Museum and Heritage Show 2019

Ah the Museum and Heritage show, I kind of love it at the same time as feeling like it bears strong similarities to a cattle market. This year I did 17 talks in 24 hours. It’s a 2 day conference with 4 separate theatres with each with 6 to 7 talks going on a day, surrounded by vendors. A game plan is definitely required to hopscotch your way from theatre to theatre to get the most for your time; great, but also a bit bonkers.

I also spend more time on Twitter than I do at any other conference because of FOMO; I want to see who’s saying what about other talks I maybe wanted to see but clashed with something else.

I got there a bit late having got stuck in Clapham junction station with at least 6 other conference attendees for an hour while British Rail severally cancelled at least 3 of the trains going to Kensington Olympia.

This meant that I unfortunately missed Josh Blair and Ben Templeton’s talk on STEM Engagement / Digital gaming, which was a shame. It also meant that when I went to try and see Alec Ward’s talk about creating digital content on a shoestring it was so packed that I couldn’t get close enough to hear anything. Instead I went to Miranda Stean’s talk (Culture Health and Wellbeing Alliance Steering group and Head of Learning, Fitzwilliam @MirandaStearn) and was glad I did. I didn’t catch the beginning but did come in on some interesting research into the role culture plays in social prescribing. Although from what Matt Hancock (ex Digital Culture Media and Sport Minister, now Health Minister) was saying it sounds like government mainly think of museums as a cheaper version of actual drugs, which is all very well but it would be nice if they weren’t simultaneously cutting all our funding.

After that I did my first talk that I had a proper seat for and was there from the start. This was from Dr Megan Gooch, a numismatist by traininly by latterly an evaluator for the Historic Royal Palaces’ poppies installation project. This was a well structured and informative talk going through all the different data capture techniques and advice Helen had used to evaluate the installation. It also usefully gave a handy formula for constructing semantic analysis from data uploads/ survey data in CSV or excel format.

After that I went to James Morley’s talk (of fame @jamesinealing @AStreetNearYou) who talked about how he build the world war centenary mapping site of people who died in the first world wars and logged where they lived on google maps. He took openly available data from commonwealth war graves commission and uploaded that to google map (I also learnt that you can just upload excel files with location data to google maps and google will plot them for you). He’s handily compiled a load of open access resources relating to this project here

I spent the afternoon in the ‘people, funding and strategy’ theatre. First of all ‘Opening up your Museum: widening and developing your workforce’ with speakers from AIM and Beamish. AIM opened the talk talking about diversifying recruitment. That was followed up with Celyn Williams, Head of People Development at Beamish. The first part of Celyn’s talk was spirited and outlined their strong corporate mission and guiding principles. The second part (to my mind) sat a bit more uncomfortably, particularly in the context of the presentation that had preceded it from AIM on diverse recruitment as Beamish’s recruitment seemed almost defiantly insular, 90% of the case studies are from people being promoted from volunteers and all based in the region.

The final talk to the day was ALVAs visitor experience trends and preparing for Brexit with Bernard Donoghue @bernarddonoghue @alva_uk (Director of ALVA, pretty cool job; lobbies to government and funders to improve things for the sector and also promotes work of ALVA in trend reporting etc). I remembered Bernard’s talk from last year being fantastic, a great yearly summary of who’s doing well, if there are patterns in who’s doing well and ‘the DNA of success’. This was another great talk (slightly poor programming that it competed with the Met Costume Institute’s talk to Heavenly Bodies.

His ‘tweet length’ summary of what was working is: playground, poppies, dippy, great programming/partnerships.

The second part of the talk was more of a cautionary tale that the 2 things that are massively adversely affecting UK tourism are Brexit and climate change. Inbound tours to UK so massive drop off on EU bookings but increase in US, Oz and Chinese — it’s changing the shape of our visitor profile (and not doing much for diversity), also much more domestic visitors ‘staycations’. UK looks cheap to others, but also tarnished with e.g. government saying our country is a ‘hostile environment’ to those without a British passport and calling vast sections of the population ‘foreigners’. ALVA (unusually stated it was pro remain) Climate was the single biggest factor affecting tourism last year and responsible for big dips in visits to Gardens across the country. Bernard asked the audience if we were prepared for climate change, if we could think about engaging visitors with reducing carbon footprint (this is also echoed in National Lottery Heritage Fund’s (NLHF) funding priorities for 2019–24).

Next day I went to National Lottery Heritage Fund’s talk announcing their ‘new funding framework and what it means for you’. This outlined a bit more of the thinking behind the recent rebrand and rename as well as what that means in terms of funding priorities. The new strategy is online

Their strategic priorities are nature, communities, access.

They will also be making strategic interventions to support innovation, organisational resilience and dynamic collections

Landscapes and nature theme:

Largest investors (one of), connected to climate theme

Reduce biodiversity loss, beauty urban landscapes.

They have simplified application process funds up to 100K

They are also interested in local heritage/’place based’ campaigns

They have identified 13 Local Authorities in deprived areas to focus on

Brent (Greater London)

Corby (Northamptonshire)

Enfield (Greater London)

Knowsley (Merseyside)

Inverclyde (Scotland)

Luton (Bedfordshire)

Newham (Greater London)

North East Lincolnshire

North Lanarkshire (Scotland)

Neath Port Talbot (Wales)

Rhondda Cynon Taff (Wales)

Tendring (Essex)

Walsall (West Midlands)

Future themes: Wellbeing, enterprise, housing, place

Health link ups (I guess tying into the social prescribing govt agenda)

They are now accepting applications from for profit sector so long as they work with non for profit and deliver social benefit (good idea) → could inject some private sector skills and expertise into museum regeneration

In total they will be awarding £1.2Bill over 5years(!)

They have identified 5 new area committees

Zak Mensah @Zakmesah spoke about transformation of the Bristol Museums shop, he used to be head of digital and you can see how he’s used a lot of the techniques from GDS style agile product delivery in the commercial context which is pretty interesting. I love how he got students to do user research as part of their undergraduate, and his policies like ‘invest 5% in experimentation’, change log (350 changes).

The Bristol Museums get about 1.2million a year across 5 sites, their online shop takes around £8k a year.

This was a funny talk that didn’t shy away from telling stories of how he’d failed to (including notably gaining and losing £40,000 in 24 hours — to do with a misunderstanding of who owned copyright of a Banksy print…)

His blog is

Sarah Rawling from the National Science and Media Museum talked about Rapid Response collections they’ve done around themes like Fake News. These are popular and cheap. They also put in digital screens asking people to vote on these controversial topics and then revealed the average scores. Front of House said that these screens and those average were great conversation pieces.

Developing a local placed based curriculum for Leeds

Kate Fellows, Lifelong learning manager (who was BRILLIANT) and Izzy Bartley and digital learning officer leeds museum and galleries

Place based curriculum is targeted to the needs of an area and the children within it. In Leeds it is based on ‘what 50 stories do you want your child to know about Leeds before they are 50?’ (they’re are placed based curriculums going in about 4 other places including Hull and Bristol).

Leeds is the largest Local authority museum in the country (amalgamates Leeds collections into learning web pages)

Teachers wanted high res images, audios, videos but not super keep on interpretation, teachers will do that.

Buy in from teachers across city was the hardest. Project lead called head teachers and arts institutions, the PA to director of children services in the city. Went to head teacher briefings to disseminate. Got buy in before even approached teachers for on the ground stuff.

Didn’t end up costing that much because she got buy in early on: £22–23K, quite a lot of which was backfill. Arts orgs provided content for free and time for free. years so far

Her tips

‘Teachers are going to — (£12 a year hosting), teachers already know about it!

Been in this role 11 years, in leeds 15 years. Seen HLF projects come and go, same as ACE. ‘Some of this stuff exists already’ night reinventing wheel.

Make yourself part of the Local Cultural Educational Partnership:

Leeds have a membership scheme w schools which allows them to get loans, her work drives traffic to this scheme.

How successful is?

230 schools in Leeds

30 helped built it

½ using elements

⅓ using it wholesale

(pretty damn successful, then)

Izzy from my learning, funded by Leeds museum and galleries. Teachers know the information is authoritative.

All for free, personalised homepage KS1 KS2, show them all the resources tagged by that subject and KS, bit like pinterest can create themed boards → they can use it for next time. My learning hosts interactives in flash and HTML, they’re using thinglink which gives some extra traffic and allows them to build complexity in there.

My learning also hold all M&S company resources. Range of digital interactives. Primary historical documents, censuses, receipts.

My learning

-increase reach of resources (IWM and volunteer run collections)

Good SEO (egyptian mummification one of top hits)

Can search by media type

They moved to a new site 9months ago

Just under 1mill page views in 9months

Dwell time up 40% to 2.13 (still not as good at Learning Zone)

8.4K just for leeds curriculum

all free for schools to use, all under CC.

My learning Fees

£102–602 per resource (teachers review + hosting), 600 if need them to create resource for them, £12 hosting.

New website would cost £20–40k off the shelf (costed them much more)

HLF love them, they like that this is built into their bid (pay for 5 years funding for the hosting).

Doesn’t preclude you using those resources on own site.

Encouraging secondary spend: using seasonal themes to enhance visitor experience w Judy Bendall, Head of Retail, Blenheim Palace

Food, drink, clothing, toiletries doing well at Blenheim (seems to chime w Bernard’s point that in a recession people go for lipstick and prosecco). Local Honey (from their 18 hives) does really well. Did a ‘dragons den’ style board for start-up products.

Capitalising on filing opportunities (Harry Potter) and create merchandise around that, about 15% of Blenheim’s revenue is from HP stuff, didn’t even know they were part of the films!

They don’t have an online shop yet but they will do, like Bristol they will launch on shopify.

V&A Dundee w new Director of Museum Paul Long ‘Designing a New Museum’, £80mill project, Japanese designer, 400,000 visitors in 1st 4 months! Have a stream of programming around digital design.

Stephanie Pace Learning Programme Manager Reflective Practice at ZSL

‘Community and learning’ department (new department): formal learning, vocational learning and community engagement

Beth Hawkins, Science Museum Group Academy Manager, @SM_learn @bethdhawkins

Reflective practice, Science Museum Group on an organisational level, they looked at why people are underrepresented in STEM

— -> inspiring futures strategic ambitions

Science capital (Bourdieu), why and how ppl engage (and don’t) and framework good practice

It’s linked to social justice, that ppl have a choice to visit. Everyone has a role to play in this. Used reflective practice to think critically about visitors experience. Want to stimulate informed experiences and ultimately grow science capital in individuals and society.

Recognising more personal relevance, value and meaning of STEM, more out of school experiences. Common language to speak to government and funders.

How are they doing it across the organisation? Workshops/train the trainer/online course/desktop (at a glance)/ toolkit/overview booklet

Completely redeveloped online session outlines