Devon local authorities were concerned about the low number of young people participating in cultural activities and were looking for ways of reaching this age group in particular.
What we did
Susan Eddisford, a Museums Development Officer (MDO) in Devon, was keen to involve young people in the project right from the start. She felt the first task was to identify barriers for museums engaging with young people, and barriers for young people engaging with museums.
The ‘Count Me In’ project started in 2009, aiming to develop sustainable approaches to building younger audiences for Devon museums. Four museums joined the project and appointed ‘Youth Ambassadors’ who worked with their museums to develop projects to engage young people. In the second phase, six more museums became involved.
Currently there are 11 youth ambassadors involved in 8 Devon museums. In the pilot projects, the youth ambassadors organised a week of workshops for young people, developed a downloadable young persons’ digital heritage trail, produced a film of a local annual heritage event, helped to curate a portrait exhibition, and organise a young people’s portrait project and exhibition. They also contributed to a growing museum presence on Facebook. In all the projects the youth ambassadors made links with local youth organisations so that more young people were involved and museums had new partners to work with in future.
Resourcing and management
The project is funded through the Museum Development Fund (in 2009 -10 and 2010-11). Susan Eddisford is the Project Manager and she contracted Redfront Media to run key aspects of the project, including recruiting and supporting youth ambassadors, developing projects with museums and carrying out evaluation.
High points/ successes
Young people have enjoyed being involved and there is a marked increase in cultural participation in Devon, which appears to be long-term. For example, a young volunteer is now helping to develop Devonmuseums.net, the Devon-wide museums web site. Another has been appointed on a journalism project to raise the profile of the museums in publications and on the web.
Low points/ concerns
There is no long term funding but the University of Exeter is keen to place students taking a work placement module as part of their course to work on museum projects. Working with young people may also give access to youth based funding such as Young Roots.
How can I find out more
Youth ambassadors post on the Devon Youth Culture Connection Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/home.php?sk=group_164554760239793&ap=1#!/group.php?gid=134230016610121&v=wall
To obtain a copy of a powerpoint presentation summarising the project so far, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Date of activity described in case study: April 2009 – March 2011
Case study review date: Q2 2012