Event | Museums Association Conference II

Lucie Fitton writes about her experience at day one of the Museums Association Conference in Glasgow...

I was last at the Museums Association conference around 10 years ago in my former practitioner museum role. Glasgow looks totally different, but I’m trying to reflect on whether museums do as well?

David Fleming set the tone clear this morning – the difference museums can make to people’s lives is nothing without the resourcing to ensure collections are properly looked after. He believes museums are still in crisis, and despite the fact not all museums may survive, he called for a clear plan. When at conferences, I often find myself thinking ‘aren’t we just preaching to the converted or saying the same old?’ So I’ve kept my ear pricked for new ideas that make me sit up and listen.

Constantly question what a museum can be: We heard about a lot of interesting work with refugees in the Seeking Refuge session – including, quite simply, being a space for refugees to kill time. However, it was most fascinating to learn Jamtli Museum in Sweden has built homes for refugees. We want our audiences to feel at home – but providing actual homes – wow!

Activism could be a way to respond to real community-driven issues: The Activism session was jammed packed and it was heartening to see just what a passionate sector this is. The case studies showed issues that came from a place of real enthusiasm and real experience, connecting staff, communities and audiences in a non-hierarchical way – a ground up approach that could help museum increase relevance?

Keeping the dialogue open is the key for challenging issues around representation: Whose Stories session looked at whether anything changed when it comes to representing minority groups in museums. This session, unsurprisingly, came with more questions that answers. In this session Laura Bennion said ‘diversity is fact, inclusion is action’ – which is great! But what is the action? I agree with speaker Basharat Khan - ensuring wider audiences are represented in museums is key, and recognising co-created outputs attract wider audiences is also vital; but most important is that engagement work has a life beyond the project – and can live on within the communities who are key museum partners. I think this can all sound so simple, but in reality we need to plan for this ‘life beyond’ at the conception.

Now I’m off to check out the Rivserside Museum and find out how my fellow delegates have also been inspired by day one.

Lucie Fitton, Head of Learning & Participation
Follow her on twitter @lucieinlondon