Museums Association Conference, Liverpool 2013, 12th November 2013.

Tuesday 12th November.

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 Good evening! I hope you enjoyed my blog post about day one of the Museums Association conference in Liverpool. Having attended the conference, I would definitely urge people to go. I know it is expensive and there are not many grants available for Northern Irish/ Irish people to attend but there a few options open for funding a visit to the conference. Perhaps your work might pay for you to go as part of professional development, register for the volunteer rate of £200.00 or even volunteer at the conference to get to go for free. There was a lack of presence of Scottish & Northern Irish people at the conference, hopefully this shall change!

Anyway, on to the ‘nitty gritty’ of the blog post- the second day of the conference! In the morning I didn’t attend any sessions or talks as I was more interested in exploring the Exhibitor’s Hall. The hall is a ‘marketplace’ for businesses, providers of goods to museums, galleries, archive services etc to display their wares and services. Many offer freebies to enhance custom. I only had a quick glance at most of the stalls. Though I got talking to people at the University of Leicester. It seems such a wonderful place to study!

Throughout the marketplace there were screens with the twitter stream for the conference on constant update. Even if you weren’t attending any sessions you could still see what was being discussed! Please excuse the very blurry picture below:

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After visiting the exhibitor’s hall, I made my way to the ‘Women Leader’s in Museums’ speed mentoring advice session. This workshop was chaired by various female directors of museums and cultural organisations. I was able to talk to several ladies in museums across the UK about challenges they face as young females in the sector. I wanted help with how I could push for more female orientated histories in museums and how I would go about that. I also wished to discuss how I would go about mentoring younger females. I know from experience having a mentor in your fledgling career is incredibly beneficial.

We discussed the barriers that some women face in being appointed to director roles, how to make networks to progress in your career, portfolios and how not to be taken for granted if you swap from full time to part time work! I thought this was particularly relevant as I explore my career options , I don’t want to have to do a full time job in part time hours.

This session was followed by a keynote speech by Lucy Worsley (insert history fan girl squeal here.) Lucy is famous for her TV work on historical figures, houses and eras. She is also Chief Curator at Historic Royal Palaces. I have to say that I think she is fantastic, funny and really enthusiastic about history. Lucy discussed how TV can work for historic sites and museums. How TV can improve people’s knowledge of their local history and also very importantly increase visits and revenue! Here is a sneaky shot of one her TV clips that was shown during her talk:

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 After Lucy Worsley’s talk, I attended the ‘Museum Changes Lives’ talk. This talk centred around the Museum Association’s new proposal that museums can and have change lives in different areas. They can tackle social prejudice and social exclusion, dementia, politics, human rights etc. Museums can attract vibrant and enthusiastic people to work for them to change their museum in order to change lives. As time moves on, museums will have to (and some already are) do more to include all aspects of society and move away from the ‘sterile’ image some people have of them. I didn’t attend the whole of this session as I got, what I like to call,  a ‘thinking hangover.’ So much to take in and process over the two days!

I definitely thought that it was worth my time and effort to attend the MA conference and shall attend next year. I expected it to be a lot larger than it was, but I actually preferred the space for the conference. It felt very intimate and ‘safe’, where ideas could flow and be debated and deliberated.  The talks and sessions were brilliant, especially talks by people from outside the museum sector. It was refreshing to hear an outsider’s opinion on museum matters. I definitely feel that what I have learnt from the conference shall impact my museum practice. Most of all, I shall ‘strive’ to be fearless ( a big theme at conference) and push for change!

One thing that got me was I felt that the museum community on the mainland UK was different from Northern Ireland. I felt that there was more of a ‘connection’ between all ages and stages of people in their museum careers. Don’t get me wrong, the NI & ROI Museum professional group I am part of is amazing and covers a diaspora of people within in museums. People seemed to know each other and their work, none of this hiding what they were doing that I sometimes find here. I think Northern Irish institutes need to make large strives in to be more ‘inclusive’!

Another point that I took away from the conference was the big push for ‘digital’ and ‘social media.’ From everyone I talked to from the small museum to the national museums, everyone had at least a dedicated and regularly updated website and/or facebook page. Most had Twitter and some form of a blog or instagram site. I feel that museums in Northern Ireland need to take heed of this. Local authority museums need dedicated or at least regularly updated websites. They need to engage with their audiences with social media. How can some Irish museums as a whole be so different and yet just a 30 min plane journey from the mainland UK?

There is nothing more frustrating than finding a museum website that hasn’t been updated in two years. Or there are no contact details or if there is it’s difficult to get information. Very off putting!

Overall, I found the conference beneficial for my career and networking opportunities. I found that my ideas and thought processes for my own museum practice have changed. I will be able to include what I have learnt from the conference in my future work. I also relished the opportunity to go to Liverpool. Truely a fantastic city!

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‘Sunset over the Mersey.’

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