Over 90 delegates from all over the South West joined us at the American Museum in Britain last Wednesday 9 July for our Conference and AGM of 2014. It was a lovely day and the museum’s home, Claverton Manor provided a beautiful setting with its spectacular views and gardens. After a welcome from The Director of the American Museum, Dr Richard Wendorf and our Chair Vicky Dawson introducing the conference theme of ‘What does the Public Really Want?’, we were given three varied and engaging morning presentations.
Piotr Bienkowski, our keynote speaker told us about the Paul Hamlyn Foundation funded ‘Our Museum’ initiative and how lessons learnt linked to the main theme. This included the background of the ‘Cake report’ or ‘Whose Cake is it anyway? – A collaborative investigation into engagement and participation in 12 museums and galleries in the UK’ from 2009 by Bernadette Lynch (Paul Hamlyn Foundation). The Our Museum programme set about addressing issues raised, such as public participants feeling they were ‘beneficiaries’ not ‘active agents’, how improvement could be brought about by organisational change rather than project-based, and how improved methods of working could be embedded into the continuing work of an organisation. It was established that there need to be viable outcomes rooted in local needs. This enables communities to have real agency and develop community capability and skills, with open, trusting and honest conversations taking place. Nine museums are taking part to address these issues and share what they learn. They have discovered that when decisions are taken by consultation and consensus different models of working are able to develop.