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Re:Fresh Project

Overview & Start Up

Re:Fresh Project Logo

Image credit: South East Museum Development Programme

In March 2013, the Surrey, East & West Sussex Museum Development Team launched the Re:Fresh project. The aim of the project is three-fold: 1. respond to long held gaps in funding for improving permanent exhibition spaces 2. to encourage more partnership work with local infrastructure, including businesses, universities and the cultural industry, and 3. to increase the museums understanding and commitment to audience needs and input.

Our objectives are: that museums benefit from expert specialist knowledge; museums have deeper community relationships; museums conduct and integrate needs analysis at all levels; museums reinvigorate their design & interpretation. 12 museums are part of this project; Redoubt Military Fortress; Shipwreck Heritage Centre; Rye Castle Museum; Brighton Toy & Model Museum; The Lightbox; Guildford Museum; Royal Logistics Corps Museum; Museum of Farnham; Henfield Museum; Worthing Museum & Art Gallery; Worthing Museum & Art Gallery; Fishbourne Roman Palace.

Outputs to date: To kick start the project Kate Measures Heritage Consulting has been commissioned to deliver her ‘Fresh-eye visit’ service to each museum to review their current interpretation and discuss areas that can be improved to enhance the overall visitor experience.

At the Kick-Off Meeting held on the 25th March at the Towner Kate shared her ‘inspirational basics’ -examples of interpretation techniques from around the country and ‘reasons for improving displays’ - what are the challenges and opportunities. The museums all brought a digital image of their ‘problem’ areas of display and discussed openly in front of the group ‘why they wanted to be a part of the project’ – their ambitions and barriers. The group then discussed how they wanted support together and how they would help Helen shape the project going forward until March 2015 as a ‘project working group’, the outputs they were interested in and the outcomes they would be working towards.

Future outputs aiming for: Over the next 2 years the group are interested in building partnerships with local design courses and businesses; looking at new digital equipment, software & training for in-house designing; mentoring or in-kind sponsorship from creative businesses; ‘green’ interpretation; collaborations with other art forms and groups; involving new audiences; evaluating impact and the visitor experience. Closer working with MDO and MDO facilitated external funding application.

Outcomes for museums: The museums improve the quality of their exhibition design & interpretation. Museums gain new skills and confidence to extend their knowledge and reach. Museums know how to advocate, present and share their message and brand capital effectively.

The group have taken their first step to achieving their outcomes by starting the analysis of internal needs and actions to improve with specialist advice, and shown a commitment to ongoing participation to be involved in an active working group to effect change with peer support.

Check out how the museums are getting on in the Re:Fresh project from 2013-2015 in the regular news updates in the left hand drop down. By sharing experiences and offering wider opportunities for museums to join in we hope we are spreading the benefits of this great project!