The Museums Association (MA) is looking for session proposals for its annual conference in Belfast on 8-10 November 2018.
The theme for the 2018 conference is: Dissent: Inspiring Hope – Embracing Change.
From the Museums Association:
“The conference will focus on having the courage to challenge traditional thinking to transform museums and society,” says Simon Stephens, the MA’s head of publications and events.
“How can we foster radical ideas that defy the norm? Which networks and individuals develop these ideas and how can we ensure that their voices are heard and valued in our work? And who are the dissenters from outside museums that can provoke, inspire and challenge us?
“Belfast 2018 will showcase inspiring work from across the world that places museums at the heart of their communities and transforms people’s lives. It will highlight the role all museums can play standing with their communities as they encourage activism and promote positive social change.
“The conference will also challenge the concept of dissent. How dissenting can museums be, particularly those that are supported by public funding? Does dissent always lead to positive change and transformation? And how should museums represent dissenting voices that challenge values such as diversity, equality and inclusion?
“Dissent can be scary, it can involve debate, friction and conflict – but only by embracing change do we find the radical and innovative ideas that give all museums the tools to face the future with confidence, ambition and hope.”
The MA is working with museums across Ireland and is running this conference in collaboration with the Irish Museums Association.
Ireland has a rich tradition of storytelling, music and literature, which will bring a creative flavour to the event – and the MA is seeking proposals from across Ireland.
“We have created a bold theme for this conference and we are seeking equally bold, innovative and thought-provoking proposals,” says Stephens.
The MA also welcomes proposals from outside the sector and internationally, as well as those working in museums, galleries and heritage.
The deadline for session proposals is 1 March 2018.
Volunteering for All: Measuring the health and wellbeing benefits
Thursday 15th March
The Whitworth, Manchester
We all know the great impact volunteering makes, but how do we measure the benefits?
Can we quantify the health and wellbeing advantages of a particular volunteer programme?
Join us to hear the results of key studies in this area, and how volunteer managers make the most effective use of this knowledge!
This event will address various aspects of the volunteer journey from the volunteer managers perspective, with a particular focus on measuring the health and wellbeing benefits for everyone involved: the volunteers; the programme managers and volunteer leaders; the organisation; the end users and clients.
We will hear the results of some key work into volunteer motivation and behaviour, including: assessing the volunteering habits of certain groups; attracting and working with younger volunteers and families; two different assesments of wellbeing.
There will be a facilitated roundtable discussion, comparing the viewpoints of volunteer managers with guest volunteers from some of the programmes discussed during the day, as well as networking and discussion sessions for attendees to share and compare their own challenges and experiences.
Agenda (subject to change)
11:00 Welcome address from AVM director.
11:15 Emma Horridge, Manchester University and Lee Ashworth, Imperial War Museum: The”IF: Volunteering for wellbeing” project.
Emma and Lee will tell us about the ground-breaking project, where volunteers were trained across ten different sites, for ten weeks. The project aims included: social ROI; measuring the wellbeing impact of volunteering; utilising heritage sites as community hubs. The presentation will outline the aims, results and long term impact of the project.
11:55 Wendy Hunwick-Brown, Ripon Museum: Working with younger volunteers.
Ripon is in rural North Yorkshire where the challenge of access to leisure and cultural services is exacerbated by poor public transport and isolation from peers. Wendy will talk about the reasoning behind their project focused on younger volunteers, how they combined training for heritage specific skills with broader, more transferable skills, and how this project feeds into the larger, families program.
12:30 Group table discussions and networking.
1pm LUNCH, which is provided.
1:45 Will Watt, Jump Projects: BAME and low socio-economic volunteering.
Will is going to present the findings of Jump Projects’ recent research into BAME and low socio-economic volunteering.This in-depth, original work has uncovered some surprising data and the conclusions will be relevant across the third sector.
2:20 Beccy Bracey and Jenny Salton, Kirklees Museum and Galleries, Catherine Bradley, The Audience Agency: Is volunteering good for your health?
The presenters will discuss their two year project to assess the health and wellbeing benefits of their volunteer program. This will cover: why they commisioned the evaluation; how it was conducted – the methodology and reporting of results; what difference this has made to their volunteer offer and their relationship with partners.
3 pm Coffee and tea break
3:20 The Volunteers’ Perspective: A facilitated roundtable discussion.
Following a brief introduction, this table discussion will be co-facilitated and led by volunteers from some of the programs discussed throughout the event. This is an opportuity for volunteers to feedback some constructive criticism on volunteering and the leadership and management of some of the programs. We anticipate a frank and open debate on the effectiveness, strengths and possible weaknesses!
3:50 Roundup and conclusions, with guest Matt Hick, SMG and HVG.
4 pm Closing address from AVM
Any enquiries, please contact Greville Southgate, L&D Officer on email@example.com or 020 7426 9192
To book a place please visit the eventbrite page.
12th – 18th March 2018
The third Museums and Wellbeing Week will take place between 12-18 March 2018. The National Alliance for Museums, Health and Wellbeing will co-ordinate the week, which will showcase the inspiring work museums across the UK are either already doing in the field or would like to pilot.
We want to hear from you if you’re a museum, cultural or heritage organisation whatever your size and are interested in:
- Showcasing what you’re already doing and badge your existing health and wellbeing provision
- Piloting and developing new activities or running a one-off activity
- Setting up a pop-up information stand for an afternoon or even an hour with a member of staff, volunteer or freelance artist
- Publicising your events through Twitter with event hashtag #museumsandwellbeing
How to get involved
- Visit our website here to download the form and send us your event details. All events will be added to our website https://museumsandwellbeingalliance.wordpress.com/news/
Third Museums for Health and Wellbeing Conference
13th March 2018
Tickets are now on sale for our third conference at Thinktank in Birmingham on 13 March 2018. We’re pleased to announce that the future Culture, Health and Wellbeing Alliance will be officially launched at the conference. To find out more about the new Alliance please see here.
The line-up includes speakers Emma Hanson the Head of Strategic Commissioning Adult Community Support from Kent County Council and Jane Povey GP and Founding Director of Creative Inspiration Shropshire. Workshop sessions will explore green wellbeing, evaluation, embedding wellbeing as an organisation, staff wellbeing, piloting provision and working with learning disabled artists to design and deliver arts activities for children and families. To book please visit here.
Wednesday 21st – Thursday 22nd February 2018
Venues: Tate Britain; National Portrait Gallery, London; and National Gallery, London
Museum professionals and researchers are invited to join us for this major conference offered by the Understanding British Portraits professional network, the European Paintings pre-1900 network, and the British Art Network. It will examine the motivations behind exhibition programming, the practical challenges, and the future of exhibitions. For example, do UK museums have the in-house expertise to generate scholarly, audience-responsive, profitable exhibitions? How do they accommodate the demands of various stakeholders – curators, marketing and learning teams, audiences, and funders? And if the future is digital, what will audiences lose (and gain) by a virtual – rather than physical – engagement with museums and their collections? The conference panels will address these and many other questions around the decision-making, delivery, and consumption of temporary exhibitions.
The conference panels will be chaired by Gabriele Finaldi, Director of the National Gallery; Nicholas Cullinan, Director of the National Portrait Gallery; and Alex Farquharson, Director of Tate Britain. The programme will include panel discussions, private views, and time to meet fellow delegates at Tate Britain, the National Portrait Gallery, and the National Gallery.
Call for Papers Now Open
Social History Curators Group invite you to share your innovative ideas and experiences of interpreting collections, engaging new audiences and refreshing tired displays.
The conference will be held at Beamish: The Living Museum of the North and Great North Museum: Hancock on Thursday 19 and Friday 20 July 2018.
Proposals should be submitted to Rebecca Lucas and Nick Sturgess at firstname.lastname@example.org by Wednesday 31 January 2018.
Find out more here.
When MDNW gave me the opportunity to attend the Museums Association Conference I realised it’d be a fantastic opportunity for gaining inspiration and learning best museum practice. The themes of this year’s conference were Audience, Collections and Workforce; as you can imagine with the mix of topics available and a two day programme of exciting speakers it was a challenge to choose which seminars to attend. I found the conference app extremely useful for this acting as a one stop shop to the whole event. There was access to daily programmes, events and exhibitors information. The My Agenda function was really convenient and helped me to shortlist seminars, identify clashes and then decide on the programme best for me.
The Conference started with an extremely positive welcome from conference host Hilary Carty that really set the tone for the next two days, followed by speeches from the conference coordinators of the three main themes. Social purpose is becoming more central to museums and their collections and these themes get us thinking about how museums get audiences more active, participatory and engaged with our collections. Lemn Sissay’s opening poem presented how often the simplest tasks are complicated by bureaucracy and how truly ridiculous things can get. Some of the scenarios may have been exaggerated but they were things I have come across and despite being light-hearted and entertaining I’m sure it resonated with everyone in that Exchange Auditorium and it was good to know I wasn’t the only one.
I was really interested in looking at new ways to use the collection, especially to increase income generation. Like many sites, offsetting running costs with income is becoming increasingly important as funding becomes more stretched. Because of this I attended the seminar, Should Museums Sweat their Assets. The panel consisted of professionals from Royal Greenwich Museum, Norfolk Museum’s and the University of Aberdeen Museum, all very different types of organisations but it was established pretty quickly in the discussion that yes – museums need to do it as a necessity. The real question was how much should you sweat them? Some of the methods that they used were not suitable to apply to my museum, but they had certain principles that could be applied to any site. Firstly don’t be afraid to say no, if you don’t think an event or opportunity fits in with you branding then don’t do it. Secondly, make sure that anything you do is within your capacity to deliver. Finally and most importantly, don’t be afraid to try new things out. Takings risks can be good, sometimes failures happen (even at big venues!) You can learn from those failures but will gain much on the successes.
This leads nicely onto another very inspirational talk at the conference, the keynote speech from 14-18 NOW Director Jenny Waldmen and artist Jeremy Deller. Not only was the story behind the sensational We’re Here because We’re Here project fascinating but Jeremy’s talk around what motivated him to take on the commission was really interesting.it sounds like Art briefs set by museums can be so specific and full of guidelines that they can stunt creativity and put artists off. It was the open brief given to him by Jenny that convinced him to take on the role. What was her brief? ‘We don’t know what to do for the centenary of the Somme, do you have any ideas’ – as simple as that but it gave him the freedom to create something truly unique and relevant. Museums seem to have a reluctance to give ‘power’ to the unknown. This is something that came up in an earlier seminar on Youth Participation with a young artist Pat Farrell, but as Jenny advised partnerships only work when generosity is given from all sides and it seems that that includes artist freedom to explore. Assessing the 14-18 NOW commission, ok, the soldiers were not in the museums, museums did not get the initial footfall, but the visibility of such a project to regular public had a massive impact with 48% of audiences wanting to go an learn more which would not have been successful if not for external thinking.
Another excellent seminar was Belief Trumps Facts looking at where museums sit in a world of ‘fake news’ and ‘experts’ and as trusted institutions what is our role in ensuring that we provide a balanced narrative. One particularly interesting discussion by the panel surrounded if and how museums can ethically accept funds from organisations with specific agendas. How important it is to provide ‘real’ information, particularly when covering global or sensitive issues. In an era where there is less money available should institutions be turning down funds/sponsorship to run their programme. General thought by the panel was museums should be covering important issues like these but it was integral that museums researched the information to ensure it was a true story. Research the individuals first then look at the wider story and finally if it controversial then it needs to be much more rigorously researched.
Alongside the main programme there were other events running throughout the conference. Free workshops were offered to all museum professionals with a diverse and engaging programme running across both days. I luckily managed to get a seat in the Developing Innovative Events Programmes workshop with a focus on events around the Robots exhibition by the Science Museums Group. It was an interesting workshop but extremely busy. This could be applied to all of the workshops, as I couldn’t get into the others. I stood at the back trying to listen but with the noise of the exhibition hall I gave up. Feedback for next year, run these sessions in bigger spaces. This did give me an opportunity to experience some of the other fantastic offerings at the Conference put on by the Festival of Change. I adjourned from talks and museums to attended a relaxing life drawing class put on in exchange
Final thoughts on the conference; I really enjoyed the three days and the difficulty in choosing which seminars to attend was testament to how good the programmed sessions were. I attended thirteen sessions across Thursday and Friday and took away lots of ideas to go back to site with. The keynotes were wonderful, Lemn Sissay, Alejandra Naftal and the fantastic presentation by the wonderfully wobbly Francesca Martinez were the highlights of the conference. I would recommend any museums professional go to one of these lively events. Thanks MDNW.
Jenny Ingham, Museum Manager, Queen Street Mill Textile Museum
Trying to reflect on one of the most challenging and moving presentations I have encountered in my professional career has proved somewhat difficult. A week after the conference I found myself trying to convey to friends the experience of listening to Alejandra Naftal, Director and Co-Curator of the ESMA Memory Site Museum in Buenos Aires, Argentina, talk about her museum and the ‘Disappeared’ of the Argentinian military dictatorship.
The museum is a former military building, which was used by the military dictatorship between 1976 and 1983 as a clandestine centre for detention, torture and extermination. Some 30,000 people were ‘disappeared’ by the state. Children born in captivity were given away to military families, their real identities hidden from them. In a powerful and moving presentation, Alejandra explored the museums role in modern Argentinian society.
When it is easy to become bogged down in an institutional bubble and distracted by day to day concerns, the conference helped me reengage with the bigger questions facing our sector; why do museums matter, how do we engage with the challenges that face modern society and how do we better represent that society?
Focusing primarily on the Curatorial strand of the conference, I was very impressed with the panels I attended. They all made me look afresh at the work of my own museum and our collections. In the Legacies of Empire panel, Yasmin Khan delivered a very honest appraisal about the challenges and rewards of co-curation as museums seek to better represent the varied communities from which British society is drawn. Jonathan Wallis of Derby Museums too delivered an impressive illustration of how to engage with the often forgotten traces of Empire in local museum collections that are anything but local in nature.
Panels on the Fearful Object and Reanimating Collections of Disability History also provided other examples of best practise to aspire to. In the Fearful Object it was particularly interesting to see the shared challenges that were encountered in quite different settings and the support we can give each other as professionals. In Reanimating Collections of Disability, the combination of presentations on current exhibitions and a practical workshop element was particularly useful.
The wider provision of workshops was my one area of disappointment. These were frequently too full to allow people in and after some initial attempts I gave up. It seemed a shame to advertise these workshops, by all accounts very good, and then host them in quite small venues.
To end on this critical note would not be reflective though of what was a very positive experience. Since then I have been trying to take the time to look again at my own museum and reflect on how we can better represent the world around us. It may seem a long way from the subject matter of the ESMA Memory Site to that of the National Football Museum but there are fact close links. In reading more about the Disappeared I was reminded that the prisoners were allowed to listen to radio coverage of the 1978 World Cup Final. Argentina beat Holland in a stadium only a short distance from the ESMA Memory Site Museum, with the fans celebrations audible to those incarcerated inside. Thanks to Alejandra’s presentation, I now look at familiar items in our collection in a very different way.
Alexander Jackson, Collections Officer, The National Football Museum
There was a poignant moment in Lemn Sissay’s entertaining keynote speech at the start of this year’s MA conference when he asked the packed hall: “does it annoy you when other people call themselves curators?” As a first-time delegate, thanks to a funded place from Museum Development North West, I suddenly felt very aware of being an industry insider. In an auditorium of museum professionals who all seemed to look the same and dress the same, I felt like a member of an established community that is still coming to terms with opening up its rituals and practises to Britain’s diverse communities and more tellingly, developing a truly diverse workforce of its own.
One of the dominant themes of conference was museums’ drive to be radical, participatory and socially engaged in the spirit of the Museums Change Lives agenda. From MA Director Sharon Heal’s own Keynote speech to the MA Transformers Festival of Change, everybody was encouraged to think about how museums can build bridges in our divided society. There were many well-thought-out sessions illustrating how museums are forming meaningful partnerships with hard-to-reach communities. I particularly enjoyed the presentation ‘Dissenting Voices’ that looked at how organisations work to reflect the views of marginalised groups. This included Tom Turtle from the Homeless Museum and speakers from the People’s History Museum and Derry and Strabane District Council. I also found the session ‘Legacies of Empire’ extremely thought provoking. Jonathan Wallis from Derby Museum reminded us how much collecting emanates from colonialism and the centuries of cruelty and exploitation it relied on. Other speakers emphasised how far museums still need to go in terms of diversifying their own workforce, if they wish to do justice to stories of Empire and its painful legacy. Thanks should also go to Jean-François Manicom from the International Slavery Museum for showcasing such a stunning film.
On the second day of conference I attended excellent sessions on ‘Working with Refugees’ and ‘Reanimating Collections of Disabled Histories’ that called on museums to be far bolder in tackling these topical issues. As a profession we are undoubtedly working hard to change lives and it is fair to say that the many examples of innovative practise showcased at conference already add up to a substantial sum of parts. We were shown how brilliant projects that help people to gain self-respect and empowerment through collections can be created on a shoestring, but having said this, there is no room for complacency…
With austerity set to continue, there was much talk of the need for museums to widen their core activities to generate income. In the session ‘Should Museums Sweat their Assets’ the panel agreed that for most visitors a good café, shop, clean toilets and baby changing are as much part of the museum experience as the galleries and exhibits beyond the foyer. This made me think again about the emphasis being placed on representing diversity in our institutions. This diversity of race and class, so often missing amongst the predominantly white and middle-class professionals who came to conference is most often found in museum cleaning, catering and front of house teams. It would be good to see some of them at conference and hear their voices too.
Bill Longshaw, Collections Assistant, Gallery Oldham
I am sure I was not alone in spending a considerable amount of time trawling through the Museum Conference guide, trying to decide which seminars and workshops to attend. I felt that the amount on offer covered a real breadth of subjects; many of which were pertinent to my own situation. In the end I just couldn’t get to everything I earmarked, but nonetheless felt that I got an awful lot from the conference; perhaps even more than I had first anticipated. This included new ideas, some actual practical knowledge e.g. how to use a raspberry pi and also to an extent some reassurances that what we are doing here in my own workplace is in line with what others are doing.
On the whole it was some of the larger panel discussions that I got the most from and I managed to attend seven of them which were broadly connected to youth participation and learning, volunteers and health and wellbeing. I particularly enjoyed the format of these hour long sessions which included 3 speakers, a chair and the opportunity for questions at the end. I felt that the multiple speakers gave different perspectives; bringing the topics to life. For example, a seminar about youth participation included an artist who had been employed by the Whitworth. His honesty about the position and his initial cynicism was refreshing and added another dimension to more academic work carried out in this area. It was a useful reminder that everyone has ownership of museums and certainly made me ask what should museums be and who should they be for? We were posed the question ‘Who do we give the power to’? which opened the way for interesting discussion, debate and further questions for the panel.
One of the things I took away is that it is ok and even encouraged to take a risk. Listening to ‘Out of the Classroom’ (a schools project which took place in Wales and involved taking the reception classes into a museum for 5 weeks) and to Funders in Conversation (HLF, Esmee Fairburn, Arts Fund and Hamlyn Foundation), particularly highlighted this. I’ve already quoted some of the things that were said by the funding directors in my own workplace. Some of these large funders can seem like massive faceless bodies and so actually seeing and hearing these directors speak did make them seem more personable and we were given some useful practical tips for the applications too. I now have many notes to refer back to and even looking at them now is reminding me of all of the ways in which I may be able to implement ideas in my own setting.
Health and wellbeing has also become a topic close to my heart over recent years and finding out about the opportunities to feed into the research, as well as the various networks out there was a real insight. Listening to people involved in the ‘It’s not so grim up north’, project again was brought to life by the inclusion of not only the academics evaluating the work, but by one of the participants who has now gone on to volunteer for the project, as well as a staff member involved in implementing the project giving us a well rounded examination of it.
I also enjoyed being able to hear from international speakers such as Alejandra Naftal who spoke about the ESMA memory site. Although our challenges are vastly different, it was a great reminder that my organisation is not in isolation and there are so many other museums out there that we can approach for help and advice.
I did manage to have a look around the exhibitor stands although I found this perhaps to be the most daunting aspect of the conference. This was because coming from an organisation with little money I was conscious of trying not to ‘waste’ peoples times. Nonetheless it was good to keep an eye on who is out there and could possibly be approached in the future. Similarly I did go to some of the workshop sessions and found them useful to varying degrees. A top tip would be to get there in plenty of time if you desperately want to see one and don’t try to dash from a previous session as you may end up right at the back struggling to hear or encouraged to go right to the front where you will have to sit on the floor.
I am very grateful to Museums Development North West for the opportunity to attend my first Museums Association Conference. I have plenty of notes, ideas and contacts to chase up and really appreciated the opportunity to network and see the bigger picture as it were. All in all a pretty inspiring two days.
Kate Dobson, Museum Manager, Nantwich Museum
The British Museum
This event will mark three years of funding from Arts Council England and celebrate the work conducted so far.
The content of the day will cover the work of MMN over the past three years, outlining its key achievements and demonstrating to a wider audience how the Network has been active all over the UK with the collections mapping project and the provision of training. It will represent an opportunity to learn more about MMN and the approaches that are being taken to different aspects of numismatics by a number of key participating institutions.
It will also be a chance to meet colleagues from other UK public institutions to share knowledge and ideas about museum numismatic collections. In addition, there will be a chance for delegates to see the British Museum’s exhibition about the Money and Medals Network which will be on display in Room 69a from 22 March until 30 September 2018.
This conference is open to anyone working or volunteering with numismatic collections in UK museums.
Attendance is free, but booking is essential. Lunch will be provided and a limited number of travel bursaries are available.
Further details, including how to book, will be available very soon, but until then please put this date in your diaries!