MuseumNext: 3 Bursaries for Essex Museums

Nina Simon and Amy Cotterill

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.

Getting Your School Offer Ready for 2020

Essex County Council, Chelmsford City Council and Anglia Ruskin University are collaborating on a year-long, county wide celebration of “STEAM” (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths).

The year of “science and creativity” will serve as an umbrella for events and activities across Essex. The partnership will be applying for funding for specific projects and events and promoting those of other organisations to the public.

I am keen that museums are able to benefit from this work and that there will be a strong legacy beyond 2020. Our definition of STEAM is deliberately broad and encompasses archaeology, social history, natural history, art… There will definitely be something in your collection that fits.

Following our recent scoping event at the Museum of Power, I am working with Claire Driver to organise a “Thinkspace” event for schools. Essex County Council organised a similar event a few years ago, bringing together teachers and museums to highlight how we could support the delivery of the new National Curriculum. This event will learn from the feedback we had at that event, be shaped in consultation with you and will bring everyone together to illustrate how teachers can use museums to deliver STEAM subjects. The aim is to use the event to build lasting relationships between museums and schools. It is aimed at museums OF ALL SIZES, both volunteer run and staffed.

Ahead of this event, I will be organising training and support for museums to create, refresh or add-to their learning offer. In order to do this, I need your input into what support you would find useful. Please do fill in the survey below. There is a box for you to make your own suggestions or you can contact me by email (please not that I am focusing on schools learning at the moment. I will be asking about support for other areas of museums at a later date).

 

 

#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.

 

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

WIRE: Wikipedians in Residence Essex

Wikipedians (or Wikimedians) in Residence are volunteers who dedicate time to working in-house at a museum or gallery, creating and updating Wikipedia articles related to that organisation and its collection. They are not simply an in-house editor: the role is also about enabling the host organisation and its members to continue a productive relationship with Wikipedia and its community of editors after the Residency is finished.

Wikipedia describes the idea here
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedian_in_residence

The Fry Gallery, Stow Maries Aerodrome, Essex Police Museum, Combined Military Services Museum and Chelmsford Museum will all be hosting a Wikipedian this autumn as a part of the WIRE project.

WIRE has only just started, and we’ll report back with our learning in a few months. In the meantime, if you’d like to explore updating your museum’s Wikipedia presence (even if you haven’t set one up yourselves, check Wikipedia as a page about your museum probably already exists) you can use the guide below.

Writing for Wikipedia

Be aware that new articles are ‘patrolled’ shortly after submission and if your article is not thought to comply with Wikipedia’s guidelines it will be deleted.

Articles submitted to Wikipedia should be written from a neutral point of view. Content must be
• unbiased
• verifiable
• noteworthy
• must not breach copyright

Think of it as writing an entry for a printed encyclopaedia. Entries should be written in an informational and neutral style rather than a marketing style. If possible facts should be supported by references.

Images should be the copyright of your Museum and be prepared for them to be downloaded and used once you have added them to an article. Consider using a Creative Commons licence to retain copyright while allowing others to use the images. You can find out more about licenses here – https://creativecommons.org/licenses/ Wikipedia expects editors to grant free content licences – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Creative_Commons_license

Before you start do a search on Wikipedia to make sure that someone else hasn’t already written an entry- duplicates will be deleted.

Consider if your article will meet Wikipedia’s ‘worthy of note’ conditions. Just advertising the existence of a museum is unlikely to but adding an article on a collection probably will. Entries should be strengthened by references (preferably online) and an article with no references is likely to be deleted.

There is some good advice here – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Your_first_article

Wikipedia also provides a wizard to help with writing your first article – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Article_wizard

A good tutorial can be found here – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Tutorial

Creating an Account
It is possible to write for and edit Wikipedia without an account but there are several good reasons to create an account for your museum.
• It will give entries more authority
• A number of reliable entries from the same source will build a good online reputation
• You can pick a recognisable user name
• You will have a user page with subpage called a ‘sandbox’ where you can experiment with writing and formatting an entry before submitting it

To Create an Account
https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Special:CreateAccount&returnto=Wikipedia%3AWhy_create_an_account%3F

Logging Your Steps
It’s a good idea to keep a log of your research and make sure you have a note of all the sources you have used along with web links. This makes it easy for you to respond to any queries about your entry and will also leave useful information for the museum should you not be available.