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National Waterways Museum: Building Resilience by Safeguarding our Collection

Author
Margaret Harrison, Collections and Interpretation Manager for Canal & River TrustI look after the Designated collection held at the National Waterways Museums in Ellesmere Port and Gloucester and at the Canal Museum, Stoke Bruerne. I’ve held this post for four years and previously was a freelance consultant for 14 years specialising in collections management and documentation.
Date May 2018
 

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Project aims 

When we submitted an application to the Arts Council England Museum Resilience Fund in 2016 we were unable to care for our boats appropriately. Boats in the water were deteriorating and at risk. This was not sustainable for the collection or for the future development of the museum.

Our project was developed in partnership with the Boat Museum Society and aimed to improve our resilience by:

• Delivering a storage solution to improve care of the historic boat collection (16 boats removed from water)

• Developing space at the National Waterways Museum and Gloucester Waterways Museum to improve the visitor experience

• Initiating the development of a dry dock to care for the floating collection and provide opportunities for commercial use

• Share best practice and ethics with our committed and long-standing volunteers, the wider waterways enthusiast community and the museum sector

• Utilise the skills of our volunteers to provide project management for delivery

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Work done 

Our most significant achievement was to move 21 boats to our new boat store. However, this was extremely challenging at times.

The first hurdle was that we weren’t able to acquire the building we had originally identified. Finding somewhere where 70ft boats can easily be manoeuvred and stored was hard work but we were very lucky to eventually secure a much better building. The new store is only 2 miles from museum, is easily accessible and has a large outdoor yard.

Moving the boats was a major logistical operation and took months of planning and hard work. The move took place over one week in October 2017. A 350 tonne crane arrived on site at 7am on the Monday morning to move the boats, starting with the oldest surviving all-wooden Mersey Flat which was relocated opposite the museum entrance. The 7ft-long vessel was loaded onto a lorry, backed into the yard and then turned by 90 degrees. This took two-and-a-half hours. The boat lift continued throughout the week with the craneage contractors working with museum staff, volunteers and historic boat specialists. By 6.30pm on the fourth day the UK’s largest movement of historic vessels was complete.

The project was managed by a Volunteer Project Manager, Barry Green, working with the museum’s Technical Manager and Canal & River Trust Project staff. The project would not have happened without Barry’s dedication and commitment as his time allowed us to find match funding for the grant.

The project also included the reinstatement of the large dry dock at Ellesmere Port that will enable us to dry dock and look after the larger boats in the collection. The new caisson has been built and delivered. Installation is still in progress and we are working with Canal & River Trust engineers to complete this.

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Impact 

We have opened up new spaces for events and made operation of the museum easier. The impact was obvious at the Easter Historic Boat Gathering. Clearing the upper canal basin allowed us to offer more mooring spaces and enable boats to stay for longer.  The boat store has added an additional attraction. Behind the scenes tours at Easter were over-subscribed.

Being able to share and demonstrate best practice has had a huge impact. It has given us an opportunity to demonstrate conservation in action. Volunteers at Ellesmere Port have been committed to the project throughout and are working on the stabilisation and conservation of boats in store.

The Easter gathering of historic boats at Ellesmere Port provided a particularly valuable opportunity to share best practice with the waterways enthusiast community. Owners of historic boats are very significant stakeholders for the museum and have in the past been very critical. There was also a lack of understanding of conservation in museums and scepticism about the move of boats into store. 80 people went on tours of the store. Contractors, staff and volunteers who had been involved with the project all took part.

Feedback over the weekend showed that we had positively engaged boat owners with the principles of conservation and the work that the museum was doing. For example:

“I want to congratulate you, your team and the volunteers for what has been achieved to date in moving the selected boats to their new environment…  The result so far to me is amazing.  I hope the now tangible evidence will go a long way to convince most of the former critics of such moves that one can give the boats a significant role to play in the future, whether as restored artifacts or stable templates for recording and research.”

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Lessons learnt 

The project has emphasised for us how important it is to be able to show in practice what the museum is doing and not just talk about it. We’ve learnt the value of being as open about “behind the scenes” work as the front of house visitor experience.

The decision to use a volunteer project manager to lead the project was both risky and innovative. However, Barry was able to work with an experienced member off staff on the project. We have demonstrated the value of volunteer staff, especially when utilising highly specialist skills and we believe this provides a model for the wider museum sector. With the right mentoring and support in place, this approach proved to be a great success, but not without challenges. These were mitigated through having in place a steering group attended by the Trust’s Programme and Project Manager. Barry’s exceptional contribution to the museum has been recognised through his shortlisting for the Museums & Heritage Show Volunteer of the Year Award.

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Sustainable Improvement Fund

The Sustainable Improvement Fund is a major part of the Museum Development North West (MDNW) Programme. This Programme embraces the Arts Council’s five strategic goals set out in the 10-year strategy Great Art and Culture for Everyone to drive development and deliver sustainability, resilience and innovation in museums in the North West.

 

For 2018-19 MDNW is changing the delivery of the grant due to changes to availability of funding for museums through ACE’s National Lottery Project Grants. This year we would like to support museums around three key areas: environmental sustainability, collections management and care, and audience development, to complement the programmes of work we delivered in 2017-18. Accredited museums and those officially working towards Accreditation can bid to SIF for projects linked to these themes that also demonstrate how they relate to forward plans or other key policy and planning documents.

The Fund reflects the North West’s commitment to partnership working and will still be open to consortia applications.

It is mandatory for applicants to contact the MDNW team via email or phone by the 18th May to discuss proposals before submitting final applications. Applications will not be accepted without prior contact with MDNW.

Links to documents outlining deadlines, guidance and the application form can be found in the Sustainable Improvement Fund 2018 tab on our blog.

Get involved in the ‘Inspired By’ the Great Exhibition of the North programme

The Great Exhibition of The North, the largest event in the country this year, is changing perceptions of the North of England – and our wealth of great museums are fundamental to that. The team at GEON want to spotlight your events, experiences, workshops, projects and initiatives that share the spirit of the Great Exhibition (that will reach over 77 million people across the UK and the world…nothing to sneeze at).

Here they can show the world all the exciting things happening in the North. Just take a look at their Inspired By Map to see what’s happening so far…

They want the map to cover all corners of the North! Submissions that meet the criteria will be officially recognised as part of the ‘Inspired by’ programme:

  • Takes place in the North of England;
  • Will be happening across the Summer of 2018 (between 22nd June and 9th September);
  • Helps to tell a positive story about the North of England’s role in shaping the present and the future;
  • Showcases the North’s great art, culture, design or innovation;
  • Is fully formed with finalised details, ready for public promotion;

The quickest, easiest way to submit your project is via this online form: https://getnorth2018.com/get-involved/inspired-by/submit-event/

If you have any questions, ideas, proposals or problems – just email Ged Matthews, ‘Inspired by’ Great Exhibition of the North – Engagement Manager at ged@getnorth2018.com.

 

 

 

Family Friendly Programme 2018

Museum Development North West

Many museums are seeing an increase in family visits, and are often responsible for delivering family activities in the school holidays, but many are aware of the need to improve their offer to cater for this audience. That’s why we have created this new Family Friendly Programme.

The programme has been developed by MDNW and aims to support six accredited museums, or those working towards accreditation that wish to develop their aspirations of becoming more family friendly in line with the Kids in Museums Manifesto and the Family Arts Standards.

Museums will be asked to:

  • Carry out a self-assessment of their museum using criteria provided and the results will be analysed against the family Arts Standards
  • Identify and recruit families that are able to undertake mystery shopper visits
  • Attend a workshop in October 2018 focussing on best practice and how best to implement recommendations
  • Arrange for participating families to…

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Sustainable Improvement Fund 2018

Museum Development North West

We are pleased to announce that the next round of our Sustainable Improvement Fund is now open. The Fund is a major part of the Museum Development North West (MDNW) Programme. This Programme embraces the Arts Council’s five strategic goals set out in the 10-year strategy Great Art and Culture for Everyone to drive development and deliver sustainability, resilience and innovation in museums in the North West.

For 2018-19 MDNW is changing the delivery of the grant due to changes to availability of funding for museums through ACE’s National Lottery Project Grants. This year we would like to support museums around three key areas: environmental sustainability, collections management and care, and audience development, to complement the programmes of work we delivered in 2017-18. Accredited museums and those officially working towards Accreditation can bid to SIF for projects linked to these themes that also demonstrate how they relate to forward plans or…

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Museum Basics: Data protection workshop

Museum Development North West

Tuesday 22nd May
Lancashire Conservation Studios, Preston
09:30 – 16:00
FREE

In May 2018, the new General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) will substantially impact the handling of personal data and this will affect how data is collected, used and shared by museum staff, trustees and volunteers.

Led by Naomi Korn, the second workshop as part of our Museum Basics Programme will help you understand what the changes to GDPR means for your museum & how you should prepare for them.

For more information contact Alex Bird – alexander.bird@manchester.ac.uk

To book a place visit the eventbrite page

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North West Volunteer Managers Network Meeting

Museum Development North West

Thursday 3rd May
Elizabeth Gaskell House, Manchester
10:30 – 13:00

The North West Volunteer Managers Network is an opportunity for any museum volunteer managers to come together, network and learn new skills. The next meeting will be led by Jack Puller from the Volunteer Centre Manchester and focus on trends in volunteering and

For more information and to confirm your attendance contact the Chair, Darren Collingwood – Darren.Collingwood@nationalfootballmuseum.com

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Julie’s Bicycle: Museums’ Environmental Framework Webinar

This webinar will explore what environment and climate change means for museums, how museums can develop their environmental practice and the opportunities this can open up, based around the Museums’ Environmental Framework.
The webinar will take place Monday 30th April  2018: 11:00am – 12:00pm

Structure of the session:

  1. Context: what does environment and climate change mean for museums, risks and opportunities
  2. Practice: an overview of environmental practice across key themes from governance and buildings to collections and learning
  3. Examples: what are individual museums doing, from energy-saving to environmental programming, and what benefits has it brought 
  4. Insight: a more in-depth look at experience and learning from one of the museums featured in the Museums’ Environmental Framework
  5. Julie’s Bicycle support: what resources are available to develop your museum’s environmental practice
  6. Q+A

The session will run for an hour with additional time available for the final Q&A section.

Speakers include

  • Claire Buckley, Julie’s Bicycle
  • Anna Brennand, Ironbridge Gorge Museums Trust

How to book

If you would like to book your place please do so through this link.

If you want to talk to Julie’s Bicycle about who from your organisation should attend, please contact support@juliesbicycle.com or call them on 0208 746 0400.

MDNW Age Friendly Accessibility Programme 2018-19 open for applications

MDNWs’ new Age Friendly Accessibility programme 2018-19 is now open for applications. This programme has been developed by MDNW with Kingswood Age Confident and aims to support a maximum of six museums that have Areas for Improvement (AFIs) in Accreditation section 3.1.5 or those that demonstrate a commitment to improving accessibility across different levels of service in line with new Arts Council England supported Age Friendly Standards.

For further details please read the Age Friendly Access Programme Information and to apply complete the Age Friendly Access programme EOI form and email it back to: kaye.hardyman@manchester.ac.uk by Friday 13th April 2018.

The applications will then be assessed and places allocated according to demonstrated need.

Participating organisations would need to commit to sending a representative to each of the two workshops on the 18th April and 21st November 2018 and full participation in the site specific consultancy support session.