Capacity Buildings and Lake District Adventures

Elisha here!

Having just returned from a holiday to the Lake District (more on that later), I’m eager to share what I got up to on Thursday 28 July, when I presented at the ‘Capacity Buildings’ conference at the Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford.

The event discussed how museums are changing and using their spaces to generate more income and increase visitor engagement. Before heading to the Pitt Rivers, the wonderful Jess (Collections and Learning Curator) gave me a whistle-stop tour of Oxford (this included a very important visit to the Covered Market’s cookie store). Once at the conference, I enjoyed listening to the very interesting and thought provoking talks by speakers from museums in Liverpool, Bexley, Edinburgh, Yorkthe Black Country, and National Museums Scotland. Through hearing their ideas and stories, I really gained a better understanding of how diverse museums have become.

Then, at the end of the day, it was my turn to speak. This presentation had taken a lot of time, work and planning, and though I had a few nerves I was thrilled to have the opportunity to present in front of so many museum professionals. With the help of Jess, I delivered a talk around the corporate and creative usage of venues at the Colchester + Ipswich Museums, and the challenges that can arise. I began by speaking a bit about the work that The Training Museum Trainees do, supporting all the different teams, and the unique insight this gives us into venue hire and events. I then gave some details on what our museums offer: weddings, birthday parties, charity fundraisers, book launches, paranormal evenings and novel events such as Harry Potter Book Night, I-Am Rap and Vintage in the Park. At the end we hosted a debate, asking questions such as:

  • Is a conservator’s Yes or No the last word when planning an event?
  • Is there a ‘reasonable’ level of wear a tear on museum spaces and collections?
  • Should a museum put its collections or audience first?

This debate brought up some really interesting points and I was pleased to see all of the delegates engaging and sharing their opinions and ideas. (We may not have found the answer to these questions, but it was still interesting to talk about them!). All in all, it went really well, even if at one point I did accidentally press the wrong button and the whole presentation disappeared.

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I can safely say this was one of the highlights of the traineeship so far, and one of the things I feel most proud to have done!

Exploring the heritage of the Lake District

The day after the conference I drove up to enjoy a holiday in the Lake District. But for me, no holiday would be complete without absorbing as much history as possible and dragging my loved ones around as many heritage sites as I can find. A particular highlight was a visit to Kendal Museum. It is a true gem that includes fascinating displays with collections ranging from Egyptian to Viking artefacts, as well as an intriguing Victorian taxidermy gallery. I loved the way the objects were displayed and the atmosphere inside the museum was lovely, with very friendly staff and lots of activities to do. I highly recommend a visit!

I also visited Kendal Castle, which was built in the 12th century and has been in ruins since the Tudor period. Despite this, the site is stunning and full of history. The village I stayed in, Hawkshead, also has a beautiful little 16th century church with incredible interior decoration.

Hawkshead also has an Old Grammar School dating back to 1585, attended by William Wordsworth. The school is now a museum and I was given a tour by a member of staff who was full of knowledge and enthusiasm for the site. I even got to see Wordsworth’s signature carved into his original desk among many other names of previous students. Again, I highly recommend a visit!

Now it’s back to work and getting on with various projects. Coming up next Saturday (the 20th) is Colchester’s Vintage in the Park event planned by Scott, Alex and I. Make sure to check back for updates on how it goes!

Elisha 🙂

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