Transforming People to Transform Museums: day 2

Hi, Em here 🙂

I attended the conference on the Friday, when Elisha and I were set to present. To say I was nervous would be an understatement!

But before all of that, Hedley Swain (Area Director, South East, Arts Council) kicked off the day by talking about Arts Council England‘s ‘Creative Case for Diversity’, which aims to support a fundamental shift in the ways arts and heritage organisations approach diversity. “To be representative of society, we need to have people who are representative of society“. Hedley spoke very openly about the challenges faced by arts and heritage organisations when recruiting ‘diverse’ workforces (potentially due to long-standing view of the ‘traditional’ museum worker). The keynote opened up questions about how museums and galleries can work together to deliver great culture for all, how can we enforce a culture of change that is beneficial to the sector and stated the simple but positive fact that “our work will be better if we embrace diversity“.


The presentations that followed focused on ‘Workforce development: Staff of the future’. To start, we heard about the Teaching Museum programme at Norfolk Museums Service (NMS). Sarah Gore (Teaching Museum Manager) introduced the ideas behind the scheme, the structure of the traineeship and how their recruitment process worked.  Jordan Bacon (Digital Service Coordinator and Teaching Museum graduate) then talked about all of the fun things he had been involved in during the traineeship and his journey to his current role at NMS.

Next up – The Training Museum! Rachel Macfarlane (Projects Development Officer) introduced the project, explaining how the recruitment process aimed to “open up the museum world to those who once may never have seen themselves working in such an environment“. She spoke about how the traineeships were enabling a culture for change and how The Training Museum was benefiting other staff as well as visitors, due to the range of new ideas, skills and opportunities it is bringing into the service.logo


I (nervously!) followed on from Rachel to speak about the work I have been doing with Supplementary Schools. I introduced our partnership work with the British Academy Schools Language Awards and the ways that we are using the theme of ‘language’ to introduce young people to museum staff, explore museum collections and create stories.

I briefly described what each session focuses on, from learning about museum roles and going on stores tours, to object handling and packing, creating interpretation and working with artists to create exhibitions. The project aims to create opportunities of working with different audiences and partners, as well as open up the idea of working in museums to the young people involved! In terms of workforce development, it has enabled the staff involved to put their training into practice (object handling, presentation skills, exhibitions installation packing and storing), as well as learn new skills. We have worked with different audiences, delivered creative sessions and hopefully empowered and inspired young minds!


Elisha spoke brilliantly about her work on ‘Vintage In The Park’ and the planning that went into making such a successful event. She talked about the training we received in marketing, objecting handling and collections care, which enabled the Colchester Trainees to put together an exciting and different event, and drew in crowds of over 300 to the Hollytrees Museum! The skills and experience that she developed from organising this event was a key part to The Training Museum.

Afterwards, Fiona Talbot (Head of Museums, Libraries and Archives, Heritage Lottery Fund) spoke about HLF’s Skills for the Future programme and funding for work place learning. We had a panel discussion about the ideas brought up during the three presentations and how recruitment, workforce development and traineeships were benefitting different organisations, particularly in museums.


Workshops ran in the morning and afternoon, focusing on topics such as the cultural professional of the future, volunteer programmes and innovative projects taking place in the arts and museums sector. Many delegates were tweeting throughout the day with a number showing their support for traineeships. They commented on the skills and positive changes that can come out of them and were really excited by what us Trainees had to say about our work and journeys.

Thank you to everyone who worked so hard to put this conference together: Lib Fox (Museums Project Officer) and Eleanor Root (Collections and Learning Curator) for all their organising and planning to make this conference so great; the Visitors Service team at Colchester for their efficiency and help; all of the great speakers and delegates who came from far and wide to discuss the idea of nurturing a culture of change in cultural organisations. It was a brilliant couple of days – we hope to do it all again sometime!

Em 🙂

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