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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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.

What is a “Hidden History”?

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SHARE Museums East have just launched a new grant scheme to support museums to interpret and share “hidden histories”, but what does it mean and why should you care?

Hidden histories are stories which are typically not told by museums. This could be because past curators haven’t collected relevant objects, or they have but museums lack the knowledge (or interest)to properly interpret them.

Often hidden histories are those belonging to minorities, such as people with disabilities, religious groups and BAME (Black and Minority Ethnic) communities.

As homosexuality was illegal until the 1960s and continued to be deemed socially unacceptable for some time afterwards, LGBTQIA (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning, Intersex, Asexual) stories are often under-represented.

However, “hidden” does not necessarily mean minority. Women are fifty percent of the population, but their stories are often not well recorded or shared. In many museums, women are only represented in the domestic galleries, or in relation to their husbands/fathers/sons. Collections are also often focussed on the wealthy or middle classes. Employers of the working class are well represented but the stories of the individuals are often sketchy or overlooked entirely.

Of course, I speak in generalities and there are many excellent examples of the above in museums but they are the exemption, not the rule.

 

How has this happened and why is this a problem? How would it benefit your museum to do more work highlighting these stories?

Many collections have come together through the work of a few private collectors and/or curators. They therefore reflect their particular interests, prejudices and opportunities. More recently, we have tended to rely on objects being offered to us rather than actively seeking to fill gaps. There is also frequently an awkwardness in tackling experiences outside of our own.

However, the world is changing. People no longer visit museums because it is considered “a good thing to do”. By tackling more diverse stories, museums are relevant to more people. They can increase not only their audiences, but their volunteers, donors and supporters, making them more resilient.

 

This is the first in a series of blogs around hidden histories, but I would like to draw your attention to a study day I have organised at the British Museum on 23rd October. This day will look at two different examples of hidden history interpretation.

SHARE Fundraising Cohort 2018-19

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As you may be aware, between 2014 and 2018 museums in the East of England had access to specialist fundraising training through SHARED Enterprise, an HLF funded project.  The programme included cohort-based training, which participating museums found highly effective because it combined group workshops with specialist one-to-one support and peer networking.

 

Now that the SHARED Enterprise programme has finished, we are planning to offer similar cohort-based fundraising training as part of the 2018-19 SHARE training calendar.  A small number of museums will attend group workshops and receive expert one-to-one support from an experienced fundraiser.  They will learn about fundraising strategies, including a variety of fundraising methods, and they will be supported to apply their learning in the real context of their own museums.

 

Workshop content will be tailored to suit the needs of the participating museums.  The following topics are likely to be covered:

 

  • Fundraising strategy
  • Case for support
  • Trusts and foundations
  • Corporate support
  • Individual giving

 

The fundraising cohort is for museums of all sizes that are serious about developing their fundraising skills, but applicants must commit to attending all group workshops and one-to-one sessions.  Ideally, the same two people should attend every session, as this makes the learning more effective and means you are more likely to be able to put the learning into practice and achieve fundraising success. Preference will be given to museums which have not had the opportunity to join any of the SHARED Enterprise cohorts.

 

The dates and locations of sessions will be arranged once the participating museums have been selected.  As far as possible, we will arrange workshops to be held in locations that are geographically sensible for participants, including asking participating museums to host a workshop if they have suitable facilities to do so.  Workshop dates are yet to be arranged and will be published as soon as possible.  One-to-one sessions will be take place at the participants’ own venues, by prior arrangement.

 

There is a small fee payable for taking part in the fundraising cohort.  This is £200 for an accredited museum in the East of England, or £400 for a non-accredited museum and museums outside the East of England region.  In return for this, you will receive training and one-to-one support worth approximately £1,600.  Information about how to pay will be sent to you if you are offered a place in the cohort, and payment is needed to secure your place.  If you would like to apply but have difficulty paying the fee, please contact us to discuss assistance.

 

How to apply:

Initially, please complete the expression of interest form below and email it to sharemuseumseast@norfolk.gov.uk no later than 5pm on Monday 10 September 2018.

 

If you have any questions, please contact Miranda on 01603 493659 or email miranda.ellis@norfolk.gov.uk.

Museum News – 23rd July 2018

I usually share links on social media so that non-subscribers can view my newsletters but there seems to be a fault with the new platform ECC are using which means the link doesn’t work. Therefore I am sharing the information on my blog.

If, since the GDPR changes, you are no longer receiving my newsletter but want to, or if you are a new subscriber, you can sign up here.

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  • Upcoming Essex Meetings

Collections Trust Event

The Collection Trust will be holding a free training day in Essex on Friday 12th October. We are looking for a venue to host and for everyone’s input on what subjects the training should cover. They are willing to talk about a range of documentation-related subjects including policies and procedures, the new SPECTRUM guidelines, backlogs and collection reviews. To have your say, vote online here

If you are able to offer a venue, please email amy.cotterill@essex.gov.uk

 

  • SHARE Updates

Benchmarking – Deadline Friday 31st August 2018.

It’s that time of year again! The annual Benchmarking return collects data from museums around the region regarding visitor figures, income, staff and volunteer numbers etc. This data can be used by museums and SHARE for advocacy, funding applications, planning and all sorts of other things. You can see how your museum compares to others of a similar size or collection, compare data from different years or use it to illustrate the contribution your museum has had to the local economy and community.

The data that you provide should be for the period 1 April 2017 – 31 March 2018. The deadline for completing the survey is Friday 31 August 2018.

For more information about why you should take part in Benchmarking and how to get involved, click here

 

New Creative Communities Network

SHARE is launching a new Creative Communities Network. Building on the work of the previous Co-Production Network, this peer-support group is for any museums looking to engage more closely with their local communities. The first meeting will be this September in Ipswich. For more information, and to give your availability for the first meeting, click here

(Please do email me at amy.cotterill@essex.gov.uk with your contact details to go on the mailing list as well as filling in the poll).

 

  • Funding and Opportunities

OFBYFOR ALL

Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History is running a fully-funded international museum development pilot called OFBYFOR ALL. The project is based on their phenomenal success in community coproduction, which has seen their annual budget increase from $700 000 in 2011 to $3 000 000 in 2018. It is led by their director Nina Simon, author of “The Participatory Museum”. For more information, click here 

 

Grants Of Up To £90,000 For History Makers In England

“The third and final round of the AIM Biffa Award History Makers Programme is now open for applications from AIM member museums in England. Check your eligibility and find out how to apply here.

Grants of up to £90,000 are available to support museums by creating new exhibitions featuring the lives and achievements of extraordinary, historical figures who have made a significant impact on the industrial, creative industries and arts, scientific, commercial or social history of the UK, helping to shape the world we live in today.

We want the funded exhibitions to be inspiring and exciting – especially for young people – and we are very keen to hear about exhibitions that would feature female history makers, notable people from the 20th century and people that have made a positive impact in the different and diverse communities of England”.

 

“AIM Conservation Grants: Next Round Closes 31st September

Does your museum need financial or practical support for a conservation project? AIM members can now apply for the next round of our conservation grants which close on the 31st September.

The round features three different funding schemes: Remedial Conservation Scheme, Collections Care Scheme and Collections Care Audits. Find out more and how to apply at: AIM Conservation Grants: Next Round Closes 31st September

 

Building Connections Fund

“Following the Prime Minister’s and Minister for Sport and Civil Society’s announcement to unlock £20m funding to tackle loneliness (as a part of Government’s ​wider endorsement of the Jo Cox Commission recommendations​), a new £11.5 million Building Connections Fund has been set up to support projects that are able to prevent or reduce loneliness.

 

The fund is a partnership between Government, Big Lottery Fund and the Co-op Foundation and aims to:

  • increase social connections, helping people form strong and meaningful relationships and creating a sense of community and belonging, and helping people feel more connected
  • support organisations to build on their existing work, eg by reaching more people, or working in a new area or with a different method or group of people
  • encourage organisations to join up with others locally
  • improve the evidence base and use learning to inform longer term policy and funding decisions”

More details, including how to apply, can be found here

 

WH Smith Community Grants

“The WHSmith Trust is now offering grants of up to £500 to voluntary organisations and schools from the proceeds of the compulsory carrier bag levies across the UK. Grants are awarded every six months to charities, schools and community groups of any size, provided they support the community in the UK.” For more information, click here. 

 

Heritage Lottery Fund, 1-on-1 Advice sessions, Wednesday 1th August, 11.00am – 3pm, Hadleigh Old Fire Station, High Street, Hadleigh, SS7 2PA

“Do you want funding? Do you have an idea for a heritage project? Then book a slot with Sally to find out how we can help!

Call Sally Page 07790375405 or email; sally.page@hlf.org.uk to book a 30 minute 1-on-1 slot to talk about your idea and find out more about our funding.”

 

“AIM Members: Sign Up Now To Receive Free Digital Membership Of The Social History Curators Group

Members of AIM can now take advantage of free digital membership of the Social History Curators Group (SHCG). This offer is available until 31st August and the free membership will run until 31st March 2019.

The Social History Curators Group was formed to improve the status and provision of social history in museums and the standards of collections, research, display and interpretation.

The group is a friendly community of history practitioners, people with an interest in social history and those that work directly with social history in museum collections. You don’t have to be a curator or an established professional to join – the group is open to anyone who works with social history.”

 

  • Resources

Heritage Watch

Has your organisation joined Heritage Watch, an Essex Police initiative to battle crime against museums and other heritage sites? Find out more here

 

Freelancers

SHARE has produced two new guides, one for museums wanting to work with freelancers and one for individuals wishing to go freelance. Both are available on the SHARE website

 

East of England Emerging Museum Professionals (EEEMP) Network

There is a new online network for people in the early stages of their museum career, living or working in the East of England. More information is available here

 

  • Vacancies

 Vacancies at Colchester and Ipswich Museums

CIMS are currently recruiting for two posts:

-Assistant Collections and Learning Curator (Natural Sciences), Colchester/Ipswich, £20,043 – 23,574, 37 hours per week, Closing date: Wednesday 1 August, 2018

Senior Collections and Learning Curator, Ipswich, £27,360 – £32,884, 37 hours per week, Closing date: Friday 17 August, 2018

You can find out more information here.

#OFBYFORALL: A Revolutionary Opportunity

Nina Simon and Amy Cotterill

Nina Simon from the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History with Amy Cotterill, Essex MDO 

A few weeks ago I attended the Museum Next conference in London. It was an exciting three days and I learned a lot, but one of the most inspirational presentations was by Nina Simon of the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History (MAH).

 

If you have time, I urge you to watch the video below. Nina speaks eloquently about how stronger community engagement saved the museum. Partnership working, co-creating programming and changing their recruitment processes have turned them around. In 2011 they had a budget of $700 000, in 2018 it’s $3 000 000. They have gone from 7 members of staff to 32 and17 000 visitors per year to 140 000.

Nina and MAH’s work has been so exceptional, they have raised $900 000 to roll out an international programme of support called OFBYFOR ALL to help more museums around the world work in this way.

 

The first step, one which all heritage organisations can do, is to complete their free self-assessment tool. It will give you an organisational score as to how “of, by and for” your local communities your museum is and highlight your strengths and weaknesses. This could be a good exercise to do as a team, working together to identify ways of improving. If possible, it would be good to include representatives of your community partners in the process as your perceptions and theirs might be different.

 

The second step is to apply to be part of their “first wave” research program, helping to test and co-develop tools which will help your organisation and others become more OFBYFOR. They are looking for organisations that are from diverse sizes, sectors, and geographies that are ready to make change in the next six months.

 

If accepted for the programme, your museum will have:

  • Free access to OFBYFOR ALL online platform and tools for 1 year
  • Personalized support in developing a plan and tracking your progress
  • Global support and community-building with other First Wave colleagues
  • Promotion and PR about your founding involvement in the project
  • Opportunity to be part of the beginning of something big

The OFBYFOR ALL Change Network will eventually become a paid-model, but this First Wave is free as you will be helping to develop and test the model and resources. The only exception is covering travel expenses to attend an in-person event in January (and you may be able to access Museum Development help to support this – contact me if you would like to apply). There will also be the opportunity to attend an OFBYFOR ALL Bootcamp, which you would also have to pay for.

For more information about the programme, the self-assessment tool and the opportunity to take part in the first wave of the change network, visit the OFBYFOR ALL website.

 

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!

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