Museum Ideas Conference: another week another conference

Last month, staff were asked if they would be interested in representing the Royal Pavilion & Museums at the Museum Ideas Conference held at the London Science Museum. I applied expecting to get rejected as I have attended conferences in the past, most recently the week before, and it is probably someone else’s turn — so I was pleasantly surprised when I was accepted.

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The conference was an opportunity for museums around the world to present what they have been doing differently or experimentally recently. Museums presenting at the conferene included Medical Museion, Copenhage; Jane Addams Hull-House Museum, Chicago; Jewish Museum, New York; Manchester Museum; The Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford; The Old Town Museum, Aarhus; and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, to name a few. Not forgetting our own Helen Mears who was talking about Brighton Museum & Art Gallery’s present Fashion Cities Africa display.

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At the Royal Pavilion a colleague and I have been working on co-ordinating the Pavilion Tales programme of short talks, so I was particularly interested in the talk by Gravity Goldberg from the Contemporary Jewish Museum, San Francisco, on the museum’s programme of outside speakers giving talks associated with the displays and collection. This is slightly different to how we at the Royal Pavilion have set up the programme, as our speakers are members of staff, but it is an idea to consider for the future when the programme has developed further, and it is something that Bite Size talks held in Brighton Museum & Art Gallery has already started to try.

In the afternoon Tobias Lumb of National Railway Museum, York presented on their partnership project with York Theatre Royal. When the theatre had to close for refurbishment they looked for new places to perform. The project involved building a stage and seating in an unused part of the museum and static performance spaces including inside some of the train carriages.  The play In Fog and Failing Snow was written using some of the museums archives. When the run was finished the museum theatre also put on The Railway Children, again in keeping with the museum’s theme.

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The final talk of the day was from Barbara Wolf from the Deutsches Historisches Museum, Berlin, discussing their recent project training refugees to give tours around the museum in their native language to other refugees. The tour guides picked objects from the collections which were relevant to them and were taught how to give a tour featuring these objects. Since the project started seven months ago thousands of refugees have attended the tours which German tourists have also wanted to join to learn about other cultures.

Overall I really enjoyed the opportunity of going to the conference and I am currently working on a project with the Royal Pavilion and Museums to put on our own conference in November. Although I have been to conferences before, I have never noticed some of the logistics as much as I did for this one, which will feed in to the planning of the Workforce Development Conference.

Holly Parsons, Visitor Services Officer