Professional Development

A list of training courses and other professional development opportunities and events for those working within the museum and heritage sector.
Know of a professional development or training opportunity we haven’t listed here, let us know by emailing –

In Conversation: Co-production & Working with Communities – Review Part One

0 posted July 26th, 2022 | Leave a reply
Agnes Fough, People's History Museum Community Team member speaking at NWFed In Conversation event July 2022

NWFed Board Member Claire Sleightholm reviews our recent sold out event at the People’s History Museum #InConversation

In what was NWFed’s first face to face conference for a few years, we were delighted to have a sell-out event. It seems museum people are ready to get back together and share.  For many, it was the first opportunity in a while to meet up with colleagues from the region, so it was fitting that the theme of the conference was co-production and working together. As the day progressed it became clear that lockdown, with its limitations and unexpected benefits, shaped projects in ways that could never have been expected.

The day started with NWFed Chair Alex Walker reflecting on the benefits of human connection in sharing ideas.

Katy Ashton followed, and as Director of our host venue, the aptly named People’s History Museum, she was well placed to suggest that co-production was in the “DNA of the organisation”. Going further, she indicated that there was a growing commitment in museums to act as facilitators for today’s concerns and, “how [museums] help us think about the world we live in today”.

Hearing next from PHM’s Programme Officer, Zofia Kufeldt, we learned about PHM’s programme-led approach with a new theme being explored every two years. These themes, “explore what it’s like to live in post-Brexit Britain,” and how our communities have “more in common than what divides us”.

The current theme is Migration: A Human Story. Co-production began at the very start of the project with community consultation to create an ‘authentic’ programme, resulting in a Community Programme Team being put together from diverse community members who had lived experience of migration. A democratic process was used throughout with all decisions made by the team, and the Community Programmes Team members’ stories were presented unedited except for spelling and grammar.

Agnes Fough, one of the Community Programme Team, shared her experience of working on the project and telling her own ‘migration story’. Despite working through lockdown and the challenges of learning how to use Zoom (one we can all share) she felt supported by PHM staff.  So much so, that her questioning of their graphic display, Battle for the Ballot, and its limited representation of migrant and refugee stories resulted in a response being added permanently to the graphic.

Despite migration in and out being a constant throughout Britain’s history, these stories are not well represented in PHM’s collections. Not satisfied with representation, the project wanted to use these stories as a starting point for campaigning. This is becoming more important with the recent change to the Nationality and Borders Act this year.

The excellence of this project was demonstrated by the museum, and their Migration programme, receiving the Activist Museum Award in 2021; a prize given in honour of the pioneering work of Professor Richard Sandell on museums and social justice at the University of Leicester.

We were delighted to hear from Richard himself next, whose presentation ‘Activism as Ethics’ set out a position that socially purposeful work in museums is not different, but instead a fundamental way of working.

Professor Richard Sandell speaking at NWFed's In Conversation: Co-production & Working with Communities July 2022

Activism was demonstrated to have a number of definitions but in Sandell’s own definition of 2019 it is described as “museum practice shaped by ethically formed values, that is intended to bring about social, political and environmental change”.

Richard acknowledged there were significant challenges for museums in this position:

How do museums make a case for this practice?

How to overcome censorship or self-censorship?

How to encourage reflection rather than rejection of these positions in visitors?

One reply was that there is always pushback in any perceived non-neutrality as “culture is always political”. Of the possible responses to this it was argued that self censorship/evading the question or simply presenting a series of options for visitors was not only unhelpful but harmful. In fact, the only socially responsible response, Richard argued, is one that articulates a particular position, as this demonstrates a museum’s solidarity with the communities with which they are working.

In the following session, National Lottery Heritage Fund North Manager, Shanna Lennon, indicated that co-production was the key (in many cases) to a successful funding bid. Shanna acknowledged the difficulty of bidding for a
co-produced project when the outcomes and outputs are inevitably not known and hence cannot be described on an activity plan. Instead, providing evidence of research into the chosen community that informs methodology and costs is preferred.

After this inspirational morning, we were given a tour of the museum and saw for ourselves the Migration-focused work which now has a permanent place in the museum.

Stories shared for Migration: A Human Story are now placed within historical narratives in the permanent gallery.
These juxtapositions provide a contemporary, personal response to ‘people’s history’ that has the effect of lifting these displays onto another level of engagement.

Look out for part two of Claire’s review of this event coming soon!

“Front of House make museums; they are the face of every single one.”

0 posted March 19th, 2022 | Leave a reply
A museum staff member giving a talk in a gallery to a group of young people. Credit: NML Copyright: Pete Carr
Credit: NML Copyright: Pete Carr

NWFed trustee, Claire Sleightholm, reviews our recent In Conversation event on the Changing Role of Museum Front of House


In Conversation: The Changing Role of Museum Front of House

0 posted January 26th, 2022 | Leave a reply
A museum staff member giving a talk in a gallery to a group of young people. Credit: NML Copyright: Pete Carr
Credit: NML Copyright: Pete Carr

“Front of House make museums; they are the face of every single one.”

Join us for our next free In Conversation event for NWFed members.
Online on Thursday 24th February 2021, 12 – 1pm #FOHMuseums

The pandemic has shown that in a crisis, Front of House workers are invaluable. Their work to reopen museums, respond to the constantly changing environment, and create a safe, comfortable visitor experience are at the heart of the museum sector’s recovery.

But what of the future? NWFed’s latest In Conversation event offers an opportunity to discuss and explore the changing role of Front of House with a panel of colleagues who are passionate about the subject.

Chad McGitchie is Visitor Services Team Lead for The Whitworth and Manchester Art Gallery, and Chair of the Northwest Visitor Team Management & Development Network.

William Tregaskes is Co-founder of Front of House in Museums and the Museums Association Rep for Wales.

Chairing the panel will be Dwight Clarke, Visitor Services Officer, Manchester Art Gallery, and a member of the NWFed board of trustees.

This event is free for all NWFed members (and those who work in NWFed member museums).
Find out how to join us for just £12 per year (£5 students) here.

The event takes take place on Zoom on Thursday 24 February 2022, 12.00 – 1.00pm.
Book your tickets through Eventbrite now and we’ll send you a Zoom link to join the event the day beforehand.

NEWS: Prosper North Offers Free Business Support Programme for Culture and Heritage Organisations

0 posted June 8th, 2019 | Leave a reply

Prosper North have released details about a new, free business support programme for culture and heritage organisations to help them become stronger, more impactful, and make the most of the Northern Cultural Regeneration Fund investment opportunity.

Prosper North’s programme aims to improve the capabilities of around 80 cultural heritage organisations in the North of England– from music venues to community art groups, and independent museums to literature festivals – to increase income and impact, becoming more resilient businesses. It is aligned with the Northern Cultural Regeneration Fund (NCRF), managed by the Key Fund, which is offering social investments (mix of grant and loans) to creative and cultural organisations in the north of England who deliver positive social impacts.

For those interested in finding out more about the programme, Prosper North are hosting two briefing events in the North West, one in Kendal on the 3 July, and another in Liverpool on the 17 July.

To learn more about the programme and to check if your organisation is eligible to participate, Click Here

NEWS: Museums Association to Expand Transformers Programme

0 posted August 30th, 2016 | Leave a reply

Freelance conservator Lucie Graham working on our N.H collection (2)

Freelance conservator Lucie Graham working on Gallery Oldham’s Natural History collection. Image Courtesy:  Gallery Oldham.


Following a successful application for Arts Council England’s (ACE) Museum Resilience Fund, The Museums Association (MA) has announced it is to expand its Transformers initiative.

Transformers is the Museums Association’s workforce initiative for people in mid-career, supported by any accredited museum (or museum working towards accreditation), looking to change the way they work.  Those who participate are challenged to develop new ways of thinking and supported throughout to engage with experimental ideas, fresh thinking and learning from the experience of experts and innovators.

Receiving £407,662 from the Museums Resilience Fund, the MA plan to broaden and diversify the Transformers targeting areas of particular need such as civic museums and smaller regional museums.

It will include three strands: intensive support, coaching, residential courses and workshops for 16 mid-career professionals, culminating in a £3,000 microfunded project at their museum; a two-day course for 130 participants, in partnership with the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, including learning from the Foundation’s Our Museum project, with sessions on change management, partnership working and influencing; and a programme of support and coaching for 20 mid-career museum professionals from diverse backgrounds.  Sharon Heal, the MA’s director, explains:

“We are delighted to have backing from ACE for this ground-breaking scheme that encourages innovation and risk-taking. We are working with partner organisations in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to ensure that museum professionals across the UK are able to benefit from this pioneering scheme.

“The additional funding from the Paul Hamlyn Foundation will enable us to embed the legacy and learning of the Our Museum programme into Transformers so that participants can embed working with communities as active partners in their work.”

To find out more  about Transformers and how you could participate, Click Here

The deadline is approaching for applications to the Transformers training scheme for mid-career professionals looking to develop new ways of thinking, influence more effectively, and create change for themselves, their colleagues and their organisations.

Museum professionals from anywhere in the UK can subscribe to the Innovate and Influence programmes, while the Diversify programme is open to applications from England, Wales, and Scotland.

In all around 170 trainees will be supported across the three programmes in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Katy Swift, the MA’s project coordinator, Transformers, says: “The Transformers programme is an exciting opportunity for people working in and with museums to proactively meet the opportunities and challenges the sector is facing.

“The MA has built on the success of Transformers by expanding the programme to include three strands: Innovate, Influence and Diversify.

“As the programme coordinator, I passionately believe that it is the people working in museums who change lives.

“Transformers creates a timely opportunity to support and develop museum professionals and I am looking forward to building a cohort of people across the UK who are committed to building a radical and thriving sector.”

Applications to Innovate close on 27 January 2017, and applications to Influence and Diversify close on 28 February 2017.

Before submitting an application to any of the programmes, please ensure you have read the guidance notes to check that the programme is suitable for you.

Transformers 2016-18