South Western Federation of Museums and Art Galleries

Case Study 2 - Youth Council

Youth-Council-_image-150The challenge

As part of a project planning grant received from Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), we needed a new Audience Development Plan with a greater connection with young people.  A specially commissioned Renaissance Funded Youth Strategy proposed the formation of a Youth Council to fulfil this role.

What we did

We appointed a new Project Coordinator (10 hours per week) with a brief to recruit young people to form a Youth Council.  This comprised mainly school students and had a small core with a wider group who were involved less frequently.  The Youth Council had amazing ideas about how to improve interpretation and take new approaches, which we found both challenging and very refreshing.

The Youth Council asked to interpret a particular case in the Childhood Gallery focusing on childhood in the 1970s.  They fully designed the case, found the exhibits and carried out all the interpretation, including labelling.  The case has been a great success, still proving one of the most popular and talked about exhibits in the Childhood Gallery.  They now wish to interpret a second case, focusing on childhood during the Second World War.  The Museum is facilitating a trip to the Imperial War Museum to support their research.

Resourcing and management

The funding used to develop the Youth Strategy proposing the Youth Council, and the funding of the new Volunteer Coordinator, were two key elements in this project’s success. The enthusiasm of the whole team at the Museum was also important in supporting the Youth Council and allowing it to impact on general approach and interpretation.

Case_Study_2_Youth_Council_image_2_smallHigh points/ successes

The Young People became so engaged in the museum that they wanted to interpret part of the collection themselves. They were so honest with their feedback that it helped us to see the interpretation of the whole museum in a different light.  The museum now has more applications for school placements than it can realistically handle (it is taking 6), which demonstrates the interest and regard in which the museum is held by young people locally.

Low points/ concerns

Trying to keep the momentum of what the young people wanted to do, particularly when it met some initial resistance, was difficult.  Significant communication was required initially but when people understood they became very supportive. Competing demands on young people’s time can be a challenge, so the Museum’s offer has to be attractive and fulfilling. Many of our original core group are now at college or university so recruitment to the Youth Council has to be on-going.  However, this ensures a continually fresh approach.

Contact Emma Ayling, Curator, at: eayling@eastdorset.gov.uk , or Anne Brown  learning and Community Engagement Officer at: abrown@eastdorset.gov.uk or either by telephone at the Priest’s House on: 01202 882533.

Date of activity described in case study: Youth Council set up in February 2008, but on-going; no planned end-date
Case study review date: Q3 2012