‘Hello!’ Welcome enthusiastic comments (which may be loud), have things to touch and explore, challenge your staff to never say ‘No’
  5. Make it easy and Comfortable — with a family friendly café, pushchair friendly toilets, seating in the galleries, a place to store skateboards and teenage kit, child-height stair rails, tap water. Just a few of the very practical ways to help a family relax and have fun.
  6. Be accessible. Families with disabilities may make an extra effort to reach you. Include their needs in everything you do and say — from how to get there to exploring the displays. All your visitors should be equally supported and welcomed.
  7. Tell your story. Families aren’t only coming to see your collections. They’re coming to enjoy your museum and hear your stories. These are what they’ll share when they get home. Find a way to include their stories too. They’ll add new insights and make the museum belong to them.
  8. Communicate well. Let families know what you offer. Include this on your website and social media. Chat with families before they visit and after they leave. Build relationships and include them in long-term decision-making. These families will become your greatest advocates.

 

So, I was surprised to discover that only 17 Essex venues are signed up to this wonderful initiative. Kids in Museums are an Arts Council funded “National Portfolio Organisation” (NPO) so signing up will look good on your Accreditation returns. It is also worth mentioning on funding applications as part of your commitment to broadening audiences and supporting young people. You could also put it on your website and share that fact that you’ve signed up on your social media or in other publicity.

Registering your organisation’s commitment to the manifesto is really easy. Just fill in the short form on their website. You can also have a sneaky look at which other museums are signed up (and which ones aren’t).

While you’re there, why not nominate yourself for Family Friendly Museum of the Year

A Culture of Lates

This guest post has been provided by Culture24.

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Culture24 is running the first ever national conference about museum after-hours events at the National Gallery in London on June 1st. ‘A Culture of Lates: How do Museum Lates Build Audiences & Generate Income?’ is aimed at museum/gallery after-hours events programmers and venue decision-makers and will be a fabulous opportunity to learn about Lates and network with colleagues.

 

Tickets are available now from the conference sales page  but if you work or volunteer at an Accredited Essex Museum that is not an NPO please contact Amy before booking as she can help you to access funding to attend.

 

The speaker list includes:

  • Kim Streets, CEO of Museums Sheffield
  • Ashlie Hunter, Producer of Public Programs, Art Gallery of New South Wales
  • Bill Griffiths, Head of Programmes, Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums, creator of Newcastle/Gateshead’s annual culture crawl The Late Shows
  • Marilyn Scott, Director, The Lightbox, Woking, whose Thursday Lates attract a new audience of local young professionals
  • Lucy Woodbridge, Head of Visitor Events at the Natural History Museum, who opens up access to the museum’s collection while generating income
  • Tatiana Getman, Head of special projects & events, the State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow
  • Tim Ross, Australian comedian and TV presenter who uses comedy to create original heritage interpretation events and Instagram to market them.
  • Neil Mendoza, entrepreneur and consultant who recently published the DCMS Mendoza Review, an independent review of museums in England
  • Sam Bompas, Experience Designer and Jellymonger from Bompas & Parr, who flooded the ss Great Britain with 55,000 litres of luminous jelly for Museums at Night 2012
  • The Godperson of Lates, the original Lates programmer who started it all off at the V&A in 2001
  • Abigail Daikin, Events Director at Time Out, the media outlet that supports Lates all over the world
  • Kate Rolfe, Head of Events at the National Gallery
  • Alan Miller, Chair of the Night-Time Industries Association
  • Airbnb

 

The programme will feature presentations, panel discussions, socials and practical sessions including:

Programmers’ Question Time – Is your venue’s Lates programme blighted by lack of funding? Do you have a crop of talented local artists but are unsure how to reap the best out of them? Our panel of Lates event programming experts will grapple with your event challenges and help you create your after-hours Garden of Eden!

Plus …

Sussex independent artisan spirit producers Blackdown Distillery will be sponsoring the after-conference drinks party providing a welcome drink to all guests who pop up to the National Dining Rooms from 5.30pm

 

 And if that were not all…

There will be a comedy improve show by Do Not Adjust Your Stage at the National Gallery starting at 7pm on the evening of the 1st June after the conference. The National Gallery are offering all conference delegates the opportunity to buy tickets at the discounted membership price. Delegates simply use this link https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/whats-on/calendar/blank-canvas to buy tickets at the member’s price and present their ticket along with their conference lanyard on the door on the night.

You may remember that Do Not Adjust Your Stage have previously delivered training for Essex museums on audience engagement, public speaking and giving guided tours.

 

We hope you can join us for this unique occasion!

Snapping the Stiletto Update

Snapping the Stiletto

Logo designed by Essex artist, Lisa Temple-Cox

Pippa Smith is project manager for “Snapping the Stiletto”, an Essex-wide project looking at how women’s lives have changed since gaining the vote in 1918. 

Snapping the Stiletto is a project funded by the Esmée Fairbairn Collections fund which aims to uncover and celebrate stories of strong Essex women over the past 100 years. Working in partnership with 11 museums across (historic) Essex and a range of community groups to steer the project we will be looking for hidden stories of women in museum collections and creating exhibitions and events to share these stories across the county.

CHMPM 536 Pat Foster, 1st female motorcyclist for EP

Pat Foster, first female motorcyclist for Essex Police (copyright Essex Police Museum)

The museums will be recruiting volunteers to help them to research and tell these stories and I’m busy talking to a range of community groups to discover what sort of topics would interest them. So far I’ve had meetings with representatives from the WI and the Shree Ram Mandir  Hindu Cultural and Heritage Centre and spent a very enjoyable couple of hours with the Razed Roof Theatre Company in Harlow . I’ve contacted the Guides, sisters from a local mosque and representatives from a wide range of groups representing the diverse communities across Essex.

History students at Essex University studying a ‘Votes for Women’ module  have been looking at the representation of women in museums and public spaces and tackling some interesting questions set by the project which we hope to blog about soon.

So far two main themes are emerging- groups are interested in the history of women at work, in particular in industry and women as campaigners beyond the suffragettes.

Making Things, Doing Things

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On Thursday 26 October a gang of ‘digital curious’ museum folk discovered cheap and easy ways to start using technology at their museum. Led by Paul Clifford we made robots, programmed micro:bits and found the ‘Maker’ within us.

“Instead of learning about our technology we opt for a world in which our technology learns about us.” Douglas Rushkoff

 

The Maker Movement

The Maker Movement is a global community of people making and sharing their objects through events and the internet. A ‘Maker’ might build furniture, bake cakes or engineer robots but, whatever the activity, at the core of the Maker Movement is a belief in democratisation, social learning, collaboration and self-empowerment.

For Makers who are interested in digital technology, they might enjoy electronics, robotics, 3-D printing blended with more traditional crafts like metalworking, woodworking, arts and crafts. A Maker might build something from scratch or tinker with existing technology.

The Kit

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Makey Makey – have you ever wanted to make a banana piano or turn your hands into buttons? Then the Makey Makey is the kit for you! The Makey Makey is a simple circuit board onto which you can attach crocodile clips to turn anything into a button. Cost: £50 approx.

micro:bit – a microcontroller that you can simply programme to do different things, like direct motors, flash lights or play sounds. Using the MakeCode.org website you can programme a micro:bit really easily following the instructions on the micro:bit website. In 2016 the BBC distributed a micro:bit to every year 7 child in Britain, so many schools already have a supply of these. Cost: £12 approx.

Servo:Lite – a type of servoboard. A servoboard is a device that controls motors or mechanisms (technically known as servomotors or servomechanisms), for example turning wheels, switching lights on and off or playing a noise. The Servo:Lite is controlled by the micro:bit (or other microcontroller).

ZIP Halo – a circular board that has a ring of flashing lights, which you can programme using the micro:bit. Cost: £12 approx.

Motor and wheels – moving wheels that you can attach to your Servo:Lite, which you can programme using your micro:bit. Cost: £8 approx.

Arduino – an electronics platform for making interactive projects. An Arduino senses the environment through sensors and you can tell an Arduino what to do by writing code in the Arduino programming language. Cost varies depending on what you buy.

Touch board – you can use this to turn any material or surface into a sensor, so you could paint a light switch on a wall, make a paper piano or create an interactive poster. Cost: £60 approx.

Raspberry Pi – a tiny, affordable computer that you can use to learn programming. You can plug it into a monitor and it comes with its own operating system. Cost: £30 – 40 approx.

Conductive Paint – you could use this to paint buttons or circuits.

Little:Bits – really simple electronic kit that lets you build circuits. Lots of fun to play with and great for absolute beginners.

Extras – crocodile clips, batteries, keyboards, monitors, copper tape, etc.

There are countless extras you could buy depending on what you’re interested in!

(Please note that these products are available from a range of sources.)

How can we use this technology in our museums?

Some museums are doing all kinds of amazing things – from massive digital projects to cheap and cheerful kids’ events. Here are some ideas to get you started:

Build a Robot – using craft materials, motor wheels, micro:bit and Servolite you can create simple robots that wheel around and draw shapes.

Maker Trolley – short on space in your museum? No problem – why not try a trolley loaded with craft materials, and a few simple bits of technology to get kids playing.

Cardboard Instruments – cut out guitars and pianos from cardboard and use Makey Makeys to turn these into intruments. Check out the Makey Makey website for different ideas.

There are lots of blogs and websites full of ideas with easy to follow instruction. Check out the following for inspiration:

https://makezine.com/projects/

https://www.makerspaces.com/makerspace-ideas/

https://learn.adafruit.com/

https://www.kitronik.co.uk/blog/kitronik-university/

https://www.raspberrypi.org/education/

http://www.bbc.co.uk/connectedstudio/toolkit

https://situate.io/

https://smartify.org/

Don’t have the technology?

No problem – you can borrow the Essex Museum Development’s digital learning library for free.

Why not try contacting local businesses to ask if you can have their old computers, keyboards, tablets, etc if they’re throwing them away?

Contact Makers and technology producers to ask if they might loan you equipment or donate some to your museum. Check out the list below for ideas of who you might contact:

Raspberry Pi Foundation

BBC micro:bits

Mini Maker Foundation

Your local ‘Code Club’ or local Makers

Crafts Council (also potential funders!)

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If you’re interested in using digital technology but aren’t sure where to get started, come along to the next Heritage Education Group meeting where we will be playing with the technology library. We will be meeting on Tuesday 5 December at the Essex Records Office. Contact me for more information and to book.

Learning & Engagement Grants For Essex Museums

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Essex Museum Development is offering grants of up to £500 to support the delivery of learning and community engagement using collections.

The grants aim to support local museums to:

  1. Develop relationships with local education providers including schools, colleges and home education groups
  2. Develop new learning and engagement resources
  3. Develop an adult learning offer
  4. Deliver activities which will reach new audiences
  5. Make their venue more accessible for disabled audiences

The funding scheme is open to any Accredited museum (or museum registered as Working Towards Accreditation) within the Essex or Southend-on-Sea local authority boundaries. Please note that to apply you must have attended at least two of the following training days:

It is important to read the guidance document before applying. It contains some suggestions as to what the grant can be used for, but this is not an exhaustive list. Please do get in contact if you wish to discuss your ideas.

To apply, complete this application form and return it to amy.cotterill@essex.gov.uk by 5pm on Tuesday 23rd January 2018

Learning and Engagement application guidance 2018

Click here to download the application form

 

New Audiences Day 2017

“Nothing without us about us is for us.”

This day explored the different ways in which we can engage with new audiences through case studies and group discussion. I’ve briefly summarised the presentations below but just get in touch if you’d like to know more.

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Young Roots – Dawn Bainbridge, Development Officer, Heritage Lottery Fund
Dawn discussed HLF’s Young Roots programme, covering how you can go about applying, what HLF look for and examples to inspire you. Successful projects focus on people learning skills in an in-depth and meaningful way. HLF have relaxed their rules about Young Roots projects being initiated by a group of young people, but they still must take the lead, e.g. steering group.

 You’re Doing It Already – embedding Arts Award into Museum Learning, Melissa Hawker, Learning Officer, Norfolk Museums Service
Melissa spoke about embedding Arts Award into school workshops and youth engagement projects, including Takeover Day and co-curating. The children shouldn’t feel like they are ‘writing up’ their log books, these should be treated as baskets to catch their learning and fill up naturally. Norfolk Museums Service run youth clubs starting from babies, which children taking more control of their learning as they develop. Starting early is a vital part of supporting young people to feel that the museum is a ‘place for them’. They do not advertise these groups in museums as the young people feel very strongly that the clubs are separate to schools and this is particularly important if school isn’t a positive experience. The youth clubs are free and this is key to their broad socio-economic appeal.

Engaging Diverse Local Audiences – Emma Winch, Heritage Learning Manager, Hackney Museum
Hackney Museum is internationally renowned for engaging diverse local audiences in the development of the museum and its exhibitions, programmes and projects that support audiences from all over the world to understand where their story fits within British history. Emma stated that there is no tool kit for engagement, you must employ the right people and work to a shared ethos. The most successful projects are not ones that ‘happen to’ community groups but where the community and the museum meet on mutual ground to create a relationship that grows into different projects. Hackney Museum supports local groups to campaign and Hackney Council often uses the museum as a space where people can have difficult conversations and community members come to council meetings. It’s important that changes made from their involvement is passed on to the community groups.

Diversifying your Audiences through Diversifying your Workforce – Rachel Macfarlane, Projects Development Officer, and Lib Fox, Museums Projects Officer, Colchester + Ipswich Museums
Colchester + Ipswich Museums shared a number of case studies from two years of Training Museum traineeships. The service has welcomed eleven Trainees from a variety of backgrounds, and they have helped us engage new audiences through work with schools and community groups, as well as social media. People who hadn’t considered working in museums before were targeted through the trainee recruitment. The applicants were asked to complete a very short form and submit a video and those shortlisted attended a group interview day with activities, discussion time and a very short interview. This more involved process provided greater insight into the attitudes of the individuals than the traditional format. In addition CIMS changed their volunteering to offer short, fixed-term posts with the application process making it clear what the volunteer would gain from their experience.

Jaywick Inspires – Kerith Ririe, Jaywick Martello Tower Manager
Jaywick Martello Tower supports creative collaborations relating to the themes of community, heritage and environment that affect our lives today. The Tower runs as an innovative arts, heritage and community space which successfully engages with its local community in Jaywick. The Tower Manager Kerith Ririe will discussed how the Tower has successfully engaged with its community and the plans for development. Many organisations are keen to work with Jaywick as it’s a well-known area of deprivation but the communities may not want to work with them. Jaywick Martello Tower offers food and refreshments at their activities to ensure that the participants aren’t hungry and better able to join in. How can we expect to engage an audience whose basic needs aren’t being met? The Tower used a cost benefit analysis tool to evidence that for every £1 invested, they reduced the spend in other services by £11.70.

By Thames to All the People of the World – Indi Sandhu, Essex Cultural Diversity Project, Essex Cultural Diversity Project Manager
Thurrock Routes is a joint working project between Essex Cultural Diversity Project (ECDP) and Thurrock Museum. The project focuses on the cultural heritage of Thurrock’s communities from 1930 – 2004 and draws on each organisation’s expertise to ensure that Thurrock’s heritage captures and responds to its specific and unique place in UK history and has engages with the diverse communities of Thurrock in bring new audiences to the Museum. This project saw a 15% rise in BME visitors to Thurrock Museum, something which they hope to build on.

Mercury Theatre- Martin Russell, Head of Creative Learning and Talent, Mercury Theatre
Martin spoke about hACkT, the Mercury Theatre’s creative digital offer for young people. hACkT is a summer school that allows young people to create a piece of theatre through a combination of traditional drama activities and technology, video game design and coding. The Mercury Theatre used vlogging to record experiences as opposed to traditional methods of recording, as this ties in with the participants interests and builds their skills. Schools have started hiring in hACKT for term time to meet their STEM requirements.

Breakout Group discussions:
Please note that these are transcriptions from the notes written on the day.
Breakout Group: Getting Started
• Avoid tokenism – do locational work, e.g school or street and don’t compartmentalise or label groups
• Start by mapping/research/listen to what people say. Possibly go where they go, restaurants, cafes, barbers, gyms, etc
• Educate yourself – go out and look and listen
• Be open and flexible – why would people want to come in? Community space/venue or support needed
• Consider throwing away what you do already is you are not attracting a diverse audience
• Juggling with what you already do – keep the good stuff (who decides what is good?)
• How do you change minds of staff?
• Get dates of who visits and build a profile
• Activity suggestions – winter warmer, food and drinks, hot chocolate, mocktails
• Focus groups – maybe not good for the first thing you do but could come later as a tool to plan for next steps
• Choose topics relevant to everyone, e.g. goof and drink, dinosaurs, music and dance, love, games, etc
• Most important thing: build relationships
Breakout Group: How do diversify your recruitment practice?
• Use friendly language that prevents people from understanding the forms/adverts
• Value attitudes rather than qualifications
• Spend more time with applicants – consider group interview days and see how they work in a team
• Include list of what training/benefits the volunteer will receive in return for their time
Breakout Group: Challenges
• Public perceptions of topics, e.g. death
• Capitalising on what you’re known for and expand on it
• Setting the right tone with difficult history/challenging topics
• Using museums as a visual learning space
• Need bigger teams
• Need for advocacy – shout louder about how unhelpful short-term funding is
• Condition of dunging to share outcomes/content more widely
• Curriculum content
Breakout Group: Capturing Feedback- evaluating the intangible
• Twitter – capture and share softer outcomes – Storify/metrics?
• Have conversations rather than feedback forms
• Staff/volunteers can be uncomfortable asking specifically for feedback
• Do we rely too much on paper feedback forms?
• Use SHARE evaluation tool kit
• Requirement for specific information from funders can be difficult
• Work with community members to design evaluation – co-produce methodology
• Ask questions with confidence and interest

Working with Home Educated Groups at Chelmsford Museum

Yvonne Lawrence, Chelmsford Museum, reflects on her developing work with home educated groups.

There is a large body of parents in Essex who elect to home educate their children. There are many reasons for this, and they are supported by Essex County Council and a range of self-led groups, some of whom organise formal learning sessions with Chelmsford Museums.

With museum education we are used to starting with very little prior information about the participants compared to a school teacher and when working with a group of home educated children this challenge is magnified because the age and ability range is very much larger, typically with participants aged between 4 to 12.  There may be additional special needs including those on the autistic spectrum, with ADHD, dyslexia or with social, behavioural or emotional difficulties.  Often there is a participant in the group who has a special interest in the subject who will be extremely knowledgeable alongside others who know much less.  In an ideal world we would like a full list of participants and any special needs and are working towards this, acknowledging that the situation is much more complex for the visit organiser than for a school.

Chelmsford Museum has been working in partnership with group organisers to ensure that home educated children are able to participate in our history, science and Arts Award sessions at both the main museum and at Sandford Mill. Our first big decision was to limit the group size to a maximum of 17 participants with whole group staying together during the session and led by one tutor.  Given that most participants come with an adult and perhaps a younger sibling or two, this still leads to more people in the room than a standard class and in retrospect we should perhaps have made the limit smaller-perhaps as few as ten participants.  But this would be comparatively expensive for parents/carers as we would still have to cover the tutoring costs and splitting them between fewer people means more cost per person.  Where the visit organiser wanted to book more than one session we explored ways in which younger children could book the morning session whilst older ones came to the afternoon session.  This was reasonably successful.

Home educated children have the luxury of learning at their own pace with a very flexible child-centred learning experience. Unlike a school with set break times and lunch hour, we found that the children seemed to be constantly grazing, eating snacks during the sessions.  The participants and younger siblings would then touch the artefacts, which really wasn’t doing the artefacts any good and posed a hygiene hazard.  We can’t just put our artefacts in a washing up bowl, after all!  So we worked with the group organiser to request that parents were advised of a no-eating rule in the sessions and why this was important, plus reinforcing the need to wash hands after eating.  We provided a trolley outside our education room for food and drinks; and we made a positively-worded request at the start of each session explaining why this was needed and and making it clear people were welcome to step out to eat whenever they wanted to.

To deal with the wide variety of ages, abilities and interests we adapted the format of the sessions to include a very short introduction and overview of what the session entailed with expectations for behaviour – participants and adults! People responded very positively and I think it helped everyone get the most out of the experience.  Typically setting expectations involves explaining the session format and establishing rules such as one person speaking at a time and putting their hand up if they wanted to ask a question during the introduction.  For parents it is worth mentioning active involvement, supervising their children, turning phones to silent and the eating-outside rule.  I always then check if that is OK with the group so we can all get the most out of the learning experience.  Fortunately the answer to that question has always been ‘yes’!

It can be hard to identify which children are taking part in the session so we have tried to set up a separate starter area for participants and parents/siblings. At the museum we often use foam mats on the floor for those taking part during the initial introduction, with parents/siblings seated behind and around them.  Once we establish our participants we start by asking a few questions to establish prior knowledge before introducing tables with a range of different activities linked to the topic.  It works well not to try to regiment the movement of participants as much as a school group, so we normally suggest the participants go off to explore the activities in any order giving an overall time limit to help people plan.  The tables have information cards for the adults with suggested activities, and the only advice we gave was to try to choose tables that weren’t too busy rather than all crowding around the same one.  There are times when we had to accept that a participant was finding it more interesting to sit in the corner playing games on their phone instead of taking part in the session.  They had their reasons, and we take the view that whilst it was our responsibility to provide suitable learning activities it was the participants’ responsibility to engage with them during the session and the supervising adults’ responsibility to intervene (or not) when it came to level of participation.

At the end of each session we come together to discuss what the participants had discovered and answer any questions that arose. Although most of our sessions normally run for two hours, timings are much more fluid with home educator groups and if we do finish a little earlier – or later – that is what we do.  At the end of each session, it is very rewarding to note the number of participants and parents who come up to us to thank us for running the session.  As one mum said to me recently “We appreciate what you are doing.  We know we aren’t the easiest groups to work with because we are all so different so thank you.” And that’s what makes it all worthwhile for us – being able to make that difference!