IMA Annual Conference

2016 Irish Museums Association Annual Conference

Museums for Society: Towards a Cultural Democracy

27-28 February 2016, Dublin

  • Friday 27 February 2016

    The ‘grassroots’ museum: The ROLE OF Drogheda’s citizens in developing and shaping a truly democratic museum.

    David Fleming once said that when we succeed in creating democratic museums, we scale the heights of social achievement; when we fail, we betray the whole of society.  Drogheda Town, since it’s foundation in the medieval period, has played a major role in our nation’s history. Recognising this, a group of enthusiastic citizens created its very first museum. It was a truly grassroots project in which the citizens of Drogheda were actively encouraged to help shape and develop their very own museum. This paper will suggest that in doing so, the citizens of Drogheda created a truly democratic museum. It is voluntarily run and is the only one of its kind in Ireland to have achieved full accreditation status from the Heritage Councils MSPI programme. This paper will present to conference how a shared belief in creating a museum ‘of the people, by the people, for the people’ underpins the very ethos of the formation of our state. It is deeply valued by its citizens in helping to create a shared cultural democracy.


    Audrey SMITH is a recent graduate of (hons) History at Trinity College Dublin and acts as Historical Consultant for the Drogheda Museum and Old Drogheda Society.


    Local Authority Museum Network (LAMN): Preserving the Past – Shaping the Future

    Local authority museum throughout Ireland play a vital and proactive role in promoting and preserving culture and heritage, ensuring the best possible quality of life for their communities.  Through their museum services they strengthen local communities by underpinning local identity and sense of place and as a result can contribute to the development of sustainable economic activity in their areas. Local authority museums work in partnership with services across the wider local authorities, as well as with other organisations in their respective regions, with government departments and, of course, with communities themselves.

    The Local Authority Museums Network is now setting out its strategy for the next few years. The Strategy will build on its achievements to date and focus on ways in which it can continue to strengthen and develop its role, in a sustainable way, for the enjoyment and engagement of communities into the future. Highlights of this strategy include examining ways to exploit the opportunities presented by technology to promote collections and reach out to new audiences; working collectively to play a distinct role in the Decade of Centenaries; exploring opportunities for collaboration through the new EU funding programme; and continuing to strengthen and develop partnerships with its key stakeholders in order to deliver on its mission.

    Liam BRADLEY has been Curator of Monaghan County Museum since 2003. Since then, he has developed the service incorporating numerous projects aimed at involving its community in exhibition planning, development and production as well as growing an educational programme that is accessed by over 7,000 students on an annual basis. In 2008, Monaghan became the first local authority museum to achieve full accreditation under the Museums Standards Programme for Ireland. Liam Bradley is currently developing a new museum facility for County Monaghan that will be aimed at evolving the service into a shared public space that will act as a catalyst of social change through the medium of a shared history and heritage.  He is currently the joint Vice-Chairperson of the Local Authority Museum’s Network.


    From inclusion to citizenship: Perceptions 2016

    The 1916 Proclamation declared its resolve to cherish “all of the children of the nation equally and oblivious of the differences”. Today, as a nation, we still notice difference before commonality. 2016 commemorations offer an opportunity, through our cultural institutions, to re-imagine the future. Cork City Council Arts office, Crawford Art Gallery and CIT Crawford College of Art & Design hosted ‘Outside In: the Art of Inclusion’ in 2013, bringing together work from 50 artists working in supported studios. Although they worked outside the conventional art world, these artists’ work attracted the highest public footfall in years and a significantly oversubscribed education programme.

    Relationships built with the artists have resulted in an ongoing artist in residence programme in Crawford Gallery and a weekly studio programme in CIT CCAD. A strong collaborative relationship has grown between the cultural institutions. Building on this relationship, ‘Perceptions 2016: the Art of Citizenship’ is planned for Autumn 2016. Aiming to broaden the range of voices, visions and approaches to creativity that the public encounters in cultural venues, it will explore our common ground and offer a new perception of citizenship. This paper outlines the journey from inclusion, through engagement, to a fresh imagining of citizenship

    Louise Foott is a lecturer at CIT Crawford College of Art & Design, specialising in arts in health and community practices. After graduating in Print, she qualified as an Art Teacher, before working as a Community Artist and as an Art tutor with marginalised young people. Over the years she has provided training for health professionals, educators and youth and community workers. She has a keen interest in the important role engaging with the creative arts can play within our life experience and has more recently completed research into the links between art-making and experiential learning. Louise Foott was one of the organising team behind the exhibition 'Outside In - The Art of Inclusion', a collaboration between four key cultural bodies in Cork city, showcasing the work of artists working in supported studio settings. She compiled and edited the publication of essays and images accompanying this exhibition.


    Evolving from Last Resort to First Choice: Using Exhibitions to Democratise access to National Library Collections

    Previously regarded as "libraries of last resort", in the 21st century many national libraries have sought to extend their means of public engagement beyond the traditional model of in situ reading rooms, serving select audiences of predominantly academic readers. In addition to online collection access, social media and public programming, national libraries have employed exhibitions to achieve this new goal. But what do library exhibitions offer audiences, and how can predominantly text based collections be displayed to overcome their lack of visual presence to engage diverse audiences, create participatory environments and democratise collection access?  In addressing these questions, this paper will firstly consider the societal, technological and professional drivers behind this development. Techniques and strategies will then be identified, by drawing upon existing library exhibition practice in Ireland and recent museological research in relation to both "engaging museums" and "silent objects". Finally World War Ireland: Exploring the Irish Experience (National Library of Ireland) will be used as a case study to demonstrate the use of layered visual stimuli, narrative, multi-vocality, emotional involvement and sensory interaction to engage with a wide range of learning styles and in doing so, thus democratise access to the National Library's collection.

    Nicola Ralston is an Assistant Keeper within the Education and Outreach Department of the National Library of Ireland, Dublin. Her undergraduate degree in Design at Glasgow School of Art preceded the award of a first-class Masters in the Conservation of Fine Art, by the University of Northumbria. More recently, she graduated with distinction from the University of Leicester's Masters programme in Museum Studies.


    Migration in museums – towards more diverse ways of narrating

    This paper focuses on ways in which contemporary museums produce knowledge, and in particular how they construct images of (national) collectives as part of narrative processes. Is the aim to be a democratic institution reflected in its narratives? Can the process of narration in museums be truly democratic and at what cost?

    The paper suggests embedding migration and cultural diversity in museum narratives and in its organisational structures in order for museums to become more democratic institutions. Migration and related topics of belonging and collective identities can serve as an impulse for renewal in museums and underline museums’ relevance in today’s society, particularly in light of an increasing number of refugees currently arriving in Europe.

    If we want to hear many voices in museums, we need to reconsider definitions of ‘expertise’ in the context of narrative processes. How many and whose voices do we hear? How accessible is the story of the collective, who can belong? This paper addresses these key questions and makes suggestions on how to maximise museums’ potential, drawing on examples from the German cultural sector and ongoing migration projects in museums.

    Edith Andrees is a cultural historian and museum educator. She has worked in museums in Germany and Ireland since 1999 and lectured B.A. modules on cultural studies and museum studies at European University Viadrina (Germany) and University College Dublin. As a museum educator at the National Museum of Ireland, she has worked on various programmes and participative projects that have addressed themes of historical memory and belonging in relation to World War One, Asgard and the 1916 Easter Rising. In her presentation, Edith Andrees draws on research for her PhD thesis about “Museums, Migration and Cultural Diversity: Narratives and Practices in Ireland and Germany” which she is currently completing at University College Dublin.



    Object-based learning to support language acquisition for new arrivals

    “Talking about your own reactions to objects can edifying. Responding to an object can deepen the experience. Authentic, unique and first-hand experiences with objects stimulate curiosity, exploration and emotions.” Scott Paris, Principles of Object Based Learning, 2002.

    Museums contain objects which track the history of humanity through material culture, art and technology.  Many museums also tell stories of the migration of people across the world in different periods of time. The story of migration cannot be told without looking at language. New arrivals are expected to learn the language of their new country as part of the settlement and integration process. This is often not without its challenges. Museums however are uniquely placed to support learning outside the classroom by using collections to scaffold language learning and encourage emergent language through discussion and active participation.

    By interacting with museum collections, learners have the opportunity to explore connections with objects, have conversations that might difficult inside the classroom, unlock personal stories and become active agents in their learning.  But the benefits are multiple: through speaking English with increased confidence the learners are also better placed to access other cultural opportunities, make return visits to museums with their friends and families and improve their health and well-being. The British Museum – “a museum of the world for the world” – has been running programmes English for Speaker of Other Languages (ESOL) for over 10 years. This paper looks at the impact of museum visits on ESOL learners. 

    Jo-Anne Sunderland Bowe is a heritage consultant and cultural facilitator. She has over 12 years experience of working in museums in the UK and Ireland and has worked on two European Union funded-projects. She is responsible for the ESOL Programme at the British Museum and has set up programmes, developed resources and provided training for a number of other institutions in this area including the Museum of London, the National Portrait Gallery, the British Library and Sir John Soanes’ House and Museum. She has spoken at a number of National and International Conferences on object-based learning for language acquisition and the role museums play in supporting the integration of new arrivals. She has run training programmes for ESOL teachers and practitioners. She is also responsible for the Museums and ESOL network which aims to bring the museum sector and ESOL sector together for the benefit of learners.


    Colonialism and Museums - Are we there yet?

    The portrayal of colonialism in museums has been widely debated since the 1990s, including through such publications as Colonialism and the Object (Barringer and Flynn, 1998) and Sensible Objects (Edwards, Gosden and Phillips, 2006). The colonial origins of some collections have been one foundation for the investigation of the social agency of museums and their impact on social justice (e.g. Museums, Society, Inequality, Sandell 2002) that has underpinned the contemporary application of museum ethics.

    This paper argues that, in Northern Ireland, examination of the connections between colonialism and collections is problematic, both for museums’ relationships with ‘minority’ communities, and because the two ‘majority’ cultural identities are perceived to have oppositional positions on the province’s own past within the British Empire. Specifically, it will explore how objects brought back to Northern Ireland through colonialism have the potential to reveal insights into the cultural identities and attitudes of their collectors, and discuss what their interpretation since reveals about concomitant museological thinking. It will demonstrate that their examination in the present is precarious due to the importance of museums’ role in providing shared spaces for all. Thus, objects that may be nostalgically resonant in private, cannot, for now, be publicly discussed. 

    Briony Widdis was Curator of Ethnography (Africa, Pacific and Americas) at National Museums Scotland from 1994-1999, Heritage Officer at Belfast City Council from 1999-2004 and Assistant Director at the Northern Ireland Museums Council from 2004-2012. Now undertaking a PhD at Ulster University entitled Opening Boxes: Collections and Colonialism in Northern Ireland, her undergraduate and Masters degrees were in Anthropology and Museum and Gallery Studies. Her work has included curation of ethnographic exhibitions, strategic development, reporting on museum learning programmes, delivering cultural diversity projects, co-ordinating heritage conferences, developing partnerships, and assessing and evaluating museum and arts grants.


    Are Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) histories locked in museum closets?

    On 22 May 2015 an overwhelming 62% of the Irish electorate voted to legalise same-sex marriage, making Ireland the first country to enact such legislation through a popular vote. The result led the Irish Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, to claim that Ireland was now ‘a small country with a big message for equality’. To what extent however does such equality exist in relation to the representation and inclusion of LGBT histories and cultures within the nation’s museums and galleries? Why is such representation important for gay people and what strategies can museums utilise to be more inclusive to this sector of society? This paper explores some of these issues and draws on national and international initiatives that actively give voice to LGBT people within the museum and gallery sector

    Dr Alan Kirwan currently leads the development of the learning and public events programmes for the House of European History in Brussels. He has worked in the field of museum and gallery learning for over 18 years, formerly holding posts in the UK with the Museums and Culture Service of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, the Victoria and Albert Museum and Dulwich Picture Gallery. Alan Kirwan received his PhD from the School of Museum Studies, University of Leicester in 2013 for his research titled Museums in the Construction of a Diverse and Inclusive Ireland. He regularly gives talks and workshops on the social agency of museums and galleries.


    Democratic or Dangerous? Museums and their usefulness in contemporary society

    It appears that the museum has become more democratic. With the rise of community-based museums and the prevalence of co-curated exhibitions with the community sector, the interpretation and presentation of the past could now appear to be an egalitarian pursuit. This utopia denies the social and political motivations for engaging with the past. This paper considers how history exhibitions, in an effort to throw off the mantle of autocratic curatorship, must still be concerned with the questions of who is doing the interpretation and for what purpose.

    It will consider the difficulties when interpreting the histories of war and conflict in Northern Ireland.

    Beginning with a reflection of the curatorship of the Decade of Centenaries, it will move to the potential implications of these methods for the memorial exhibitions of the Troubles period. Although museums are often cited as ‘safe places of civic dialogue and democratic debate’ this paper will consider whether we should challenge that assumption and consider the museum space as one that has potential to be more dangerous than that.

    Elizabeth Crooke is Professor of Heritage and Museum Studies at Ulster University where she is also Course Director of the established MA Cultural Heritage and Museum Studies (Belfast campus) and MA Museum Practice and Management (distance learning). She has published Museums and Community (Routledge 2007 Museum Meanings series) and Politics, Archaeology and the Creation of a National Museum of Ireland (Irish Academic Press 2000) as well as many book chapters and journal articles. In 2015 she was elected Chairperson of the Board of Directors Northern Ireland Museums Council.  


    The Role of National Museums in (Re)Negotiating National Identity

    Our cultural heritage is part of our identity. At any time in a nation’s history, someone decides what is, and what is not, part of our national culture. Who makes this decision? National museums are authoritative spaces with the potential to select what objects to preserve and to display. Moreover, (while museums cannot alone create a sense of national identity), by using these objects to tell stories, they can influence the ideas that contribute to our sense of national culture and identity.

    The once homogenous national culture of Ireland in the 20th century now co-exists as one strand of a multicultural fabric. This multiculturalism now opens new debates about culture and identity. One hundred years on from the Easter Rising, do the national museums in Ireland reflect the true story of Irish identity in 2016? This paper will present findings from the symposium held in the Chester Beatty Library in early February 2016, and reflect on the origins of our museums and the narratives they promote; ask whether they are relevant to Irish citizens today; and suggest what might improve in the future.

    Jennifer SIUNG is Head of Education in the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin, Ireland. She commenced her post in 2000 and has developed the first multi and intercultural learning programme in an Irish museum. Her work involves engaging with the Islamic, Asian, North African, East Asian and European collections of the Library, devising numerous programmes including intercultural projects for schools, cultural festivals, and creating links with local multi-ethnic communities. She has been invited to sit on a number of advisory boards: Dublin City Council Chinese New Year Festival (2008-2015), ASEMUS Museum Education Exchange Programme, Cultural Diversity Policy of the Arts Council and the European Open Method of Coordination on Intercultural Dialogue (2010-2015). Jennifer Siung has lectured and written on cultural diversity in Irish museums and the role of national identity and Irish museums (Renegotiating Irish Identity: the Chester Beatty Library and Ireland, Museum Studies, National Museum Taiwan and IMA Journal 2012). She has participated in the Getty NextGen for museum leaders in 2012 and Learning in Museums, ICOM China in 2014.  She is one of the coordinators of The Creative Museum project, (Erasmus + 2014-2017).   



    Audrey KEANE is one of the information and advice officers at the Creative Europe Desk Ireland’s Culture Office.  The Culture Office is co-funded by the EU Commission’s Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA) and the Arts Council which houses its office.  The Culture Office provides information, advice and technical assistance to organisations in Ireland interested in applying to the European Commission under its Creative Europe Culture Sub-programme.  The Culture Sub-programme is the main funding programme for the culture and heritage sectors offered by the EU Commission. Although based at the Arts Council, the priorities and objectives of the programme are defined by the Commission.  Audrey Keane has worked in various briefs in the Arts Council since 1997 including as Young People, Children and Education Officer and as Officer in the Literature and Film teams.  She also currently holds the position of Acting Registrar of Aosdána.

  • Saturday 27 February 2016

    Relative success and / or absolute failure?

    Although in recent decades museums have striven to be of relevance and use in contemporary society, to facilitate access for all and create platforms for public participation and cultural democracy, the results often remain ambiguous. Do museums actually address and articulate, elucidate, enable and empower the real concerns and needs of their constituents – or do they even fully know or acknowledge what these concerns and needs are? Have museums failed to realize that shifting paradigms require radical transformation in all areas of governance, planning processes, collecting policies, exhibitions and public outreach? Are museums prepared to spend their budgets where their democratic rhetoric is? How do we as a sector close the palpable gap between core social, political and ethical dilemmas and conflicts in the world today and the subject matters actually given priority in museums? Do we need to supplement the democratic intents of the participatory platforms with activist, interventionist policies and practices, derived from and embedded in the specific capabilities and values of the museum professions, aimed at protecting or growing the quality of life of the individuals and communities around us? 

    Dr Jette SANDAHL holds a number of offices in the international museum world, and speaks, writes and publishes within the broad museological field. She came to the museum profession after more than a decade of university study, teaching and research within the areas of psychology and psychoanalysis. She has been the founding director for two pioneering new museums, the Women’s Museum of Denmark and the Museum of World Cultures in Sweden. She has served as Director of Exhibitions and Public Programs at the National Museum of Denmark, and as Director Experience at National Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. Most recently, she was director of the Museum of Copenhagen, Denmark. Jette Sandahl has been part of the formation of new paradigms for museums as platforms for empowerment and cultural participation, for democratic dialogue and social justice. 



    One day, all this will be yours

    We face the unprecedented challenge of climate change, deleterious inequality and high levels of personal ‘ill-being’. Tony Butler will explore how some UK museums are responding to the social and environmental challenges of the 21st century. He will tell the story of The Happy Museum project and how its focus on developing mutual relationships with communities, creating active citizens and being stewards for the future as well as the past, has made museums more relevant and resilient. He will also describe how these principles have helped Derby Museums become more vital to their city despite reductions in public funding. A key factor has been a commitment to co-producing all aspects of museum work with local people. This has led to an increase in visitors, more creative displays and greater capital investment from external funders.

    Tony BUTLER is a social history curator at heart and has been Executive Director of Derby Museums Trust since January 2014. Derby Museums includes Derby Museum and Art Gallery and Derby Silk Mill. From 2015 he will oversee the £17m redevelopment of the Silk Mill as Derby’s Museum of Making. Prior to that, he was director of the Museum of East Anglian Life for nine years. In 2011 he founded the Happy Museum Project, to create an international community of practice to explore how museums could contribute to a society in which well-being and environmental sustainability were its principle values. Tony Butler read History and Welsh History at Aberystwyth University and has an MA in Museology from University of East Anglia. He was the Fellow for Museums on the Clore Leadership Programme in 2007-08, and is a Fellow of the Museums Association. He is also Director of Mission Models Money, a member of council for the Association of Independent Museums and is a trustee of Kids in Museums. He is currently pursuing a fellowship on the Chief Executive Programme run by National Arts Strategies in the United States.


    This is your museum too! Regaining trust and reestablishing connections with society in Bosnia and Herzegovina

    ‘This is your museum too’ was one of the messages on the History Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s building façade, asking for the public’s support during the raising awareness campaign in February 2012. The twenty-year ongoing crisis of the cultural institutions in post-war Sarajevo, with no legal founder and consequently no regular state funding, brought the History Museum into an extremely difficult situation. The Museum’s response to the crisis was to open up more towards society and allow citizens to feel ownership of the museum, to strengthen connections with the citizens, to offer and to receive.

    As a victim of the political situation in which shared past and heritage is not acknowledged and promoted, the Museum is trying to build up its strengths through the promotion of dialogue and shared heritage.

    This presentation will share these experiences and discuss how the History Museum has been using its resources and potentials to position itself, despite difficult circumstances, as a relevant cultural and educational institution, and to promote a shared heritage, not encouraged nor welcomed in Bosnian society which is still deeply divided.

    Elma Hašimbegović is a historian and museum professional, born in Sarajevo. She graduated from history at the Faculty of Philosophy in Sarajevo, and holds an MA and MPhil in medieval studies from Central European University in Budapest. She joined the History Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina Sarajevo in 2001 and is currently director of this cultural institution. In her professional museum work, she is committed to strengthen the role of museums in Bosnia and Herzegovina society - faced with many challenges including the total neglect of the state cultural institutions - by turning the museum into a space for a dialogue and active learning, accessible to all citizens. 


    On the Factory’s Ruins: The death of a nation and the birth of a museum

    Stuart Hall describes ‘living archives’ as ‘a field of […] rupture, significant breaks, transformations, new and unpredicted departures’. For an artist, the interpretation of archival and historical materials is not solely an academic exercise; it can also be viewed as a societal intervention, where historical narratives are ruptured and re-contextualised, generating an emerging critical and contested site of reinterpretation. In this presentation Anthony Haughey will discuss his work as an artist and researcher with particular emphasis on cultural memory, archival formations and the production of contemporary artworks, including his recent video installation, UNresolved which reflects on the twentieth anniversary of genocide in Srebrenica.

    Dr Anthony HAUGHEY is an artist and lecturer in the Dublin Institute of Technology where he supervises practice-based PhD projects. He was Senior Research Fellow (2005-8) for the Interface Centre for Research in Art, Technologies and Design at the University of Ulster Belfast, where he completed a PhD in 2009. His work has been widely exhibited nationally and internationally, most recently in 2015 Uncovering History, Kuunsthaus Graz, Excavation, Limerick City Gallery. In 2014, Making History, Colombo Art Biennale, Art of the Troubles, Ulster Museum, Belfast. Homelands, a major British Council exhibition touring South Asia and Citizen, Highlanes Gallery, Drogheda and MCAC, Portadown. His work is represented in many international public and private collections and his art works and research has been published widely internationally. He is an editorial advisor for the Routledge journal, Photographies. Chapter contributions include a forthcoming special issue of the Canadian Journal of Irish Studies, ‘Dislocations: Participatory Media with Refugees in Ireland and Malta’, in Goodnow, K. and Skartveit, H. L. (eds) Changes in Museum Practice New Media and Refugees: Forms and Issues of Participation, Berghahn (2010) and ‘Imaging the Unimaginable’, in Grossman, A. and O’Brien, A. (eds) Projecting Migration, Transcultural Documentary Practice, London: Wallflower Press. He was recipient of the Create Arts and Cultural Diversity Award 2013, and an Arts Council Projects Award. 2015. Anthony Haughey is currently working on a new film which will premiere in New York in 2016, and is also co-curating a 1916 commemorative exhibition for Highlanes Gallery, Drogheda. 


    Curating Birmingham: diversity, identity and power

    What role do curators play in the social responsibilities of a museum? In the case of Birmingham, do basic curatorial practices lead to a socially responsible approach to research, interpretation and collection development? Birmingham's demography is fast changing, as are the social, political and economic issues that its inhabitants face. The city's museum service has always attempted to keep up with this pace of change, both in its visitor profile and in its programming. Curatorship of the museum's collections and histories, however, must not merely keep up with the pressures of change, but must also inform that change, if the museum is to maintain relevance and credibility in Birmingham today. The ActiveCurating model and its application in the Collecting Birmingham project has been designed to equip curators with the tools to think critically, particularly in the context of increasingly complex societal needs and expectations. It requires curators to take an active role in researching more diverse histories, current socio-political trends and in understanding the interests and protests of stakeholder groups. Is this a step toward socially responsible curating?

    Nazia ALI is Curator of Collecting Birmingham at Birmingham Museums Trust and has 15 years of experience in the cultural sector. Her work in museums has been supported by the Museums Association and she has recently been selected to participate in the MA’s Transformers programme which aims to create radical change in museums. Nazia Ali’s work has also extended beyond the UK and into other museum sectors; The British Council in Pakistan and ICOM (UK and COMCOL European working group). She is a graduate of The School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London and a postgraduate of the University of Leicester, Museum Studies department.


    Towards a Cultural Democracy Panel session chaired by Professor Ciarán Benson, with participants Lar Joye; Fiona Kearney; Dr Malachi O’Doherty; Eithne Verling; and Trevor White.                               

    Museums aspire to be relevant to the individuals and communities they represent, but we need to consider whether they are achieving this aspiration. What changes do we, as museum professionals, need to embrace in order to ensure that our audiences feel ownership of their museums. This panel session will bring together a range of leading voices from the museum sector and cultural commentators to discuss the contemporary relevance of museums. What are the purposes of museums in today’s changing and fast-paced society? What will the museum of the future look like? If museums are to be an essential part of people's lives, what new strategies will they need to deploy?


    Ciarán BENSON is Professor Emeritus of Psychology, University College Dublin. His research interests include the cultural psychology of self, philosophical psychology, and the psychology and philosophy of ‘Art’. His publications include The cultural psychology of self: Place, morality and art in human worlds. London/New York: Routledge, 2001, and The absorbed self: Pragmatism, psychology and aesthetic experience. London: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1993. He has long been practically active in the arts in Ireland as a policymaker, occasional curator and critic. Most recently, he co-curated with Brian Lynch Tony O’Malley’s Self-Portraits; A Centenary Exhibition (Oct-Dec, 2013) in The Butler Ormond Gallery in Kilkenny. Hipolicy proposals for the arts in education for the Arts Council, The place of the arts in Irish education, was published in 1979. He was the first chairman of the Irish Film Institute, of the City Arts Centre and, from 1993-1998, he was Chairman of An Chomhairle Ealaíon/The Arts Council of Ireland. He is currently Chair of Poetry Ireland, The Grangegorman Public Art Working Group, and The Irish Museums Trust. He is a member of the International Association of Art Critics (AICA).

    Lar JOYE holds responsibility for the Arms and Armour, Transport, Flag and Military History collections and is the curator of the award winning Soldiers & Chiefs exhibition at Collins Barracks. He has also worked on the recent exhibitions on the History of Ireland in 100 Objects, 1913 Lockout and Recovered Voices the Irish soldier in WWI. He is a graduate of Leicester University and the Getty Leadership Institute. Lar Joye is chairman of the Irish National Committee of the Blue Shield and a member of the Board of Directors of the Irish Museums Association and the Military Heritage of Ireland Trust. 

    Fiona KEARNEYis the founding Director of the Lewis Glucksman Gallery, University College Cork. She began her curatorial career as Programme Co-ordinator at the National Sculpture Factory and then directed the visual arts programme of the Triskel Arts Centre, Cork.  In 2008 she was the Irish commissioner for European Night at the Rencontres d’Arles international photography festival. In 2013 she curated ‘Island: New Art from Ireland’ at the Galeria civica contemporary art museum in Modena, Italy, which formed part of the International Culture Programme for Ireland’s Presidency of the European Union. Throughout her career, Fiona Kearney has received several distinguished awards including the designation of college scholar by UCC, the NUI Prix d'Honneur from the French Government, a UCC President’s Award for Research on Innovative Forms of Teaching, and a Fulbright scholarship. She has also been awarded the Jerome Hynes Fellowship on the Clore Leadership Programme, a fellowship by the Edward T. Cone Foundation to attend Session 453 of the Salzburg Global Seminar and was among a selected group of global museum leaders who participated in the Getty Museum Leadership Institute at the Getty Center in L.A. in 2008. From 2009-2014, she served as a member of the Arts Council of Ireland where she chaired the Policy & Strategy committee. She currently serves on the boards of VISUAL centre for contemporary art, Carlow, and Cork Midsummer Festival. 

    Dr Malachi O'Doherty is a writer and broadcaster based in Belfast. He is the author of several books, mostly memoir-based, reflecting on religion, the media and the Northern Ireland Troubles. His most recent book, On My Own Two Wheels, is a celebration of cycling. His earlier works include The Trouble With Guns (a study of IRA strategy), I Was A Teenage Catholic, a discussion of his religious upbringing, and The Telling Year, a memoir of working as a journalist in Belfast during the worst of the violence there. He has had a longstanding career as a broadcaster on both radio and television. Malachi O’Doherty was Writer in Residence at Queen’s University Belfast from 2010 - 2013 where he was awarded his PhD. He writes for The Belfast Telegraph and occasionally for the Irish Times and the Guardian. He is a frequent voice on BBC radio, speaking on political and cultural issues. He is also active on social media and has received Arts Council Awards for his short films on the internet, built from his stills photography. His next book is a biography of the Sinn Fein leader, Gerry Adams, commissioned by Faber and Faber. 

    Eithne VERLING is Director of Galway Museum since 2013. She began her professional career as an archaeologist and is a former curator of Donegal County Museum. Eithne has been working in the area of cultural infrastructure for 20 years, eight of which were spent with The Heritage Council of Ireland as Museums Officer. Her work has also included the Housing the Arts in Galway project which saw the establishment of the Town Hall and the Black Box Theatres; the development of the Heritage Council’s successful Museum Standards Programme; membership of the Greenfort Cultural Planning Working Group with Sligo County Council; and as curator and programme manager of a number of community art and history projects. She has served as a member of the Board of Directors of the Irish Museums Association and is former Secretary of ICOM Ireland. She is a member of the Board of Directors at Baboró International Arts Festival for Children, a member of the Cúram Outreach Advisory Board at the Bioscience Dept in NUIGalway, and is Coordinator of Galway’s Cultural Strategy 2025. 

    Trevor WHITE is Director of the Little Museum of Dublin, a people's museum of the Irish capital. The museum was launched in 2011 with a collection created entirely by public donation. A playwright, food critic and magazine publisher, Trevor White worked at Food & Wine before launching The Dubliner magazine in 2001. Under his stewardship the Little Museum has become one of the most popular museums in Ireland, playing an important role in fostering civic pride amongst Dublin’s citizens.    





    Good citizenship means putting the public at the heart of our museums

    This presentation places the public centre stage in museums that are part of a cultural democracy.  It aims to address key issues that are challenging the museum in the contemporary world. These include the critical need for the museum to be actively engaged in making itself accessible, community-linked, networked and relevant to society. An increasingly important requirement to be a forum for the widest range of stimulating learning options from early years through to later life, onsite and online.

    Among the museum’s key purposes are: caring for, displaying and digitising collections. What potentially attracts public interest most of all are the exhibitions and public programmes that appeal to people of all ages. What is needed is creative, imaginative thinking that moves beyond ongoing issues of funding and resourcing in order that museums can devise innovative ways of engaging with the public making everyone feel that they belong in our museums.

    Dr Marie BOURKE is a museum professional, who as Keeper and Head of Education at the National Gallery of Ireland worked in many areas, including developing its education services and public programming. The author of over eighty articles, papers and EU projects, including co-ordinating ‘Key trends in museums of the 21st century’ (LEM 2013). She is interested in Irish art, cultural and heritage studies, has published and edited books, proceedings and catalogues, notably The Story of Irish Museums 1790-2000 (2011/2013). Her recent focus on the importance of public engagement, and the development and promotion of Irish museums, is addressed at conferences, nationally and internationally. A former Adjunct Professor in the UCD School of Art History and Cultural Policy, and member of several boards, including the University of Limerick, and Chair of the Irish Museums Association, Marie Bourke is a member of the RDS Visual Art Working Group and Irish representative on the ICOM Committee for Education and Cultural Action. 



    Museums, Imaginaries, and the Natural History of Humankind

    Who is heard? Who is remembered? Who is counted? Who is welcome? What remains? The politics of museums are sometimes addressed by strategies to diversify audiences and engage communities, though sometimes rather oddly, by segmenting the public into the old, the young, the poor, the 'non-white' and so on. Indeed, sometimes museums (often?) are justified on the instrumental basis of projected income from tourism. But what is a museum? What is it for? What can happen in museums? This paper adopts the conservatism favoured by philosopher Hannah Arendt in order to think through the question of museums, arguing that they remind us that the world long preceded us and will long outlast us. The meanings, messiness, and significance of the ideas, cultures, traditions, creatures, and artefacts of our world will vanish or ossify without the conversations and stories that surround them and the materials and practices that embody them. Museums remind us that the human being is not a creature born ex nihilo (out of nothing) and they allow for different conceptions of ‘the public’ that can connect us with those traditions of thought and practices that constitute our long natural history of humankind, as well as with our even longer evolutionary lineages. But they also remind us that everything is interesting, and our time is not the end of history. This paper will reflect on how museums might help us to see our present through the eyes of the stranger, to see ourselves in light of the long story of humankind, and to see our pasts through the eyes of a fellow human being, citizen or organism in evolution.  

    Dr Aislinn O’DONNELL lectures in Philosophy of Education in Initial Teacher Education and MIC’s Postgraduate programmes at the University of Limerick. Along with publishing widely nationally and internationally, she has developed a number of creative research and teaching projects that seek to introduce philosophy to settings like the prison, probation projects, and drug projects. She has also developed a collaborative project in primary schools called ‘Art and Philosophy in the Classroom’ with gallery educator and curator, Katy Fitzpatrick, with whom she also ran the Young EVA project in 2014. Her ideas are informed by contemporary art practice and she continues to work closely with artists. Aislinn O’Donnell is interested in exploring creative and experimental approaches to teaching philosophy. She is also interested in thinking about how public institutions in Ireland can become more pluralistic and participatory, creating more opportunities for the voices of all those who are part of those institutions to be heard.