Museums Association Conference: Bursaries for First-Time Attendees

Debating modern ethics

Debating modern ethics at the Museums Association Conference, 2014

2017-application-for-ma-conference – V2

**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

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.

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!

New SHARE Training Calendar – Part 1

Object Handling, Packing and MarkingBooking for the new SHARE training calendar opens on 2nd September, but who are SHARE and why should you be interested?

SHARE Museums East are Arts Council England’s Museum Development partner for the East of England. They receive funding to provide training and other support to Accredited museums and those working towards Accreditation. Their activity programme includes formal training days, seminars, peer networks and project cohorts. The subjects covered are based on ACE Goals and include nearly every aspect of running a museum such as collection care and conservation, learning and engagement, income generation, marketing and reviewing your governance. Those of you who responded to my training needs survey have had their thoughts and ideas passed up to SHARE and that information helped to shape this year’s calendar.

Most of the details for this “school year” have already been uploaded to SHARE’s website so you can have a look and see which events you and your colleagues might wish to attend.

However, please be aware that SHARE is funded to provide these opportunities to Accreditation museums and those officially “Working Towards Accreditation”. While other museums may book, priority will be given to museums that fall within their remit.

If your museum isn’t Accredited yet but would like to be, or if you don’t really know what Accreditation is and would like to know more, please send me an email to discuss it further.

There are over 100 training events on the calendar so I’m sure there will be at least one subject of use to your museum.

Interesting session coming up in the first month are:

07/09/2015
10:00 am – 3:30 pm
Captivating Captions – On A Budget
The Red House, Aldeburgh Suffolk
18/09/2015
10:00 am – 3:30 pm
How to Run a Youth Panel
Colchester Castle, Colchester
21/09/2015
10:00 am – 4:00 pm
SHARE Retail Forum: Selling Skills and Sound Retail Practice
The Mews (National Horseracing Museum), Newmarket
22/09/2015
10:00 am – 4:00 pm
Social Media: Next Steps
Stockwood Discovery Centre, Luton Bedfordshire
24/09/2015
10:00 am – 3:30 pm
Volunteers: Getting Them In and Keeping Them Happy (a Volunteer Co-ordinators’ Forum event)
Ipswich Transport Museum, Ipswich Suffolk
25/09/2015
9:30 am – 1:00 pm
Being Creative With Memories: Music and Life Stories
Chelmsford Museum, Chelmsford Essex
28/09/2015
10:00 am – 4:00 pm
Public Services Collections Seminar
Bishop’s Stortford Museum, Bishop’s Stortford Hertfordshire
29/09/2015
10:00 am – 4:00 pm
Keeping A Record: The Essentials of Museum Documentation
Parham Airfield Museum, Framlingham Suffolk
30/09/2015
10:00 am – 4:00 pm
Excellent Visitor Programmes
Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery, Norwich Norfolk

Most of the calendar is already on-line and available to view here.

In part two I will go publish the results of the training needs survey and highlight where you can find the training you’ve requested

Top of the Class – A Museums Association and Group for Education in Museums Seminar

In April, Phil Ainsley of the East Anglian Railway Museum attended this MA/GEM run seminar day looking at museums and schools. Phil was able to attend due to a grant from Essex Cultural Development. Here are his thoughts on the day:

I was immersed into a lecture theatre filled with representatives from all over England, including some heavy weights such as British Museum and Library – yet we all, big and small, have similar challenges to face. Maintaining school visits being one of them.

Museums have traditionally found a relatively easy connection between education and their ability to offer schools visits. Times have changed significantly recently, with schools adhering to the scriptures of a revised chronological curriculum. Museums need to maintain or increase educational visit numbers for income.

A disruptive disconnect had taken place through the process of change. Schools staff are pressed by their auditor (Ofsted) to satisfy up-rated professional standards.  Museum’s are being disadvantaged by the need to satisfy demonstrable learning outcomes.

Schools and academies are increasingly run by more independently,  it was widely reported no cosy relationship exists – anywhere!  New alliances will be built up on individual relationships, as they are re-established then these connections should be cherished.

Most educational advance is delivered without outside visits – it takes a leap of faith stepping outside and offering children a visit. Heritage learning has a big strength, as it links the visitor away from C21 life into unfamiliar territory, forcing a learning or enquiring mind set . As there may be a lesser number of electronic distractions this is a plus! Museums are a place where the young may interact with “inspiring adults” who can enthuse, stimulate thought, and demonstrate. Through unusual objects, show children a contrast to the familiar and everyday

Schools visits are almost exclusively undertaken a primary age children, while many might like to enthuse an older age range, is was universally accepted that is a tough nut to crack. So don’t fret and deliver what you are not comfortable with. Schools offerings should be delivered with consistency, so it was recommended that your collection must be the prime focus –  your curatorial task is to find the link between collection objects and educational goals (noted below).

A museum visit should have some outcomes, it may be it re-enforces what’s been introduced at school, or an opportunity to see new objects or see new activity that can’t be seen in a school building. You may want to pose a question at the beginning of a visit to be answered towards the end.

Visits therefore are more of a lifestyle choice of the schools teaching staff promoter (normally a subject co-ordinator) and the head to sanction the visit.

Best practice is to find historical themes that are not set in any one time period, as the recent changes teach history chronologically. Therefore sweet spots to concentrate on include:

  • In living memory
  • Local History
  • A significant turning point in history

Some school measures may include attention to

  • Spiritual, Moral, Social and British values
  • Heritage
  • Diversity

Which if demonstrated by your collection, will give the necessary specific curriculum value required back at school.

Post visit evaluation therefore is of value to ensure learning took place. Certainly a feedback form – what may be developed together make a stronger connection – even better a dialogue should take place – “How was it for you?”

An alternative approach is a form of outreach through use of loan boxes these can be promoted by web sites, or a link out to “Flickr” ( or any alternative photo-sharing website).

As children are our target audience, then their questions, thoughts and feedback is most important. Adult museum and teaching staff need to concentrate on their observations experiences and questions arising from the day’s visit.

Homework on schools.

Schools with the highest pupil premium may be good candidates for alternative methods of teaching away from the school building. You could read the OFSTED report on schools to identify good points and potential weakness. It can be the weakness you try and address – in this find a path to improve their score.

Normally there would be a named teacher leading in a specific subject area. School newsletters may report on previous visits – in all cases the first person to speak with is probably the school secretary – so never forget them!

Teachers time is a very finite resource, it is suggested any contact is in the “twilight hours” (immediately after lessons 3.00-4.30)

For details of forthcoming Museums Association events, visit their website. The GEM annual conference is in September and details can be found here.

If there is a training day or event that your museum could benefit from attending, but requires financial assistance contact your MDO to discuss potential funding sources.

The Second Grand Annual Training Needs Survey

Object Handling, Packing and Marking Training 2015

Last year, I asked the staff, volunteers and trustees of Essex about their training needs. This was so I could see how aware of current SHARE training opportunities people were, what barriers had prevented them receiving training and what training was needed.

Having collected my results, I went to work. Information was fed up to SHARE Museums East and helped them decide which training to place in our county during the 2014/15 training year. “Social Media Next Steps” wasn’t something being considered by SHARE until you told me you wanted it. I offered to run it (with the wonderful Hannah Salisbury from Essex Record Office) and the day was fully booked. SHARE weren’t able to offer Storytelling Skills training, which was the most requested training by Essex museums last year, so I booked TheWholeStory who came and delivered it in March. I’ve also hosted “Introduction to Documentation”, “Object Handling, Packing and Marking” and “Introduction to Accreditation”.

So you see, that survey has had a huge impact on what training and opportunities are available.

This year, I’m repeating the survey and I’ve expanded the remit to ask what training you have accessed outside of the offer from SHARE. Once again, the survey is anonymous but I do ask where in the county you’re based to help me place training where it is needed most.

To have your say on what training your museum staff, volunteers and trustees need, and to tell me if you find it awkward to access training, just fill in this short survey.

Our budgets for training go further when museums can give us their venues for free (and offering to host is a great way to make sure training happens locally to you!). If your museum would be able to host training in the future, please let me know by emailing me with information about capacity, ease of access and what facilities are available e.g. free/close car-parks, projectors etc. This helps us know which training will work well there, for example putting digital training in a venue with Wi-Fi.

Additionally, if there is a training course your museum would particularly like to send a delegate to but can’t, please get in touch. I may be able to help your museum secure funding or find an alternative closer to home.

The Training Needs Survey will be available on-line until mid-to-late May 2015.

~Amy Cotterill

Museums as Learning Spaces

Museums as Learning Spaces

On Monday 16th March, SHARE Museums East ran “Museums as Learning Spaces” at the Museum of Power. Sophie Stevens, Collections and Learning Curator at Colchester and Ipswich Museums shares her experiences of the day:

In my new role as a Collections and Learning Curator at Colchester and Ipswich Museums I am building on my experience as a specialist curator to learn more about museum learning. The SHARE course ‘Museums as Learning Spaces’ with Judith Carruthers sounded like a good place to start.

Museum of Power

Exploring the Museum of Power

The course was held at the Museum of Power near Maldon so it was a great opportunity to visit this fantastic museum. The staff were really welcoming and open about their experiences of delivering learning at the museum. The session began with an introduction from Judith and a ‘classifying objects’ activity. This was a great start and helped the process of thinking about objects in more creative ways. This continued with a ‘questioning mystery objects’ activity in which we looked at the type of questions we would ask to discover more about an unidentified object.

Having been a specialist Curator; looking at an unknown was a great way of recreating how many visitors might feel in our museums. How can we help our visitors discover more about our collections? How can we better support parents and other carers in exciting our young visitors about these objects?

This linked well with finding out our personal learning style. The VAK Learning Styles Self-Assessment Questionnaire categorised us as Kinaesthetic, Visual or Auditory learners. Most people are a mix of these styles but it is interesting to note that not all people learn like we do. Catering for these different learning styles is important to make our museums effective learning spaces.

Judith Carruthers

Working with Judith Carruthers

We then looked at a variety of trails from museums and historic houses and soon formed ideas about what makes a good one. Being clear and concise and not trying to do too much is key. Using photographs of museum objects rather than generic images is also important. A good museum trail should enable the child to take the lead and stimulate discussion, and shouldn’t involve too much writing. Trails are a great way of adding value to a visit, highlighting objects and even directing footfall to less visited parts of a site. The need to focus on one audience when developing a trail is important so that you cater for particular needs or interests of your visitor.

Following lunch we had a demonstration of the fantastic steam engine ‘Marshall’ and explored the museum as different types of visitor including grandparents with children and a wheelchair user. Looking at the displays as these visitors might was a valuable exercise which highlighted some simple changes that would make a big difference.

We finished the day looking at family learning ideas. These included mystery objects, feely bags and tools to encourage creative exploration of museums such as torches, magnifying glasses and role play. One museum has a toy lion that is hidden somewhere in the galleries. Visitors are challenged to locate the lion and find a new place to hide him. Activities such as these help make children feel comfortable in museums which can then lead to learning. This was the main message I took away with me – making our visitors feel welcome and comfortable in our museums is so important. Without this our museums cannot be effective learning spaces.

Collections Trust Seminar at Colchester Castle

Alex Dawson presenting at the Collections Trust Seminar

Alex Dawson presenting at the Collections Trust Seminar

Jennifer Brown, Collections and Interpretation Officer at Braintree District Museum, shares what she learnt at this recent training day:

On Wednesday 18th March 2015 the newly revamped Colchester Castle Museum in Essex hosted a Collections Trust Seminar for the eastern region. The seminar was led by Alex Dawson, programme manager for standards at the Collections Trust, and offered a thought-provoking and varied range of talks and open discussions. Key themes that emerged throughout the day were the importance of placing audiences and communities at the heart of collections management; the importance of making collections the heart of all museum activities (and consequently the importance of all museum departments working closely together to achieve this); and updates on the practical advice, support and frameworks available to help review where we are at, where we would like to be, and what we will need to get there.

Below are some of the key topics and points that emerged during the course of the day:

Update on Arts Council England by Isabel Wilson, Senior Manager Quality & Standards

The sessions started with a useful update on Arts Council England. Two schemes were particularly highlighted:

  • The Designation Scheme celebrates collections of national and international importance not housed in national museum, helping to promote these collections. The scheme is currently being reviewed by ACE and the next round will open in April 2015. More information can be found on their website.
  • The Government Indemnity Scheme is again aimed at helping museums of all sizes. This scheme helps smaller museums to loan items from collections around the country and even the world by arranging government underwriting of loans to avoid high insurance payments.  It is possible to make just one gallery space eligible for the scheme, rather than having to revamp a whole museum. More information including the criteria can be found on-line here.

Audiences and Collections

This was the subject of our first talk by Alex from the Collections Trust but audiences featured in so many other presentations during the day that I have grouped many under this heading.

  • Understanding Audiences – Alex Dawson, Collections Trust

Collections are here for our audience’

There has been a growing realization within the museum sector over the last 10 to 15 years that people are at the heart of our collections, and that our audiences need to drive our collections’ policies. Some key ideas that came out of Alex’s talk were:

  • We need to identify and work with communities to enable the development and care of our collections
  • We need to make sure we are regularly communicating with our communities, exploring the possibility for community curators, and looking for partnership opportunities with local businesses.
  • The collections world needs to take on the ‘language of business’. To be resilient for the future we need to think about strategies and policies, our skills and targets. This will not only help keep our future collecting policies and our collections care focused, but it also makes our work more understandable by those in other sectors. This helps to empower the profession.
  • We need to think about audience segmentation and the different generations that use our museum collections now, and will be using them in the future. What are the character traits of each generation? How will they want to access the collection and what will they want to gain from this?
  • We need to think about the user journey in museums – pre-visit, during visit and post visit. How can we keep them interested in the museum, its collections and its work?

2) Collections Management Competency Framework – Alex Dawson, Collections Trust

This is a framework produced by the Collections Trust to help us look at the skills and behaviours we need to develop, manage and sustain collections. There are four main areas of competencies – technical knowledge and contexts (ethical, legal etc) are those more traditionally associated with collections management. The other two hark back to the importance of audiences and communication – they are ‘customer focus’ and communication skills. More information is available on their website.

  • Museum Accreditation – Alex Dawson, Collections Trust

This session offered some useful tips on working through the accreditation process. In particular, don’t panic if you have a collections backlog. Look at developing a realistic operational plan for dealing with this and for future collections care. However, this should be guided by visitors and which parts of the collection are most likely to be actively used by our audiences. Ask your local police for security advice, they are often happy to help. Local Museum Development Officers are also going to be working more closely with Accreditation advisers in the future and may be able to give you more locally relevant advice.

Learning and Change in Your Museum

‘Good collections management is about change’

This session emphasized the importance of flexibility and managing change, and the importance of integrating learning throughout the museum with the management of collections. Some specific points included:

  • There are 3 models of change in any context – internal bottom up change; internal top-down change and change caused by an external trigger
  • To create a culture change in an organization start small, somewhere progress can be made, and get buy-in from staff at all levels.
  • Strive for managed and purposeful change
  • The importance of the museum’s mission statement, make sure everyone in the museum is aware of that statement and embed it in every aspect of the museum’s work.

One particular case study of successful change came from the Imperial War Museum, where they moved from a risk adverse to a risk aware strategy to copyright and making their collections available online. This resulted in a massive increase in interest in and use of their digital collections. Carolyn Royston from the IWM discusses this in a video available on YouTube

Practical Help and Useful Documents

A number of sessions looked at the advice and frameworks provided. These included:

  • PAS 917 and the framework produced by the Collections Trust. Helpful summary factsheets on each area are provided. Refer to these before going to PAS 917
  • Investors in collection – This is a new service that is being reviewed by the Collections Trust but not launched yet. This would involve the Trust providing a collections consultancy service for museums to help us review our current strengths, identify areas for development and improve our resilience. More information is available here.
  • Collections Trust Standards Toolkit to aid with policy and planning
  • Presentation on the new digital interpretations at Colchester Castle Museum by Tom Hodgson. It was interesting to hear about the new digital strategies used, and the talk reminded us of the scale of historical and archaeological research involved, the amount of material you will need to provide digital companies with to produce reconstructions, games etc.
  • Discussion of the importance of digital being a method to achieve a learning aim, not the aim in itself
  • Presentation on the work of Museum Development Officers with a particular spotlight on Essex from Amy Cotterill. Local schemes included: training and networks provided by SHARE, the forthcoming Heritage Watch scheme and digital learning resources available to hire 

Developing a Digital Strategy

This session introduced the concept of COPE – create once, publish everywhere. We looked at ways to increase access to the research and content we create with minimum labour.

  • How can it be easily pushed out to a range of different digital and web-based platforms?
  • What format/location will we need to store the original in to make sure this process is simple and not time-consuming?
  • Think about the budgets to maintain all these digital mediums in the future, whether gallery interactives or other systems.
  • Seek advice from those with special needs

Overall the day was very helpful, providing a wealth of information and also offering the chance to take a step back and think reflectively on where we are going with collections management, what we want to achieve and how we can get there. Colchester Castle Museum was a great venue, and it was lovely to get the opportunity to look round all the new displays and interactives.

~ Jennifer Brown, Braintree District Museum

If you’ve recently attended a training day or delivered a project that you’d like to write about, please send me an email at amy.cotterill@essex.gov.uk 

SHARE Reaching Different Audiences

On Friday 13th March, Francesca Pellegrino from Epping Forest District Museum attended SHARE Museums East’sReaching Different Audiences” training. Here are her thoughts on the day:

“Within my role as Audience Development Officer for Epping Forest District and Lowewood Museums I have had to really think about the audience that the museums currently work with and carefully considering which new audiences we would like to engage. As I am sure many of you are aware we have to be selective in order to put the best efforts into our audience development work and ensure both audience and museum has a quality experience.

With this in mind I was really looking forward to hearing from museums working with different audiences and the best ways to approach this and again SHARE delivered a useful and informative day.

The day took place at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge which was a great location. We started with a fantastic session from Jacqui Strawbridge from the Fitzwilliam learning team and Fran Bailey from Wintercomfort talking about their partnership working to provide sessions in the museum for homeless individuals. The best part about the session was that we visited galleries in the museum and in groups thought about the museum as an environment. For us as museum professionals we are often very comfortable in a museum environment so it was great to get us all thinking about people’s emotions, thoughts and feelings when entering a museum gallery.

We also heard from Kevin Daniells, Senior Social Worker at Norfolk County Council and Ruth Farnan from the Stories of Lynn project about working with looked after children. Both emphasised that everyone has the right to visit museums and that we probably already offer activities and events that would be great for this audience but foster families may not be aware of our work.

Another session focused on autism. Robert Pritchett, Director NAS Autism Accreditation and Ellen Lee an Education Officer, focused on autism and the Autism Access Award. Here we heard about the awards and how museums could self-assess themselves to see how autism friendly they are. Ellen emphasised that museums can’t do anything but little changes can make a big difference.

Finally Steph Parmee, Learning Officer at Gainsborough’s house and Juliet Lockhart, Artistic Director at Art in Mind gave us a chance to get hands on. Gainsborough house has been hosting art sessions inspired by museum objects for people experiencing mental health. Juliet and Steph led activities where we got to try out some of the sessions they used within their staff training.

There were some very clear points that came out of the day which I will summarise below:

  • Partnership working is essential. This ensures skills sharing and that museums are supported by workers who know the individuals and can assist in sessions
  • This encompasses a lot; from training all staff, to having pre visits with workers from partner organisations and having plans a,b and c for possible situations, patience and willingness to understand.
  • As mentioned above as museum professionals we are comfortable in this environment but a lot of these different audiences and the public more generally have never been to a museum before.

The key thing that encompasses all this is that everyone has the right to visit a museum and to enjoy their experience. What we need to provide are fun experiences that are separate from the audience’s day to day life and access to usual services. This may enable them to create new memories away from their past and therefore enrich their futures”.

For information details of future SHARE training events, visit their on-line training calendar.

What Does Your Website Say About You?

For small museums, a good website can be their best marketing resource.

In 2015, the first point of contact between an organisation and the public is often their website. Some people will look you up on-line with specific questions e.g.. to find out your opening hours, if you’re accessible to wheelchairs, what activities you have for children and whether or not you have a cafe. Others will be looking to see if you are the sort of venue they want to visit.

For these reasons, it’s really important to have an attractive and easy-to-use website. Potential visitors should look at it and see a welcoming museum, get a good idea of your subject matter and be able to find the information they need.
It’s really important to review your website regularly. Is all the information on there up-to-date? Can people find what they’re looking for? Is the design attractive and modern (website design can date quite easily. What looked great in 2005, looks clunky and awkward today)? You can ask friends, or even visitors, to do this for you. What is their honest opinion of your site?

Now, you may think that this is easy enough for big museums with dedicated website teams, or with budgets to pay designers to build their website for them. However, there are free tools on-line to help anyone create a professional site. Working with Signals Media Arts Centre, I am running two FREE one-day courses on building an easy to use website. This is aimed at Essex museums that either don’t have a website and those who want to replace an existing one. The training will use the free online tool “WordPress” which will help you build and host your site. For a small fee, you can keep your existing site address.

WordPress is easy to use and means your staff or volunteers can update information, images and design without relying on professional designers.

The training is 10am till 4pm on Friday 20th March at Signals Media Arts Centre, Colchester OR Tuesday 24th March at Harlow Museum. More details, including how to book are available here.