IMA Annual Conference

2019 Irish Museums Association Annual Conference

We are all Engagers

1-2 March, Cork

  • The museum experience in the ‘Age of Participation’

    Museums have been in a state of constant evolution since at least the 1960s – a muddled process largely driven by societal change rather than due to directorial vision. With society now evolving at web-speed, can museum change continue to keep pace, or do we face extinction? Few museums have yet recognised that the transformation of contemporary society in this ‘Age of Participation’ has been so profound that change must be fundamental.

    The immediate future for museums depends on the adoption of approaches based on Participation. Community engagement reflects one aspect of this, but in practice it must cover every aspect of museum activity and the full range of museum audiences. This is summarised in terms of four impacts:

    1.    Transforming museum audiences from ‘visitors’ to ‘users’ to ‘stakeholders’ 

    2.    Developing participatory design and exhibits 

    3.    Responding to social challenges 

    4.    Replacing old hierarchical management style and operation with participatory governance.

    The fourth of these is by far the most difficult. Old-fashioned museum hierarchies depend on maintaining control. Participation means sharing power with museum users – and is, therefore, transformative.

    Dr Graham Black is Professor of Museum Management and Interpretation at Nottingham Trent University.

    This year, Dr Black celebrates 45 years of working in and with museums. Today, he combines his academic work as Professor of Museum Management and Interpretation at the Nottingham Trent University with consultancy as a Heritage Interpreter. Exhibitions on which he has acted as Interpretation Consultant have twice won the UK £100,000 Art Fund Prize (2003 and 2012). Two of the museums reached the final shortlist for the European Museum of the Year Award.

    He is a Fellow of the Association for Heritage Interpretation (UK). A prolific author, among his publications are Meeting the audience challenge in the Age of Participation (2018) Developing Audiences for the Twenty-First Century Museum (2012);  Transforming Museums in the Twenty-First Century (2011); Embedding Civil Engagement in Museums (2010) and The Engaging Museum (2005). His current work is focused on three related areas: the museum experience in the ‘Age of Participation’ (the subject of his talk); the democratisation of history in museum display; and working with community groups in NW Leicestershire as they celebrate their own heritage. 

  • From Visitor to Participant:

    -engaging the citizen through contemporary collecting

    The last decade in Ireland has seen rapid societal change, with referendums approving both marriage equality and the abolishment of the 8th Amendment to allow for legal abortion. For a country generally regarded as a bastion of Catholicism, it is difficult to overstate the significance of these events. This paper will examine the rapid response collecting programme which immediately followed the referendum in 2018 by the National Museum of Ireland, which happened through active collection of material of interest, social network collecting and crowd sourcing. It will look at how citizens chose different artefacts to represent the campaign, and its expansion into LGBTQ+ rights and other aspects of contemporary Ireland. It will also look at how this has instigated a new focus in the direction of the collections themselves and in how the museum works with each other across its divisions, and in how it has engaged with the public at a fundamental level by inviting them to curate the collection; organising the preservation of material felt to represent themselves and what they choose to have remembered about this time in Ireland’s story, bringing them into the core of the museum process and opening its ownership to them.     Brenda Malone, historian and museum professional, is the curator of Military History collections at the National Museum of Ireland.

    Her particular areas of interest include the development of the idea of ‘nation’, and how this is collected and portrayed in National Museums particularly through its historical collections. She has co-curated the major military and history exhibitions at the NMI, including Soldiers and Chiefs and Proclaiming a Republic, and has written and spoken widely about the collections and their meaning at both a national and individual level. She has recently begun developing a new collecting area in the NMI with the theme Contemporary Ireland, which is becoming the vehicle through which the NMI can collect important material reflecting modern Irish society.  

  • Accelerating the Collection-

    -New adventures in collection exhibitions

    The Museum of Transport and Technology (MOTAT) in Auckland, New Zealand, has had a chequered past. With Aucklanders feeling disconnected from MOTAT and audience engagement low, a new strategy was revved up. This talk will explore the process of developing an exhibition drawn from MOTAT’s historical road transport collection, and driving it into contemporary times. How do we, as museum professionals, re-inspire our communities and change people’s perceptions of our institutions’ role? Elspeth Hocking, the curator of the Accelerate: Driving New Zealand exhibition, will explore the challenges and joys of bringing new life to a collection seen by many as no longer relevant, and look at the ways museums globally can reach out to a new generation of audiences in a rapidly changing world.   

    Elspeth Hocking is a museum curator and collection manager from New Zealand. .

    She holds a Masters degree in Museum and Heritage Studies from Victoria University of Wellington, and has worked in a number of museum and heritage roles, from research executive at Morris Hargreaves McIntyre, to most recently as Exhibitions Curator at MOTAT. She has been Social History Curator at Puke Ariki Museum and Library and Collection Care Collection Manager at Auckland War Memorial Museum. She is currntly based in Dublin.

  • Finding Power, Giving Voice:

    -How innovative education strategies can provide opportunity for representation, collaboration and co-creation, while addressing gaps in the National Collection.

    In October 2017, street artist, illustrator, teacher and activist, Joe Caslin, was invited to participate in a long-term project supporting the major retrospective exhibition Frederic William Burton: For the Love of Art.  Inspired by the subjects of Burton’s Pre-Raphaelite portraits, Caslin explored the complex relationship between pedestals of power, agency and control, and combined an in-depth investigation of Burton's life and work with his own socially engaged, multi-disciplinary practice.Working collaboratively with staff from all corners of the Gallery, photographer Gavin Leane, and a panel of individuals representing a wide range of voices, Caslin’s contemporary visual response highlights “how gender, ethnicity, sexuality, disability and socio-economic status continue to be seen as legitimate reasons to take or withhold agency”.

    The findings of the project were launched in May 2018 and, later that year, Caslin’s completed artistic response, comprising interviews, digital files, sketchbooks, works on paper, photographic portraits and a largescale temporary installation were acquired for the National Collection. Finding Power demonstrates how a project with heart, purpose and contemporary relevance has the potential to move beyond any specific departmental remit, influence society and impact an institution at its core.

    This panel session will give a brief overview of current practices and recent projects from the National Gallery of Ireland (NGI), specifically pertaining to audience led programming, cross departmental/curricular collaborations and address the zeitgeist of Ireland today.

    Sinéad Rice, panel convenor, is the head of education at the National Gallery of Ireland.

    In 2015 she was awarded the Fiosraigh Scholarship Award for students of excellence and is a PhD candidate at the School of Creative Arts, Dublin Institute of Technology, also serving on the inaugural advisory board for the School of Art History and Cultural Policy at University College Dublin. A graduate of Dublin Institute of Technology (Dip Design), Crawford College of Art and Design (BA Fine Art, HDIP in Visual Arts Education) and University College Cork (MA Modern & Contemporary Art History, Theory and Criticism), she has taught, curated and published on Art, Education and Related subjects for diverse audiences in Ireland, Europe and US.

    Panel particpants are Joe Caslin, Artist, Activist and Teacher, Gavin Leane, Photographer; Stephen Moloney, Writer and Activist; and Chidi Muojeke, Mother and asylum seeke  

  • “A space for me and you and us”-

     - Making museums meaningfully inclusive 

    This panel will combine a number of quick-fire provocations and a discussion, bringing a diverse group of people together to talk about how their experiences of participating in  projects and programmes at the National Museum of Ireland which have made a positive difference to their lives. Speakers will address challenges experienced in terms of their access to, and engagement with the Museum and its collections. The discussion will address the question of how museums can respond meaningfully to contemporary issues, and provide genuine access and engagement to bring about positive change for the Museum and its communities. The panel will also discuss the shifts and cultural changes that need to happen in museums to bring about genuine and meaningful access. 

    Lorraine Comer, Head of Education at National Museum of Ireland (NMI), is leading the team convening this session, formed by the NMI's Helen Beaumont, Siobhán Pierce, and Rosa Meehan.

    Chaired by Gary Granville (Panel Chair), Professor Emeritus of Education at the National College of Art and Design, Dublin and former assistant chief executive in the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA). 

    Oein De Bhairduin is vice chair of the Irish Traveller Movement, the founder of the independent LGBT Traveller peer support group LGBT Pavee (now known as LGBT Tara) and has acted as an advisor for the NMI on several projects, including the current CAMP project and exhibition.

    Mark Harmon is a young person from Dublin’s north-west inner city, whose film, entitled ‘ODG: Kingdom of Dust’ is currently on display at the NMI. 

    Kany Kazadi is a participant in the ‘Migrant Women’ project and exhibition at the NMI. 

    Esme Lewis is a participant in the ‘Samhain’ project and exhibition at the NMI. This project spanned three years.

    Aoife O’Connor is a young person from Dublin’s north-west inner city, whose film, entitled ‘ODG: Kingdom of Dust’ is currently on display at the NMI. 

    Máire O’Higgins is deputy principal at Larkin Community College, who has been a partner in a number of projects and exhibitions with the NMI over 10 years, most recently the ‘Rights Museum’, an exhibition of students’ work on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Anna O’Loughlin is the Home School community liaison teacher at St Gabriel’s National School, Dublin 7. The school is currently involved in an oral history intergenerational project, ‘Stories Between Us’ with artist Janine Davidson and the NMI.

     Curating as Form of Civic Engagement: From an ‘Organic Intellectual’ Practice to Working with ‘Art without Art’   

    As capitalism in its neoliberal form spreads worldwide, a resulting global, social divide has produced a new class, people to whom civil rights seem not to apply: instead of commons, they are ‘undercommons’. To address this state of affairs, one needs to ask ‘what is to be done?’, as Vladimir Lenin once put forward – both within the museum sector and beyond.   To answer this questiont, I suggest curating as an ‘organic intellectual’ practice, one committed to the ‘undercommons’. In this context, curating positions itself away from the aesthetic parameters that have been defining the mainstream narratives of art. With this vision, it offers a ‘post-artistic’ model, inscribing itself in the legacy of a subaltern history of art as a mechanism for societal transformation, or ‘art without art’.   Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art in England implemented an agenda focused on the social function of the museums, which explored use value and activism. In this presentation, former Senior Curator Miguel Amado outlines the thinking behind this approach, and details a project to effect change in the conditions and understandings of migrants that was generated with a service provision mentality through consultation with the local community, and thus illustrates curating as a form of civic engagement.    

    Miguel Amado, curator, researcher and critic, is director of Cork Printmakers, Ireland.

    Other posts, fellowships and residencies include Senior Curator, Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art, England; Curator, Portuguese Pavilion at the 2013 Venice Biennale; Curator, Tate St Ives, England; Curator, Abrons Arts Center, New York; Curator, PLMJ Foundation, Lisbon; Curator, Visual Arts Centre, Coimbra, Portugal; Curatorial Fellow, Rhizome at the New Museum, New York; Curatorial Fellow, Independent Curators International; New York; Curator in residence, International Studio and Curatorial Program, New York; Writer, Artforum, New York. Exhibitions, projects and events curated as a freelancer include Art Projects at London Art Fair; Foro Arte Caceres, Spain; apexart, New York; Berardo Collection Museum, Lisbon; Frieze Projects at Frieze London; ARCO Madrid/Lisbon. Studies include the Mres in Curatorial/Knowledge at Goldsmiths, University of London, and the MA in Curating Contemporary Art at the Royal College of Art, London.

  • Recognizing Difference

    “Everyone has the right to create art and to share the result, as well as to enjoy and participate in the creation of others. Shaping your own cultural identity – and having it recognized by others – is central to human dignity and growth.” Francois Matarasso

    Responding to difference involves the sharing and exchange of knowledge, and challenges us to become more agile in our thinking. Crawford Supported Studio aims to recognize and value difference, enabling marginalized artists to shape their own cultural identity within the context of the gallery building, the art college and our wider community.

    Moving from the day-centre to the city-centre, GASP and Cúig artists have worked with art students, reimagined works from the gallery collection, designed and delivered gallery tours and engagement activities. They have worked and exhibited in Bank of Ireland (Patrick Street) as part of Workbench; set up a studio on the Cork-Dublin train; occupied an empty shopping unit and exhibited in venues as various as Crawford Art Gallery, Cork City Hall, numerous cafés and the Royal Hiberian Academy (RHA).

    Crawford Supported Studio is a legacy project. It has grown out of a recognized need to provide an ongoing supported space to the GASP and Cúig artists. A strong collaborative relationship has grown between CIT Crawford College of Art and Design (CCAD), Cork City Council Arts Office and Crawford Art Gallery. This project cements that relationship with artists meeting in the Gallery on Tuesdays and CCAD on Thursdays to develop their art practice. In addition to enabling artistic engagement, the project challenges us as cultural institutions to consider fresh approaches to education, gallery programming and cultural citizenship.

    This presentation will be followed by an opportunity to meet the supported-studio artists at work in the Crawford Art Gallery with Mairead O’Callaghan supported studio facilitator.

    Karolina Poplawska-leads Crawford Supported Studio with GASP and Cúig artists in the Crawford Art Gallery.

    An occupational therapist and completed post graduate studies in art therapy, she has extensive experience of working with people with diverse needs; coordinating social and creative activities for senior participants as part of an integration project Together, Razem, Cork; workshop facilitation as part of exhibition projects; volunteering with the Solas Project, Dublin to devise individualised carpentry programmes for teenagers.

  • Community Co-production-

    -and Digital Technology in the CINE project

    Donegal County Museum and Ulster University have been involved in the CINE (Connected Culture and Natural Heritage in a Northern Environment) project since September 2017. CINE is a collaborative digital heritage project between partners from Norway, Iceland, Ireland, N. Ireland and Scotland, funded by the Northern and Arctic Periphery Interreg Programme (ERDF).CINE aims to transform people’s experiences of outdoor heritage sites through use of technology. New digital interfaces such as augmented reality and virtual worlds alongside easy to use apps are created to bring the past alive and visualise effects of changing environments on heritage sites.One case study within the CINE project involves Donegal County Museum and Ulster University working closely with heritage groups in Killybegs. In particular this case study explores models of community co-production, the value communities place on their heritage and how this can be brought to a wider public though new means of interpreting the past. Outputs include an online teaching resource to enable community groups to record and interpret their own heritage through the use of new technologies in digital documentation (3D data capture, 360 video, metadata) and narrative creation (story-telling). Another output from the project is a best practise methodology for community co-production.This presentation will examine the challenges of community co-production and the possibilities of using digital technology for the preservation and promotion of our heritage, using our experiences to date in the CINE project.

    Judith McCarthy is curator of Donegal County Museum.

    Since taking up her role in 1994, she has developed a comprehensive exhibition and events programme; managed a variety of community based projects and led the Museum’s programme for the Decade of Centenaries. Judith is a member of the board of the National Museum of Ireland.

    Niall Mc Shane is a research associate in data visualisation and immersive technologies at Ulster University’s Intelligent Systems Research Centre.

    Having previously worked as a software developer and technical artist on games and interactive multimedia projects, Niall proceeded to collaborate on academic research, using virtual worlds and virtual reality in engineering education and future learning environments. Niall is presently working on applying immersive technologies to cultural heritage visualisation and the use of technology for artefact digitisation and community heritage co-production.

  • ‘Queering the Exhibition’

    – How displays of queer identity have offered new perspectives on the museum gallery

    This presentation will discuss the concept of ‘queering’ the exhibition, a term attributed to the reinterpretation of museum galleries in a way that challenges the status quo through new understandings of the collection. The word ‘queer’ will be defined and the justification for its use in the heritage sector will be argued, whilst also highlighting the discomfort some museum professionals and visitors alike feel over the term’s use. Although predominantly used to introduce LGBTQ narratives into the museum gallery, it will be suggested that the practice of ‘queering’ the exhibition can be applied to the re-imagination of a diverse range of collections and experiences. This will offer museum professionals a potential tool to re-interpret their displays and encourage visitors to discover exhibitions in ways that challenge their pre-conceived notions of the museum experience. Historic Royal Palaces and their ‘Pride at the Palace’ programme will be discussed and the organisation’s ambition to replicate this London based piece of public engagement in Northern Ireland will be explored. The legacy of ‘queering’ the exhibition will be considered through other examples and how the practice can become embedded in an organisation’s culture.

  • Kris Reid

    is a PhD researcher at Ulster University, exploring the display of queer identities in the Northern Irish heritage sector.

    He completed his MA in Cultural Heritage & Museum Studies at UU where he analysed the National Trust’s 2017 Prejudice & Pride project and the impact of LGBTQ programming in the British heritage sector. His current research is focused on past practice in Northern Ireland and how museums have engaged with queer heritage in the province to date. Key themes of his research include museums and human rights, LGBTQ visitor experience and queer heritage planning. Kris has worked for both the National Trust and Historic Royal Palaces as part of their Public Engagement teams. This has exposed him to a variety of heritage practices and their effect on the public experience.

  • Engaging Young People with Local Museums

     – Benefits and Challenges

    The Local Authority Museums (LAM) engage with young people in a variety of ways and this session will feature a series of project slams highlighting recent and innovative projects:

    Archaeology Loan Box – Donegal County Museum, in collaboration with the Donegal Education Centre, has delivered Archaeology Box sessions to 1000’s of children in schools throughout the County. Children are encouraged to handle artefacts, both real and replica, and discover more about the archaeology of County Donegal. Traveller Takeover Day - In 2017, as part of a broader project, Galway City Museum gave over the running of the museum to a dozen teenage Travellers, who operated the front desk, gave guided-tours and created a display of objects reflecting their individual and community identities. The project was a success, but was not without its challenges. ARTiculation – Tipperary County Museum is the lead partner in ARTiculation, an international competition which gives young people a forum to express their ideas on art, artefacts and architecture.   Participation in the project has helped to highlight the Museum’s collections, as well as creating engagement with hard to reach target audiences including young people.  The Tomb in the School - Killaclohane Portal Tomb, Co Kerry underwent a major excavation and restoration programme in 2015 and has since become the core of a strategic educational initiative specifically designed to engage secondary schools in heritage education. To date, more than 1000 secondary school students from 15 secondary schools have participated in this multi-disciplinary outreach project.   This will be followed by a panel discussion, where education professionals from Local Authority Museums will highlight some of their ongoing projects and will discuss the benefits and challenges of engaging with young people and how, through these interactions, they encourage young people to connect with their history and heritage and promote its continued preservation. 

    Caroline Carr has worked in Donegal County Museum as Assistant Museum Curator since 2001 and is experienced in curatorial projects, historical research, exhibitions development, design of publications, programming of educational activities and events. 

    Brendan McGowan is the education officer at Galway City Museum. He holds MA degrees from GMIT (Heritage Studies) and the University of Ulster (Museum Practice & Management) 

    Julia Walsh holds a BA in Archaeology and History and an MA in Irish Heritage Management from University College Cork.  She has worked in Tipperary County Museum since 2003 and is currently the Education and Outreach Officer.  She has developed numerous creative programmes for the formal and informal education sector. 

    Claudia Köhler and Jemma O’Connell are educators at Kerry County Museum. Claudia holds an MA in History from University Leipzig and also studied history & archaeology at U.C.D. Jemma holds a BA in Archaeology from U.C.C. and an MA in Museum & Artefacts Studies from Durham University.  As the Museum’s education team they have devised and implemented successful educational events, learning strategies and public programmes aimed at diverse audiences.  

  • Joined-thinking the challenge of reaching new audiences

    The new Hunt Museum Strategy 2025 is a deliberately integrated approach to reaching new audiences.  The virtual world cannot be seen as a separate means of attracting and retaining audiences.  It is an extender of the physical offering and a means of creating new interaction and participation to the collections in both their physical and digital forms.    The physical collections are given new life and new meaning because of technology attracting interest in their existence and increasing the desire to understand and preserve them in our networks and communities.   Sacco argues that we are now in Culture 3.0, open communities of practice, a blurred distinction between producers and users, we are now all collective sense making, networked organisations.  We need to make use of this as museums, be the wheels that keep the cogs turning, encouraging our audiences to be our producers.We can and do have global reach for the use and visibility of our collections and as Irish museums we can redouble our efforts if we work with wikimedia, creative commons and the openglam communities.  At a more local level integrating community participation into our activities creates repeat visits and activists for the museum. This panel talk will look at how the Hunt Museum is proposing to use this framework of Culture 3:0 and three integrated platforms, virtual, physical and human and the opportunities afforded by global and local platforms to reach new audiences.

  • Jill Cousins

    is the director and CEO of the Hunt Museum, Ireland, where she is working on digitization and opening up of the collection to new audiences at the same time as positioning the Hunt Museum as the pivot in the cultural revival and regeneration of the city of Limerick.She was formerly the Executive Director of Europeana Foundation, building up Europeana from a project idea to an operational service. With many years’ experience in web publishing, her past experience includes the commercial publishing world as European Business Development Director of VNU New Media and scholarly publishing with Blackwell Publishing running their online journals service. Prior to publishing she had a variety of marketing and research careers in the information field. Jill is on the Boards of CLIR and the Digital Libraries Forum and the Europeana Fashion Association and the Advisory Board of IMPACT.

  • Inside Out

    What is it that engages us? This paper will examine engagement with, in and about museums, both from within the sector and from outside, considering the opportunities and challenges associated with developing site-specific museums and heritage centres, and examining how these sites engage with the public, but also with local partners and related sites. By reflecting on museums from the visitors’ perspective, it will pose the question of how does a site engage emotionally with those that visit? Interactive panels, fancy graphic design, period costumes are all well and good, but emotional engagement is crucial (and often intangible). From the smiling hedgehog of the National Museum to the freezing cells of Spike Island and the graves of Glasnevin Cemetery, this paper considers what makes for an engaging visit, and why, so often, it is the stories of suffering and sadness that prove the most memorable.

    Dr Gillian O’Brien is reader in Modern Irish History at Liverpool John Moores University.

    She is a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society. She was a member of the Irish National Consultation Panel for Cultural Heritage and Global Change (2012-14) and of Dublin City Council’s Heritage Working Group (2011-14).

    She has published widely on a range of topics. Key publications include (as author) Blood Runs Green: The Murder that Transfixed Gilded Age Chicago (Chicago University Press 2015); (as co-author) Primary Education in Ireland (Royal Irish Academy, 2013); (as co-editor) Portraits of the City: Dublin and the Wider World (Four Courts Press, 2012) and Georgian Dublin (Four Courts Press, 2008).

    Dr O’Brien has been the historical advisor for several Irish museum and heritage sites including Spike Island, Nano Nagle Place, and Kilmainham Gaol and Courthouse. She is currently undertaking a tour of all ‘Dark Tourism’ museums and heritage sites in Ireland to assess how the complex stories of a difficult past are told. 

  • Thinking outside In:

     Being relevant and staying on mission in a 21st century museum

    As practice shifts and we all recognise the criticality of ensuring that audience relevance pervades all elements of our museums from governance to curation, tensions can arise. From questions of mission drift to concerns of overlooking museum expertise, how can leadership in the Museum sector address these tensions and work with our organisations to reimagine a contemporary museum that has collaboration at its core but does not isolate or leave critical museum practice behind.Lynn Scarff is director of the National Museum of Ireland.Initially, working in environmental education across a diversity of projects including the Ballymun Regeneration, Lynn’s work is embedded in collaborative practice. She was part of the initial development team of Science Gallery Dublin at Trinity College Dublin and, in 2012,  part of the leadership team that established the Global Science Gallery Network. In 2014 she was appointed Director leading Science Gallery Dublin through a process of organisational change, strategic planning and development.She studied Natural Sciences at Trinity College Dublin, specialising in zoology and natural history and holds an MSc in Science Communications. In 2016 she was awarded a National Arts Strategies Kresge Fellowship completed over one year at Harvard, Michigan Ross and Berkeley Business Schools in the USA, which focused on the critical elements of sustainable business development in the cultural sector. Lynn served on the board of the National Museum of Ireland for 18 months through 2016/2017 and is on expert panels for a number of public engagement trusts and awarding bodies including the Wellcome Trust. She additionally serves on the board of the Rediscovery Centre in Ballymun.