Hidden Histories: Oral History Interviews

Continuing our series on Hidden Histories in museums, oral history interviews are a great way to fill gaps in your collection and to bring stories to life for audiences, both in your museum and at home.

black smartphone and headphones on a desk

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As previously discussed, histories of certain groups and communities are often “hidden” because we don’t have the objects in our collection to represent them or because curators lack the specialist knowledge to interpret them.

By conducting interviews with members of these communities, you not only broaden your collection to include new stories and be more representative, you can ask questions which help you to better understand the physical objects already in your collection.

There are lots of ways museums can use oral history recordings. You can include them in exhibitions, either through a fixed unit or a portable player. Essex Record Office’s recent “You Are Hear” project saw special benches being placed around the county played recordings to the people listening to them.

You use clips of recordings on your website. Websites like Soundcloud, you can share clips from your your recordings and embed them into your website or blog, enabling you to share them around the world.

However, it isn’t as simple as simply sitting down with a your interviewee and asking questions. You need to make sure you have their permission to record the interview, to keep it and to share it.  You need to know that the equipment you have is up to the job. You should have a plan about what you want to ask, know how to ask open questions and what to do if the subject becomes upset during the course of the interview.

If you haven’t previously had oral history training, or would like a refresher, I have organised a training day with Sarah-Joy Maddeaux, Sound Archivist at Essex Record Office on 27th November. Click here for more information.

Don’t forget that SHARE’s Hidden History grant scheme is now open for applications. The deadline is 28th January, 2019. There is also a Hidden Histories Study Day at the British Museum on 23rd October 2018.

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.

Museum News – 7th September 2018

Please find below updates from the latest Essex Museum Newsletter. To subscribe and get these updates straight to your inbox, click here.

Braintree Museum

Braintree Museum

Essex News

  • Youth Engagement Project

Pippa and I are looking for museums that would like to be involved in a youth engagement project, linked to Snapping the Stiletto. You do not have to be part of the original project or Accredited.

Pippa is putting together a Young Roots HLF application to work with youth organisations around the county to explore and celebrate Essex women’s stories from the last 100 years.

If you are interested in getting involved or just want to know more, please email Pippa at Pippa.smith@essex.gov.uk

  • Heritage Education Group, Thursday 13th September 2018, 10am for 10:30, Rayleigh Town Museum, FREE

The Heritage Education Group (HEG) is open to anyone working or volunteering in heritage education in Essex, including museums, heritage centres, parks, libraries, churches etc. It meets quarterly, at different venues around the county. At our September meeting we’ll be looking at Community Co-Production and sharing updates from around the county. For more information, visit: https://essexmdo.com/events/heg/

  • Museums Essex – Save the Date

The next Museums Essex meeting will be on Tuesday 4th October at Thurrock Museum. More details will be available soon.

Also, if you have been trying to contact the Chair, Robert Rose, please be aware that his email address has been updated to: robert.rose@bdmt.org.uk

  •  Donation to Disposal: Documentation Procedures and Guidance, Friday 12th October, 10am till 3:30pm, Rayleigh Weir Fire Station, FREE

This session, led by the Collections Trust, will explore the basics of museum documentation, its importance and how it is approached by different organisations.

By the end of the course, participants will:

  • Be familiar with the requirements of the Spectrum Primary Procedures and how they might be applied in different museums
  • Understand what is required by Accreditation
  • Be aware of where to go to for help and advice
  • Feel confident in what they need to do to meet the standard

For more information, and to book, please visit: https://essexmdo.com/events/donationtodisposal/

 

SHARE Updates

  • New Website and Training Calendar

SHARE have revamped their website and launched their new training calendar. Please have a look and see if there is any training that would be useful to your museum: http://www.sharemuseumseast.org.uk/

  • SHARE Advisory Forum

“The SHARE Advisory Forum is a new panel set up to act as a ‘critical friend’, to advise and inform our programmes during 2018-22. We are seeking members to represent different parts of the museums sector in the East of England.

The Forum is composed of 12 nominated and elected members. There are places for six elected members from the following groups of organisations:

  • 1 representative of local authority museums
  • 1 representative of staffed independent museums
  • 1 representative of a fully volunteer-run museum
  • 1 representative of a National museum
  • 2 representatives of different external organisations who are able to bring relevant and suitable skills to the Group, e.g. other regional heritage and arts organisations or tourism bodies.

If you would like to nominate yourself, please email Jamie Everitt, SHARE Regional Museum Development Manager, to arrange an initial discussion.

To find out more about the SHARE Advisory Forum, go to the Funding and Governance page of our website where you can download the Forum’s Terms of Reference”.

 

Funding and Opportunities

  • Free Autism Access Resources

Friday is the deadline for these free resources to make your museum more accessible to people with autism: http://autisminmuseums.com/free-sensory-equipment-from-autism-in-museums/

  • Fundraising Cohort

“Following the success of SHARED Enterprise, I’m delighted to confirm that SHARE will be picking up the baton and offering a new fundraising cohort opportunity for 2018-19.

There will be one cohort, comprising up to 6 museums that are serious about developing their fundraising skills.  Applicants must commit to attending all group workshops and one-to-one sessions.  Ideally, all sessions should be attended by the same two people, as this makes the learning more effective.  Preference will be given to museums which have not had the opportunity to join any of the SHARED Enterprise cohorts, but previous participants are welcome to apply if they can demonstrate the benefit they would receive.

We are in the process of recruiting a consultant to facilitate the cohort.  The training offered will be a blend of workshop sessions and 1-2-1 bespoke support worth approximately £1,600.  We are asking for a contribution towards this cost of £200 per accredited museum or £400 for a non-accredited museum.  This is to ensure commitment to the whole programme”.

For more information, visit: https://essexmdo.com/2018/09/06/share-fundraising-cohort-2018-19/

  • Arts Council England Project Grants

ACE have produced a useful guide to their new grants and who is eligible to apply: https://www.artscouncil.org.uk/sites/default/files/download-file/Information_sheets_Museum_projects_Project_grants_0.pdf

  • Safe and Secure: Facilities Improvements Grants

“SHARE is offering grants to help museums forge stronger links with National museums and other significant lenders to increase loans from these organisations to museums in the region.

Museums can apply for a grant up to £3,000 for a wide range of activities related to loans. Examples of activities for which the grant can be used include:

  • Security improvements including work needed for GIS
  • Environmental improvements including work needed for GIS
  • Conservation and condition report costs for loans
  • Conservation work required as a condition of the loan agreement
  • Transport and packing costs for loans
  • Courier fees or object handling staff time
  • Specialist mounts, frames or display cases

Other activities may be eligible. For more details see the Grants section of our website. The deadline for applications is 5pm Friday 28 September 2018. If you would like to discuss your project, please contact Miranda Ellis, SHARE Project Officer”.

  • Museums Change Lives Awards

“The Museums Association (MA) is calling for nominations for the Museums Change Lives Awards, which will celebrate the achievements of museums and individuals that have made an impact on the lives of their audiences and communities.

The inaugural Museums Change Lives Awards will have three categories for museums: Best Museums Change Lives Project, the Local Hero Award and Best Small Museum Project; and one category for individuals: the Radical Changemaker Award.

The Museums Change Lives award will recognise the best project in the past year that reflects one or more of the themes of the MA’s Museums Change Lives campaign: Promoting Health and Wellbeing; Creating Better Places; and Inspiring Engagement, Reflection and Debate”.

For more information, visit: https://www.museumsassociation.org/news/31082018-enter-your-nominations-for-the-museums-change-lives-awards

  • SEMFed Study Trip Bursary

The South and East Museums Federation is unique among UK Museum Federations in organising an annual study trip that gives members a rare opportunity to visit behind the scenes and meet members of staff from museums across Europe and beyond.

It is a great opportunity to learn from fellow professionals across the world and socialise with fellow SEMFed members over dinner & drinks.

The 2019 SEMFed Study Trip will be to Copenhagen, Denmark on 30th January – 2nd February 2019

Each year, SEMFed offers a travel bursary in honour of Martin Howe, an ex-President of the Federation who was involved in the organisation for many years.

The £200 bursary helps to cover travel and accommodation costs of the study trip and is open to all SEMFed members who have not been on the Study Trip before. This year there are two bursaries available.

  • AIM Hallmarks Awards, Grants Of Up To £12,000

“AIM members in England can now apply for a grant of up to £12,000 through the new AIM Hallmarks Awards. Funded by Arts Council England through AIM’s National Portfolio Organisation funding, the AIM Hallmarks Awards will provide grants totalling around £55,000 each year over the next four years and are available in two strands:

Main grants of £4000 to £12000:  will enable museums to implement the key ideas of the AIM Hallmarks. We will support projects that have an impact on museums’ ways of working, culture, strategy or business model. These will be open to all Accredited AIM member museums in England.

Small grants of £3000 – £6000: will support museums to improve their financial sustainability through either cost saving or income generation. These will only be open to Accredited AIM member museums in England in AIM’s small museum category (that is, museums with up to 20,000 visitors a year).

The closing date for Round One is 20th November. Please click this link to find out more.

  • Call for Papers: Culture Geek London, March 2019

“If you work in or with a cultural organisation and have a digital project that you’d like to share, revolutionary new tech which we all should know about or an idea that could help those working in the sector to navigate the changing digital landscape we want to hear from you”.

For more information, visit: https://london.culturegeek.com/news/speak-culture-geek-2019/

  •  Weston Loan Funding

“The Weston Loan Programme provides funding for regional museums to secure important strategic loans from national collections, maximise loan opportunities in the context of their own collections and communities, and offers opportunities to strengthen the skills of museum professionals working in this area.

We recognise the great value of our national collections being shared more widely across the UK, and hope that museum staff, collections and audiences nationwide will benefit now and in the future.

The second round of applications for funding is now open and the deadline for submissions is 11 September 2018. Please find details of how to apply below, and contact Penny Bull, pbull@artfund.org, 020 7225 4840 for further information about the programme and to discuss a potential application.

We’d also encourage any applicants who are less confident about borrowing from a national museum or gallery to attend one of TEG’s ‘Preparing to Borrow’ workshops, being run across the country from May to July 2018”

For more information, visit: https://www.artfund.org/supporting-museums/weston-loan-programme

 

Training and Resources

  • Retail Forum: Inspiring teamwork through Retail, Friday 19th October, Scott Polar Research Institute, Lensfield Road, Cambridge CB2 1ER, 10am – 3.30pm

“A workshop looking at how Retail volunteers are selected, recruited and inducted into the museum team, supporting a one team approach and how the retail team can help increase volunteer satisfaction and visitor engagement throughout the museum. We will be joined for the training sessions by Linda Brandish. Linda is a Volunteering Advisor who has 15 years experience in the sector, and who has previously worked with SHARE on volunteer focussed training opportunities.

There will also be the usual opportunities for networking, group discussion and the Dead Stock Swap Shop – an opportunity to brainstorm how to push sales of dead stock or where to pass it on to!

There is no charge for the event, and lunch and refreshments will be provided.

All welcome! To book your place please follow the link below: http://www.sharemuseumseast.org.uk/events/event/retail-forum-inspiring-teamwork-through-retail/

  • GEM Intermediate Course: Heritage Interpretation 2018, 4th October 2018, 10.00 till 16.30, Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, Fee: £125 for GEM and AHI members and £160 for non-members

“If you want to develop your understanding and application of interpretive good practice, then this course is for you!

Freeman Tilden, the “father of interpretation” believed that interpretation is an art, but one which can be taught. We will share the skills of this “art” and explore Tilden’s other principles of interpretation through hands-on learning. You will discover the background and context for interpretive theory and be supported to put it into practice in a meaningful way.

This course is aimed at mid-career professionals with responsibility for planning, delivering or managing learning programmes across the heritage sector. It is most suited to those already involved in interpretation in their organisation, especially those looking for ways to improve or build upon their practice.

The course will combine a one-day workshop with personal work and ongoing peer discussion to give you the most beneficial learning experience possible. The one-day workshop will be a mix of discussion and sharing of perspectives/experiences, practical working in pairs and small groups and some presentation of theory by the course director. It will also facilitate the building of a peer group to support you through the follow-up activity.

For more information and to book, please visit the GEM website (https://gem.org.uk/training-and-events/gems-training-programme/intermediate-courses/heritage-interpretation-course/)”.

  • V&A Professional Development Programme

“I’m very pleased to be able to share the new V&A Professional Development Programme with you. We are offering 20 courses between September and January, each led by expert V&A staff members.

I hope in visiting the Professional Development page on our website, you will find courses that speak directly to training needs of your colleagues. It would be greatly appreciated if you could share this page within your professional network. You can also view and download the programme brochure here.”

 

Vacancies

  •  Assistant Curator, Parndon Mill, Harlow

“We are looking to recruit a part time Assistant Curator to join a small team who deliver a variety of contemporary exhibitions.

This position is busy, interesting and fundamental to the smooth workings of Parndon Mill. It will be based at the gallery in an idyllic setting on the River Stort on the Hertfordshire and Essex border. It does require unique delivery of both customer facing and sound administrative skills. It will suit an individual with a keen interest in arts with a driving ambition to be part of the longer-term plan for the furtherance of culture”.

For more information, visit: http://parndonmill.co.uk/contact-us/jobs-and-opportunities

  • Curator (ESCALA and University Art Collections), University of Essex

“This is an exciting opportunity to manage a major art collection and contribute to the development of academic and research support services at the University of Essex. Library Services – in which the post is based – includes three campus libraries, the largest being the iconic Albert Sloman Library at the Colchester campus, with over 1m printed items, extensive special collections and examples of work by leading 20th century artists such as Christopher Wood, Ben Nicholson, Alfred Wallis and Henri Gaudier-Brzeska. In addition to promoting and conserving these artworks, the post holder will be responsible for the management and development of ESCALA, the University’s unique collection of Latin American art, with over 750 works dating largely from the 1960s to the present”.

For more information, visit: https://vacancies.essex.ac.uk/tlive_webrecruitment/wrd/run/ETREC107GF.open?VACANCY_ID=072097HjqK&WVID=9918109NEm&LANG=USA.

 

SHARE Fundraising Cohort 2018-19

money pink coins pig

Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

As you may be aware, between 2014 and 2018 museums in the East of England had access to specialist fundraising training through SHARED Enterprise, an HLF funded project.  The programme included cohort-based training, which participating museums found highly effective because it combined group workshops with specialist one-to-one support and peer networking.

 

Now that the SHARED Enterprise programme has finished, we are planning to offer similar cohort-based fundraising training as part of the 2018-19 SHARE training calendar.  A small number of museums will attend group workshops and receive expert one-to-one support from an experienced fundraiser.  They will learn about fundraising strategies, including a variety of fundraising methods, and they will be supported to apply their learning in the real context of their own museums.

 

Workshop content will be tailored to suit the needs of the participating museums.  The following topics are likely to be covered:

 

  • Fundraising strategy
  • Case for support
  • Trusts and foundations
  • Corporate support
  • Individual giving

 

The fundraising cohort is for museums of all sizes that are serious about developing their fundraising skills, but applicants must commit to attending all group workshops and one-to-one sessions.  Ideally, the same two people should attend every session, as this makes the learning more effective and means you are more likely to be able to put the learning into practice and achieve fundraising success. Preference will be given to museums which have not had the opportunity to join any of the SHARED Enterprise cohorts.

 

The dates and locations of sessions will be arranged once the participating museums have been selected.  As far as possible, we will arrange workshops to be held in locations that are geographically sensible for participants, including asking participating museums to host a workshop if they have suitable facilities to do so.  Workshop dates are yet to be arranged and will be published as soon as possible.  One-to-one sessions will be take place at the participants’ own venues, by prior arrangement.

 

There is a small fee payable for taking part in the fundraising cohort.  This is £200 for an accredited museum in the East of England, or £400 for a non-accredited museum and museums outside the East of England region.  In return for this, you will receive training and one-to-one support worth approximately £1,600.  Information about how to pay will be sent to you if you are offered a place in the cohort, and payment is needed to secure your place.  If you would like to apply but have difficulty paying the fee, please contact us to discuss assistance.

 

How to apply:

Initially, please complete the expression of interest form below and email it to sharemuseumseast@norfolk.gov.uk no later than 5pm on Monday 10 September 2018.

 

If you have any questions, please contact Miranda on 01603 493659 or email miranda.ellis@norfolk.gov.uk.

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)

Benchmarking Survey – Have You Completed It Yet?

chart close up data desk

Photo by Lukas on Pexels.com

Now in its 16th year, SHARE’s annual benchmarking survey is aimed at museums in the region who are Accredited or currently Working Towards Accreditation (or with ambitions to be so).

The information SHARE receives from your surveys helps them, me as the county lead for museums and you to demonstrate the social and economic impact and importance of museums and heritage sites both locally and regionally to funders and stakeholders, helping to sustain investment in our sector.

Your survey returns are hugely important, not only to support us in our advocacy but so SHARE can get a clear picture of your annual activities and support you better as your regional museum development provider.

 

From the 2016/17 survey we know that:

  • there were more than 3,606,169 million visits to museums in the East of England region
  • visits to museums contributed over £60 million to the regional economy
  • there were more than 229,341 participants in learning activities provided by museums
  • and 6,608 museum volunteers who contributed an incredible 812,366 hours to museums
  • meaning that volunteer time was worth £5.8 million to museums
  • museums also employed 915 paid staff

In tough economic times for museums every little helps, and your stats can help enormously!

The survey is short and will be easy to complete by a volunteer or member of staff with a good overview of their museum’s work. The questions cover visitor numbers and engagement; museum finances; volunteers and staff; educational work as well as challenges and opportunities for the future. The data that you provide should be for the period 1st April 2017 – 31st March 2018.

 

If you are a multi-site, or a museum that hosts another Accredited collection within your museum, please contact museum.development@bristol.gov.uk for a bespoke survey form.

 

You can complete the survey online here. If you are unable to complete it all in one go then you can save and return to your answers at any time. Alternatively you can also complete  this paper version and return it via email or post to me as your MDO.  The deadline for completing the survey is Friday 31st August 2018.

 

A partial return is better than no return! If you can’t answer all of the questions because you haven’t been collecting the data, please do what you can.

 

If you have any questions about completing the survey then you can get in touch with museum.development@bristol.gov.uk

Training Needs Survey 2018

Object Handling, Packing and Marking

The SHARE Training Needs Survey 2018 is now open.

Every year, SHARE asks museums to help shape their annual training and development programmes. This is your chance to tell SHARE what skills you feel your museum needs to develop and which areas you want support in.

They need as many organisations as possible to complete it, as it helps them know not only what subjects to run, but where in the East of England to put them.

You can complete the survey either on behalf of a museum or as an individual (or both), but they would like as many organisational level responses as possible.

SHARE training is open to staff, volunteers and trustees of museums.

The survey has only 12 very quick and easy questions and takes not more than 10 minutes. It closes on 25th May and can be accessed online here.

If you cannot take part online, please contact me to arrange to receive a Word version.