BM’s Curator of the Future Conference: National Partnerships for a Global Future – ITP workshop

At last week’s Curator of The Future Conference held over one day at the BM, cultural heritage professionals from across Europe and the UK came together to exchange ideas, create networks and find solutions to some important cultural issues. In a series of sessions under the theme of the “Future Curator”, delegates examined such questions as ‘what will the curator of the future look like and where will they come from?’ ‘how can we future proof our museums through our curatorial work?” And ‘how do we nurture and strengthen future generations of cultural heritage professionals?’

Claire and I were lucky enough to be joined by Tim Corum, Director of Curatorial and Public Engagement at the Horniman Museum and former Bristol ITP Partner, and Nelson Abiti (Uganda National Museum, University of East Anglia, ITP 2013) in facilitating a workshop on “National Partnerships for a Global Future”.

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© Benedict Johnson, courtesy of the British Museum

Using our ITP partnerships as a case study, workshop participants were asked to consider their own projects for skills sharing and knowledge exchange using partnerships across the sector, for the future of curators around the globe.

Among the questions considered were:

•How do partnerships help develop the curators of the future?

•What benefits do national collaborations bring for UK museums and their audiences globally?

•What are the difficulties and challenges?

•How can we make ‘skills-sharing’ a truly shared experience, nationally and internationally?

•Motivations:

Why should we want to work with other institutions?
What are the benefits to staff?
What are the benefits for the institutions?

•What are the barriers to cross-institutional work that we need to overcome?

In a short space of time, our participants were able to work together and come up with some wonderful ideas and tackle some of the challenges of partnership projects, summarising them in a three minute “elevator pitch”.

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© Benedict Johnson, courtesy of the British Museum

Among the main points discussed by our groups were:

Community engagement – how collaborative work can benefit local communities and how to get them involved in these kinds of processes and projects.

Sustainability – how to keep partners talking and working together after the end of a project, and how to create a legacy.

Support – a major challenge for any collaborative project! Gaining involved, enthusiastic support on all levels (including from sponsors, partners and staff) and creating important contacts.

Understanding – Overcoming cultural differences and diverse approaches to cultural heritage.

And of course, funding!What was particularly interesting is how our groups turned some of these obstacles and issues into partnership ideas in themselves – turning a lack of funds, for example, into a knowledge exchange project on marketing and fundraising.

Below are ideas and discussion points raised by our groups (transcripts to follow!):

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We would like to extend our thanks once more to Tim and Nelson for their help and to all our delegates for joining us in a short but fruitful exercise. We hope to have shown that with a clearer understanding of the challenges and benefits, partnerships are a wonderful way to support and develop the curators of the future.

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