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.

“You Are Not Your Visitors!”

SHARE’s Kathy Moore talks about their Visitor Insight East (VIE) scheme (with thanks to Christina Lister whose introductory notes she has adapted)

chart close up data desk

Photo by Lukas on Pexels.com

If you want to know who your visitors are and what they think and experience, you need to ask them. Understanding and reporting on who your visitors are is also an accreditation requirement and requirement of many funding streams. There are several national schemed available for gathering visitor data e.g.  Audience Finder (AF) run by The Audience Agency. SHARE has developed a scheme which we feel is appropriate for smaller museums with lower numbers of visitors and staff/volunteers: Visitor Insight East (VIE). SHARE would like to support several small clusters of museums to start using VIE over the next few years.

VIE is a project to help you to undertake, analyse and implement visitor research. More information will be available for those museums interested in taking part, but here is a taste.

Participating museums will receive:

  • A self-completion visitor survey for your visitors (paper copies and/or an online version);
  • A link to an online survey for data to be inputted;
  • A report with your data;
  • A report which contextualises your data next to that of the other participating museums;
  • training (details tbc):

Museums will need to:

  • Proactively ensure that visitors complete the surveys;
  • Input the completed surveys into an online survey;

 

If you are interested in signing up to VIE, or want to know more, email Kathy at kathryn.moore@norfolk.gov.uk

 

 

 

Tempo Time Credits: a new community currency in Essex

I recently met with Caroline Murray from Tempo to hear about their scheme, which is just starting to be rolled-out in Essex. They are working locally to support socially excluded people back in to work, building up their skills and confidence through volunteering. She is looking for partners who want to reach out to broader audiences.

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Spending Tempo volunteering credits

Tempo is a national charity that runs the world’s largest community currency. They work with community groups and businesses to engage residents, especially socially isolated people, encouraging them to give their time to their community and access new opportunities that supports their health and wellbeing.

 

The way Time Credits work is for every hour someone gives in volunteering, they ‘earn’ 1 Time Credit note which can then be ‘spent’ on 1 hours’ worth of activity such as going for a swim, going to the theatre or visiting a historical attraction such as the Tower of London! Tempo have over 500 partner venues nationally where people can access new activities, experiences and learn new skills. See here for examples of where Time Credits can currently be spent.

 

Tempo is building partnerships with local services and businesses across Essex who are interested in getting involved in Time Credits, offering opportunities for people to spend Time Credits with them. Time Credits helps them reach new audiences, promote their services, and generate great stories about enabling access for local people and communities who might not usually visit them. Here is a short report about the value spend partners get out of being involved with Time Credits.

 

For more information about Tempo Time Credits, please get in touch with Caroline Murray on carolinemurray@wearetempo.org or 07480754929

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).

 

 

Announcing Essex 2020

power

“Essex 2020” will be a year-long and county-wide celebration of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths. It’s a collaboration between Essex County Council, Chelmsford City Council and Anglia Ruskin University. The team are in the early stages of project planning and given the wonderful collections and sites we have in the county, they are very keen for museums and heritage organisations to play a central role. Even if you aren’t a “science museum”, there will be items in your collection made through the application of science – even the processes involved in making paints and pigments count.

 

It is really important that Essex 2020 has a lasting legacy in the county and that long-term benefits for museums are built in to the plans and funding applications. Therefore we are inviting trustees and senior managers to a briefing meeting and discussion on Tuesday 12th February at the Museum of Power at Langford, with a  10:30 for 11am start and followed by lunch and an opportunity to network.

 

The team will share their ideas so far and ask for your input as to how museums can benefit from and contribute to the project. This is a very early, idea-scoping meeting but possibilities include training, events, residencies, youth programmes… anything and everything!

 

 

This is purely a scoping meeting. My colleagues will be giving an overview of the project and then we will have activities and debates to generate and share ideas. You will not be asked to commit to anything on the day. It is also not the only opportunity to get involved.

 

If you would like to come along, please RSVP by 5th February by emailing amy.cotterill@essex.gov.uk.

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.

black smartphone and headphones on a desk

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.