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

AIM Conference 2019 highlights

Just back from an excellent few days at AIM Conference in Newark. In no particular order, a few highlights for me were:

Catching up with friends and colleagues old and new – AIM conference is fab for this – super friendly and relaxed

Hearing from some of our AIM Biffa Award History Makers projects and talking to people who have potential exciting ideas for the next round. Keep an eye on the AIM website for full details of when this goes live

Saturday study tour to National Holocaust Centre and Museum and Creswell Crags. Both amazing in very different ways. A real privilege to hear Simon Winston share his story with us. Both venues were great hosts to us and return visits are definitely on the cards

Creswell Crags
Creswell Crags

The ‘horrible histories’ nature of the National Civil War Centre in Newark. It wasn’t all like this of course, but they did have some great gruesome interpretation like this bullet removing activity!

Bullet Extractor Interactive at National Civil War Centre
Bullet Extractor Interactive at National Civil War Centre

Wiltshire getting a mention in the research being carried out by Fiona Candlin at Birkbeck, mapping independent museums from 1960 to 2020. Turns out we’re the Local Authority area with the third highest number of independent museums. Ties in nicely with a piece of work I am currently carrying out for Wiltshire Council looking at who collects what in the county, where we have identified 74 different museum organisations.

The top notch vegan food at all venues. First time I’ve ever seen the vegan biscuits guarded! Guess that’s what happens when your obscure lifestyle choice goes mainstream.

Congratulations and thanks to all the team who make the conference happen. Hope you get a bit of a rest before work starts on planning for next year.

National Paralympic Heritage Centre

National Paralympic Heritage Centre

Whilst many of us will have had the 29th of March in mind as significant day in the ongoing Brexit saga, for me and quite a few others it was all about celebrating another project that did manage to complete on time.

It was a real pleasure to be in Stoke Mandeville for the launch of the National Paralympic Heritage Centre, which tells the story of the Paralympic movement, beginning with the pioneering work of Professor Sir Ludwig Guttmann.

Professor Guttmann was chosen as one of last years successful AIM Biffa Award History Makers, with a grant awarded to support the development of the new exhibition.

As many of you will know it is a long road from funding application to opening the doors to the public, so huge congratulations to Vicky and the team for a great success.

It was really nice to hear such positive feedback from those attending, including descendants of Professor Guttmann himself.

Guttmann family entries in the visitor book
Guttmann family entries in the visitor book

We are just working on the paperwork for this years crop of successful History Makers projects which will be announced soon on the AIM website.

Congratulations Weymouth Museum

Brewers Quay, Weymouth
Brewers Quay, Weymouth

Great to hear the news last month that Weymouth Museum have been successful in securing a development grant from The National Lottery Heritage Fund to develop proposals for their site at Brewers Quay.

The volunteer team there have persevered for some time against the odds to keep the museum open and the collections of the town secure.

This funding news, and the granting of planning permission for the wider redevelopment of the site, gives the green light for work to begin developing the museum that Weymouth deserves.

Well done all!