Guest Blog: My First Time At the MA Conference

Today’s post is written by Iona Farrell, Volunteer at Beecroft Art Gallery and Museum in Southend.

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My First Time Delegate Badge

I have volunteered for Southend Museums and in particular Beecroft Art Gallery as an Exhibitions and Archive Assistant for a number of years. Volunteering has fuelled a desire to gain full-time employment in the sector and I therefore jumped at the chance to attend the Museums Association Conference. I knew I would gain fantastic insights into the museum world and learn new skills to put back into my volunteering and my future career.

Essex Museum Development provided me with a bursary to attend the whole three days of the conference and I could never have imagined how jam-packed the conference would be!  It was an inspiring mix of interactive sessions, workshops and fantastic keynote speeches rounded off by visits to cutting-edge museums within a beautiful city.

As a first time delegate (I even have a badge to prove it!) what most struck me was how welcoming everyone was. The first time delegates breakfast on Thursday morning provided an opportunity to mingle with fellow first timers (helped along by delicious bacon butties) and throughout the whole three days whoever I spoke to was always so encouraging in giving me advice.

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The auditorium within the Conference Arena

I had to deliberate long and hard over my conference booklet to decide how I could attend as many sessions as possible ! There was a real mix of content from workshops on how to write CVs and crack into the industry to practical guidance in staging accessible exhibitions and writing interpretative text.

What really surprised me was the variety of speakers. The hilarious Poet and Playwright Lehm Sissay and the equally side-splitting comedian Francesca Martinez opened and closed the first day of the conference with messages of empowerment and acceptance. Whilst Alejandra Naftal, director of ESMA museum, a former detention and torture centre in Buenos Aires opened Fridays proceedings with a hard hitting talk. Equally engaging were the broadcasters Lucy Worsley (who I must admit I was slightly starstuck at!) as well as presenter and historian David Olusoga who spoke about the potential for museums and television to collaborate. Something I am really excited about is the BBC Civilisations series airing in 2018. The BBC wishes museums to stage a series of events that co-ordinate with the programme and are providing free access to BBC archives for museums to tap into. This is something I think would be brilliant across Essex Museums!

Museums change Lives

The resounding message I took from the conference was the potential that museums have to truly change lives, one of the Museum Associations own manifestos. 2017 has been a turbulent year, with Brexit, increasing social isolation as well as the alarming rise of world leaders such as Trump. In her opening speech, Sharon Heal the director of the Museum Association Heal stated museums can respond to this by allowing people to explore their own histories and shape their futures for the better.  It is about being inclusive and reaching out to those who are on the margins.

History of Place- Reanimating Collections of Disability History

Linked to this idea was a session I attended run by the History of Place, a programme that uncovers the lives of the disabled and deaf within heritage sites. It was really useful in showing how museums can create accessible exhibitions, open to those who may not be reflected within traditional museum collections. Creative approaches such as replacing object focussed displays with multi-sensory exhibits using touch, taste and even smell to communicate to visitors really stuck with me. I am excited at how these exhibitions seem to be gaining momentum and look forward hopefully to seeing more examples of this within Essex.

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Museum Detox’s Pop-Up Stand

Museum Detox

Of course inclusivity is not just about expanding audiences but about workforces, one of the main themes of the conference. Museum Detox a collective of BAME museum workers (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic groups) had a pop up stand where ‘patients’ could take a White Privilege test, and were administered pills (Tic Tacs I might add!) and a prescription to challenge societal injustices within museums. Having studied the idea of the inclusive museum on my Masters course it was great to see these ideas put into practice and discussed so passionately.

It was fantastic to see how museums can tackle these issues creatively and I think that becoming more inclusive is so important within museums but it has to have real meaning and not just be a tokenistic activity.

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Samira Ahmed, Matthew d’Ancora and Ian Blatchford debate on the fake news phenomenon

Fake News and Museums

Another stand out for me was ‘Beliefs Trump Facts’ a debate that looked at how museums can respond to the disturbing trend of ‘fake news.’

Science Museum director Ian Blatchford and Matthew d’Ancora, a Guardian journalist argued it was about striking the balance between rational facts and personal stories. I will definitely take this aspect away, that with great storytelling you can connect with visitors and with this you have the potential to communicate important messages that can lead to a real positive impact in the wider community.

Yet journalist Samira Ahmed astutely countered their stance when she asked what are the parameters of free speech in museums, where should the boundaries be placed, should we state all the facts and reflect every viewpoint however controversial they may be? It seems there is no easy answer but museum workers should use their support networks, such as the Museums Association or within Essex Museums and seek advice from within the wider museum world.

Exploring Manchester Museums

After such an intense but rewarding few days on Saturday I journeyed to The Whitworth, as museums across Manchester opened their doors to delegates. Uthra Rajgopal, Assistant Curator of Textiles and Wallpaper showed us the exhibitions that are being staged as part of the #NewNorthSouth programme across the North of England that is supporting the work of South Asian artists.

In the afternoon I explored Manchester Art Gallery and was particularly moved by the video installations of artist Hetain Patel, whose work brings marginalised subjects into the mainstream. One piece (Don’t look at the Finger) was a mesmerising mix of sign language and kung-fu (yes really!) and I took away how powerful multi-media installations are within a museum setting. This work was also part of the #NewNorthSouth programme. I thought this was a brilliant idea in connecting venues together with a shared message. Southend Museums have a number of venues across the borough and it would be amazing if future programming could bring together all these sites with a shared theme.

Time to go home

I had such a fantastic few days in Manchester and left filled with ideas I can’t wait to put into practice. The conference has shown me what modern museums can achieve in an era of change and uncertainty. Through the support Essex Museums have given me by funding my conference, as well as speaking to delegates I came away knowing Museums are supportive places that truly have the potential to make a worthy impact on peoples’ lives. I want to thank Essex Museums Development for giving me the opportunity to attend.

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

 

Museums Association Conference: Bursaries for First-Time Attendees

Debating modern ethics

Debating modern ethics at the Museums Association Conference, 2014

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**STOP PRESS** – DEADLINE EXTENDED TO MIDNIGHT, FRIDAY 7TH JULY

 

I am able to offer two bursaries for first-time attendees to this November’s Museums Association Conference. The three-day annual MA Conference is the biggest gathering of museum staff and volunteers in the country and is a fantastic opportunity to learn about the work other organisations are doing, discuss issues affecting the sector and meet colleagues from around the country (and the world!).

Alongside the Conference is a “Marketplace” where you can meet suppliers of museum services and equipment. There are also usually fringe events such as tweet-ups, networking dinners and “unconference” break-out sessions.

Each bursary is targeted at a different area of the workforce:

  • Established professional

Those who have been in paid employment in the sector for more than 7 years (i.e. who began work before November 2010). This could be full-time or part-time paid work and doesn’t include paid traineeships. They should have been working at their current museum for at least six months by the date of their application.

  • Museum volunteer

Those who have regularly volunteered at an Essex museum for at least six months by the date of their application. This can be within any role in the museum.

The full eligibility details are outlined within the guidance document, but you do have to work or volunteer at an Accredited (or Working Towards Accreditation) Essex Museum.

You may find it useful to read the Top 10 Tips for Attendees and a summary of the 2015 Conference.

Please read the guidance notes before applying. The deadline for applications is midnight on Friday 7th July. Please contact me if you have any questions.

Click to download the application guidance

Click to download the application form

Learning & Engagement Grants For Essex Museums

colchester-alison-stockmarr

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.

 

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 28th February 2017

Guidance Document: learning-and-engagement-application-guidance-2017

Application Form: learning-and-engagement-application-form-2017

 

Snapping The Stiletto: Re-Examining Essex Collections

 

Image courtesy of Essex Police Museum

Image courtesy of Essex Police Museum

The Essex County Council Museum Development has secured a grant of £95, 445 from the Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund for a two year project working with museums across the county.

 

2018 is the Centenary of the of the Representation of the People Act 1918 which gave the first British women the vote, the 90th anniversary of the Equal Franchise Act 1928 which gave all women the vote and the 50th anniversary of the Dagenham Ford Worker’s Strike. These important national and local anniversaries are serving as a catalyst to explore, record and celebrate the diverse and inspirational stories of Essex women.

For the purposes of this project, we are working with partners from across “historic Essex” including those areas which are now unitary authorities or part of London, thus enabling us to tell interpret both existing collections and the stories discovered through our research as part of the wider story.

We will research and record how Essex women’s lives have changed during the last century and celebrate the stories of individual and groups of women in the county, for example Suffrage campaigners and Dagenham strikers but also women whose stories aren’t yet well known. This may include but not be limited to women who were involved in World War II, gained qualifications at a time when most women were unable to access further education, who entered male dominated professions including the services, those who moved to Essex from around the world and made a home for themselves by overcoming language and cultural differences and those who have raised families during a time of changing expectations for their gender. By highlighting women’s contributions, we will add another layer of understanding to elements of history that the public are possibly more familiar with, for example WWII, and change their perceptions of what took place. Also, through telling the stories of inspiring Essex women, we hope to weaken the negative “Essex Girl” stereotype.

 

Image courtesy of Southend Museums

Image courtesy of Southend Museums

 

 

The project is part of an overarching strand of work called “Snapping the Stiletto: 100 Years of Change”. We will be shortly be submitting further funding applications for oral history and other work, so there are still plenty of opportunities for heritage organisations and other groups to get involved. We will also be recruiting a large number of volunteers during 2017.

 

For more information, to sign up for project updates or to learn how you can get involved in the project, email amy.cotterill@essex.gov.uk

 

 

 

Our museum partners for “Revisiting Essex Collections” are:

  • Braintree Museums
  • Brightlingsea Museum
  • Chelmsford Museum
  • Colchester and Ipswich Museums
  • The Combined Military Services Museum
  • Epping Forest District Museum
  • Essex Fire Museum
  • Essex Police Museum
  • The Museum of Power
  • Redbridge Museum, Ilford
  • Southend Museums Service

Funding For British Science Week

On Wednesday, the British Science Association gave a presentation at the SHARE Regional Learning Network which I thought might be of interest which I thought would be of interest to many of you…

What Is The British Science Association?
British Science AssociationThe BSA, previously known as British Association for the Advancement of Science, was founded in 1831.

Like history and the arts, science has a “professional class” – people who do it for a living. However far few people see science as something you can has as a hobby or take-part in informally.  The BSA’s goal is to change this by engaging the wider public with science through events, activities and projects. The best known of these is the annual British Science Festival, which takes place in a different city each tear and dates back to 1831. However, they also offer CREST Awards for young people (which I will be writing about in another post next week), and British Science Week.

Why Is This Relevant To Museums?

The definition of “science” used by the BSA is a very broad one. It includes natural history, medicine, archaeology, forensics, engineering… in fact most museums will have something in their collection which is applicable. The BSA offer grants of up to £500 for community organisations, including museums (even local authority ones!) to run events during British Science Week that are targeted at an audience which is traditionally under-represented in science.

How Can Museums Get Involved?

The 2016 British Science Week will take place between the 11th and 20th of March. The audiences they particularly want to reach out to through their Community Grant Scheme are:

  • Black and Minority Ethnic Groups
  • Those of a low socioeconomic status
  • Young people with anti-social behaviour including those who are not in education employment or training (NEET)
  • People with a disability
  • Girls and women
  • Those living in a remote and rural location.

The application process includes a 300 word description of what you’re going to do and a further 300 words on how you’re going to recruit the target audience. Members of the target audience can also apply for the funding themselves in order to visit science venues and events.

When making decisions regarding the funding, the committee don’t take into account the number of people who will be engaged through the project however if the project is working with a smaller number of people they would expect the level of engagement to be deeper.

The fund opened for applications this week and the deadline is the 23rd of November.

There also is a separate Kick Start Grant Scheme for schools to take part in British Science Week (£300 for activities in the school, £700 for those in a school engaging the wider community) which your education partners might be interested in.

However, even if you do not apply for a grant (or are unsuccessful), you can still register a Science Week event with the BSA via their website. Organisations that do this receive a range of support including:

  • access to case studies
  • activity packs, projects and quizzes
  • marketing materials and PR
  • connections with local science volunteers

You can register your event up until middle of February.

Culture in Essex Small Grants

Participants in Saffron Walden's Egypt Project

The Culture in Essex Small Grants Schemes are funded and run by Essex County Council, offering one-off project support to arts and culture projects within Essex (excluding Southend and Thurrock).
 
Deadlines fall on the 31 March and 31 October each year and awards of up to £2,500 are offered to projects which meet the schemes criteria. 

With plenty of time left before the October deadline, Gemma Tully from Saffron Walden Museum shares hare experiences of the scheme:
Project participantsI have experience of applying for and working on two projects funded by the ECC small grants scheme over the last 3 years. Compared to other funding applications, the ECC form is clear and straightforward and takes a matter of hours rather than days to complete. The Small Grants team and MDO are really helpful and are willing to discuss projects before you begin applying, they will also read through draft versions and/or offer advice over the phone if you ask nicely!

The two projects that we have had success with have been strongly collaborative and involved a number of individuals from different backgrounds from within Uttlesford (our local authority district).

The first project I co-ordinated was called ‘Re-imagining Egypt’. This was an art/archaeology project between the museum (and our Egyptian collection), an Egyptian artist and over 100 local school-aged children (aged 7-18) from two different local schools, one museum youth club and a local home-school group. The project focused on looking at the entire human history of Egypt, from the Stone Age up to today, and getting children to rethink their ideas of Egypt’s history so as not to see it purely as the land of the Pharaohs. The objects that we studied formed the basis of artwork that the children created with input from Khaled Hafez, an Egyptian artist, as well as museum staff. The artworks focused on different themes which run through the whole of Egyptian history: symbols/writing, the human figure, gods/religion and the use of colour in society. The artworks reinterpreted this history through these themes to represent a more inclusive vision of Egypt’s past. The children’s artworks, alongside art by the Egyptian artist Khaled Hafez and Egyptian artefacts from the Museum’s collection (as well as some artefacts loaned by the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge) were then incorporated into an exhibition, co-curated by the children, Khaled and museum staff, which brought together 300,000 years of Egyptian history and contemporary art works that re-imagined Egypt’s history as one integrated story, rather than simply prioritising Pharaonic Egypt above all else. The children had their own private view, designed their own posters and got involved with publicity campaigns, meaning that they also learn about the entire museum exhibition process. The exhibition was a great success, with visitor numbers increasing significantly during the 4 months the exhibition was on display. More information is available here.

Community CuratorsThe second project is currently underway. ‘Uttlesford: A community of Collectors’ is a joint curatorial venture between the museum and local residents who wanted to showcase their collections to a wider audience. After a public call was put out, a group of collectors were selected to take part in workshops, learn how to care for and curate their collections and finally exhibit and publicise them in a temporary exhibition. From walking sticks to jubilee memorabilia, animal skulls to national dolls, a range of collectors aged from 11-85 have taken part. While the first round of collectors’ exhibition is only just under way, there has already been significant interest from the local public, with many visitors coming just to see friends and families collections on display. We are currently working with the collectors who are in round two and their exhibition will open in late November of this year. Both staff and local collectors have found the experience really rewarding and learnt a great deal from each other and it is something that we are hoping to sustain in the form of a community exhibition case once this particular project draws to a close.

Saffron Walden community Exhibition

 

Please do visit the grants website or contact me for more information before applying.