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

 

Farewell For Now

Today is my last day as Museum Development Officer for Essex… Until I return from maternity leave in November.

 

In the meantime, I’m leaving you in very capable hands. Eleanor Root is joining Essex County Council as my maternity cover on secondment from Colchester and Ipswich Museums.

 

In addition to leading on projects like Snapping the Stiletto, Eleanor will be your main contact for all things museumy in Essex, will continue to send out the e-newsletter and keep this website up-to-date. She’ll also be taking over the @EssexMDO Twitter account (although if you spot any tweets with AC at the end, it’s because I couldn’t quite give up my social media addiction).

 

Coming up over the next few months, the Stiletto project will be getting underway, there’s an opportunity to get involved in a new volunteering project and from next week we’ll be hosting a series of weekly blog posts from social media expert Louise Winters on how museums of any size can make the most of these free platforms.

 

Thank you to everyone who has been in touch over the last few weeks to wish me luck, and for all your support over the past three and a half years.

 

See you all again in the Autumn.

 

Amy Cotterill.

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

Museum Development Officer – Maternity Cover

Museum Development Officer (Maternity Cover), Essex County Council, Secondment Opportunity / Fixed Term Contract until Nov 2017

Full Time, 37 hours per week (flexible, evenings and weekends may be required), Salary £28,500, Deadline for applications: Midnight, Weds 22nd March

 

Love museums? Creative? Enjoy working with people? Essex County Council is seeking maternity cover for the role of Museum Development Officer. The post serves as the strategic lead for museums in the county, including project development, advice and support.

At the core of the role, you will provide advice and guidance to local museums, regarding organisational resilience, collections care and audiences, so experience in at least one of these areas is essential.

 

Working within the Cultural Development Team, you will also lead on delivery if the “Snapping the Stiletto” women’s history project, the “Wikipedians In Residence Essex” (WIRE) project and chair the county’s Heritage Education Group. You will also be responsible for developing the local training and activity offer, in partnership with Museums Essex and SHARE Museums East.

 

Please note that the post is also available as a secondment to local authority employees.

 

The role description can be accessed here: https://essexcc.taleo.net/careersection/ecc_external/jobdetail.ftl?job=10754&lang=en

 

  • Deadline for applications: Midnight, Wednesday 22nd March
  • Interviews: Friday 31st March or Monday 3rd April
  • Start date: Monday 24th April (subject to reference checks etc)
  • End date: Friday 24th November

 

If you have any questions about the role, please feel free to get in touch (amy.cotterill@essex.gov.uk)

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

 

Lead Roof Thefts

Stephen Armson-Smith, Crime Prevention Tactical Advisor with Essex Police, advises on how to improve the security of your historic lead roof:

Around the county we are seeing a number of thefts of lead from roofs again from churches, historic buildings and also some more modern buildings too. All too often the theft of lead from a roof is only discovered after a downpour of rain and then the value of the theft is often exceeded by the value of the water ingress damage, sometimes with heritage properties irreversible. For this reason it is important to know your building, where those attractive metals have been used and check regularly that these are intact.

I have listed below a few crime prevention tips in relation to metal theft, but not all will apply to your property as each location may have site specific issues:

  1. Make it difficult for the thief; where possible remove any climbing aids.
  2. Make it difficult for the thief; metals can be heavy so make them walk a distance by securing gates when possible, and keep wheel barrows and wheelie bins locked away.
  3. Make it difficult for the thief; keep sheds and outbuildings secure with good locks (see www.soldsecure.com ), it adds insult to injury if they have used your tools and ladders.
  4. Maximise surveillance by sympathetically cutting back shrubs and trees where possible.
  5. Cultivate the neighbours to watch over your property and report any suspicious activity whilst it is happening, crime being committed 999, after the event 101.
  6. External lighting for security? If someone will see what is being lit up or notice the lights have come on if PIR activated light it, if not the only person to benefit from lighting is the thief.
  7. Illusion of occupancy – a light and radio left on inside ect.
  8. Consider using a forensic marker suitable for roofs (see www.securedbydesign.com ), and if you have it ensure that you have clear signage at possible climb points like downpipes and at your perimeter.
  9. Consider a roof top alarm and possibly CCTV (see www.nsi.org.uk or www.ssaib.org ); again if you have security flaunt it, ensure you have clear signage displayed.
  10. Consider planting prickly shrubs at possible climb points and to reinforce boundaries to deter the thief.
  11. Consider the use of anti-climb paints, but remember not below 2m and signage must be displayed.

Further useful advice can be found on the internet including these webpages:

https://content.historicengland.org.uk/images-books/publications/theft-metal-church-buildings/theft-metal-church-buildings.pdf/

http://thecrimepreventionwebsite.com/other-crime-prevention/728/metal-theft/

If you know who is committing crime contact the Police using the 101 non-emergency number or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111

 

For more information on local heritage crime, read this previous post about the Essex Heritage Watch

Periscope and the Paraloid Sandwich: Upcoming Demonstration and How To Access It

(@EssexMDO)photorealistic_logo

One of the most common techniques for writing an identifying number on a museum object is a technique known as the “Paraloid Sandwich”. It involves writing the number between two layers of a chemical varnish.

 

Emma Cook, Museum Development Officer for Bedfordshire, and I have become aware that while YouTube is populated with numerous videos demonstrating methods for labelling objects for which the Sandwich isn’t appropriate (e.g. costume collections), this technique isn’t covered.

 

However, rather than just create a video, we thought we’d experiment with the streaming app called Periscope. Periscope you to broadcast video live and people following you on the app or who have clicked a link on Twitter can watch and even send in questions. The video then stays on Periscope for 24 hours. However, we will also then be able to upload it to YouTube, where it will be available for anyone to watch.

 

Therefore I am very happy to announce that Emma and I will be live-streaming a Paraloid Sandwich demonstration on Wednesday 25th May. We will repeat it 4 times, so you can log in, watch demonstrations and ask questions at 12:00, 12:30, 13:00 and 13:30 (British Summer Time).

 

So, how can you view our demonstration and ask questions?

 

  1. Download the free Periscope app to your mobile or tablet and set up an account
  2. “Follow” me (EssexMDO)
  3. Have the app or tablet connected to the internet between 12pm and 2pm on Wednesday 25th May

Additionally, a link will post on my Twitter account (@EssexMDO) every time we go live. You can click that link to watch along if you have Google Chrome as your web browser (Internet Explorer doesn’t work).

 

If you want to watch, but can’t get online at that time, it will be available to watch for 24 hours via the Periscope app.

If you do not have access to the app, we will then be making the video available as soon as possible via the SHARE Museums East YouTube account. Links to the film will be posted on this site and others.

Essex Belongs To Us – Call For Partners

Malcolm Burgess is leading on an interesting new project and is looking for museums to get involved:

 

Are you involved with an Essex museum, gallery or anything similar?

essex belongsWe’re the project managers for the new Arts Council England creative writing project Essex Belongs To Us starting soon. Our aim is to involve as many people as possible in writing about Essex in as creative a way as possible, with our own workshops in Essex, Southend and Thurrock libraries and a published book at the end of it, with a performance at the Essex Book Festival.

 

The project will run from April 2016 – March 2017.

 

We’re keen to know if you’ll be running museum or gallery workshops of any kind of your own for writers involving some kind of interaction with your collection, exhibits, resources or whatever.

 

If you are, we’d love to include full details on our website and to encourage as many writers as possible to attend. It will be an ideal way to promote your workshops further – and to help new writing from Essex.

 

Please send full details (or for more information) to malcolm.burgess3@btopenworld.com

Enterprise & Philanthropy: Building Relationships to Fund Museums

Miranda Rowlands, SHARED Enterprise Project Officer, shares updates and highlights from the project’s activity programme:

 

What motivates individuals to support culture and heritage? How do I approach businesses to work in partnership with the museum?  How can we generate more income from commercial operations?  SHARED Enterprise has been helping regional museums answer these questions, working with them to build their capacity and skills to fundraise from private donors, corporate sources, trusts and foundations.

On Wednesday 2 March, SHARED Enterprise hosted a conference at the Museum of London, in partnership with Inspiring a Culture of Philanthropy, another HLF Catalyst Umbrella project delivered by Hampshire Cultural Trust. With Steve Miller, Head of Norfolk Museums Service, presiding as Conference Chair, the day’s programme shared case studies and learning about fundraising and commercial income generation in museums.

The day was attended by 85 delegates from the East of England, Hampshire and as far afield as the Wirral, who have given resoundingly positive feedback about the day. The aim was to show that attracting funds from alternative streams is something that can be done by museums of all types and sizes, as most activities can be scaled to fit the needs of any organisation.

Here’s what people are saying about the event:

“…brilliantly helpful and instructive. Excellent range of presentations and lots of practical ideas for immediate implementation, as well as for longer-term strategic planning.”

“Very good day – informative, stimulating and hugely enjoyable”

“Well organised, co-ordinated and structured. A great day with relevant and useful speakers”

“Very enjoyable event. Well organised and very useful. Excellent speakers.”

Following an inspirational keynote presentation by Peter Maple, Visiting Lecturer and Fundraising Researcher at London South Bank University and St Mary’s University, participants in both projects shared what they have learned. Tony O’Connor from Epping Forest District Museum, (due to re-open on 19th March following a major refurbishment), has recently undertaken a review of the museum’s pricing strategies, charging policies and fundraising strategy.  Kate Axon and Vanessa Trevelyan talked about how Museum Directors and Trustees the Museum of East Anglian Life are working together to develop trustees’ fundraising capacity and promote a positive culture to support fundraising and income generation.  Director of Gainsborough’s House, Mark Bills has been proactive in forging links with neighbouring businesses to put Gainsborough at the heart of Sudbury’s business community.

The afternoon sessions focussed on learning from experience, starting with a particularly useful panel discussion with a fundraising consultant and representatives of three grant-making bodies. The panel shared what they look for in a good funding application, and perhaps more telling, some tips to avoid writing a bad one.  The most memorable applications give a clear and concise explanation of the project, from which the organisation’s passion and enthusiasm shine through.  Surprisingly, the panellists said they still receive a large number of applications which are poorly written, with grammatical and punctuation errors and budgets that don’t add up.  Shockingly, many applicants also commit the cardinal sin of copying and submitting the same application to several different funding bodies, as evidenced by applications received that are addressed to somebody else!  The top 5 tips are:

  • write each application individually – don’t sent batch applications
  • keep it under 2 pages long
  • tell your story clearly and concisely
  • use photographs / diagrams where appropriate
  • check your grammar, punctuation and calculations carefully

We then learned about generating income from alternative streams. Operations Manager for Norwich Museums, Stuart Garner, shared his insight into the various challenges and factors to consider when delivering weddings in heritage buildings.  Venue hire, whether for weddings or other purposes, is for many museums and as-yet untapped income stream, so this was of particular interest to several delegates considering alternative ways to use museum spaces to earn more income.  Jaane Rowehl, Museum Development Officer for the South East Museum Development programme shared her experience of working with television companies filming in museums.  The museum was successful because they were able to respond to the opportunity when it arose, and they negotiated a deal which not only compensated them for their loss of income during a period of closure necessary for the filming but also provided extra income for the use of their location.

Anne Young, Head of Strategic Planning at the Heritage Lottery Fund, rounded off the day with a closing keynote address about HLF’s Strategic Framework, some of the projects supported by HLF and future funding opportunities.

So what did delegates tell us they learnt that will make a difference to their work?

“I have got a much better understanding of the broader meaning of ‘philanthropy’ and, as a result, feeling of greater confidence in exploring this in my museum.”

“Top tips for applications from a funder’s perspective ”

“Keep funders informed of the progress of your project after they have given you funding – even if they don’t ask for it – it helps develop a relationship.”

 “Build relationships and positively promote cause…”

“Embedding a culture of fundraising throughout the organisation.”

If you were not able to attend the conference and would like to know more, presentations from the day are available to download from the SHARED Enterprise resources page, where videos of the day’s sessions will also be available soon.

Here are the next two SHARED Enterprise training events. They are open for booking right now and are absolutely not to be missed:

Becoming more entrepreneurial through partnership working with local businesses, 19 April 2016, 10:00am – 3.30pm The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

Book now

Developing effective relationships and partnerships with local businesses is a key way that museums can support their efforts to become more entrepreneurial and form stronger links with their local communities, making them more resilient. However this area of work is often one that museums find difficult to approach.

This workshop will be delivered by a group who have been working together over the past year to develop business partnerships. Come and learn from their experience, get practical advice and begin shaping your own action plan.

Speakers will include: Michael Woodward, Chief Operating Officer, York Museums Trust John Lanagan, Chief Executive, Museum of East Anglian Life Caitlin Griffiths, The Museum Consultancy.

 

SHARED Enterprise Funding Fair, 9 May 2016, 10:00am – 4:00pm

The Athenaeum, Bury St Edmunds Book now

A full-day event for anyone with an interest in fundraising for museums and other heritage organisations.

The programme of talks will include speakers from the Heritage Lottery Fund, Arts Council England and the Art Fund. Plus, find out how to use Behavioural Economics to encourage people to donate more, in a very special series of interactive sessions with David Burgess, Co-Director of National Arts Fundraising School.

More speakers will be announced shortly, as well as a list of exhibitors. It’s a great opportunity to come and network with funders and other key museum and heritage stakeholders.

Refreshments and lunch will be provided. Please book early to avoid disappointment.

 

For more information, contact Miranda, SHARED Enterprise Project Officer, on 01603 228993, miranda.rowlands@norfolk.gov.uk.