Tagged: Conference Blogs

Conference Report: Museums Association 2016

Suddenly he rose to his feet, perhaps aware that there was little time left and no doubt emboldened by the generously interactive whiskey tutorial our young Glaswegian colleagues had given us. He seemed shy but determined and started ‘there is something I need to share with you my friends, I wanted to talk about it this afternoon at Conference, I really was going to, but then I looked into the large room and I felt too emotional.’ He explained to us the difficult times in Brazil and his fears for the future and he asked us to think of Brazil, the people, the cultural organisations, our colleagues there. He finished by saying how very much he appreciated spending time with colleagues here in Glasgow, at Conference, and how it had made him feel supported.

Only a few hours earlier Luiz Alberto Oliveira had been standing in front of a full tiered conference hall talking us through the deep thinking and practical outreach that had made his Museum of Tomorrow in Rio such a success with all audiences when it opened last year. Sustainability and the concept of conviviality are value base of the museum which looks at how society is changing and how we might live in the future. He had been so positive, future-focussed, so passionate. It was moving to hear him share about the fragility of Brazil and the uncertainty of their future.

I am absolutely sure that those of us lucky enough to have been there on that very wet Tuesday evening will think about Luiz and his colleagues over the next months and years. Both parts of the experience, the sharing and celebrating of the project and the more vulnerable, more intimate sharing of a far more complex picture seem to represent MA Conference 2016 in Glasgow for me.

The Conference had three themes: Being Brave: Courage, Innovation & Risk-Taking, co-ordinated by Adele Patrick from Glasgow Women’s Library (courage, innovation and risk-taking might as well be GWL’s middle names). The strand was particularly apt for People’s History Museum as not only are we a museum about activism, bold risk-taking and radical ideas; we also try to be those things.

The second theme: People & Places, coordinated by Morag McPherson, Head of Cultural Services, Renfrewshire Leisure, was a wonderful chicken and egg exploration of how identity is reflected by museums and how museums can shape it. The theme set out to think ‘about people and places not as fixed entities, but as a set of dynamic relationships to be reimagined and remade through the museum’. A powerful approach.

The third theme; Impact, Evidence & Delivery, coordinated by Mark O’Neill, Director of Policy at Research, Glasgow Life, explored the role museums can play in improving public health. The themes were topped and tailed by keynotes, more general sessions, a busy exhibition, fringe events and a series of workshop sessions in the exhibition space

There were also a number of keynote speeches, Oliveira’s being one of them. Poet Jackie Kay was another and her poetic response to the Conference themes has met with the longest applause of all. She read a number of her poems and contextualised them with stories from her life and musings on identity, heritage and place.

Kelvin Hall, the Riverside Museum and the Huntarian Museum and Art Gallery were all thankfully built into the programme for drinks receptions, giving us a fantastic opportunity to explore the rich offer in Glasgow.

Overall Conference was thought-provoking and affirming, challenging and reassuring in equal measures. The hardest thing was to choose between concurrent sessions and it would have been wonderful were all sessions recorded for later consumption. With such a rich programme I missed more session than I attended. Always a hard thing. All the sessions I did attend had honest and engaging speakers who were as happy to talk about their successes as they were to share about their experiments that didn’t work out. That was inspiring in itself.

In a session on The Museum Activist we explored the powerful concept of change-making and the roles we can play in creating change as individual employees of our organisations, as the organisations themselves and through our work with communities. Sacha Coward from Royal Museums Greenwich recounted how he had co-organised a museum staff participation in London Pride this year, David Gelsthorpe from Manchester Museum explained how the museum works in innovative ways linking their collections to conservation and Melissa Strauss from the Heritage Lottery Fund spoke about the importance of our own awareness in relation to inclusion.

A session on confronting censorship and controversy, Free to Speak, offered an honest exploration of the incredibly complex issues museums face around potentially controversial material they might have in their collections. How do you make the decision to display something or not? How do you contextualise an artist’s work where the work might be stunning, but the artist has been found to have a rather difficult past? It was a valuable session and very relevant to People’s History Museum as deeply complex material and stories run through all our collections.

Social mobility in museums was explored in a session about the cultural profession which appears to be sliding backwards in terms of employing people from diverse backgrounds, including people from a working class background. A few interesting points that were made include: class should be part of the discussions we all hold anyway around inclusion and diversity and apparently there is a retention issue in the sector in relation to people who self-identify as coming from a diverse background. Unconscious bias is such an important one to watch out for here.

I was encouraged that so many of the sessions I attended affirmed the cutting-edge work we do at People’s History Museum in Manchester. One of the suggestions around contemporary relevance was to have a small exhibition space set aside and left empty to be able to respond to more current affairs. Tick! We already do that and our Eurotunnel display prior to the European referendum was a powerful example. And then there was our American Election Breakfast in the museum’s café at 7am the day after the election. This was a space for people to get together and discuss the results more or less as they were announced. Being relevant is such an important goal for People’s History Museum and one we constantly explore.

In a Networking Session Dean Phelus form the American Alliance of Museums made the point that once the actuality of a conflict has faded, museums have an opportunity to capture what gets remembered and how we make meaning of it collectively for all people and for all times.

Getting To Grips with Gender and Using the F-Word in Museums was a powerful session with Kate Dossett from the University of Leeds as Chair and Sue John from Glasgow Women’s Library and Antia Wiersma from Atria Institute on Gender Equality and Women’s History in Amsterdam. It was an inspiring exploration of what still is a huge underrepresentation of women and their place in history in our cultural organisations. Especially powerful in light of Dean Phelus’ comment above about the role of museums in what gets remembered and how we make meaning through collections. It is the strongest call to action on all levels for us to work on unconscious bias to inform the best possible contemporary collecting so we don’t need to have MA Conference in a generation and have another session saying much the same things.

The 2017 MA Conference will take place in Manchester, which is a fantastic opportunity to welcome so many colleagues to this amazing Radical City. If the Manchester Conference is as well attended, vibrant and thought-provoking as the Glasgow one we’ll have done well. I am delighted to be on the Conference Panel for the 2017 Conference and I am well aware we have our work cut out for ourselves in the best possible way.

Janneke Geene, Acting Director, People’s History Museum, Manchester


Conference Report: Museums Association 2016

Thanks to Museum Development North West I had the opportunity to attend the Museums Association (MA) conference which this year was hosted in Glasgow. The conference was held at the Scottish Exhibition Centre from 7th-9th November and the three themes the conference focused on were Being Brave: Courage, Innovation and Risk Taking, People and Places: Stories, Communities & Collections and Health and Wellbeing: Impact, Evidence and Delivery. As a first time delegate I was a little apprehensive about attending but starting with the first time delegates’ breakfast on the Monday morning soon settled any fears. It’s early (7.45am) but I’d definitely recommend going as it’s a great opportunity to network as well as meet MA board members and representatives.

The conference programme included many interesting sessions that I would have loved to attend but clashes on concurrent sessions meant I had to decide one which sessions would be most useful. One of the most interesting and engaging sessions I attended was about getting to grips with gender and using the ‘F-Word’ in museums. This session focused on how women’s museums and collections are for everybody and that museums and other organisations can go some way in redressing the invisibility of women’s lives and achievements in public spaces through their work. The Women’s Museum in Denmark gave a simple example of how they have done this through putting female perspectives first by using the phrase ‘girls and boys’ rather than ‘boys and girls’. The session ended with questions from the floor and the audience voted in favour of one organisation covering up all the male images in their building when they focus on women’s history and suffrage next year (being brave in action!). This really gave me food for thought about how we represent gender within our collections and displays and is something I am going to reflect on over the coming months.

Another session titled ‘Adapt or Die? discussed the future of the National Media Museum in Bradford and gave an excellent insight in to how museums are having to change the way they do things and step outside their comfort zone in order to survive. There were some great top tips that came out of this session which were to ensure you have a strong collecting policy so you don’t lose your sense of purpose, be open about what you are doing and ensure public understanding of the language we use to talk about disposals and transfers and finally have the courage to change and tackle policy. If you were wondering where in all of this there was time to also check out what Glasgow’s Museums had to offer, the evening drinks receptions allowed us the opportunity to see the wonderful Riverside Museum and Scotland’s oldest museum the Hunterian. The Wednesday also provided a full programme of tours to different museums from which I chose the Tenement House. The tenement was a beautifully preserved, step back in time piece of history which I could contrast and compare with how we interpret our set of cottages here at the museum.

Overall the conference gives you the time to step back and reflect on the bigger picture and the issues that are facing our sector, something you rarely get to do on a day to day basis. The Being Brave strand of the conference really struck a chord with me when Sacha Coward said ‘If you haven’t got LGBT histories in your collection, it’s because you haven’t found them yet’. I now want to know more about all aspects of our collection and the hidden histories they might contain so that we can tell new stories from different perspectives about the history of the inland waterways – just to find the time to do it!

Zofia Kufeldt, Collections & Exhibitions Assistant, National Waterways Museum

Conference Report: Let’s Get Real Conference – Culture 24

By Amy Senogles, Retail, Sales and Catering Manager,Salford Museum and Art Gallery.

In October 2016 I attended the Culture 24 conference – Can we reinvent our online cultural offer? with support from MDNW. As an organisation currently trading online, I am that there is more we should be doing to generate additional sales, and to improve the way we do things. I hoped that attending the conference would give me some ideas and learn from others who are trading successfully online.

The structure of the day was great – it was split into three distinct sections – Public Value, Brand Value and Commercial Value. Tom Crompton from Common Cause began the day with a fascinating insight into values, social purpose and arts organisations. He talked about our intrinsic values and the way in which arts organisations are perceived by the public. I was intrigued by the idea of strengthening the sense of cultural connection with our visitors through the language and methods used in external communications.

Abhay Adhikari spoke next on the subject of whether social media can have a positive social impact. Like many of us, my experience of social media is mostly a sense of ‘white noise’ but Abhay argued that it can in fact be used as a force for good, and that the opportunity for participation that social media offers is in fact the ideal platform on which to engage with audiences (both new and existing).

In the Brand Value session Morgwn Rimel of the School of Life explained what they do and why. I was fascinated to learn about the structure of their organisation and how they use digital technologies throughout their business, from an online shop to blogging and even a YouTube channel. It was interesting to hear about how digital is embedded in every aspect of the School of Life and that it allows the organisation to have a reach far outside its physical location.

In the Commercial Value session it was time to focus on implementing the concepts we’d learned about in the morning sessions. We began with a video presentation by Lucie Paterson at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI). She built an online shop in four weeks for less than $5000 using Shopify. It launched with 50 of their bestselling products and currently accounts for 1.5% of ACMI’s total retail turnover. Lucie talked us through the process of building the shop, problems she encountered and hints and tips for designing our own sites.

The next speaker was Zac Mensah from Bristol Culture. He gave a brutally honest and incredibly funny account of his foray into online retail. It was reassuring to know that many of the teething troubles we’ve encountered have also been experienced by other organisations.

The three sessions ended with a Q&A session, and the last segment of the day featured a crit room where three brave individuals submitted their online shops for comments from three experts. It was a very interesting session and to hear the expert insights and recommendations was fascinating.

In many ways the conference raised as many questions for me as it answered. However I feel that they are questions that our organisation should be asking in order to move forward with a coherent and concise online offer.


Association of Volunteer Managers Conference blog

I attended the Association of Volunteer Managers (AVM) conference 2016 in London thanks to the support of Museums Development North West. I only recently made the move from Duty Manager to Volunteers Manager at the National Football Museum. I joined the Association of Volunteer Managers during the first few months in my new role, you receive a newsletter as part of being a member and it was here that I first became aware of the conference. The conference was very appealing to me as it looked like a great opportunity to network and discuss the latest approaches taken towards volunteering across various sectors.

After registering I received a conference guide. It difficult to choose which presentations and talks I wanted to attend as there were so many. One of the really useful things about attending the conference is that the presentations are now all online on the VGM website which is great I can catch up I with all the presentations I missed and also can catch the ones I did attend again.

There were over 220 Volunteer Managers/Coordinators at the conference so it’s a big one with lots of opportunities to network with a wide mixture of people from different sectors and with different backgrounds and ideas about volunteering.

The conference opened with the AVM Director Rachael Bayley discussing what the AVM had achieved within the last year and where it wanted to go in the future. It was great to see people so engaged and passionate about volunteering and a really motivating start to the day. We then heard from Karl Wilding who discussed how volunteering will fit in within the National Council of Voluntary Organisations future strategy.

The conference then had three morning workshops (Great Scott! – Future trends and issues in volunteer management; Volunteers and the law – what do I need to know?; and DeMontfort University and National Trust Research). I attended the Great Scott! – Future trends and issues in volunteer management workshop which was presented by Rob Jackson (from Rob Jackson Consulting). The workshop discussed the important issues for volunteer managers over the next 12-18 months and how volunteer managers can help make their organization future ready.

Lunch was a great time to meet and network with other volunteer managers and have time with key staff from the AVM team (who were really welcoming and friendly).

The afternoon also had three workshops (Measuring volunteer impact; Volunteering and digital media; and Volunteers and the law – Ask me anything!). I attended the Volunteering and digital media workshop ran by David Hunt (Digital manager at Leonard Cheshire Disability). This workshop discussed why online advertising can be a useful avenue to recruit voluteers, a really helpful group activity involved us discussing how this could be implemented in our organisations. The workshop was really useful for me as I wanted to see what other organisations are doing to attract volunteers thorough social media and also to pick up some tips for future recruitment.

For both workshops it was a great chance to work in teams with people I hadn’t met before and to listen to other volunteer managers about their experiences. It was also nice and reassuring to hear people have similar issues and ideas as me.

The time I had at the conference was excellent, it will definitely help me in the future as I have made connections with other volunteer managers around the country who I can call on for advice when needed and also for a general catch up. I’ll be actively looking for ways I can put to use some of the knowledge I picked up from the conference in the future. I’d thoroughly recommend it.

Darren Collingwood, Volunteers Manager at National Football Museum

Conference Report: Edinburgh GEM Conference 2016 by Alex McLeman

I had an excellent opportunity to attend the GEM conference in Edinburgh through co-funding from Museums Development North West and my organisation, Bolton Library and Museums services. It was great to listen, learn and share ideas with museum professionals from across the country. I attended so many interesting and relevant sessions and will briefly mention 3 of the sessions I found particularly inspiring.

Museums for learning: the challenge of optimising outcomes in the age of austerity. Julia Bryan and Angelica Vanasse, National Museums Liverpool

I learnt more about utilising the community to engineer effective exhibitions at The Walker Art Gallery. I discovered from Julia Bryon an ingenious way of developing characters for museums. It is to use children in your focus group and to get them to design the character. This is how Winnie the baby spider from the Museum of Liverpool was created. It certainly is a cost effective way to bring children’s ideas to the heart of the museum and much cheaper than using a graphic designer when resources are low.

Influence your own destiny – tools to develop an effective advocacy strategy, Robin Hanley and Collie Mudie, Norfolk Museums Service

I discovered more about how to be a more effective advocator during the workshop by Robin Hanley and Collie Mudie from Norfolk Museums Service. They shared practical tips on how to develop an effective advocacy strategy to influence your own destiny. Some of these ideas include –

  • Importance of continually adapting your advocacy strategy in response to the challenges faced.
  • Showing stakeholders, decision makers and councillors what your museum does so they may be more sympathetic when cuts came around and more positive in supporting your organisation.
  • Good images of events, exhibitions are very powerful in advocacy.
  • Realising who do I need to influence? Who can I personally influence and who I can’t. If I can’t personal influence a person maybe it might be possible to do it through my line manager or senior manager
  • There will be a different message depending on who you are advocating to.

Cultural Writers: inspiring creative writing through cultural experiences

Fay Lant and Lucy Kerrigan

I found the session from the Literacy Trust very relevant and useful as I work across a joined up library and museum service in Bolton. They made clear links between the importance of using our collections and venues as inspiration to connect with literacy projects. This has raised levels of enjoyment and motivation and really benefitted both pupils and museum staff. I even volunteered to read aloud a child’s poem during the workshop when asked, I gave a lot of expression although I don’t think my Scottish accent held out all the way through.

Comedy classroom with BBC was one of many project which helped children improve their performance in literacy. National Literacy Trust have developed lesson plans to help introduce literacy workshops in a sustainable way and can be adapted to your individual museum. The National Literacy Trust can provide effective CPD for museum and library staff.

Research underpins everything and the National Literacy Trust have discovered that children from the most deprived backgrounds can be inspired the most by engaging with poetry and literacy to help express their emotions.

This is a quote Fay shared with us this extract below by Jeanette Winterson, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal.

“When people say that poetry is a luxury, or an option, or for the educated middle classes, or that it shouldn’t be read at school because it is irrelevant, or any of the strange and stupid things that are said about poetry and its place in our lives, I suspect that the people doing the saying have had things pretty easy. A tough life needs a tough language—and that is what poetry is. That is what literature offers—a language powerful enough to say how it is.
It isn’t a hiding place. It is a finding place.”

This quote struck a chord with me about the children and communities which we inspire at Bolton through literacy project. This session increased my confidence and encouraged me to continue to target disadvantaged communities with low levels of literacy at Bolton.

I would like to thank Museums Development North West for making it possible for me to attend the GEM conference in Edinburgh.

Conference Blog: ICOM Conference, Milan

Odd travelling to Milan, to a conference peopled by delegates from around the world, just after your own country has made a choice to pursue a more independent agenda. It is perhaps unsurprising that many of the conversations I had in Italy’s industrial capital did not focus on museums at all. But, instead, on Brexit.

The ICOM conference, running from the 3rd – 9th July, was a huge affair. I had gone, funded by the Museum Development North West, to talk about communities. Or more accurately, to talk about how museum’s talk about communities. I went to suggest that communities are not homogenised entities, wandering around beyond the museum walls, but in fact incredibly complex entities. And to truly represent a/the community in museums, we must recognise that the museum has to be a place for debate, for discussion and even for resistance.

Call it what you will the political museum, the musueum of politics, the campaigning museum, is a developing theme. #Museumhour has recently featured politics as a subject. The MA seems more inclinded, indeed more demanding – perhaps under the Presidency of David Fleming – to see museums as political spaces. As places not just of delitcately told pasts, but of troubling, complicated futures.

Many of course, including myself, would argue they have always been this. Working in a museum dedicated to democracy such statements can seem glib. But read any artist statement and the well worn phrase ‘all art is political’ is revealed as ever more real. And if art is political so too by extension is the art gallery. But where does the museum fit within the political landscape of consumed pasts. Especially as discussions around museum and politics in the UK quickly, inevitably, turn to that most boring of words – neutrality. How can any space be politically neutral? As soon as a space is occupied by something or someone, politics must surely follow.

What was suprising about the ICOM conference, was that many of those who I heard speak, freely acknowledged museusms were inherently political. The debate was not about ‘should’ but about ‘how’. We heard from Giusi Nicolini mayor of Lampedusa, of the amazing work of the island’s museum’s. Helping as they do to, provide shelter for the thousands of people who arrive on the island’s shore every year – all attempting to escape a horrififc former life. I went to a paper and learnt that the ‘Museum of international Democracy’ in Argentina, was renamed the ‘Museum for International Democracy’. How powerful a prepositional change can be. One paper suggested that we couldn’t accept democracy as completed thing, but that museums were part of its ongoing development.

Of course the difficulty of politics is difference. If we are to understand and explore genuine points of disagreement, we need to get to the point of what that disagreement actually is. We need to understand that there are some binary seperations in the world, but not everything can be catagorised as wrong or true.

It is in the nuance of public debate where museums are at their best. Public space is becoming a rare thing and under attack. Museums have long been places for calm contemplation, they have a unique ability to ask questions but not demand immediate ill-considered response. What Milan helped me think about was that never has this been needed more. Museums should be spaces of safe discussion. During the referendum campaign, most people sat on the 36 bus between work and home were discussing the EU. I’ll finish with one question; why weren’t more museums doing the same?

Chris Burgess is Head of Collections at the People’s History Museum

Museums Association Conference 2016 Funded Places

Museum Development North West are pleased to announce that we will be offering two FREE places at this year’s Museums Association conference in Glasgow on 7-8 November.

Museum Development North West recognises that it is important for museum professionals to connect with colleagues through conferences and networking events, but also how stretched budgets can be when it comes to professional development.

To apply for a free place, please send an expression of interest to Alex Bird by September 24th, to be eligible, you will need to::

  • Confirm that you are a first time attendee
  • Commit to attending the whole conference
  • Cover your own travel costs and all expenses
  • Feedback to colleagues and the region via our blog
  • Send us any relevant information and feedback to put on the MDNW website

For the full programme please see here

Please note that these places are only available to people working in non-MPM and non-national accredited museums in the North West.

Museums Association 2015 Conference Report

9 things I learned from the MA Conference

1. The conference can be a very geeky (and surprisingly fun) birthday party
When I (finally!) completed my Associateship of the Museums Association (AMA) last year, I knew that I would be presented with my certificate at the next annual conference. To my dismay, I discovered that the next conference fell on my 30th birthday and instead of partying with my friends and family, I would be on my own in a soulless Birmingham hotel room. How wrong I was! I was very fortunate to receive funding from Museum Development North West to attend the full conference (sadly the funding didn’t stretch to balloons and a birthday cake!), and I was determined to make the most of an opportunity that I knew I was unlikely to get again. Conference turned out to be a great opportunity to meet inspiring people, learn new things, critically reflect on the sector, and even enjoy a couple of ‘Radical Futures’ cocktails.

2. Birmingham did a great job of showing off their museums and galleries
With a jam-packed conference programme, I would have found it very difficult to go out and explore what Birmingham had to offer. Fortunately, the MA had arranged out of hours access to three great venues – Thinktank, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery and Icon Gallery – in the form of drinks receptions. It wasn’t just about the free wine (although that was lovely!) – highlights included making a magic wand, light painting and a pop-up planetarium.

3. Ask a wicked question…
Sharon Heal, Director of the Museums Association opened the conference by encouraging us to ask ‘wicked questions’ in order to turn our thinking on its head and help us to think more critically. Should all museums stay open? Do we need museum directors? Do we need so many national museums? I’ll definitely be taking this away and asking myself and my organisation some wicked questions in order to be more reflective in my practice.

4. Networking doesn’t have to be scary
The thought of standing in a room full of strangers and having to ‘network’ genuinely makes me feel a bit sick. However, the conference was a great opportunity to meet people from across the country (and the globe) in lots of different roles and I found my fear subsiding as I chatted to lots of inspirational people. It was brilliant to learn about different museums, collections and approaches, and to learn from what isn’t working as much as what is. I met a self-styled ‘disruptive curator’, chewed the fat about conference sessions, and even bumped into a few familiar faces.

5. The sector loves a bit of navel-gazing
Some of the sessions I attended focused very much on ‘big-picture’ debates, particularly around workforce diversity. Whilst these sessions were interesting, challenging and tackled important issues, I found that they were lacking in take-away actions that we can use to really make the changes that are needed. I fear that if we’re just talking to ourselves, we’re in danger of working in an echo-chamber and I would have appreciated input from other sectors to give a fresh perspective.

6. You can learn more from smaller museums…
Someone gave me a great piece of advice early in the conference: ‘you’ll see lots of big museums getting up on stage and telling us this great innovative thing they’ve been doing, and you’ll find that smaller museums have been doing it for years’. Hands down, the best session of the whole conference was ‘More Than Reminiscence’ from Tunbridge Wells Museum and Art Gallery. Dr Paul Camic and Jeremy Kimmel gave a thought-provoking and engaging demonstration of object handling workshops they had developed for people with dementia, that focused on the here and now and not the past. The workshop was practical, innovative and had everyone talking about it afterwards. They’ve developed a toolkit that can be used in any museum on a shoestring, and I’d highly recommend checking it out.

7. …and staff at all levels (not just directors)
Friday’s programme kicked off with an ‘in conversation’ session with four national museum directors. Duncan Dornan, Head of Museums and Collections at Glasgow Life argued that we need to make museums less hierarchical, allow staff to use their skills more fully and speak to front of house staff. I feel that the conference would have benefitted from this approach, with more sessions being led by front of house staff and presenters being more representative of staff and volunteers at all levels.

8. We need more freedom to take risks and think creatively
Unsurprisingly, a lot of discussion during the conference was surrounding cuts, closures and further cuts to come. When inspiring case studies were presented, inevitably people would say ‘well that’s great, but we could never afford to do that’. There was an overall impression of people feeling ground-down and frustrated. However, I want to think more positively. We can take the essence of a great idea and look for ways to apply it to our organisations.

For example, the Museum of Gothenburg encouraged us to ‘unlearn’ and ‘Funk-think’. They argued that ‘knowing nothing’ as a point of departure can be a constructive critical tool for transforming the museum. One of the case studies they presented worked with people with different ‘function variations’ and took the approach that it is the museum that has the disability and not the visitors. They employed ‘Funktek Pilots’, who had different function variations and were paid to test the museum. Through a process of try again, fail again, fail better they test and learn constantly.

Whilst most museums will not have the budget to run a project of the same scale, the philosophy of the idea is something that everyone can embed into our own practice. However we need the support of our organisations (and funders) to be able to try out new ideas, think creatively and test innovative approaches.

9. I want to make sure that this investment doesn’t go to waste
To send someone to conference, organisations invest time and money, however often that investment is limited to just the couple of days out of the office that the conference (or other training) takes. Staff come away feeling inspired, but within a week are back on the treadmill of day to day pressures and don’t have the time to reflect on and implement learning. To really reap the benefits we need to see conference as not just a self-contained jolly, but as part of a wider CPD process. I need to ensure that I put aside time to critically reflect on what I’ve learnt, share big ideas with colleagues, and ask the wicked questions that will help me to put those ideas into practice.

By Catherine O’Donnell, Engagement & Events Officer, People’s History Museum

3D Printing Interactive Workshop Report

On Monday 16 November, The Peter Scott Gallery at Lancaster University hosted an interactive workshop on the topic of 3D Printing.

The day began with a brief introduction to 3D printing, along with the possibilities of the technology.

As this was an interactive workshop, it didn’t take long for the delegates to get involved with the tech as one attendant was scanned so a 3D model of them could be printed.

The morning continued with the introduction of 3D pens. These allow users to draw in 3D, some with more success than others.


Following a tour around the university’s 3D printing workrooms, the afternoon focused on current & upcoming projects of the delegates, with several giving presentations of their work. These projects ranged from the incredibly exciting Museum in a box, on which more information can be found here, to the Glasgow School Art’s stance on the social value of digital heritage projects, & how 3D technology can be implemented, to the posibility of creating a remotely accessible heritage site for the difficult to access St Kilda.

It was a fascinating day at the Peter Scott Gallery, and 3D printing is certainly something we will see more and more museums embracing.

Museums Assosiation 2015 Conference Report

I was one of the lucky people to attend the MA Conference courtesy of Museum Development North West. Having never been to the conference before I didn’t know what to expect, but I found it to be fun, friendly and inspirational.

I loved the ‘wicked questions’ posed to four directors of national museums and was heartened to hear them talk about issues that resonate with me, particularly Duncan Dornan’s call for museums to become less hierarchical. Another highlight was the Staffordshire Horde and talking to the conservators and jewellers working on this fantastic find.

Of the seminars I attended the best for me was about object handling for people with dementia. Paul Camic of Canterbury Christ Church University and Jeremy Kimmel of Tunbridge Wells Museum & Art Gallery spoke passionately about their work, but it was the practical information that made this the stand-out event for me. The toolkit they created makes it possible for anyone to follow in their footsteps, which I hope we can do at Bolton Museum. The toolkit can be downloaded at http://www.museumsassociation.org/download?id=1150803 .

The conference was a great experience and would advise everyone to go, at least once – I’ve already ‘saved the date’ for Glasgow next year.

Teri Booth
Documentation Assistant
Bolton Library & Museum Services