So long time no post. Well more like a week and a bit. Unfortunately, life does tend to get in the way of things. Life, tea and cake. But one must always stop for tea & cake. Even this little girl has.
Now, onto the subject of this blog post. The subject has to do with an event I attended at the Ulster Museum on the 12th June 2013. It was a Museums Association Members Meeting for Northern Irish members (there are only 35 of us?!).
The premise of the meeting was to scope how museums function and are coping) in Northern Ireland. The meeting was also a place to discuss various areas of Museums association policy from workforce plans to Museums 2020.
There were lots of Museum Professionals from across Northern Ireland present at the meeting. Including some people from this group. (Northern Ireland & Republic of Ireland Museum Professionals Network). We had a #breakfastingaboutmuseums event before hand. The first of it’s kind in the world; we hope to start a trend!
The museum professionals ranged from students, volunteers, freelancers to those who worked in and for museums and heritage sites. Also present, were Museums Association board members including : Rowan Brown, National Mining Museum of Scotland, David Anderson , director, National Museums Wales & MA President and Mark Taylor, MA Director.
The meeting started off with quick fire introductory speeches by the above mentioned panel. One of the main feelings and topics to come out of this is that the MA is trying NOT to be so ‘London-centric’ and ‘England-centric’. Essentially, an MA for ALL museum professionals practicng within the UK. One quote that really stood out for me was from David Anderson, the MA President:
‘The MA needs to reflect the diversity of the UK workforce.’
This really stood out for me as I have and still work with and for museums in London when I am in the area, it is hard to think outside the ‘London Bubble.’ That yes great museums do exist outside of Zone 9. Don’t get me wrong here, a lot of smaller museums in London do feel left out from the big nationals- this was another point stressed out at the MA meeting.
After the initial speeches the discussion moved onto various topics that are effecting the museum world as a whole. As well as discussion of topics pertinent to Northern Ireland i.e. politics, society, Northern Irish culture etc.
The topics covered where:
1. Understanding social context and size of Northern Ireland. The ‘two sides’ of Northern Irish politics; how this effects culture. The public’s view of museums, culture the arts etc.
2. Social justice in Museums. Museum staff are not trained social workers, how do museum staff get training to deal with all abilities of visitors.
3. Discussion of topics pertinent to the MA i.e. Radical Workforce, Museums 2020, Heritage Crime. A good quote to come out of this session was:
‘Hard to be radical when governing bodies & organisations put lid on risk & creativity’
Personally, I feel this is very relevant to Northern Ireland. I have had numerous experiences with barriers to digitisation of archives, use of social media or even a basic website being used for museums. Council’s don’t want to know or the councillors are wary of social media. This needs to change. Councils can be shown the benefits of social & digital media in their council run museums.
4.Dr. Chris Bailey of Northern Irish Museums Council, talked about the changing role of the curator; now not what people perceive a ‘traditional’ curator to be. How N.Ireland is behind both the R.O.I & mainland UK in terms of Museum development.
5. Dr. Elizabeth Crooke, Museum Studies at Uni. Of Ulster lecturer, how people ‘trust’ museums, how we need more support for what we do i.e. preserve cultural heritage.
6. Hannah Crooke, MA rep. for Northern Ireland. No sense of community within N.Irish museum community (this is changing thanks to NIROIMUSNET!).
7. Gaby Porter, The Cultural Heritage Blueprint & Radical Workforce plan. How museum staff need to have diverse skills when working in museums, how Continuous Professional Development (CPD) should be part of a museum professionals job, not supplementary to it.
Overall, this meeting was fantastic to attend and really got me thinking of how I can improve the Northern Irish museum world by participating in a force for change and openness and engagement within Museums & the N. Irish populace. I feel that as a young museum professional, I should be pushing for the use of social & digital media within museums.
I want to see museums in Northern Ireland flourish and not die out for lack of understanding of current national and international museum practice. I do understand the time, budgetary and political constraints but there is soo much help out there for the museums in N. Ireland to utilize and it’s not being utilized.
It’s time to be exclusive not inclusive! The Museums Association and like minded young professionals like myself and others can be of a great help. Otherwise, museums in Northern Ireland will find their best young people have moved away for work!
If you have enjoyed reading please comment below!
P.S. I have something exciting in the pipeline, watch this space!