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Training Bursaries: MA 'Sorted' Seminar

We've updated this case study with information from a long-term evaluation carried out in May 2015. Find out how the Training Bursary recipients are continuing to make a difference 18 months on.

Museum name

Various.

Museum contact

Helen Rees from Winchester Museums, Christine Pullen from Royal Green Jackets (Rifles) Museum, Rachel Flynn from Dimbola Museum and Galleries and Rosalinda Hardiman from Portsmouth City Museums.

Title of Project

Training Bursaries: MA 'Sorted: new approaches to collections rationalisation' seminar.

Project aims

The Training Bursary Scheme enables people working in museums in the Hampshire Solent area to attend training events across the United Kingdom. The aim of investing in four bursaries for the Museums Association's 'Sorted: new approaches to collections rationalisation' seminar in London was to build collections review capacity in the subregion and to establish a support network for museum colleagues undertaking collections reviews.

What went well and what didn’t go well?

Shortly after the seminar, Royal Green Jackets (Rifles) Museum Curator Christine Pullen said:

‘At the seminar, I learnt about the need to focus on smaller collections or groups within the collections, rather than trying to review the whole collection at once. It helped me to understand the importance of seeing the bigger picture – how the rationalisation of the collection can be used in other projects and benefit the local community as well as the museum. We have a series of projects coming up can benefit from collections reviews. I’d like to engage with the local community in these – which in turn will help to raise the profile of the museum. Having been to the seminar I have learnt that rationalisation is a positive not a negative thing and feel empowered to make the changes.’

Rosalinda Hardiman from Portsmouth City Museums said:

'Rationalisation is a 'hot' topic in the museum community at the moment, there is a realisation that full storage areas, reduced resources and a legacy of enthusiastic and often uncontrolled collecting in the past impact upon current activities. The new Accreditation standard introduces a section in the Collections Development Plan that is clearly entitled "Themes and Priorities for Rationalisation and Disposal".  Although I had attended a half day training session a few years ago on the subject of the Disposal Toolkit, I felt I would benefit by an update, so applied for a Hampshire Solent MDO bursary. I am extremely grateful for this support which enabled me to attend this very interesting and useful seminar. Points from this will be of great use in our on-going rationalisation and review of collections at Portsmouth Museums.'

Since the seminar, the Museum Development Office has encouraged the participants to stay in touch. In future similar projects, it would be beneficial to encourage sub-regional networking before the event as well, for example by putting recipients in touch with one another in advance so that they can travel together.

Some participants said that they would have valued more workshop activity to start applying techniques and also for tools and resources to have been collated and shared with participants. These comments were taken into consideration in commissioning a more in-depth workshop in Hampshire Solent which several of the Bursary recipients attended as further development.

What was the impact of the project?

All of the recipients are responsible for reviewing collections in their museums and intended to apply their learning during the coming year. In addition, all four committed to sharing their learning with others in the sub-region. To this end, two recipients contributed a discussion session to a Hampshire Solent museums sharing event in November 2013. An article in the Hampshire Solent Museum Development e-newsletter ensured that colleagues across the subregion were informed about the seminar and told who the four recipients were.

Based on the interest generated through this and feedback on different presenters at Sorted the session, an expert provider was selected to deliver an intensive 'Reviewing and Rationalising' workshop in Winchester in Summer 2014. This event was very well attended and received extremely positive feedback.

Reflecting on the seminar 18 months on as part of long-term Training Bursary evaluation, Dr Rachel Flynn, Exhibitions and Collections Coordinator at Dimbola Museum and Galleries on the Isle of Wight, says:

'The training was really helpful in giving me an introduction to the process of collections review - which I had not previously been involved in. It was excellent to hear first hand from a range of organisations who had undertaken reviews and to get some ideas of not only how to conduct a review in practice but also how to advocate for the need for one. My learning has been used in the development of an action plan and although implementation has been delayed due to limited staff capacity, this learning has also directly contributed to a grant application which has secured £4,500 to establish a new collections store.'

In her feedback 18 months on, Royal Green Jackets (Rifles) Museum Curator Christine Pullen says:

'My aim in taking part in the training was to support a review of the museum collection, assess items for display, storage and disposal in preparation for a new exhibition. The Training Bursary enabled me to gain more confidence in approaching the daunting task. Engaging volunteers on a short term basis for a specific project, with the help of Hampshire Record Office, was particularly beneficial. Less space was needed for storage at the offsite facility following the rationalisation of the collection therefore storage costs were reduced. We now have storage facilities offsite. We have been able to improve the museum displays and care of the collection. Rationalisation of the collection is still ongoing.'

Top tips

  • Proactively promote development opportunities that meet identified development needs for the subregion.
  • Ensure applications clearly explain how learning will be applied to benefit the organisation.
  • Create structured opportunities for recipients to share their knowledge with others.

Plans for the future

Each of the recipients will continue to apply their learning to collections review in their own museums.