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'Collections Care' Peer Development Group

Museum Names

Bishop’s Waltham Museum, Isle of Wight Heritage Service, Hampshire Cultural Trust, Mary Rose Museum, Brading Roman Villa

Museum Contact

Anita Taylor, Bishop’s Waltham Museum
Caroline Hampton, Isle of Wight Heritage Service
Christine Taylor, Hampshire Cultural Trust
Eleanor Schofield, Mary Rose Museum
Jasmine Wroath, Brading Roman Villa

The Project

‘Collections Care' Peer Development Group

Dates

May 2014 - January 2015

What were the Project aims?

To create a structured, supportive community of people from Hampshire Solent museums with a common interest in Collections Care so that they can work together to learn more about it.

What was the impact of the Project?

The group learned about Collections Care through a series of study visits to members’ museums, attendance at a Collections Trust seminar and a visit to Novium, Chichester.

The study visits to members’ museums focused on conservation, documentation, storage and display and each involved a behind the scenes exploration, especially of storage facilities. The members visited the Mary Rose Museum, the Hampshire Cultural Trust’s HQ at Chilcomb House and the Isle of Wight Heritage Service’s reserve stores at Cothey Bottom. For the smallest museum in the group, Bishop’s Waltham, seeing good practice in more established museums’ stores and being able to ask about the techniques used was a key benefit of the project.

Three members of the group attended a Collections Trust Seminar in Brighton together. The event explored the changing needs and expectations of museum audiences and how Collections Management practice and digital technology can help meet them. Their joint attendance meant that the PDG members were able to reflect together on the learning from the event and the applicability to their own museums. Subsequently, three group members visited Novium, Chichester, a new purpose-built museum.

A number of partnership opportunities are now being explored based on relationships built during the project. For example possible loans from Mary Rose Trust to Bishops Waltham Museum are being considered.

What went well and what didn't go well?

Members really valued the networking opportunity. However, throughout the project, this group was challenged by the wide range of expertise amongst members. It was hard to identify activities that would be of benefit for members with significant experience in collections care and those with limited prior knowledge. The ‘behind the scenes’ visits and the opportunity to talk through museums challenges in a supportive confidential setting were valued by all members, whilst the level of the Collections Trust seminar whilst relevant to a volunteer in a small museum was less appropriate to a scientist working full time in conservation in a large museum. The topic chosen was very broad and on reflection members felt that it would have been better to identify a specific focus within collections care to channel their activities.

Members opted to have unstructured conversations during their visits rather that to use the ‘learning circles’ technique introduced at the launch. Use of the technique on a regular basis might have helped address the problems caused by the different levels of expertise in the group. The technique is specifically designed to enable those without expert knowledge to add value through open questioning. An unexpected question asked by an inexperienced person can greatly help an expert to deepen and clarify their own understanding.

The group started out with five members however one member (Brading Roman Villa) dropped out near the start of the programme as they were unable to maintain the commitment. Even after this, the number and frequency of meetings originally suggested by the Peer Development Groups project guidance were not achievable. Sensibly, the group decided to have a smaller number of well attended, effective meetings rather than spread their resource too thin.

Communication in the group was a challenge from time to time. Unfortunately this led to a wasted trip by one member to a meeting that had been cancelled.

Top Tips

  • Ensure that Collections Care peer learning activities include a hands-on element e.g. tour facilities, see equipment, contact with objects
  • Allow plenty of time for discussion
  • Agree a specific focus for discussion as Collections Care is large field
  • To enable open discussion it’s important to establish trust, so having a clear agreement of confidentiality between group is recommended
  • Take the opportunity to network not only with each other but with colleagues at the organisations you visit

What are your plans for the future?

Group members now plan to apply the specialised knowledge and expertise acquired during the project to their own museums and to use the contacts made – they intend to keep in touch as an informal network into the future. They will be proceeding with more confidence, knowing that other facilities share many of the same challenges and ‘you are not alone’!

Overall cost of the Project

£134.50. Funded by the Peer Development Groups investment budget.