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
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!
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.
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.
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.
Really excited to be launching into 2019 having just worked on a couple of great projects – one giving out grants and one receiving.
Just before Christmas the AIM Biffa Award History Makers panel met to distribute the final grants in this £1M fund to support the creation of new exhibitions telling the stories of inspirational historical figures. I can’t reveal who has been successful just yet, but it was a real challenge narrowing down the number of applications we had to the money available.
The projects we funded last year will all be launching soon, including the story of Joseph Lancaster’s Educational Revolution at the British Schools Museum in Hitchin. All grant holders are asked to supply AIM with a short video about their project, which makes quite a few wince with nerves. On the basis of this trailer, I don’t think it is going to be a problem for Andy and the team in Hitchin.
Closer to home, Bridport Museum received a fantastic Christmas present in the form of a £101,000 grant from the Museums Association Esmee Fairbairn Collections Fund. The grant will allow the museum to carry out a review and rationalisation of their collections, guided by the community, to ensure they are holding ‘The Right Stuff’ (project title right there!) for the right reasons, in the right places. The work is a natural follow on from the museum redevelopment of a couple of years ago, and will hopefully lead to some great shared learning for other museums with too much stuff!
So, an exciting end to 2018 and lots to look forward to in 2019.
Do of course get in touch if you have work you think I might be able to help with. Always happy to chat through your ideas.
We did it! With the amazing support, help, hard work and expertise of the staff and volunteers, the collections of Trowbridge Museum are now safely into secure, temporary storage for the next couple of years whilst the major museum refit takes place. Our target was to have everything out or protected on site by the end of the year, so we’re actually ahead of schedule!
It was a great team effort – and thanks must go to:
who all brought their skill, expertise, patience and in some cases just sheer muscle to the job.
Huge thanks too to Hanne and Hannah at the museum, who battled budgets, boxes and bruises to make sure things happened on the right days and in the right order. It was great working with you. Putting it all back will be easy after this!
With this phase now complete I’m stepping back from proceedings as the museum team start the exciting job of planning what the new museum will look like. Can’t wait to see it.
I thought I’d use this post to give a plug to one of the museum’s I mentor – Athelstan Museum in Malmesbury.
Never ones to rest on their laurels, last year the 100% volunteer run museum completed a successful fundraising campaign and were able to purchase a disused Moravian Church in the town, The last 12 months have been spent re-purposing this as a new community facility for the town, providing museum, exhibition and event space.
As part of Heritage Open Days 2018, the church will be open to the public for the first time this month (Sat and Sunday 15th and 16th September). I’ve had a sneak preview, and it is looking great and will be a real asset to both the museum and town. Full details at HODs website
The building itself dates from 1770 and was used as a church until the mid 1990s.
I’ve been really enjoying working with Bridport Museum as a collections consultant, supporting the small staff team and volunteers, first with their HLF funded museum redisplay and then on various other projects.
Last month I played a very small part in helping them plan and deliver an ambitious exhibition of costumes and textiles. I wanted to mention it as it is a great example of the sort of activity that can be delivered by being clever with money, calling in favours, and making the most of all the skills and goodwill of partners and volunteers.
The exhibition was hosted in Bridport Arts Centre, the first time the two organisations had collaborated, (but I suspect not the last). This gave the Arts Centre a very different exhibition and the museum access to a large display space.
The bulk of the curatorial work was carried out by volunteers who have been working with the collection for many years, so know it very well. This included key decisions such as what to display.
There was a long list of others who made it happen, contributing in ways large and small (and I’ve probably missed someone out):
Local businesses (materials)
Trustees (storage, logistics and carpentry skills)
Bridport Town Council (lifting and shifting)
Other Museums (mannequin loans, notably Dorchester and Chippenham)
Family and friends of staff and volunteers (making padded hangers and helping install and deinstall)
It was a real team effort and a great success. An accompanying gallery talk sold out so quickly it had to be rebooked and repeated.
Alongside all this, the museum took the bold decision to not just put on a traditional costume display, but to try and tell some of the behind the scenes stories of what goes into curating a collection like this, including collections care and decisions as to what to acquire (Although it became ‘Bridport Undressed’, we did have ‘Airing our dirty laundry in public’ as a working title at one point!)
For those of you who work in or with museums with limited resources you will recognise this way of working I’m sure.
I just wanted to take the opportunity to say well done to the whole team. A job well done.
Last month I had the great pleasure of attending the opening events for two of the new exhibitions which have been funded through the AIM Biffa Award History Makers programme.
I’ve been project managing this programme for AIM since it started and it was so lovely to see the first exhibitions come to life. There is another due next month, and very soon we shall be announcing the latest round of successful applicants and opening Round 3 for applications. Keep an eye on the AIM website for full details if you might be interested in applying.