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Dear Members…

Wednesday, September 9th, 2020

Dear Members,

Apologies that we have not been in touch for some time. Our board members are all volunteers, many of whom have been fully occupied, dealing with the challenges of adapting their own institutions to the current pandemic and responding to the growing Black Lives Matter movement. Global events are having a significant impact on our sector, challenging us to work and think differently, towards our colleagues and with our visitors and communities. Now, more than ever, we need to come together as a sector to support each other and share inclusive practice which is evolving rapidly and organically.

The NWFed was on the verge of a re-launch just as the COVID 19 took hold. It has taken us a while to reflect on how this might now happen, in the much changed circumstances we all find ourselves in. However, we have begun to work together again to think about the future of the Fed.

And one thing remains the same – as an independent membership organisation we will continue to represent and champion the interests of museums and galleries in the North West, and the people who work in them. Watch this space!

NW Fed

Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash 

New ‘Museum Basics’ events launched at National Museums Liverpool, 22 January 2020

Wednesday, September 9th, 2020

Following feedback from our members the Fed introduced the first of our new ‘Museum Basics’ training events with a session on object marking and labelling aimed at volunteers and professionals new to the sector, as well as anyone who needed a refresher. Hosted by National Museum Liverpool and run by Tracey Seddon – Conservator Organics and Gemma Dolan – Stores Co-ordinator, the course provided a solid theoretical introduction to the subject followed by a fascinating practical workshop which allowed us all to have a go for ourselves.

This combination of experiential leaning alongside examples of good (and sometimes bad!) practice, expertly presented by Tracey and Gemma, made for a very successful session appreciated by all attendees from students to more experienced staff. The day concluded with a Q&A and discussion allowing everyone to share any issues they faced in this area of collections management and seek advice from the group. A great example of Fed members in action working together and supporting each other!

Andy Pearce

NW Fed Board Member

Museum Basics Course – professional, informative and valuable.

Siobahn Wordingham, Volunteer, West Kirkby Museum

Participating in this  training was a great way to gain expert advice and hands-on experience for advancing my career – what set this course  apart from some other training opportunities was connecting with emerging talent and industry leading professionals who share my passion for championing North West Heritage and culture.

Adam Duckworth, Demonstrator, National Museums Liverpool

Image: Museum Basics event in action at National Museums Liverpool 

Smiles all round – Creative Science Engagement explored at Bolton Museum, 20 November 2019

Wednesday, September 9th, 2020

I was delighted to attend on behalf of the Fed this event run by SMILE (Science in Museums Inspiring Learning & Engagement) held at Bolton Museum. Organised by Alex McLeman, SMILE Network Leader and Collections Access Officer for Bolton Library and Museum Service, this free CPD day aimed to enable colleagues from across the North West to share their experiences to enrich science learning and investigation across our region’s museums.

A strong line up of speakers, kicked off by Alex himself outlining some of the innovative science education at Bolton, was interspersed with plenty of ‘hands on’ opportunities and audience engagement. Although this was a day all about sharing the ‘Periodic table bingo’ definitely got quite competitive!

Many of you will know there have been numerous new exhibition developments at Bolton recently, and tours of the new Nature Gallery, Egypt Gallery and Elements temporary exhibition gave an insight in to how contemporary museum displays can encourage public engagement with science. At Bolton Museum this engagement with science has a long history, as we discovered in their Aquarium, which has been amazing people with the wonders of the natural world since it opened during the Second World War.

Visiting speakers included Kirsty Hall, Curator of Lifelong Learning, Victoria Gallery & Museum, Liverpool and Dea Birkett, Ringmaster, Circus250 (who you may know better as the person behind Kids in Museums). Kirsty demonstrated the Bag of Beasts project as a tactile and visually striking way of capturing the attention of even the youngest potential scientist. Dea outlined how her Strong Women of Science circus show is taking a unique new approach to encourage more women to get involved in science

The final session concluded with Carole Ogden’s poem inspired by Bolton Museum’s Encountering the Unexpected project with older people – yet another great example of how the arts can be used to inspire science engagement with people of all ages.

The day allowed ample time for busy colleagues to network and swap ideas and I’m really pleased the Fed were able to support SMILE in delivering it.

Andy Pearce

NW Fed Board Member

Image: Bolton Museum, courtesy Bolton Library and Museum Services

NWFED NEWS: Introducing New NWFED Board Member – Andy Pearce

Sunday, August 18th, 2019

Andy Pearce has over 30 years experience in the museum sector in the North West in roles ranging from Education Officer to Director. He has worked in a wide range of heritage organisations from small independents to large nationals, from charitable trusts to local authorities and has had responsibility for the care and display of many different types of collections from social history to fine arts. The institutions he has worked in, or led, have varied greatly in staff numbers from some of the smallest to some of the largest in region. For the last three years he has been lucky enough to work on museums internationally which (he hopes!) has given him a new perspective on our region.

Andy admits to having had two guiding passions throughout his career. Firstly, exploring how museums can uncover and present the stories of those whose history has often been forgotten or supressed. He is fascinated by how heritage can provide unique and revealing insights in to these rich and diverse ‘hidden’ histories. Secondly, encouraging and developing the staff and volunteers whose job it is to lead and encourage this exploration.

He hopes that with these experiences and enthusiasms he can make a worthwhile contribution to the NWFed’s aims to represent and champion the interests of museums and galleries in the North West, and the people who work in them, on both a regional and a national level.

On his appointment to the Board, Andy explained:  “When I first became aware of the North West Fed more than 30 years ago it performed a vital role providing accessible training, and perhaps more importantly, keeping us in touch with our colleagues across the region. The sector has changed beyond recognition since. However, I believe that in its unique position as a member led, regional organisation the NWFed can still play an important part in supporting and developing those who work and volunteer in the North West’s museums and galleries.”

NWFED NEWS: Introducing New Board Member – Claire Benjamin

Sunday, August 18th, 2019

Claire Benjamin is Deputy Director of the Education and Visitors teams at National Museums Liverpool, which includes the International Slavery Museum, Merseyside Maritime Museum, Museum of Liverpool, World Museum, Walker Art Gallery, Sudley House and the Lady Lever Art Gallery. She is responsible for the strategic development of education initiatives, community engagement and front of house visitor experience across the museums. Claire is currently providing strategic support for the internationally acclaimed House of Memories dementia awareness programme and wider income generation initiatives for the organisation.

Claire joined National Museums Liverpool in 1998, and has previously worked as Communities Co-ordinator, Education Manager and Public Programmes Officer. She is a Fellow of the Museums Association.

On her appointment to the NWFed’s Board, Claire explained: “I am excited to be joining the NWFed’s Board at such an interesting time for the sector, given the exposure of the All Party Parliamentary report in 2017 on the value of arts and health, and the Mendoza Report looking at how the bigger national museums in the region can engage better with smaller regional museum services. I think the role of the NWFed has a significant part to play in this conversation, and the bigger agenda of a Northern powerhouse.”

NWFED NEWS: Introducing New Board Member – Gordon Chancellor

Sunday, August 18th, 2019

Gordon Chancellor moved to Stockport in February 2019 from the East of England, where he had been the Museum Development Officer (MDO) for Cambridgeshire since 2013. Gordon is now freelance and keen to work with museums in the North West. His museum career started as a geologist at the Oxford University Museum in the 1980s, before being appointed Curator of Peterborough Museum in the 1990s, and then taking on the role of Chief Executive Officer of the Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Society in the early 2000s. From there he went on to become an Archive Development Manager for the Museums Libraries and Archives Council, then Business Manager at the UK Data Archive in Essex before returning to museums as an MDO. Over his career, he has managed a considerable number of Heritage Lottery and Arts Council England funded projects and is especially interested in governance and the issues facing independent museums.

Gordon is delighted to be involved with the Federation and has already enjoyed getting to know other Board members. Being new to the North West, he is excited to be learning about the region which he says is very different (in good ways!) from the East of England. So far he has concentrated on visiting the bigger museums, but hopes that being on the Board will give him opportunities to contribute to the small and volunteer-led museums. Having been part of the SEMFed for many years, is keen to use that experience to help the NWFed to develop its programmes for members. He is also very keen to mentor young people who love art and nature and want to make a career in museums.

 

BLOG POST: NWFed Meeting at Manchester Museum, 28 June 2019

Friday, July 5th, 2019

Last Friday we were treated to a brilliant double session themed on Asia and hosted by Manchester Museum. Catherine Lumb, Learning and Engagement Co-ordinator, told us about the current exhibition from India, then Bryan Sitch, Deputy Head of Collections and Archaeology, described his research in advance of planned displays about China. Bryan said that the arrival of Esme Ward as Director in 2017 had focused the Museum’s activities on engaging with audiences. They are doing this by highlighting human stories, especially in the Lee Kai Hung Gallery of Chinese Culture. The gallery has been developed as part of the Museum’s ‘Hello Future’ project, which also includes a £13 million transformation, including a new South Asia Gallery (in partnership with the British Museum) and a new temporary exhibition gallery.

While many venues across Manchester are gearing up to commemorate the bicentenary of the peaceful but brutally suppressed rally which we know as Peterloo, the Museum is commemorating the even worse events at Amritsar in 1919. Catherine, who has led on the Jallianwalla Bagh 1919: Punjab under Seige exhibition from the Partition Museum in Amritsar, led us through the exhibition which tells the story of the terrible events of 13 April 1919 when General Reginald Dyer ordered his troops to open fire on unarmed men, women and children, killing at least 300, who had gathered to protest against their British oppressors. The exhibition also explains how the background of decades of injustice meted out by the British occupiers in the Punjab led to the massacre. It also covers its aftermath, namely global condemnation of the British which accelerated their departure from India twenty-eight years later. Tragically, as is well known, that departure led to the ‘Partition’ of Pakistan from India and terrible atrocities committed by both Muslims and Hindus. The Singh Twins have painted a superb picture of the massacre, hung near the entrance to the Museum as the central panel of a triptych, to be joined by one showing the events before 1919 and one showing the aftermath.

Catherine told us how she carried out almost all the liaison with the Partition Museum by Skype, only visiting Amritsar once at the end of negotiations, and she said that the five-hour time difference had presented challenges! A great outcome of the exhibition has been a co-curated approach, working with Manchester communities, which is central to the development of content for the South Asia Gallery.

Bryan explained how he had been awarded a Headley Trust Art Fund Fellowship to research content for a new Chinese Culture Gallery, which is planned to open around the same time as the South Asia Gallery in late 2021. A substantial donation from Businessman, Dr Lee Kai Hung (a Manchester University Alumnus) is funding the new gallery and Bryan is unearthing some of the amazing links between China and Manchester as part of the content. Bryan has so far unraveled the stories behind some of the great Chinese objects in the Museum’s collections, exploring the stories of Manchester’s people and their connection to China. The aim is to stimulate empathy in the visitor, fostering a stronger understanding between communities in the UK and China – including the missionary Alfred Bosshardt who was held captive by the Red Army and his relationship with the general Xiao Ke.

There is never a better way to find out about new approaches to the development of new galleries and exhibitions than hearing it from the people involved. We are grateful to Catherine and Bryan for sharing their vision and passion for creating a museum that focuses on empathy and collaboration.

If you have a project or an idea you are working on and would like to share it with the NWFed and its members, please email our News Editor, Emma Sumner: hello@emmasumner.com

NEWS: New-look National Lottery Heritage Fund unveils plans for the next five years

Monday, February 18th, 2019

A major decentralisation of decision-making across the whole of the UK is at the heart of new plans to distribute more than £1 Billion of National Lottery money to the UK’s heritage over the next five years which will see decisions on around 80% of all funding by the National Lottery Heritage Fund (previously the Heritage Lottery Fund), made in Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and three new English areas.

In addition, the new look National Lottery Heritage Fund will have a major focus on several new areas including: nature, communities, and on ensuring everyone is able to enjoy heritage; new models of investment, moving beyond grants to include loans and partnerships; more support for commercial, sustainable approaches to tackling heritage that’s in danger of being lost; investment and support to help heritage organisations to be more financially sustainable; a requirement for every heritage project that receives funding to be environmentally friendly; greater engagement and support to help 13 deprived communities that have in the past been less successful securing funding; and continued support for large-scale, iconic projects over £5million

Ros Kerslake, CEO of The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: “Over the past 25 years, money raised by people who buy National Lottery tickets has profoundly changed how we view and engage with the UK’s exceptionally varied heritage. By putting people at its heart, it has helped our wonderful buildings, iconic landscapes, cultural memories and traditions and native species not just survive, but thrive.

“Over the next five years, The National Lottery Heritage Fund will inspire, lead and resource the UK’s heritage, distributing more than £1bn. So we will be making more decisions on funding locally and focusing on the heritage that really matters to people, creating jobs, bringing economic prosperity and improving people’s lives right across the UK.”

To find out more and for details on how to apply, Click Here.