Partnership Opportunity – “Stiletto 2”

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Rosina Sky (far right) and Suffragettes in Southend – image courtesy of Peggy Ditton

 

We are into the final 6 months of Snapping the Stiletto. Hopefully, you’ll agree that the project has uncovered some fascinating stories, thanks to the work of the project volunteers, the partner museums and the wonderful Pippa.

 

As you are aware, we were limited by the funding to only looking at existing collections. While this did provide a large quantity of material, there were some noticeable gaps in collections:

 

– museums generally have little material post the 1960s

– working class women

– BAME women

– LGBTQ+ women

 

Given the success of the project in engaging the general public, we are interested in maintaining the momentum and following up with a second project, actively collecting to fill those gaps. 2020 is the 50th anniversary of the Equal Pay Act 1970, so we want to use that as a catalyst to explore equality more generally. We would also want to link in with the Essex 2020 Year of Science and Creativity, particularly through exploring women in engineering.

 

Would your museum be interested in being involved?

 

The proposed project should fit with your local authority’s priorities around learning, communities and wellbeing. It also meets the Arts Council’s “Creative Case for Diversity”, which may be useful to you in future funding applications and to include within your Accreditation return.

 

This second project will run for 18 months from early 2020, with a full-time project manager and part-time learning officer and are looking at an overall budget of about £200 000. This means that although it is a shorter project than the first, there will be much more staff time and resources available. We would be applying the National Lottery Heritage Fund, so the project is open to non-Accredited museums.

 

I know that several of you are already seeking to engage with/collect from BAME and LGBTQ+ communities. This project is an opportunity to increase your capacity and resources to do so. Through the project network and steering group meetings, there will be opportunities to learn from and share practice with colleagues from other museums.

 

Commitment-wise, you would have to agree to:

 

– working with us to actively collect artefacts, ephemera and oral histories and taking them into your collection (this would be based on your collections policy and  organisational capacity)

–  supporting volunteers to research the objects and working with us to make them accessible via a display in your museum and through other mediums. Volunteers can be currently involved with your organisation or project volunteers but each museum will be expected to engage with, and support, volunteers on site

– supporting us to deliver two festivals at the University of Essex (like the one we ran in March) by giving talks and/or having a stall

– co-hosting with us at least one community event over the course of the project

– co-deliver with us projects with at least one school and one youth organisation, including participating in Takeover Day and Teen Twitter Takeover. The budget is still in draft form, but there should be about £4000 available per museum to facilitate this (please note you will be fully supported in doing this by the project team)

– co-deliver with us a targeted community engagement craftivism project, building relationships which will facilitate collecting. As above, the budget is still in draft form, but there should be about £2000 available per museum to facilitate this (and you would be fully supported by the Project Manager)

– attend a minimum of 4 steering group meetings (to be held quarterly, expenses to be reimbursed)

– participate in project evaluation

 

Our expectations of your input will be related to the size and staffing structure of your museum but once signed up you would need to be certain that you can deliver what you have agreed to. We will be building expenses into the project budget.

 

Museums who register interest will be asked to input into a NLHF application and help shape the project outcomes and outputs. Our intention is very much that the benefits will be far greater than the effort we are asking from you.  For example with Snapping the Stiletto, we have managed to engage over 200 volunteers who have delivered what we calculate to be over £28 000 worth of time across the project to date. We would also be able to use it to help you recruit new long term volunteers and even diversify your trustee base (if applicable).

 

We are in the early stages of project development, but aiming to submit our application by 20th August, so things will be moving briskly as we develop the bid.

 

If you do decide that you are interested, please let me know the name/role of the person at your museum who will be leading on this confirm that the senior team/trustees of the museum are, in principle, happy with this (they will need final sign off on the partnership agreement) by 26th July. I am happy to book phone calls during the next couple of weeks if you’d like to talk further before making a bid to take part.

 

We are capping the number of museums at 6 so it may not be possible to include all those interested as we will need to ensure a good geographic mix as well as a range of museums.

 

For more information or to get involved, please get in touch.

MuseumNext: 3 Bursaries for Essex Museums

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Amy Cotterill (right) with Nina Simon,  Executive Director of the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History at MuseumsNext 2018

Last summer, I had a life-changing experience. I went to the MuseumNext Conference in London.

 

It was unlike any museum conference I had ever been to before. The speakers and delegates came from museums around the world and the projects and work they were speaking about were awe-inspiring. These were not big, nationally-funded museums. Many of them were comparable to the museums with have here in Essex, with few or no paid staff, shrinking grants from local government but with a lot of creativity and enthusiasm. They were experimenting with how they reached out to audiences and interpreted their collections and the results were exciting and inspirational. Have a look at their website, where videos of many of their speakers are available.

 

Having had my mind blown, I am absolutely thrilled that their European conference will be in London for the second year running on 3rd to 5th June. All the details are available here. b

I am offering three free tickets to museum staff or volunteers from Accredited museums in Essex. If you are successful, you have to commit to attending for all three days and to writing at least two blog posts about your experiences. You can be at any point in your museum career and be from any department, but you must have worked/volunteered at an eligible Essex museum for at least a year. It must also be signed off by either your manager, Chair or another trustee (if you are the Chair).

Funding guidance

Application form

To apply, complete the form and return it to me at amy.cotterill@essex.gov.uk  by midnight on Sunday 12th May 2019.

Hidden Histories: Display It Like You Stole It

Continuing our series of posts about hidden histories, Eleanor Root from Colchester and Ipswich Museums (and former MDO maternity cover!) shares her thoughts on our recent study day at the British Museum.

 

On Tuesday 23rd October, a group of us journeyed into London to take part in The Exhibitionist’s (AKA Alice Procter) Uncomfortable Art Tour of the British Museum.

Alice Procter, found of Uncomfortable Art Tours, believes that we’ve failed to come to terms with our colonial past and we need to resist triumphant nostalgia and challenge traditional narratives. We need to look through whitewashed labels to see a history of violence, imperialism and genocide committed by British people.

Alice gives tours around several national galleries, but the 90-minute tour at the British Museum focuses on unpicking their founding myths through exploring a series objects and their murky provenance.

We start off in a gallery that explores the beginnings of the British Museum, their collectors and early acquisitions. We discussed how objects collected through colonial expeditions (e.g. missionaries, government officials, explorers) often tell a story of violence even when it’s not expected. For example, Christian missionaries removed children from their families (an act of genocide). Even ‘good’ collectors, who collected through trade, used coercion as they were in a position of authority and power over local people. This manner of collecting is known as ‘salvage ethnography’, meaning the removal of objects from communities as you erase their culture.

The tour wound around displays of Pacific, North American and African cultures, stopping at particularly contentious objects. Alice emphasises the need for need a greater focus on the makers and users of the objects, not the collector, if we are going to begin to address stories of colonialism. In addition, if we ignore the brutal provenance of the object, we deny our history.

Our audiences want to trust us, and we should honour this trust with honesty.

The tour was challenging, emotional and thought-provoking. For me, the key messages were:

  1. We must be cautious when displaying objects from other cultures in case we go against their cultural protocols as this perpetuates the violence committed against the communities from which the objects were taken. For example, displaying an important object close to the floor, could be abusive of the object.
  2. We need to create space for a multiplicity of voices – we can’t speak for all the people our collections represent without resorting to (and perpetuating) stereotypes.
  3. It’s important to talk about individual stories, rather than generalising. This is humanising and especially important for objects that have difficult or violent stories. The objects can become memorials and allow people to have an emotional response.
  4. We need to consider our institutional architecture, for example many African collections are in basement galleries with dark colours and low lighting whereas many Ancient Greek displays are in bright, light galleries.

At the end of the tour, Alice hands out ‘Display It Like You Stole It’ badges and postcards for participants who might want to leave some feedback…

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Visit Alice’s website to find out more.

Hidden Histories: Oral History Interviews

Continuing our series on Hidden Histories in museums, oral history interviews are a great way to fill gaps in your collection and to bring stories to life for audiences, both in your museum and at home.

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Photo by Kaboompics .com on Pexels.com

As previously discussed, histories of certain groups and communities are often “hidden” because we don’t have the objects in our collection to represent them or because curators lack the specialist knowledge to interpret them.

By conducting interviews with members of these communities, you not only broaden your collection to include new stories and be more representative, you can ask questions which help you to better understand the physical objects already in your collection.

There are lots of ways museums can use oral history recordings. You can include them in exhibitions, either through a fixed unit or a portable player. Essex Record Office’s recent “You Are Hear” project saw special benches being placed around the county played recordings to the people listening to them.

You use clips of recordings on your website. Websites like Soundcloud, you can share clips from your your recordings and embed them into your website or blog, enabling you to share them around the world.

However, it isn’t as simple as simply sitting down with a your interviewee and asking questions. You need to make sure you have their permission to record the interview, to keep it and to share it.  You need to know that the equipment you have is up to the job. You should have a plan about what you want to ask, know how to ask open questions and what to do if the subject becomes upset during the course of the interview.

If you haven’t previously had oral history training, or would like a refresher, I have organised a training day with Sarah-Joy Maddeaux, Sound Archivist at Essex Record Office on 27th November. Click here for more information.

Don’t forget that SHARE’s Hidden History grant scheme is now open for applications. The deadline is 28th January, 2019. There is also a Hidden Histories Study Day at the British Museum on 23rd October 2018.

Museums News – 3rd October 2018

Dear All,

There are still spaces on the free “Donation to Disposal” seminar being run by Collections Trust on 12th October at Rayleigh Weir Fire Station. The day will be a thorough look at the new SPECTRUM 5 guidelines and will be really useful to anyone working with collections or responsible for Accreditation. More information is available here.

On 23rd October, I have organised a free “Hidden Histories” study day at the British Museum. The day will include an “Uncomfortable Art Tour” with Alice Proctor, looking at the colonial past of the British Museum’s collections. In the afternoon, we will have free entry to the museum’s “I Object” exhibition, which looks at the history of dissent. For more information, click here.

There is also an oral history training day on 27th November at Essex Record Office in Chelmsford.

To book on any of these, email me at amy.cotterill@essex.gov.uk with your museum name and a contact telephone number.

Best wishes,

Amy

AIM Conference 2018: Changing Gear

Caroline Hamson, Heritage Collections Officer for The Scouts, shares her experiences of this year’s Association of Independent Museums Conference.

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Diversity was the focus of the first day, or as Shaz Hussain suggested, representation not diversity. Hannah Fox the Derby Silk Mill Project Director discussed how imperative it is to design exhibitions/museums/sites alongside your communities. You must have human centred design which focuses on think, do and feel. The top down approach is out of touch and more importantly, is not impactful.

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Victoria Rogers from Cardiff Story Museum gave us a run-down of the top 10 tips for building and diversifying audiences, with the mantras, ‘Ask, Listen, Act’, ‘Live your commitment’ and ‘Review, Learn, Amend, Grow’.

A tour of the new collections store at Gaydon was an eye opener, what a magnificent facility! It even includes a full view of the workshop where staff and volunteers maintain and repair the vehicles. A facility which means 100% of their collection (bar the archive) is on display. What a dream.

 

It’s also where I found my next car…..

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On day two we learnt about the free stuff and resources that are available to us as AIM members. The free resources through the, ‘Open Up: Museums for everyone’ project which will help museums of all sizes increase the diversity of their visitors to make real and lasting change in the museum sector. And a new three-year partnership with the Charity Finance Group means AIM members can sign up to receive advice, trouble shooting, resources, all for free!

A fascinating talk by Sue Davies told about the positive impact understanding your type of museum can have. Club, temple, forum or attraction? Understanding this can lead to better management by adapting your leadership style; leader, facilitator, guardian or business manager.

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What did I learn? To be the best we can be and serve our communities we must listen, really listen, don’t impose our ideas on people, be open to criticism, have a great sense of purpose and vision which is shared by everyone, and be willing to try and test ideas without fear of failure.

Collections Trust Training Day – October 2018

20150420_141111.jpgThe Collections Trust will be delivering a free training day in Essex on Friday 12th October and I need your help.

 

Firstly, is anyone able to provide a venue for the day? If so, please contact me.

 

Secondly, what would you like the training to cover? The event is open to all museums, not just Accredited ones and the Collections Trust team are eager that you find the day as useful as possible. Please select as many of the options below that would be of use to your museum: