Under the bonnet of Modes

The Modes Users Association (MUA) have just released the latest version of their Modes Complete museum collections management software (stop reading now if you are already yawning, but please read on if you are a bit of a data geek like me).

For the last few months I’ve been part of the team beavering away behind the scenes testing the software before release. As someone who has been working with Modes software for over 20 years it’s been great to be a part of the process of bringing this latest iteration to light.

One of the great assets of Modes has always been how its development is informed by sector and user needs. I recall back in the 1990s when digital imaging was becoming popular and affordable the excitement of seeing the first version of Modes that could easily display images of your collection items, something we now take for granted.

The same goes for recent developments, with calls for simpler and faster searching of data being addressed. The latest version comes with ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ speed searching of large data files, which is fantastic.

Word search in Modes Complete 1.5
Word search in Modes Complete 1.5

Whilst we were testing, we were already compiling a wish list of things that we’d like the next version to be able to do, and no sooner was this new release out of the door than thoughts were turning to the future…..

But for now, if you’re a current Modes user, upgrade to version 1.5 and feel the speed. If you’re not using Modes, or remember a DOS based version from many many years ago, take a look at what it currently delivers and you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Please get in touch if you need help or support with your Modes system or training for users. I offer Modes Associate training and support – remote and on-site – alongside that delivered directly by the MUA. Further details here.

Athelstan and Chard – website refresh

Just wanted to say congratulations and give a plug for the refreshed websites of Chard Museum and Athelstan Museum, Malmesbury.

Athelstan Museum website

Both have been given a makeover and recently relaunched as part of wider development work at both museums to improve user communication and offer.

Chard Museum website

These two museums are 100% volunteer run and although physically closed to the public at the moment are busy behind the scenes devising and delivering content and programmes.

Well done all involved!

What a difference a month makes

Wow. How the world has changed since I last posted on here…..

First and foremost I hope you and yours are well and safe.

A window into my life over the last month would be:

Work/Serious stuff

As a freelancer I was already used to working from home, but now share the office with my wife every day. This has necessitated setting up a ‘when I’m having a remote meeting’ calendar so we don’t clash.

Zoom, Teams, Skype, Slack etc are now all a lot more familiar than they used to be.

I (successfully) delivered my first remote training session, which all involved agreed went a lot better than we were expecting!

With most people I usually work for now on furlough (another new term that is now very familiar) or a reduced service lots of projects I was working on have had to be put on hold. Fingers crossed we can pick up again on the other side.

So much brilliant support and advice from across the sector. One great example of many here from South West Museum Development

AIM like many others have adjusted their offer and have made their excellent bulletin available online. The current issue has articles on two projects I’ve worked on: An update on recent exhibition openings for projects funded by AIM Biffa Award History Makers grants, which I manage on behalf of AIM, and a piece from Emily at Bridport Museum on ‘Turner in Bridport’ which we worked on together last summer.

Home/Fun stuff

SO grateful to have a garden. Daily shambolic badminton across the flower beds keeping me fit.

The Getty Art Challenge (and others similar) is great fun and has exhibited some amazing skill and ingenuity. This does not fall into that category!

Flour Thrower
No flour was wasted in the making of this picture

Some of you will know I’m a big music fan and one of the essentials of a festival for me is a round or two of Ringo Music Bingo. This can now be enjoyed from the comfort of your own home. A great way to pass a Saturday night (as long as you are prepared for cringeworthy puns).

So there you have it. A month unlike any other.

See you on the other side

Hang in there

Wasn’t quite sure what to call this post – such unprecedented times.

Talking to friends and colleagues over the last few days its clear we are all learning to adjust together to this new way of being.

Not easy, but it is temporary and we will come out the other side.

Museums and other cultural organisations are being amazing. Listening to advice, thinking foremost of staff, volunteers and visitors and taking the hard, hard decision to close or curtail services and cancel events. Not easy, as for many this now means a big drop in income for a period of time. Hats off to all of you for doing the hard thing, but the right thing.

On a practical note, AIM have put together a page on their website with advice and links to all the key information and support. A useful one stop shop.

As often happens, a crisis brings out the best in people. If you’ve not seen it, I liked this idea. A simple card you can print out and pop through the letterbox of a neighbour to offer a helping hand.

Covid-19 Neighbour note

Stay safe, stay in touch and I look forward to getting back to normality with you all when we can


Turner in Malmesbury

On the day that the new £20 note is launched featuring JMW Turner I wanted to say a huge ‘well done’ to my friends at Athelstan Museum Malmesbury on their successful fund-raising campaign to purchase a Turner watercolour of Malmesbury Abbey.

Malmesbury Abbey by JMW Turner
Malmesbury Abbey by JMW Turner

The purchase of the painting will be accompanied by a redesign of the museum’s mezzanine floor to create a suitable display area and a programme of audience activities and events inspired by the Turner.

Hot on the heels of saving and re-purposing the Moravian Church in the town, now open as The Rausing Building for events, exhibitions and activities, this purchase shows what can be achieved by a small 100% volunteer run museum if they set their minds to it.

Well done to all the team and keep aiming high!

Creative Wiltshire

Happy New Year one and all

Starting off the new decade with a nice mix of exciting new projects and continuing work with some organizations I have worked with for a while now.

Looking back to the end of last year I finished the evaluation of a National Lottery Heritage Funded Collecting Cultures funded project run by the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre – Creative Wiltshire.

Creative Wiltshire infographic

Over the last 5 years museums, libraries and archives across the county have acquired over 250 new objects for their collections, telling the story of the creative industries in Wiltshire.

Inspired by and supporting this a wide range of activities and events have been delivered and enjoyed by over 47,000 participants.

The project story can be found online at https://creativewiltshire.com/ and in the film at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=70ttQAwh_So

Work has been delivered in partnership with Swindon Museum and Art Gallery and
Salisbury Museum, supported by a wide range of other organisations and individuals.

This ambitious project aimed high and succeeded in shining a light on an under-
represented area of Wiltshire’s heritage. More is now known about Creative Wiltshire and more people have enjoyed it.

Relationships forged during the project will continue to develop, ensuring heritage and
creativity remain linked and grow stronger together.


A la Modes

Warning – this post contains discussion of museum documentation. If that’s not your thing, maybe look elsewhere!

One of the services I offer is support and training with the Modes Collections Management System. After 20+ years working with the software and getting to know the team I’ve decided to jump in even further and have joined the Modes Users Association as a Director.

This means that alongside my work with clients as a Modes Associate, I am also now part of the governance team helping shape the future direction of Modes and ensuring a sustainable future for what remains the most popular collections management system in the UK.

Yesterday was the annual Modes workshop and AGM, held at Salisbury Museum, where over 50 Modes users came together to hear both inspirational high end and back to basics ways of Maximising Modes.

I spoke about work I have been doing with Poole Museum to reconcile some data that has got a bit confused over the years and was also invited to give a few top tips for using Modes.

We also heard from Orange Leaf systems about some nice online mapping work they have been doing with Modes data and from Southampton Museums about ways to use Modes to help you with collections management tasks such as loans and emergency planning.

It’s great to be part of the team and I look forward to helping steer Modes forward into the future.

If you’d like a chat about any Modes or documentation challenge do get in touch and either I or the Modes support team in Derby will be happy to help.

Turner in Bridport

Turner painting of West Bay, Bridport

There is still time to go and see Turner’s watercolour of West Bay, Bridport, back in the town for the first time since it was painted 200 years ago.

This summer Bridport Museum have hosted the painting, on loan from Bury Art Museum. The exhibition runs until 28th Sep.

Thanks to the Lottery funded museum refurbishment and a further grant from SW Museum Development it has been possible to bring the temporary gallery space at the museum up to the standards required to host loans of this type.

It’s been an interesting journey and not without it’s challenges to pull this exhibition off and a lot of work, but hopefully worth it for the large numbers of people who have come to see the painting.

Alongside the main exhibition, the museum and other organisations in the town, have put on a really wide ranging programme of events and activities to complement the Turner.

I remember when we first sat down, probably a couple of years ago, to talk about bringing the Turner to Bridport, it was always going to be the ambition to use it as a catalyst for all sorts of other activity and development. Due to the hard work of the team, that has definitely happened.

All the details of the exhibition and events can be found on the Bridport Museum website.


Does your museum have a History Maker?

AIM Biffa Award Logo

Thanks to the generosity of Biffa Award and the success of the previously funded projects, I’m delighted to be working with AIM on a further round of History Makers grants. The programme is now open for Expressions of Interest.

Eligible organisations can apply for grants of up to £75,000 to create new exhibitions telling the inspirational stories of their chosen history maker.

Successful projects will show how the life and work of the history maker has helped shape the world we live in today.

We are particularly keen to hear from projects based on women who made history and history makers from diverse backgrounds.

All of the details of how to apply can be found on the AIM website, where you can also see details of successful applicants to previous rounds.

Our latest grant recipients, who are just getting started on their projects are:

National Coal Mining Museum for England

The Illumination Gallery – Sir Humphry Davy (1778 – 1829)

Chatsworth House Trust

Experiments, Innovation and Design: How the Paxtons Grew the Chatsworth Garden

The Cromwell Museum

Cromwell Uncovered

People’s History Museum (National Museum of Labour History)

Annie Besant & Jayaben Desai: History Makers on Strike 

Commonwealth War Graves Foundation

Noor lnayat Khan: A Woman of Conspicuous Courage

Port Sunlight Village Trust

Soap & Water: Revealing William Lever’s remarkable achievements and enduring legacy