ICCHS and Beamish Museum projects

ICCHS staff are working with colleagues at Beamish Museum to investigate the impact of the museum’s work with older people in two, separate projects.

Beamish Museum is an open air museum which tells the story of life in the north east of England in at different moments in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. They use buildings moved from across the region to create period settings. The museum’s staff have been working with older audiences for several years. Originally the sessions took place in one of the 19th Century ‘Pit Cottages’ but recently moved into ‘Orchard Cottage’ which is a 1940s set out as a 1940s farm-worker’s cottage. The sessions have also evolved from conventional reminiscence sessions, making use of handling collections and the immersive setting, into broader sessions, involving sensory stimuli and meaningful physical activity. The aim of the sessions is to promote mental health and emotional wellbeing.

Active Ageing & Heritage in Adult Learning

This is a European, service evaluation project funded by Erasmus+ to promote innovation in organisational practices in the field of lifelong learning.Erasmus logo

The project’s primary partners are 5 open air museums: Beamish, Den Gamle By (Denmark), Jamtli (Sweden), Maihaugen (Norway) and Skanzen (Hungary). The museums’ staff have agreed a topic and structure for delivering reminiscence sessions for older people at each venue. The plan is that the reminiscence sessions from all the venues will be broadly comparable.

Maihaugen Museum

Erasmus + project team members at Maihaugen Museum (l-r): Areti Galani, Tanya Wills (Beamish Museum) & Michelle Kindleysides (Beamish Museum)

Alongside the 5 museum partner organisations, 3 university partners were invited to develop and implement a methodology for evaluating the perceived impact of these sessions on the participants and any accompanying carers. The 3 universities are Aarhus (Denmark), Linnaeus University (Sweden) and Newcastle University. The Newcastle University team working on the project is being led by Rhiannon Mason, along with Areti Galani and Bruce Davenport (the project researcher).

By delivering comparable sessions across all the museums, and using a consistent methodology for evaluation, the project aims to generate a large body of data and recommendations for good practice in the area of reminiscence and older people.

Methodological investigations in capturing the impact of museum activities on older men with mental illness

A couple of years ago, Beamish Museum’ Active Ageing Officer, Michelle Kindleysides (an ICCHS alumni), worked in collaboration with Emma Biglands an Occupational Therapist based at Derwent Clinic, Mental Health Services for Older People in County Durham to develop workshops for a group of older men living with a range of mental ill health conditions such as depression and dementia. They developed the content of the workshops to match interests, skills, past experiences and the cognitive level of the participants enabling the men to feel they could contribute, make choices and participate to their occupational potential.

The focus of the sessions was on active participation, tapping into lost practical skills, providing meaningful engagement, and socialisation within the historic spaces of the museum and utilising the social-historical objects within the collection. ‘Jobs’ from around the museum formed the key activities in the sessions, which gave the men an opportunity to contribute to the visitor experience at large.

Anecdotal findings from the pilot, including the participant’s own remarks and the organisers’ observations, suggested that the set of workshops had a positive impact on the men’s subjective sense of wellbeing. However, evaluation methods using questionnaires proved to be intrusive and, potentially, detrimental to the outcomes of the session. So Michelle asked if we would like to get involved in trying to find different ways of evaluating the outcomes of the session.

Areti Galani is leading the Newcastle University project team with Bruce Davenport as the project researcher. The project is exploring possible evaluation methods, so Areti and Bruce worked with Michelle and Emma to develop a set of evaluation techniques that might provide insight into the impact of the workshops whilst remaining unobtrusive during the session.

Orchard Cottage

Planting bulbs in the raised bed outside Orchard Cottage during one of the Men’s Group Sessions

The project has been jointly funded by Newcastle University’s Institute for Ageing and Institute for Social Renewal.

Both projects are ongoing. For further information, please contact Bruce Davenport: bruce.davenport@newcastle.ac.uk

 

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

New book by Dr Bryony Onciul (ICCHS alumna MA (2006) and PhD (2012) – Museums, Heritage and Indigenous Voice: Decolonizing Engagement

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Current discourse on Indigenous engagement in museum studies is often dominated by curatorial and academic perspectives, in which community voice, viewpoints, and reflections on their collaborations can be under-represented. This book provides a unique look at Indigenous perspectives on museum community engagement and the process of self-representation, specifically how the First Nations Elders of the Blackfoot Confederacy have worked with museums and heritage sites in Alberta, Canada, to represent their own culture and history. Situated in a post-colonial context, the case-study sites are places of contention, a politicized environment that highlights commonly hidden issues and naturalized inequalities built into current approaches to community engagement. Data from participant observation, archives, and in-depth interviewing with participants brings Blackfoot community voice into the text and provides an alternative understanding of self and cross-cultural representation.

Focusing on the experiences of museum professionals and Blackfoot Elders who have worked with a number of museums and heritage sites, Museums, Heritage and Indigenous Voice: Decolonizing Engagement unpicks the power and politics of engagement on a micro level and how it can be applied more broadly, by exposing the limits and challenges of cross-cultural engagement and community self-representation. The result is a volume that provides readers with an in-depth understanding of the nuances of self-representation and decolonization.

Reviews

“This is an important and very useful book for museum professionals and academics who are concerned with issues of community outreach and consultation. It will also appeal to communities and their representatives who are about to engage with museums in policy and exhibitions development.” – Laurajane Smith, Australian National University

“At last, a book that goes beyond hopeful assertions about the value of community engagement, and really delves into the nitty-gritty of collaboration and representation, revealing the advantages – but also the challenges and risks – of working alongside, with, and for indigenous people.” – Conal McCarthy, Victoria University, New Zealand

ICCHS Postgraduate Research Conference: 16 June 2015

ICCHS_RPG_conference_16Jun15_pic1_Fotor_CollageLast week postgraduate researchers had the opportunity to present papers on their work at the annual ICCHS PGR conference. This year’s conference was split into three sessions, with themes of ‘Heritage in Action’, ‘Representation & Interpretation’ and ‘Organisational Structures and Practices’.

The first session, ‘Heritage in Action’, saw Carolyn Gibbeson presenting a paper entitled ‘Haunted Hospitals? Examining the redevelopment of historic former asylums’. Carolyn’s talk was fascinating, exploring factors involved in the re-use of these sites through data from three case studies. Brian Moss then presented his paper, ‘Help or Hindrance? Engaging with outdoor cultural heritage through smartphone based mobile digital interpretations’. Brian’s research looks at the use of MDI’s (Mobile Digital Interpretations) in relation to cultural heritage sites. The final paper of this session was given by Niki Black, whose paper, ‘Festivals and Heritage: Contributions to a Sustainable Future?’ considered the heritage connections which enable temporal, spatial and social links to be established and strengthened, and how these contribute to the social sustainability of their host communities. All in all, a thought provoking session.

The second session of the day, entitled ‘Representation and Interpretation’, was started off with Alistair Robinson’s paper entitled ‘Museums of modern and contemporary art in an age of ‘globalization’ “. Alistair examined how museums with increasingly stretched resources are nevertheless able to pursue expansionary agendas and enlarge their geopolitical purview, eliciting some interesting questions at the end of the session. Muhammad Ilmam Tharazi then presented on the topic of iconography and figurative representation in Islam. He discussed how museums respond to challenges relating to the display and interpretation of Islamic objects containing images and figurative representations. Finally, Rebecca Farley presented a paper looking at public art in Newcastle-Gateshead, through the use of interpretive frames. Rebecca’s paper discussed her data analysis work and looked in detail at examples of public art in the region and the approaches taken to interpreting these objects.

The final session of the day, ‘Organisational Structures & Practices’ began with a paper by Gemma Cardona-Gomez who discussed archaeological education in Catalonia. Gemma’s paper provided an overview of how archaeological education is approached in Catalonia and how she is going about her doctoral research on this topic. Jennifer Locke then presented a paper entitled ‘Organisational change in art museums and evolving practices of interpretation’. Jennifer’s paper discussed the shift in institutional practices involved in exhibition development and how these changes have influenced the interpretation of art objects. Lastly, Bethany Rex asked the audience to put their ‘theoretical hats’ on and presented a paper on using actor-network theory to understand how co-production is negotiated in the context of the public museum. A lively Q & A session followed this last session, and it was clear that the audience was interested and engaged.

Following the three conference sessions, Kat Lloyd gave a presentation on researchers engaging with communities, and a discussion session with Kat, Rhiannon Mason and Areti Galani followed. Overall the day was engaging and informative and we look forward to next year’s conference.

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)

New Seminar on 4th March: Rasmus Kjærboe, A Museum of Modern Art for the Middle Class

Please join us for our next research seminar:
Rasmus Kjærboe, Aarhus University, Denmark
Wednesday 4th March
Room 1.06, 18 Windsor Terrace
1 – 2pm

rasmus

A museum of modern art for the middle class: Two seminal cases from Denmark
Why build your own museum? My talk presents two seminal Danish museums that combine nature, architecture, art and domesticity in a total package. Both Ordrupgaard (1918) and the more well-known Louisiana Museum of Modern Art (1958) arose from private initiative, and their particular idiom of informal leisure in a museum setting has since become strongly influential. As deliberate societal interventions, the two were in opposition to the oppressive public museums of their time. Instead, they aimed at shaping and educating an emerging middle class to the art of modernity through popular appeal. This meant a new focus on bodily participation and a new convergence between exhibitions, surroundings and the phenomenology of pleasurable experience.

Rasmus Kjærboe is currently a PhD Fellow at Aarhus University, Denmark. His project on the collection museum of modern art takes Ordrupgaard, today a state-sponsored museum of French 19th century art and post-impressionism, as its central case. Coming from art history, Rasmus has published on topics of museum studies, sculpture and public memorials and held a position as lecturer in theories of art and museology at Copenhagen University for several years. Rasmus is the Vice-President of the Danish Association of Art Historians and editor of Kunsthistorisk Bogliste, the Danish art historical book review.

‘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