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Archive for September, 2010|Monthly archive page

Sporting museum merger

In Museum [Insider], Museums, new content on September 28, 2010 at 7:07 am

There’s a unique museum merger taking place in northwest England. The National Football Museum – based at Preston North End FC’s ground – has seen dwindling visitor numbers in recent years and has had funding cuts. It’s just not a viable museum any more. Indeed, many have begun to question whether it makes sense to have a national museum in a provincial town, rather than in a big city.

Meanwhile, a few miles away in the Manchester city centre the visitor experience Urbis – not really a museum per se but a very strong visitor attraction in a striking, modern building – has seen its doors closed by the city council to make way for the new museum.

While the ethics of laying off many of Urbis’s staff while they make way for the new museum remain sketchy, the match can potentially be viewed as a stroke of genius. Can you think of a city more obsessed with football than Manchester? As a mancunian proud of the city’s cultural and sporting heritage I’m excited about seeing another new museum opening in the city, after the successes of the revamped People’s History Museum, Lowry and Imperial War Museum North.

And as a museum geek I’m intrigued as to how it will happen behind the scenes. There’s not much up-to-date information about the project in the public domain at present, but as usual I’ve had a sniff around and there’s now an article about the museum merger on Museum [Insider]. I’ll keep you posted on developments …

School trips research

In Museums, what i'm reading on September 22, 2010 at 11:02 pm

We had a meeting today of the informal learning reading group, organised by King’s College, London. We’re a group of museum professionals – mostly involved in learning somehow – and  academics involved in learning who meet up 4 or 5 times a year to discuss an academic paper or book chapter. It’s organised by Jen de Witt, an amazing and energetic researcher at King’s who keeps us all in check.

This time she chose a couple of papers written in the last year or so which look at approaches to investigating outcomes from a school trip to a zoo. We’ve been playing with ideas about to evaluate how people learn in museum/gallery/zoo/science centres for years now. There have been countless seminars and conferences, books and books written about it, even a research centre established at the University of Leicester and a government-backed model for how to measure learning. But somehow we still can’t get to the bottom of how to figure out the true impact of a museum visit on someone, especially in a learning context.

Perhaps that’s why it’s such an interesting group to be involved with. We always have lively conversations about what we’re doing in the workplace and how the papers we read might impact on that. And it’s a good chance to get together and have a chin wag with other people in the museum learning sector.

This time we read: Learning on Zoo Field Trips: The Interaction of the Agendas and Practices of Students, Teachers and Zoo Educators by Sue Davidson, Cynthia Passmore and David Anderson and Students’ Perspectives of a Science Enrichment Programme: Out-of-school inquiry as access by April Lynn Luehmann.

If you’re working in the museum sector and like meeting people who want to discuss ideas and share contacts/projects, I’m hosting a little event on 6 October in London called Not the Museums Association Conference. It’s for people who can’t afford to go to the MA conference in Manchester this year, but still want to do some networking in a bar, somehwere.

Oral history in audio guides

In Museums on September 10, 2010 at 10:37 am

Yesterday I spoke at a seminar at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery about the use of oral history in museums and galleries. The day-long event was attended by staff from various museums who are thinking about using oral history in new and interesting ways in their future exhibitions.

I have a presentation about my experiences of using oral history in writing and researching content for audio-guides, which seemed to go down well. I was talking about getting the balance right between narration, actor voices, interview material and archival content in an audio-guide production. The rest of the day was a mixture of practical examples of using oral history and advice on how best to manage such projects.

The other presenters were:
Francis Nielsen from Wolverhampton Arts and Heritage speaking about using Brirish Sign Language histories in museums

Emily Fuggle from the Imperial War Museum speaking about recorded video testimony in The Holocaust Exhibition (my former stomping ground)

Rupert Mitchell – a freelance interactive designer – showing us exciting animations which bring oral history to life

Richard Elms from Herbert Media, Coventry, speaking about the work of the new media unit and the practicalities of recording material for an archive or gallery installation

Kate Chatfield from the People’s History Museum, Manchester, speaking about the sound interactives using oral history that have been installed in their redeveloped museum.

Big thanks to BMAG for compiling the programme and for getting people together for a day.