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Museum Ideas: Booking Open for 2022 Study Days and Conference

Designed for museum workers looking for actionable ideas, the 2022 season of Museum Ideas events will add immediate value to your current work and are an active investment in the future and what you choose to do next.

Taking place throughout 2022, the wide-ranging series of independent study days — along with the eleventh edition of the annual Museum Ideas conference — will look at new models of collaborative and socially engaged participatory practice, designing museum experiences in the digital age, progressive public engagement, community-led programming, immersive experiences, co-creation, social impact, and much more.

The National Gallery and King’s College London jointly launched National Gallery X (NGX), a collaborative research & development programme exploring the potential of new technologies for galleries in the future © The National Gallery / King’s College London

Designing Museum Experiences in the Digital Age — National Gallery X, 22 March or 14 June
(two opportunities to attend)

The technologies maturing in the next ten years will reshape what it means to be a museum more than any others in the last 250 years. As the internet merges with the physical world, 5G telecoms, AI, blockchain, robotics and more, it offers us the chance to rethink the relationship between people, institutions and objects.

In this study day, led by National Gallery Digital Director Chris Michaels, you will co-create your own new kinds of future museum experience and test them with real audiences. The workshop will let you learn through hands-on experience about emerging technologies, co-design practise and ways to build open innovation into your procurement and project management.

The workshop — with the option to attend in either March or June — will take place inside National Gallery X, the National Gallery’s ‘infinite studio’ for creative research and development, collaboration and experimentation, on the Gallery’s campus in London.

Workshop leader Chris Michaels is Director of Digital, Communications and Technology at The National Gallery, London. He is the founder of National Gallery X, a creative R+D programme and innovation studio launched in 2019. In 2021 he was named an AHRC Creative Industries Policy and Engagement Fellow, a Bloomberg Technology Fellow and a 5G Trailblazer by Ericsson. Chris is a Senior Visiting Research Fellow at King’s College London, has a PhD from the University of Bristol, and an MPA in Innovation and Public Purpose from University College London.

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Gangalidda and Garawa Senior Elders and men, Her Excellency Vicki Treadell CMG, MVO, British High Commissioner to Australia and the AIATSIS Return of Cultural Heritage team celebrate the return of material in Moungibi (Burketown), December 2019.

Opening Up: Creating Your Own Co-Creation Model — Museum of London, 29 March

Improving access to collections for a wider range of people is increasingly becoming a social, political and economic reality for many museums. As the arts, culture and heritage needs of communities are prioritised, a range of possible strategies and outcomes to support this work have emerged including repatriation, decolonisation and co-creation.

In this study day, led by independent Arts and Culture Consultant Stephen Welsh, you will devise your own co-creation model that responds to the needs of communities, collections and modes of collaboration. The workshop will allow you to learn from several case studies about developing and delivering co-creation policies, practice and projects. Working in small groups with a welcoming and informal atmosphere, study day participants will benefit from expert guidance and support.

Workshop leader Stephen Welsh is an independent Arts and Culture Consultant. Over the past 15 years he has held a number of community and collections focused roles, including the Curator of Living Cultures at Manchester Museum (2007-2020) and Project Curator at the International Slavery Museum (2005-2007). Since 2016 he has been a HLF North committee member.

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© Museum of Ordinary People

Curating with Feeling: Creating Relatable Exhibitions — Museum of London, 5 April

As museums work to become more inclusive and relevant, how can we curate exhibitions that more people can see something of themselves in? Connection is key.

This study day, led by Lucy Malone, explores the questions: How do I make our collections relatable? How can museums spark empathy through the objects in their collection? How can museums revisit and reimagine collections? How can museums engage visitors on a deeper level?

All participants will take part in an workshop using their own everyday objects to explore layers of meaning and shared experience. They will also explore case studies of museums that have successfully curated exhibitions with emotional resonance that excite and engage audiences through their radical relatability.

Workshop Leader Lucy Malone is Co-Founder of The Museum of Ordinary People, an award-winning curator and artist, and an Associate Lecturer at University of the Arts London. Lucy’s curatorial practice is situated within a socially active and feminist framework and her research interests are based in participatory / inclusive practice. Lucy has a degree in Psychosocial Studies from Birkbeck College and an MA in Culture, Criticism and Curation from Central Saint Martins.

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© Jon Sleigh

Appling Class to Collections — Museum of London, 26 April

Both socially and through our museum collections, we have inherited rich conversations on class studies. These narratives are alternatively powerful, emotional, uplifting or divisive. How can we use collections to explore class, and in turn ourselves?

This workshop combines detailed exploration of class and social inequality, combined with a practical application in engagement and ethics. How do we explore class as a way of bringing others together? How can collections be used as tools of advocacy for others? What contemporary relevance do they have to us today? How do we use objects and collections ethically? How do we safeguard ourselves and others within narratives on inequality? Are we the right people to present these conversations? Combining powerful museum examples with a range of expert speakers, this workshop offers a warm, collaborative, and practical environment to explore class within museums.

Workshop leader Jon Sleigh (he/him) is a learning officer, learning curator and art history writer. He works freelance nationally as a specialist in fine art engagement with a diverse portfolio of arts institutions, museum and heritage sites across the UK. Clients include The National Gallery, The National Portrait Gallery, The National Archives, Historic Royal Palaces, Art Fund, V&A, Government Art Collection DCMS and the Arts Council Collection. Prior to this Jon worked for Birmingham Museums Trust / The Arts Collection in Round One of the acclaimed ACE National Partners Programme. Jon has built a strong reputation for innovation, applied ethics and delivery of projects reflecting inclusive futures. He has a passion for challenging and underrepresented narratives in art – co-producing with communities and bringing their lived experience to artworks for advocacy.

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© Thanh Sinden

Building Equitable Participation: A Durational Approach to Engagement — Museum of London, 3 May

How do you build trusting and purposeful relationships with stakeholders and keep their engagement for the long term? In this study workshop you will look at a range of engagement practices and frameworks with examples of participation centred on ethos of equity, care and empowerment to serve communities. You will be led through a process of planning your engagement and participation approach, devising appropriate strategies that meet the values, creative and social mission and purpose of your organisation. You will explore what being a purpose-led organisation means from vision, strategy into an action plan.

“The civic role of museums in the 21st century needs to be rooted in purpose and usefulness to social developments and social justice. I see museums as super connectors and super generators for positive social actions. When we choose to, we can ensure that everyone who engages with our organisation exchanges values, experiences growth – of ideas, relationships and meaning, wellbeing and belonging” — Thanh Sinden.

Workshop leader Thanh Sinden is a talented strategic thinker and an independent consultant and coach in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, organisational development, community engagement and participation in the Arts and Cultural sector. Her work has taken her across the UK and internationally with groups and organisations to make change real. A collaborator, facilitator and enabler for change, Thanh works with compassion, encouragement, incisiveness and critical insight and has a strong track record of helping organisations build and grow teams and maximise social impact. Thanh works with teams to build vision and purpose in a strategic way to turn plans into actions for a more inclusive sector.

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Creating playful, immersive and gamified experiences with Sacha Coward

Creating Immersive Games in Your Museum — Museum of London, 17 May or 13 Sep
(two opportunities to attend)

In this study day participants get the unique experience of building and playing their own escape rooms. In groups they will respond to themes and stories in real heritage sites and then using escape room props, equipment and tools, will devise their own pop-up escape rooms. Playing the roles of designer and player they will get a real sense for what makes a successful immersive experience.

You will benefit from an in-depth walk-through of the entire process of designing, developing and delivering an immersive playable experience and discover how you don’t need ludicrous budgets to create a memorable experience in your museum.

You will learn how to turn themes and collection stories into puzzles, how to create an exciting narrative that has historical integrity and how to structure a game so it is sustainable. But the main goal of this session is to get participants to think outside the box… by literally breaking out of the box!

Workshop leader Sacha Coward is an experienced escape room designer and museum professional. He will use his skills and experience of working in the weird world between these sectors to offer you hands-on tips on how museums (of almost any scale and theme) can create fun, frightening, thrilling and meaningful experiences.

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© Science Museum

Creating Exhibitions That Deliver — Museum of London, 7 June

New exhibitions and galleries play a central role in connecting museums with their audiences. Creating them offers a major opportunity to share your collections and ideas, to build your profile and to demonstrate your relevance. But these projects also take precious time, money and resource. It has never been more critical that we create exhibitions that deliver: connecting audiences with our collections and our institutional ambitions.

In this study day, led by experienced exhibition-maker Emily Scott-Dearing, you will reflect on the purpose of your exhibitions and learn tools and techniques for crystallising what your exhibition is saying and making every object and asset count. The workshop will include inspiring case studies and practical insights learned from delivering exhibitions and galleries in a range of settings and scales.

Workshop leader Dr Emily Scott-Dearing is a museum and public engagement consultant with 20 years experience in interpretive planning and exhibition delivery. Her current and recent work includes exhibitions with Wellcome Collection, Natural History Museum, and Bletchley Park. At the Science Museum in London she led multi-disciplinary teams to deliver an array of galleries and exhibitions including as Lead Curator for the Museum’s new Medicine Galleries providing strategic direction and content leadership. As Head of Exhibitions & Programmes she launched the acclaimed Collider and Cosmonauts exhibitions. Prior to her work in the cultural sector Emily was a biomedical research scientist. She holds a degree in Biology from University College London and gained her PhD from the University of Cambridge.

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© Jon Sleigh

Defying Ageism: The Power of Collections in Advocacy — Museum of London, 21 June

Ageism sits quietly within many cultures, and casts a long shadow within our museum collections. Objects and artworks often depict an idealised, romantic or misleading image of ageing. Interpretations which lead us to see the elderly as ‘sweet’ or ‘unproblematic’ are deeply ageist, and deny the rich emotional and intellectual life of those aging well.

How can we challenge this narrative, and use pieces for the advocacy of those aging well today? How in turn can we orientate collections for the advocacy of others? This session explores practical ways in which we can reread and use collections for age positivity. Combining powerful museum examples with a range of expert speakers, this session offers a warm, collaborative, and practical environment to explore engagement on ageing within museums.

Workshop leader Jon Sleigh (he/him) is a learning officer, learning curator and art history writer. He works freelance nationally as a specialist in fine art engagement with a diverse portfolio of arts institutions, museum and heritage sites across the UK. Clients include The National Gallery, National Portrait Gallery, The National Archives, Historic Royal Palaces, Art Fund, V&A, Government Art Collection DCMS and the Arts Council Collection. Prior to this Jon worked for Birmingham Museums Trust / The Arts Collection in Round One of the acclaimed ACE National Partners Programme. Jon has built a strong reputation for innovation, applied ethics and delivery of projects reflecting inclusive futures. He has a passion for challenging and underrepresented narratives in art – co-producing with communities and bringing their lived experience to artworks for advocacy.

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Dan Vo © ISKA Photography

Developing Community-Led Queer Programming in Museums — Museum of London, 28 June

Discover how to create award-winning, community-led tours and event specific museum programming. Inclusion and outreach are essential to museum futures, and queer visitors are an important and crucial audience that must be catered to. This workshop will give participants the ability to develop programming inspired by their own museum collection that will make them relevant to the diverse LGBTQ+ communities. While there is a focus on queer programming, this bespoke workshop can certainly also be used by participants who want to co-curate with any minority groups or traditionally underserved audiences.

There will be practical exercises in small groups and a facilitated discussion to examine the development, representation and inclusion of queer narratives in museums and how this may apply to each participant’s own goals. A set of models will be worked through to enable each participant to develop a bespoke strategy for their own museum and collection that tackles elements such as internal buy in, content development, programme deployment and audience community building.

The study day will be informative but will remain informal with participants encouraged to contribute and share. There will be fun activities to facilitate relaxed discussions. This is a great opportunity for participants who want to bring inclusive museum practices to their museum. You’ll not only get thinking about how this can be achieved, but also walk away from the day with practical next steps for reaching your goals.
Workshop leader Dan Vo is a freelance museum consultant. He has been dubbed “a leading figure in the world of alternative museum tours” by The New York Times and described by the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan as one of “our most inspiring LGBTQ+ Londoners”. He founded the award-winning V&A LGBTQ+ Tours and has developed programmes for The National Gallery, National Galleries of Scotland and National Museum Wales. Dan was co-presenter of ‘Museum From Home’ and ‘Museum Passion’ for BBC Arts.

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Wellcome Library, London © Wellcome Collection

People Centred and Community Led Interpretation — Museum of London, 12 July

In this era of participation, this study day will explore how museums and science centres now engage with communities in more active and meaningful ways.

Participants will have the opportunity to learn from successful case studies of how museums have effectively worked with communities to co-create exhibitions. The workshop will also be exploring what happens when communities gain agency and demand more than just a say in future interactions with cultural institutions. It will examine what this means for your public offer and support your thinking and development surrounding exhibitions that value community input. The study day will include sessions on the spectrum of participation, how you continue the relationship with communities after exhibitions open, the question of agency, and what people centred/ community led participation will look like at your organisation.

Workshop leader Mike Sarna has worked in museums for over 25 years from small to large — including eight years as Director of Collections and Senior Curator at the Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago, and six years as Head of Interpretation and Design at the Natural History Museum in London. Between 2012–2018 Mike served as Director, Collections and Public Engagement, at Royal Museums Greenwich where he led the development of the public offer across four museums and the care and conservation of the collection. This included leading their £25 million Endeavour Project with the opening of four new permanent galleries.

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Conference: Museum Ideas 2022 — Museum of London, 6 October

With a progressive attitude and international outlook, the Museum Ideas conference in London has welcomed thousands of museum workers from over 30 countries to share the ideas shaping the future of museums.

Museum Ideas 2022, the eleventh edition of the annual event, will focus on the ideas that are crucial to creating surprising and remarkable museum experiences and support the people who are working to advance the necessary and long-overdue changes required in museums. Informal and independent, the conference is there to challenge the status quo and will promote new ways of thinking and doing and prioritise the changes needed for museums to become honest, ethical, and empathetic.

Each year the conference brings together a deliberately eclectic group of speakers and challenges them to share transformative ideas in concise, powerful talks. The aim is for delegates to be challenged by perspectives outside their own experience, specialism and locality. What unites the conference is the passion, commitment and enthusiasm of contributors along with their desire to share valuable expertise and experience.

We want Museum Ideas to be a genuinely creative experience for delegates — a conference where you can feel both deeply moved and joyous, welcome and challenged. Our aim is to provide a space to explore how museums can be reimagined as progressive, collaborative, and people focused organisations in a time of growing inequality, environmental emergency, and economic and political crisis.

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First Speakers Announced
The 2022 conference will be chaired by Dan Hicks, Professor of Contemporary Archaeology at the University of Oxford, and Curator of World Archaeology at Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford. Confirmed speakers include Melanie Keen, Director of Wellcome Collection in London.

Widening Participation
Over a quarter of Museum Ideas 2022 tickets are either free or were made available at the reduced rate of £97. This rate was available for museum workers who are often underrepresented at conferences, students, freelancers, those working at independent museums, and people new to the sector.

Speaker Highlights
At the 2018 conference award-winning playwright Linda Brogan spoke about the ‘Excavating The Reno’ community project in Manchester’s Moss Side. Bringing together archaeologists, artists, social historians and the public, the project explored the story of a soul and funk club that became a sanctuary from racism in the 1970s. Linda’s talk was extraordinary. This is what Sandra Shakespeare from Museum Detox had to say about it: “Excellent to see the work of Excavating The Reno — an absolutely remarkable fresh change to see such honesty at a museum conference where the tendency is always to showcase the great and the good. It was deeply moving to witness vulnerability and authenticity.” This was echoed by Dhikshana Pering: “Still thinking about the Excavating The Reno project at Museum Ideas — hands down no conference session in my life has left such an impact”

Kayleigh Bryant-Greenwell, Head of Public Programs at Smithsonian American Art Museum, opened the 2019 conference and set the agenda with her compelling talk ‘Break the Wheel: Museums Challenge the Status Quo’: “As museum practitioners we can allow museums to be a tool of the establishment, the powered, even the oppressor. But through a reflective practice and a reimagining of our purpose, we can instead exercise the power of the museum towards challenging the status quo.” Dr Lauren Vargas from the University of Leicester commented: “This may have been the best museum conference presentation I have ever witnessed — thank you for reminding museums of their role in challenging the status quo and how power is determined by relationship with social justice.”

Other highlights from previous editions of the conference have included ‘The Right to Remember’ by Bonita Bennett, Director of the District Six Museum in Cape Town; ‘A Year in Museums’ by Sree Sreenivasan, Chief Digital Officer at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC; ‘The Good of Being Different in a Time of Sameness’ by Mike Sarna, Royal Museums Greenwich; ‘Immersive Theatre in Museums’ by Peter Higgin, Director of Enrichment at immersive theatre company Punchdrunk; and ‘Talking to Strangers’ by Rosie Stanbury from Wellcome Collection.

Since the conference launched in 2012, Museum Ideas has featured speakers from South Africa, Argentina, India, United Arab Emirates, Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand, United States, Canada, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Spain, The Netherlands, and UK — and has welcomed delegates from over 30 countries.

Room to Think
Museum Ideas has a dedicated quiet space so delegates have the option to take a break away from the busy conference programme. We recognise that conference experiences can often feel more suited to outgoing and neurotypical people. Networking areas especially can often be noisy and potentially difficult places to navigate and feel comfortable. We felt the addition of the dedicated quiet space goes some way to improving the conference experience for delegates who are feeling anxious, stressed, or experiencing sensory overload. The room can also be used as a place for reflection, meditation, contemplation or prayer. It is part of trying to ensure all delegates feel equally valued and welcome.

Conference Venue
The Museum of London documents the history of London from prehistoric to modern times. The museum is located on London Wall and is a few minutes’ walk north of St Paul’s Cathedral, overlooking the remains of the Roman city wall and on the edge of the oldest part of London, now its main financial district. It is primarily concerned with the social history of London and its inhabitants throughout time. The museum is the largest urban history collection in the world, with more than six million objects. It welcomes more than one million visitors each year. An informal post-conference social / drinks will take place in the London Wall Bar — just next to the Museum of London.

Environmental Responsibility
We recognise that all events have an environmental impact. To reduce waste (and help keep ticket prices down) we don’t provide lunch; all conference signage is made from recycled cardboard and is 100% recyclable; delegate badges are printed on flower seeded paper; and conference bags are made from recycled paper rather than using traditional cotton tote bags.

Conference Sponsors
Thank you to the Museum Ideas sponsors. Some have been with the conference since it launched 11 years ago and others have joined the event along the way. Thank you to each of them for supporting the museum community and helping to share ideas. The Museum Ideas 2022 sponsors are: • Art Fund • Absolute Museum & Gallery Products • BECK • Cogapp • Designmap • Haley Sharpe Design • Locatify • Meyvaert • Opus Instruments • Squint/Opera • Vernon Systems


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