IMA Annual Conference

2017 Irish Museums Association Annual Conference

Cultural Tourism and the Contemporary Museum

3-4 March 2017, Galway

  • Cultural tourism starts at home

    Over the past 25 years, Kerry County Museum (KCM) has experienced a major shift in audiences. Starting life as a major tourist attraction in 1991, KCM took on a dual role on becoming a designated museum in 1999. KCM was awarded Full Accreditation from the Heritage Council’s Museum Standards Programme in 2013 and received the Sandford Award for Heritage Education in 2015. This paper will argue that cultural tourism can - and indeed should – start at home. Faced with falling visitor figures and dwindling resources, a shift in audience proved not only a challenge but ultimately provided a new lifeline for KCM. With an audience base comprised of national and international visitors as well as the local community, KCM has a number of well-developed marketing channels and actively contribute to a number of marketing networks, both locally and nationally. While there is pressure to prioritise tourist visitors in order to access certain funding channels, a creative yet holistic strategy can lead to a successful and sustainable product attractive to tourists and locals alike. Indeed, the local audience base has become KCM’s best advocate promoting the museum, its exhibitions and collections, to cultural tourists visiting Kerry. 

    Claudia KÖHLER, Education, Community & Outreach Officer, Kerry County Museum 

  • Partnership possibilities

    While the vision for Highlanes Gallery began in 1946 with the founders Bea Orpen and Terry Trench (along with the Town Clerk of Drogheda Corporation) initiating the Drogheda Municipal Art Collection, the three-decade conflict in the North had a detrimental effect on border counties and towns, also affecting regional, national and international tourism to these areas. The Good Friday Agreement in 1998 was a major step in the peace process, with much growth emerging from the resulting ‘peace dividend’. Soon after, Highlanes Gallery and the FE McWilliam Gallery & Studio’s capital projects were initiated, funded primarily through the Interreg IIA Programme and a cross border partnership between two town councils. The idea of partnership is central to the thinking at Highlanes Gallery, and as the gallery marks its first decade, this presentation reflects on the advantages and opportunities that partnerships have created in many areas (not least the development of tourism): from the gallery’s work developing partnerships with regional and national galleries and museums (as well as international collections) to the close developmental work that the gallery has undertaken with the emerging Drogheda Arts Festival, drawing visitors, not only to exhibitions, events and venues, but further into the heart of the Boyne Valley, introducing and (re)acquainting audiences to the enormous beauty and potential of a once forgotten town and region. 

    Aoife RUANE, Director, Highlanes Gallery

  • ‘Every Person Is Connected’

    EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum opened to the public in May 2016. It is a long-awaited answer to calls for a museum dedicated to telling the story of the Irish diaspora. Due to the nature of its content, EPIC attracts a global audience to its doors – with Irish diaspora tourists from places such as North America, Canada, Britain and Australia feeling automatically invested in the story that the museum tells, as well as encouraging the visits of Irish people seeking to better understand their own country’s history of emigration. This puts EPIC at an advantage in terms of interaction with Dublin’s tourist market. However, EPIC understands the intertwined cultural and economic need to build beyond its collection content in order to ensure the sustainability of market interest. As a museum, EPIC considers it its duty to encourage a continued post-visit dialogue with its guests, providing them with on-going opportunities for cultural enrichment and discussion. This talk will explore how EPIC has developed methods for ensuring sustainability, including the establishment of webinar debates, volunteer networks and digital collecting research projects. By forging lasting digital connections between the diaspora today, EPIC has become a truly connected global Irish centre – living up to its tagline that ‘Every Person Is Connected’.  

    Fiona ROSS, Director, EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum

  • Cultural tourism in a post-liberal world

    Little Museum of Dublin curator Simon O'Connor discusses the political and pedagogical potential of cultural tourism in a globalised visitor market. As enlightenment ideals appear under threat in the developed West, what roles and civic responsibilities do we have as collectors, protectors and interpreters of cultural material to continue to promote unfashionable concepts like liberty, equality and fraternity? And what potential do we have, as educators, to encourage discussion of these concepts with visitors from other countries? 

    Simon O'CONNOR, Curator, Little Museum of Dublin 

  • Cultural heritage tourism: role of museum professionals

    This presentation will examine the challenges in developing cultural heritage tourism, delving into the role of museum professionals in developing successful and sustainable forms of such tourism.

    Tourism and museum professionals are known to operate under opposing value frameworks (profit versus not for profit, consumption versus preservation, use versus conservation, entertainment versus education, etc.) and may often be at odds in working with each other. However, partnerships between tourism and museums hold potential for collaborative efforts in the development of cultural heritage tourism and experiences related to both tangible and intangible heritages. Best practices for museums wishing to develop products to engage with cultural tourists will be explored through a number of case studies from the author’s research, including partnerships and the bundling of experiences into both events and trails. Examples are thus given as to how museum professionals can through cooperation contribute to implementing cultural heritage tourism for the benefit of museums, tourism, visitors and local communities. 

    Lee JOLLIFFE, Professor, Hospitality and Tourism, University of New Brunswick, Canada 

  • Creative Ireland

    Creative Ireland Programme is an invitation to Ireland to get involved in something truly inspirational. At its heart is collaboration – between central and local government, between culture and industry, between artists and policy makers – to facilitate an ecosystem of creativity. The transformational potential of culture was understood by the revolutionary generation. During last year, 2016, as the events that led to the foundation of the Irish state were being commemorated, there was a rediscovery of the power of cultural creativity to bring communities together, and to strengthen Ireland’s sense of identity. 

    John CONCANNON, Director, Creative Ireland


  • What do you know about your museum’s visitors?

    Every five years the Northern Ireland Museums Council undertakes a comprehensive survey of the local museums sector. Amongst other things, the most recent iteration - Mapping Trends 2016 – found that museums do not have the necessary time, skills and capacity to hand to enable them to robustly profile their visitors. In this presentation, Chris Bailey talks about the partnership developed between NIMC and Audiences NI to address this issue, and the experiences of the six museums that took part in the associated Museum Visitor Profiling Project of 2016.

    Chris BAILEY, Director, Northern Ireland Museums Council 

  • Irish Museums Survey 2016: a brief overview

    The Irish Museums Survey 2016 s the first broad quantitative and qualitative survey of Irish museums (north and south) for more than a decade. Funded by the Irish Research Council, it is a research collaboration between the School of Art History and Cultural Policy (University College Dublin), the Irish Museums Association, and the Irish Museums Trust. In this presentation, lead investigator Dr Emily Mark-FitzGerald will discuss some of the highlighted findings and recommendations arising from the report. 

    Dr Emily MARK-FITZGERALD, Lecturer/Assistant Professor, School of Art History and Cultural Policy, University College Dublin