Rhiannon Mason at the Museums Association Conference

Key questions about the role of museums on migration from Rhiannon Mason - image credit Kat Lloyd

Key questions about the role of museums on migration from Rhiannon Mason – image credit Kat Lloyd

Rhiannon Mason recently spoke at the Museums Association conference on the topic of migration in museums – and how the sector can ‘do migration differently’. In the session, held in Birmingham last week, Mason spoke alongside Sophie Henderson, director of the Migration Museum project, and Avaes Mohammed, project leader at British Future. The full story can be found on the Museums Association website: http://www.museumsassociation.org/museums-journal/news/09112015-museums-urged-to-do-migration-differently

Guest Post: Bethany Rex on the Co-Production of Public Services Conference

I’ve just returned from attending the International Institute of Administrative Science’s conference on the ‘Co-production of Public Services’ held at Radboud University in delightful Nijmegen, the Netherlands. The conference was a chance for members of IIAS’s study group on the ‘Co-production of Public Services’ to meet, share and discus their work and debate some of the thorny issues that arise when we talk about the increasing role that citizens are expected to play in the design, delivery and evaluation of public services. This study group is made up of scholars working in a variety of disciplines from public administration, to political science, and a handful of others whose work cuts across multiple fields.

The umbrella topic of my doctoral research is local authority museum management, an area which is rapidly transforming in response to the significant funding reductions to local government finances across the country. This transformation can take place at various levels from the creation of charitable bodies (aka museum trusts) designed to deliver a museum service in it’s entirely, to the transfer of individual museum sites from the local authority to another group considered to be local in one way or another (community organisations, voluntary groups, faith organisations). I’m focusing on the latter as I think it represents a shift in how we think about the delivery of museums as a public service. Now, there’s the issue of the label ‘co-production’ or ‘co-management’. The concept itself can be dated back to the work of Elinor Ostrom in the 1970s and other scholars working in the US at that time. However, since then it has taken on a life of its own – travelling across the globe and shape-shifting to fit national and local circumstances, different political administrations and opposing ideological stances. The papers presented at the conference confirmed this; with Victor Pestoff, a key author in the field, describing co-production existing at the crossroads between a number of different approaches to public service delivery.

Instead of concentrating on the formal structure of these new arrangements, or evaluating them in order to categorise their success or failure, I’ve been exploring the process by which these individual museum sites came to be managed by someone other than the council in the first place. It was this process-driven aspect of my work that I presented at this conference. Although the majority of presentations concentrated on fields such as health and social care and education; there were a number of speakers who drew attention to the importance of process in understanding how the co-management of services works in practice. For me, it was interesting that for scholars with backgrounds in public administration and other cognate fields, the rationale for focusing on process was in order to roadmap how to achieve better outcomes. A thirst for models of ‘good practice’ prevailed. I’m not adverse to gaining a more in-depth understanding of how process impacts upon outcome at my empirical case studies, but for me this focus on process is about exploring the theoretical issues that I’ve been pre-occupied with since I started my PhD: the identity of the museum profession in community governance arrangements, the ‘responsibilisation’ of citizens in policy and how this is interpreted in practice and the difficult question of locating accountability in these settings.

The presentations from the conference will be made available online in the near future.

Follow Bethany Rex on Twitter (please link to: http://www.twitter.com/bethanyrex)

The 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Heritage in the Event of Armed Conflict – CALL TO ACTION

The UK National Committee of the Blue Shield (UKBS), the British wing of a global organisation frequently referred to as the cultural equivalent of the Red Cross, is leading a nationwide campaign to get the UK Government to finally ratify the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict and its two protocols of 1954 and 1999. Professor Peter Stone OBE, Chair of the UKBS, said:

The 1954 Hague Convention is the primary piece of International Humanitarian Law concerning the protection of heritage during armed conflict. While many in the UK have reacted with justifiable horror and indignation at the recent appalling destruction of ancient sites, libraries, archives, and museums in the Middle East and Africa, few seem to realise that the UK remains the only Permanent Member of the United Nations Security Council, and arguably the most significant military power (and the only one with extensive military involvements abroad), not to have ratified the 1954 Hague Convention.

After the 2003 US/UK led invasion, the then Minister for Heritage, Andrew McIntosh, announced in 2004 the Government’s intention to ratify the 1954 Hague Convention as soon as Parliamentary business allowed. This claim has been repeated by every relevant Minister since. In November 2011, Jeremy Hunt, then Secretary of State at DCMS, made a joint UK Government and British Red Cross Society pledge “to make every effort to facilitate the UK’s ratification… and to promote understanding of the principles and rules of the Convention within the UK”. Ratification has cross-Party support and the support of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport; the Foreign and Commonwealth Office; the Department for Overseas Development; and the Ministry of Defence. Professor Eleanor Robson, Chair of the British Institute for the Study of Iraq, added:

ISIS’ current rampage across northern Iraq and Syria is drawing urgent international attention to the plight of cultural heritage in times of war. By ratifying the 1954 Hague Convention, the UK Government would send a clear signal of its commitment to protecting civilian communities and their histories if it should ever intervene in this conflict or others, and provide the armed forces a clear mandate to do so.

For its campaign to be successful, the UKBS needs everybody who values cultural heritage in all its forms to write to their local MP urging them to pursue this matter. This can be done either by email or post. For those who would like guidance or some information to help them write their letter, a template (which can be adapted as necessary) and a fact sheet on the UKBS and the 1954 Hague Convention can be downloaded here and here. If anyone does not know the name of their MP or how to contact them, that can found here.

If you are still unsure of the need for the UK to ratify the 1954 Hague Convection, the UKBS ask that you please watch this three-minute film Protecting cultural property during war.
The UKBS is an entirely voluntary run organisation comprising academics and heritage professionals from a wide range of disciplines and backgrounds. You can stay up-to-date with its work and the progress of its campaign by following it on Twitter and Facebook. If you require any further information or have any outstanding queries, please do not hesitate to contact Philip Deans, Campaign Assistant for the UKBS, at philip.deans@ncl.ac.uk. Finally, to help the UKBS keep track of the campaign, it is also asked that when anyone does write to their MP, would they please let the UKBS know using the email address supplied above.

Next week’s seminar, 17 June: Open-air museums – a destination in vogue for public art in urban districts

open-air museums

Please join us for another in our series of research seminars:

Open-air museums: a designation in vogue for public art in urban districts

Speaker: J. Pedro Lorente, Department of Art History, University of Saragossa

Wednesday 17 June
1 – 2pm
Room 1.06, 18 Windsor Terrace
All welcome

Art collections permanently exhibited in public spaces are sometimes called ‘open air museums”. This notion has been constructed over time, building on historical precedents and in dialectic interaction with other related concepts like ‘sculpture gardens’. The result is not a clear-cut definition, but a changing perception, carrying diverse connotations according to different languages and cultural contexts. The modern paradigm was set by Middelheim Open Lucht Museum created in 1950 by the municipality of Antwerp in a suburban park, emulated in the French-speaking University of Liège, since the creation in 1977 of a Musée en Plein Air in the campus of Sart Tilman; some features were slighly different in another famous instance, the Musée de sculpture à plein air de la Ville de Paris, inaugurated in 1980 on a riverbank between Île Saint-Louis and the Gare d’Austerlitz. But the triumph of a post-modern return to the city centre was heralded by the founding in 1972-79 of the polemical Museo de Escultura al Aire Libre in Madrid. It’s influence has been enormous in Spain and other Latin countries, where many collections of public art gathered as part of urban regeneration processes have been proudly labeled as museums. Are they?

New Seminar: Walkthrough Research, Wednesday 25 February

We have an exciting seminar coming up on 25th February from 1 – 2pm.

Jakob Bak is coming to ICCHS from Denmark to speak to us about ‘walkthrough research’ techniques. More information below.

Jakob has offered to bring some of the specially designed glasses along, and will run a hands-on session after the seminar. Please let me know if you are interested in taking part in this extra session by sending an email to j.l.locke@newcastle.ac.uk

Hope to see you there.

Jakob Bak, Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design (CIID)

Jakob-Bak-profile-picture

Wednesday 25th February 1 – 2pm

Walkthrough Research

Throughout the European research project “MeLa* – Museums in an Age of Migration” Chris Whitehead (ICCHS) and Jakob Bak from Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design (CIID) have been developing a new method for gathering experiential accounts from museum visitors that combine video-based observational techniques with prompted reflection and guided interviewing. Applying the method in both fine arts and social history settings, CIID and ICCHS have through the project examined the possibilities and limitations of such methodology. At this lecture, Jakob will give an introduction to how this can be used in everyday cultural research practice.

Jakob Bak is Research Manager at CIID, coordinating the team’s efforts across European research projects and other activities. With a M.Sc.Eng in Design & Innovation from the Danish Technical University (DTU) as well as involvement in Copenhagen based Art and Technology collective Science Friction, Jakob’s interests spans science studies, haptics, design theory, critical making, sound synthesis and artistic practice. When out of the office Jakob conducts workshops on synthesis, design or prototyping, makes electronic music or generally tries to get a better understanding of interactions between people and systems.

‘Young, Religious and Judged’: Challenging prejudice through Co-Curating Muslim heritage in North East of England

At a time when tensions in Europe around the role of Islam in society are high, many British Muslims are working hard to counter the negative stereotypes perpetuated by the media through collaborations with museums, libraries, archives and galleries, as well as community-led heritage initiatives. Traditional approaches to Muslim communities within the heritage sector have tended to adopt an ‘outreach’ model of community participation, whereby community groups are ‘invited in’ to the museum or archive to contribute to an exhibition or project determined by the organisation. Such approaches have been criticised for failing to address questions of who is doing the including and under what terms? What happens then, if heritage organisations and universities act as facilitators for community-led research, rather than as gatekeepers?

To find out more about how universities and heritage organisations can support the needs of Muslim communities ICCHS Research Associate Katherine Lloyd and Doctorial Researcher Ilmam Tharazi both attended the Everyday Muslim Symposium on Saturday 31st January at the Bishopgate Institute in London. The symposium brought together people from a range of sectors and backgrounds who share an interest in documenting and sharing Muslim heritage. The aim of the event was to facilitate dialogue and collaboration between individuals, groups and institutions working in the field of Muslim heritage.

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Inspiring the audience (including some proud parents) at the Everyday Muslim Symposium

Katherine co-presented a paper with the West End Young Digital Artists, a group of 12-17 year olds from Newcastle who want to challenge prejudice and encourage respect between people from different cultures and religions in the West End of Newcastle as part of their documentary project ‘Young, Religious and Judged’. Katherine has been supporting the group to undertake historical research at Discovery Museum and the West Newcastle Picture History Collection as part of her work on Co-Curate North East, a knowledge exchange project led by Newcastle University that supports communities to document and share their heritage online. The young people showcased their documentary and received a very positive response, with conference participants asking for advice about how they could support young people to undertake similar projects. They also connected with academic researchers who were able to provide them with more information about the history of Muslims in the UK, such as the Yemini community in South Shields. The group are now working on an exhibition of their work that will go in display in Destination Tyneside at Discovery Museum in March. We can’t wait to find out more about their research!

Researching the history of the Yemini community at Destination Tyneside, Discovery Museum

Researching the history of the Yemini community at Destination Tyneside, Discovery Museum

For more information:

WEYDA: Crowdfunding video: https://co-curate.ncl.ac.uk/resources/view/34950

Co-Curate North East: co-curate.ncl.ac.uk 

Everyday Muslim: everydaymuslim.org

New Seminar for February

Please join us on 18th February for the next in our series of research seminars.

Sustaining intangible cultural heritage through the vehicle of tourism: choices and challenges
Professor Alison McCleery, Edinburgh Napier University Business School

Wednesday, 18th February 1 – 2pm
Room 1.06, 18 Windsor Terrace
All Welcome- feel free to bring a sandwich

This presentation will explore aspects of the input of tourism to regional development policies. Specifically, the possibility is explored that there can be a realistic role for sustainable tourism premissed upon the conversion of intangible cultural heritage (ICH or ‘living culture’) from an inward-facing phenomenon practiced by indigenous communities to an outward-facing phenomenon offered to visiting tourists. The challenge is to introduce that living culture to external paying audiences in a sensitive way such that it does not place very special, extremely delicate and sometimes sacred non-material heritage at risk of damage, dilution or destruction. Key ICH issues will be examined in the geographical context of contrasting case study sites across Scotland and in the conceptual contexts of identity, authenticity and inclusion. The objective of doing so is to assist in identifying common aspects of endeavouring to sustain living culture through tourism with a view to enabling a model of best practice, applicable across cultures, to be developed and tested with a view to wider dissemination and application – and to delivering impact.

Professor Alison McCleery: Short Biography

Alison McCleery is Professor of Economic and Cultural Geography at Edinburgh Napier University. She holds a 1st Class Honours Degree in Geography from St Andrews and a PhD from Glasgow on the topic of regional development policy. She has since published widely on North Atlantic peripheral rural areas, including on France where she both lived and worked briefly. More recently Alison’s work has evolved to embrace Intangible Cultural Heritage, the formal term used by UNESCO to denote what is often referred to as ‘living culture’. In 2013 she was both an invited speaker at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC and a keynote presenter at celebrations in Venice to mark the 10th Anniversary of the 2003 UNESCO Convention on the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage. Committed to the capacity building of early career researchers, Alison sits on the boards of both the ESRC Doctoral Training Centre and the AHRC Doctoral Training Partnership for Scotland.