New SHARE Training Calendar – Part 2

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Thank you to everyone who took part in my training needs survey earlier this year. I fed all the information back up to SHARE and they have used it in producing this year’s calendar, which goes live at 9am today.

In today’s blog, I am going to highlight where you can access the training that the majority of people requested in each category. However, it is in no way an exhaustive list of what’s on offer (over 100 training events between now and next spring!) so I do recommend taking time to have a look through and see what would be of use to you and your colleagues.

Of those of you who responded to my survey, only one third had not attended any SHARE training in the last year and of them only 10% said that this was because the training was too hard to get to. If there is training that your museum needs, but cannot afford the travel, it isn’t running or it is simply too far away, please do contact me as I may be able to help.

Several of the training days are running in Essex, but please remember that SHARE have to support the whole of the East of England. Therefore they move they days about and if a particular subject has been in Essex recently, they do have to move it somewhere else this year.

Most Requested Training By Category

  1. Collections

There was a strong “digital element” to the training requests for collections, including Copyright, Digitising Collections and Managing Digital Images.

I have spoken to Simon at SHARE about Copyright and they have identified that it is a need for support with this area, however from their experience they aren’t sure if training is the best way of providing it. SHARE is currently formulating a plan and I will update you as soon as possible. If you do have any urgent copyright questions, please get in touch.

Regarding digitising collections, there are several useful days coming up:

  • “Point & Shoot: Collections Photography Using Digital Cameras” is running on 6th October at Ely Museum and 2nd February in Norwich
  • “Digital Technology & Collections: Promoting Access and Engagement” is on 5th October in Ipswich

For managing digital images, I suggest:

  • “Managing Digital Images” on 15th December at Mill Green Museum and Mill in Hatfield or 27th April in Wymondham Heritage Museum, Norfolk
  • “Create Once, Publish Everywhere: How to COPE With Your Digital Content” on 1st December at the Museum of Cambridge or 20th April at the Long Shop Museum in Leiston

I would also suggest having a look at joining the Digital Development Forum if you are planning on a large digital project. The next meeting is on 20th October in Norwich

Other Collections based training that had a large number of requests are Conservation Basics and Rationalisation.

There are several conservation-themed days coming up:

  • Handle With Care: Object Handling & Packing on 2nd December in Mildenhall, Suffolk
  • “Conservation Uncovered: Major Museum Tours” on 19th November is going behind the scenes at the University of Cambridge conservation lab
  • “Environmental Monitoring” on 26th April at the Centre for Computing History in Cambridge
  • Integrated Pest Management: Level 1 on 10th November at Royston and District Museum
  • Integrated Pest Management: Level 2 on 2nd March at University of Cambridge Museums.
  • The 2nd Annual SHARE Collections Care Conference on 20th January at Hughes Hall in Cambridge.

Some sessions are much more specialised but will be relevant to several Essex Museums, including:

  • Assessing and Repacking Military Costume: A Costume & Textiles Network Event on 6th October in Norwich
  • “Preventive Conservation for Waterlogged Archaeology: A Maritime Heritage Network East Event” which is on 15th October at Southend Central Museum

SHARE also have their online Collections Care Syllabus. This current version is available online but it is being reviewed and updated so look out for updates later in the year.

For Rationalisation, SHARE are running “Rationalisation, Review and Disposal: Getting Started” on 8th October. Please note that there will also be funding support for rationalisation available later in the year. It is not compulsory, but I would recommend attending the training if you wish to apply.

2. Audiences

The most requested audience-themed training days are: Writing Engaging Text, Marketing on a Budget, Display Techniques and Understanding Audiences.

There are two different text-writing events booked in this year:

  • Captivating Captions on a Budget is one of this year’s first trainings, happening on 7th September at The Red House in Suffolk.
  • Make it Snappy: Writing Effective Text on 11th April at the Museum of East Anglian Life

There isn’t a generalised “marketing” training on the SHARE calendar this year, so I will organise something for later in the year. However, there are two specialised courses which may be of interest:

  • “Awareness, engagement and impact: Marketing to drive fundraising and income generation – a SHARED Enterprise event” on 25th November at Verulamium Museum in St Albans
  • Social Media Next Steps on 22nd September in Luton and on 9th March (venue TBC). If you feel that you need a “Beginners” level Social Media training, please DO NOT book on to this course. Contact me and I will arrange for help and support.

There are a couple of events coming up for Display Techniques:

  • Basic Display Techniques, 13th October in Stevenage and 12th January at Gainsborough’s House in Suffolk and on 14th April in Norwich.
  • Cutting Edge: Making Professional Labels & Panels on 3rd March at Hollytrees Museum in Colchester

There are several events which will be of interest for those of you who requested “Understanding Audiences”:

  • Front-of-House Forum on 19th October in Norwich
  • First Steps in Community Participation on 14th January in Luton
  • Complaints, Criticisms and Conflicts: How to Handle Them All on 28th January in Ely Museum
  • Managing Successful Events on 25th February at the Fenland Museum and Denny Abbey in Cambridgeshire
  • Working with Different Audiences on 4th March at The Polar Museum in Cambridge

There were also several requests for How to use HistoryPin, which SHARE are offering on 21st October in Ipswich

“Being a “Dementia Friendly” venue” and “Making your museum accessible for people with Autism” were also both highly requested. Working with these audiences will be covered in “Working with Different Audiences” and Helen Griffiths (Essex County Council’s Cultural Access, Learning and Participation Officer) and I am planning to run Dementia Friendly training soon.

3. Children and Young People

The most requested training session for children and young people are Setting Up A Youth Panel/Young Curators, Working with Schools, Child Protection/Safeguarding and Using Digital Technology to Deliver Learning With Schools.

“Giving Young People a Voice: Youth Panels and Young Curators” is running on 18th September at Colchester Castle (NB This will follow the Essex Heritage Education Group meeting).

Regarding Working With Schools, Helen Griffiths and I are planning a series of training in this subject and Child-Protection/Safeguarding for later in the year (look out for more details soon) however, you may also be interested in:

  • Surprising Science For Schools is on 21st January at the National Horseracing Museum in Newmarket.
  • Learning From Objects on 9th October in Ipswich or 7th December in Bedford
  • Object Lessons 3: SHARE & Bridges Children & Young People Conference on 10th February, venue TBC
  • Consider Yourself: Reflective Learning Practice for Learning Staff and Volunteers in Museums, 18th April, Museum of Cambridge

As you may be aware, I’ve been working with several museums in the county on a digital learning pilot. The case-studies from the project will be shared via my website, SHARE and the Heritage Education Group later in the year.

4. Resilience

The most commonly requested training sessions in this section fall into two categories, Volunteer Management (Volunteer Management, Volunteer Recruitment and Young Volunteers) and Fundraising/Income Generation (Alternate Ways to Boost Your Income, Making The Most of Your Shop, How to Talk to Funders and Other Stakeholders and Writing Funding Applications).

SHARE have recently launched the Volunteer Coordinators Forum, details of which can be found here. This is a great source of support for anyone managing volunteers, including those who are volunteers themselves. I also recently commissioned a volunteer management toolkit which is available here. 

SHARE are offering the following training events:

  • Volunteers: Getting Them In and Keeping Them Happy (a Volunteer Co-ordinators’ Forum event) on 18th April at Ipswich Transport Museum
  • Volunteer Co-ordinators’ Forum: Youth Volunteering, 8th December, John Buyan Museum, Bedford

SHARE also have a Retail Forum which offers peer support to those running museum shops. More details can be found here and there are some relevant training days too:

  • “Top Tips For Retail” on 4th February at Braintree Museum
  • “SHARE Retail Forum: Selling Skills and Sound Retail Practice” on 21st September at the National Horseracing Museum in Newmarket

Regarding applying for grants and other fundraising training, there are lots of options:

  • “Relationship Fundraising and Legacy Giving for Museums – a SHARED Enterprise Event” on 12th October at Colchester Castle
  • HLF Young Roots Seminar on 19th October at the HLF Office in Cambridge
  • “Awareness, engagement and impact: Marketing to drive fundraising and income generation – a SHARED Enterprise event” on 25th November at Verulamium Museum
  • “Enterprise & Philanthropy: building relationships to fund museums” on 2nd March at the Museum of London

I would also like to highlight that my colleague Andrew Ward and I are offering a “surgery” connected to Essex County Council’s Cultural Development grants on 23rd September in Chelmsford.

The other training that I would especially like to  mention is Understanding Museums. This is a six day course (one day a fortnight). While six days is a big commitment, this is the perfect course for anyone who is new to working or volunteering in museums. It explains why we do what we do, how different types of museums operate and looks at the history and ethics of the sector.

I would like to thank the SHARE Museums team (Annette, Simon, Kathy, Miranda and Liz) for all their hard work in pulling together this training offer – and wish them luck when the booking opens at 9 o’clock!

#VolunteersWeek: Accreditation and Volunteer-Run Museums

Volunteers at Mersea Museum installing their summer exhibition

Volunteers at Mersea Museum installing their summer exhibition

Mersea Museum is an independent local history museum, established in 1976. They have recently submitted their successful Accredited return and Joanne Godfrey talks about their experiences of the process as a volunteer-run organisation.

Mersea Museum became a registered museum in the 1980s, a fact which my predecessors were very proud of, and it has been very important to us not to let them down and to continue to make progress. Our last accreditation return under the MLA in 2010 was a bit more demanding than the previous one but we got through it successfully.

In 2013 we had to make our next return under the new ACE standard and I must admit that we were rather surprised and daunted by the amount of work that would be required, even allowing for the element of scaleability for small museums. However, after going through the different sections carefully and taking copious notes, we realised that this would be do-able. There are templates available to help with writing policies and you can find examples online of what other museums have done which can be helpful. We also made plenty of use of our Museum Mentor and MDO who have the experience to help you when you get stuck or just need a bit of support and encouragement.

Getting people involved in areas such as the Forward Plan and Collections Development Policy is useful as it makes you think about what your museum and its collections are really about and how to reach out to all potential audiences. There were many areas where we had to put into words things that we tended to take for granted such strengths and weaknesses, which was a very useful exercise.

It did take several months before we were ready to submit our return in May 2014 and we were delighted to hear that we had been awarded full accreditation. Our museum was specially commended for its “user focused experiences” which was very satisfying.

I won’t pretend that it was an easy process but if you don’t panic and take all the help available you will have a real sense of achievement when you succeed. The benefits of accreditation, particularly for volunteer-run museums, include being eligible for small grants, access to SHARE training courses and the support of a Museum Mentor. Over the past few years our museum has received grants for various conservation materials, shop fittings, display cabinets, audio guides and electrical equipment which have all helped to improve standards and the experience we offer to visitors. Most importantly we received a Heritage Lottery Fund grant in 2010 towards building our resource centre which has been a great asset to the museum.

We continue to look to the future with plans for some new audio interpretations in displays and a possible longer term plan for another extension. When accreditation comes around again in 2018 we hope to be well prepared.

For more information about Accreditation, contact your local Museum Development Officer and visit the Arts Council’s website. There are also useful resources available from SHARE Museums East, the South West Museums Federation and Collections Trust.

#VolunteersWeek: Volunteering and the HLF

To mark the start of Volunteers Week 2015, Miranda Stearn, Policy Adviser, Learning and Volunteering at the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), explains how and why HLF supports volunteering activity within the projects it funds.

Making a lasting difference for heritage and people

We use money raised by National Lottery players to help people across the UK explore, enjoy and protect the heritage they care about. We support all kinds of projects, as long as they make a lasting difference for heritage, people and communities. It’s not difficult to see how volunteering can play a major part in creating a lasting difference, particularly when you meet the amazing volunteers who contribute their time to heritage projects around the UK (you can read about the experiences of some of these volunteers in my Volunteers’ Week blog on the HLF website).

We describe the difference we want Lottery players’ money to make through a range of 14 outcomes. One of these is that ‘people will have volunteered time’. But volunteering clearly contributes towards many of our other outcomes too. This might be through providing expertise so that heritage sites can be better managed, by creating opportunities for people to develop skills and have an enjoyable experience, or by helping make heritage organisations more resilient.

How HLF supports volunteering

Volunteers provide excellent value for money, but we recognise that high quality, inclusive volunteering experiences come with costs. We’re happy to support some of these costs, for example:

  • volunteer training, travel and expenses
  • recruitment costs;
  • staff posts to co-ordinate and manage large numbers of volunteers
  • costs associated with making your project accessible to volunteers with additional needs

We also recognise the value of volunteers’ time to a project and we ask applicants to calculate the financial value that their volunteers bring, based on the number of days and type of activity they will contribute. The values are set out in our application guidance:

  • professional labour (e.g. accountancy or teaching) – £350 a day
  • skilled labour (e.g. leading a guided walk) – £150 a day
  • unskilled labour (e.g. being a steward at an event) – £50 a day

These values can contribute towards match funding, and can be particularly helpful for smaller organisations by helping to demonstrate value for money within their project budgets.

What to read next

You can find our top tips to ensure volunteers have the best possible experience in our good practice guidance. You can also learn from others’ experience of running an HLF project through our online case studies. One case study describes how volunteers at Bishop’s Stortford Museum researched crime on the home front during the First World War to create an exhibition and an app.

To get a fuller picture of the benefits of heritage volunteering, we commission research studies that look at the experience of volunteers involved in HLF projects. These have helped us understand who volunteers, what motivates them, and the difference volunteering makes to their lives – including the significant difference it can make to their health and wellbeing. You can read more about the research on our website.

If any of this inspires you to develop a heritage project run by volunteers or with a strong volunteering element, take a look at our website, read our application guidance, and get in touch with our East of England team.

Follow on Twitter: @HLFEoE @heritagelottery @MirandaStearn

Celebrating Volunteers!

Volunteers at Rayleigh Mill

Volunteers at Rayleigh Mill

Monday 1st June is the start of the thirty-first National Volunteers’ Week. This annual celebration of the work volunteers do is very relevant for museums. Most of the museums in Essex are entirely volunteer run, and those that aren’t still rely heavily on the hard work and creativity of volunteers.

Ahead of Volunteers’ Week, I am launching a new Volunteer Management Toolkit, with useful information for anyone managing volunteers and templates for documents including a volunteering policy, volunteer agreements, skills audits etc. There’s also a new Evaluation Toolkit, including a “how to” guide, templates, a glossary and a list of useful websites. These have been created for Essex museums by Pippa Smith from Handling the Past.

During Volunteers’ Week, I am hosting a series of guest posts:

  • Monday – Volunteering and the HLF by Miranda Stearn, Heritage Lottery Fund
  • Tuesday – Young Curators by Francesca Pellegrino, Epping Forest District Museum
  • Wednesday – Accreditation and Volunteer-Run Museums by Joanne Godfrey, Mersea Museum
  • Thursday – Life as a Museum Volunteer by Deke Dudley, Braintree Museum
  • Friday – Volunteering with Kids in Museums by Jane Allnutt
  • Saturday – The vTeam: Partnership Opportunities With the Student Volunteering Team by Anya Visegorodceva, University of Essex Students’ Union
  • Sunday – Students, Graduates and Volunteer-Run Museums by Christine Brewster and Katie Wilkie, The Cater Museum

Thursday 4th June is also the first SHARE Museums East Volunteer Awards, and several Essex-based volunteers have been nominated, so please keep your fingers crossed for them!

~Amy Cotterill

Case Study: New Donation Box at Essex Police Museum

Donation box BEFORE the SHARED Enterprise Grant...

Donation box BEFORE the SHARED Enterprise Grant…

SHARED Enterprise is a HLF Catalyst-Funded project supporting museums throughout the East of England to explore new ways of generating income and to make better use of existing financial opportunities. Becky Wash, Curator of Essex Police Museum, talks about her recent experience of working with SHARED Enterprise and a step they’ve taken to increase their income.

The Increasing Individual Giving training session run by SHARED Enterprise allowed those on the course to apply for a grant of up to £500 to improve access to individual giving.

The Essex Police Museum costs £40,000 a year to run and has been self-funded for the last three years. The museum is a registered charity and has successfully found funding from online giving, gift aid and setting up a Payroll Giving Scheme.

The museum’s donations box – a small clear box that sat on a small table near the main entrance is the only donations box in the museum.

Although it did bring in some money we felt it was low down and easily missed by visitors.

The grant allowed us to apply for funding so we could purchase a new and improved box.

We looked at the variety of donations boxes available:

  • Donation Buckets
  • Charity Pots
  • Box with a hole for a coin or folded notes
  • Interactive donations box

Then we looked at the prices – and picked ourselves up from the floor!

We wanted something that looked professional but was affordable and meant something to our museum.

Interactive boxes are fun but they are normally filled with coppers rather than notes.

Someone suggested that we make a box from an old police helmet – but I wanted to make sure that we continued to use a transparent box.  It allows the visitor to see exactly how much is in it before they make their donation. There has been some research into the use of transparent donations boxes and this YouTube video explains a case study in more detail.

We have always and continue to leave a float of £10 in our donations box made up of a £5 note, £2 coin, 2 x £1 coins and 2 x 50p coins. It most certainly discourages any coppers (unlike our non-see through boxes which we leave at Essex Police Reception and the local corner shop). We often see a note or two in our box but the majority of coins that enter the box are gold.

So we went back to our original clear box – how could we improve it?

Essex Police Museum Donation Box

…and the donation box AFTER the grant

Our answer was to improve the box signage and to make the clear box prominent.

I contacted a carpenter friend of mine and explained what I wanted. The finished piece was a traditional looking Police Box measuring 85cm high, almost double the height of the original table.

The box most definitely stands out and we have had many positive comments, but it is early days yet to say whether the box has helped to increased donations to the museum.

The project cost £150 in total which also included the price of a new plastic box (with lock) and new signage (not seen in the photos).

Dinosaur vs Whale: What Can We Learn from the Natural History Museum?

"Dippy" the Diplodocus

“Dippy” on display at the Natural History Museum (Image by CC-BY-SA-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

The Natural History Museum caused a media storm last week when they announced that “Dippy” the diplodocus would be leaving his current spot in the entrance gallery and be replaced by the skeleton of a blue whale.

While some people are upset that Dippy is leaving, the truth is that the diplodocus had only been in that spot for 35 years, not all that long in the museum’s 134 year history. George the Elephant stood there from 1907 to 1979 – a far more impressive run! It should also be noted that Dippy’s not a “real fossil”, but a plaster cast. Changing the display is part of NHM drive to highlight issues of environmental conservation, which is a significant part of their vision, and the museum will continue to have dinosaurs on display.

The story has given the museum a lot of publicity. It’s been featured by all of the major news outlets and the public have taken to the internet, the radio and television debates to express their allegiance to either #TeamDippy or #TeamWhale. I confidently predict that their visitor figures will go up over the next few months, not just because people want to “say goodbye” to Dippy but because all of this media coverage has reminded them that the museum is there and it’s free. Then, when the whale takes up residence in 2017, the new display and second round of publicity will bring visitors back again.

So what can smaller museums learn from this example?

Small museums are unlikely to get the scale of press coverage that NHM had, but refreshing displays does encourage people to make return visits. It also means that items that would otherwise be sitting in store are seen. Fragile items that can’t be on permanent display due to lighting levels can be made available to the public for short periods of time. The scale of this “refreshing” can range from simply changing the contents of a case in your permanent display, to a temporary exhibition telling a particular story or even a full redisplay of your museum.

If you are making a significant change this can cause controversy amongst local audiences. However, with clear communication (or even better, consultation) we can bring people over to our side (or at least explain why we’re making a change).

Augmented reality at Colchester Castle

A visitor exploring the new displays at Colchester Castle

Tom Hodgson, Colchester Museum Manager, oversaw the recent HLF-funded redisplay of Colchester Caste:

“The redevelopment of Colchester Castle has had a huge and immediate impact and our visitors are clearly delighted by the mix of object rich displays, lively interactives and audio visuals. They are also pleased by the balance we have struck between displaying the collections and showcasing the Castle itself. A few of our visitors are not yet sold on the more modern innovations, but the vast majority have appreciated the use of new technologies such as virtual reality and digital tablets to add further layers and depth to our interpretation. In the nine months since we re-opened on 2 May last year we have received over 88,000 visitors to the Castle – the same figure that we achieved in 2011/12 our last full year of opening. We are expecting to welcome over 100,000 visitors by the end of March”.

If you anticipate that the public are going to complain about changes, particularly on social media, it’s important to maintain a level head in your responses. This “Storify” by the NHM of responses to the news about Dippy is a master-class in good social media management: https://storify.com/NHM_London/blue-whale-to-take-centre-stage

~Amy Cotterill, Museum Development Officer

#FundingWeek: Heritage Lottery Funding for Museums

Colchester Castle

Visitors enjoying the new displays at Colchester Castle

Stuart Hobley is Development Manager for Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) in the East of England. In this blog he outlines some of the museum projects in Essex that have received funds along with steps you can take to apply for support.

“I love museums. Really, I do – they’re full of some of the most remarkable stories. From Wallace the Lion at Saffron Walden to Boudica attacks at Colchester… and HLF loves a museum too, from your big regionals to independent and volunteer-run; to accredited and non-accredited, we’ve funded many of them!

And the list of things we’ve funded is pretty long too… redisplay, volunteer skills and development, developing learning and outreach, improving storage and access, even buying objects and artefacts to help you offer more (just ask Gordon at the Fry Art Gallery…). We can even fund those less exciting (but also important) things like toilets when they are part of a wider project.

What makes a compelling project for HLF?

Essex Police Museum have also benefited from HLF funding

Essex Police Museum has also benefited from HLF funding

That’s down to you. Think about the stories you want to share and why it’s important that more people know about them. We want you to improve your museum for existing visitors and reach out to new audiences.

Who are you doing the project for? We want more people, and a wider range of people to #loveheritage as much as we do. Think about those people; have you thought about what they want from your museum?

What will your project actually do? Don’t use jargon – just be clear and tell us straight what the project benefits will be. We want to fund believable projects, including those schemes that can help you be more resilient.

How will you do it? It’s OK to start your thinking with that ‘wish list’ of stuff you want, but a wish list isn’t a project. A project is about connecting up all of these things and using them to tell us the difference you will make for heritage, for people and for your community. Think about it this way, that’s what HLF is buying off you – a project that makes a difference.

Delivering a project isn’t easy; you’ll need support from your volunteers and your Board; ask yourself, do you have the right governance to take on a project? Doing a project will help to develop skills but if you’re planning something big, do some groundwork first because by the time you’ve finished doing a project, you will look and feel like a very different Museum. And if you’re not ready to take on a big project? Why not start small: do something more modest and build your capacity and confidence.

HLF isn’t the answer to everything though. We can help you make changes and improvements but you have to convince us why funding is needed. You’ll have to fill in forms… and our funding is competitive… the truth is, you may not be successful. When that happens we will tell you why; listen to what we say and then think about a new application.

But don’t let competition put you off – we’ll give you the best advice we can before you apply and we have a whole range of grant programmes and guidance that can help you to develop a strong project.

If you want to get started do a project enquiry and get feedback direct from us before you apply. The project enquiry is free and informal – we just need initial thoughts to start that conversation. If it looks promising, we’ll let you know and if it doesn’t look promising, we’ll tell you that too.

http://www.hlf.org.uk/looking-funding/do-you-have-idea-mind

From oral history work at Essex Fire Museum in Grays to the transformation of Epping Forest Museum (currently underway), the next Essex museum project we fund could be yours…

So, stop reading this and start telling us about your ideas!”

Heritage Lottery Fund