Euphemisms, talking statues and new perspectives
Simon Brown reflects on the MA Conference 2014
The annual Museums Association conference was held at the start of October, which this year was held in Cardiff for the first time since 1997. The event is always an excellent melting pot of discussion on the issues that have surrounded the sector for the previous 12 months, many of them especially relevant to our region.
Many of the sessions were concerned with sustainability in the sector in the context of the (often euphemistically phrased) ‘current funding climate’. David Fleming, Director of National Museums Liverpool, spoke powerfully about how NML are still working to deliver ambitious projects in this situation, including the excellent dementia friendly programme House of Memories. Many small museums in our region are also eligible to apply for funding from programmes such as the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and the Arts Council’s Museum Resilience Fund, which both had representatives at the conference.
There were many inspiring case studies, not least from the excellent Talking Statues project in London and Manchester. Plaques have been mounted on 15 statues across both cities, with QR codes and other methods, which allow users to hear the statue speaking to them on their smartphone. (How many people would love to hear the words of Robin Hood or Brian Clough in Nottingham?)
The show was stolen though by Mat Fraser, who gave a powerful keynote performance of his show Cabinet of Curiosities: how Disability was kept in a box. Fraser was commissioned by the Research Centre for Museums and Galleries at the University of Leicester to create a performance that reflected how disability is portrayed in museums. He used a soundtrack including Daft Punk, objects from the collections of National Museums Wales, and his own rapping and crooning skills to put a new perspective on a subject that has long been neglected in the sector.
He challenged us all to find and reassess one object in our collections from the perspective of its relevance to disability. That’s not difficult is it?
This post was written by Simon Brown, Artefact Loans Officer at Nottingham City Museums and Galleries and the East Midlands member representative for the Museums Association.. He manages the 11,000 strong Access Artefacts handling collection, based at Wollaton Park.
He graduated from NTU in 2004 with a BA in Heritage Studies with Human Geography, and has since gone on to work in various roles for Nottingham City Museums and Galleries and Nottingham Contemporary, including as a museum assistant, curator and documentation assistant. He is currently studying for the AMA.
MA website: http://www.museumsassociation.org/conference/cardiff-2014-archive
House of Memories at National Museums Liverpool:www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/learning/projects/house-of-memories/
Esmée Fairbairn Foundation: http://esmeefairbairn.org.uk/
Arts Council’s Museum Resilience Fund: http://www.artscouncil.org.uk/funding/apply-funding/apply-for-funding/museum-resilience-fund-2015-18/
Talking statues: http://www.talkingstatues.co.uk/
Mat Fraser: http://www2.le.ac.uk/departments/museumstudies/rcmg/projects/cabinet-of-curiosities