Partnership Opportunity – “Stiletto 2”

Rosina Sky edited

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

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.

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

What is a “Hidden History”?

person with body painting

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Pexels.com

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.

What the HEG…?

Museum Explorer

I’m not sure when the Heritage Education Group (HEG) first began. I know I first attended, as an Assistant Community Outreach Officer at Colchester and Ipswich Museums, back in 2007.

 

The group and the heritage sector have both changed a lot over the intervening years, and I would love to hear your views on what you value about the group, what you’d like to see more of and, if your museum doesn’t currently attend, what would get you to join.

 

If you aren’t familiar with HEG, it is a group for anyone delivering heritage education or community engagement within Essex, including Southend and Thurrock. While this is largely the staff and volunteers of the counties museums and heritage centres, it also includes parks, libraries, archives, attractions and independent freelancers.

 

We currently meet four times a year, varying our day of the week and location in the county to try and make it as accessible as possible. We regularly have guest speakers or presentations on topics relevant to the group. For example CREST Awards, working with home educators or how to use digital technology in museum learning. There is an opportunity to hear about what work other organisations are doing and to ask for support with any issues your organisation is currently having.

 

The group also feeds into the Museum Development programming locally and regionally through SHARE. For example, conversations at HEG led to the museum education mentoring pilot a couple of years ago and our current “Snapping the Stiletto” women’s history project.

 

If you are not currently on the mailing list (I know a lot of people “fell off” when the new, post-GDPR emails were launched), you can sign up here.

 

Meanwhile, please take a few minutes to complete this survey  and indicate how we can make the group of more use to you going forward.

SHARE Creative Communities Network

CIMS 100 United

Does your museum want to work more closely with local communities? Do you want to bring in new visitors, improve your reach and build relationships? Diversifying audiences and giving ownership to local communities are both priorities for HLF and Arts Council and this network is a way to bounce around ideas with colleagues, learn from each other and hear about funding and other opportunities. We will meet quarterly through the year and help shape the SHARE programme around community participation.

Our first meeting will be in September at Ipswich Museum. We will be focusing on the new OFBYFOR ALL self-assessment tool and we would ask that attendees’ museums have completed the assessment ahead of the meeting, preferably as a team rather than an individual on their own and ideally including some of your community partners in the process.

In addition to join the network mailing list, please email amy.cotterill@essex.gov.uk. Additionally, please can you let us have your availability for September by completing this poll   

– Amy Cotterill (Essex MDO) and Eleanor Root (Colchester and Ipswich Museums)

#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.