Top Tips for delivering international cultural learning projects...

December 12, 2016

Halima Khanom is Community Engagement Officer at Royal Parks (organising bat walks are a part of her job description!) but was working in the National and International Learning and Engagement team at Imperial War Museum when she started a Transformers project to explore this international learning.

Halima coordinated a project called Make Film Make History, in which young people aged 18 – 25 from UK, Denmark and Germany created films in response to the Battle of the Somme film. The idea was that this audience would bring not only younger, but also more international perspectives, to outputs.

While attending residential workshops in Denmark with young people and museum professionals from the three countries, Halima reflected just how very different the delivery of cultural learning can be.

Halima’s top tips for delivering international cultural learning projects...

A lot of these tips will ring true for any museum learning projects, but are even more essential in the complicated world of museum learning projects across borders. When you have the adding pressures (which in their own right can be the benefits!) of translating between cultures, work practices and language barriers, these tips might come in handy.

1. Do your homework
The best sort of homework for starting an international learning project is to find someone who has done it before. A lot of international working at the moment still focuses on touring exhibitions or collection loans, so museum learning projects operating internationally are still relatively new territory. That being said, there are some fantastic examples in Brighton and Hove Museum World Stories Project and Luton Cultures Truck Art Project.

2. Map your international links
Go through your existing international links. You might think you don't have any, but try the local university, see if there have been any objects loaned abroad through your curators, and build a project through these links rather than building from scratch. More here

3. Challenge your assumptions
"But its best practice in the UK to..." might not translate in the new cultural context which your project operates in. Invite your international delivery partner to explain how they might deliver a workshop, explore a cultural topic etc you might learn a new trick or two.

4. Flexibility, flexibility, flexibility
Youth engagement projects have to be flexible at the best of times, but even more so when collaborating with international partners. Don’t be disheartened if time frames lag, and things don’t go exactly as you had planned.

5. Shall we go Digital?
Think carefully about whether digital elements in the project can enhance face to face contact. At times, we overestimate how much digital can do for us, but Google hangout, digitised collections and dialogue cafes do have their perks in supporting museum learning across borders. More here

6. Memorandum of understanding
Be very clear of what you and your international delivery partner are doing, and what joint project goals you are working towards. It is hard enough being on the same page when you are collaborating with colleagues in the same country, and using the same language, but ever more critical to understand each other when working across borders.

For more inspiration here is another great example of an international learning project from Opera Circus